Fans of The 1975 — myself included — were pleased with the nostalgic sound and tone of the group’s latest release, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language,” and felt it was a return to the sound they know and love from Matt Healy and the band.
“Being Funny,” the band’s fifth album, was released on Friday, Oct. 16. The band — consisting of singer Healy, drummer George Daniel, guitarist Adam Hann and bassist Ross MacDonald — released their previous album, “Notes On A Conditional Form,” in 2020 to much backlash online due to it appearing incohesive and “self-indulgent.” “Being Funny” appears to be the The 1975’s redemption.
tbh i didnt love Notes On A Conditional Form & thought maybe i was just over my the 1975 phase after 7 years but BFIAFL feels like such an homage to their self titled album but new & fresh. nothing beats the nostalgia of the first album for me but damn this one is nice
— cath (@cathalyse) October 14, 2022
Listeners are first greeted with a familiar title, “The 1975.” Healy explains that each time the band releases an album, the opening track is titled after the band itself. He describes it as a “signpost” of where the band is in their musical journey and explores new experiments in their sound, as the track evolves with each subsequent album. In this rendition, a hopeful, staccato piano and violin track accompanies Healy’s lyrics. Healy chose to depart from his traditional pattern and change the lyrics for this version, choosing to address both his own personal flaws and his ever-present themes of the desperation of teenagerhood. Together, these create an intriguing and inviting entrance to a much-anticipated album.
“Happiness,” which was first released as a single, follows the first track with themes and lyrics that directly embody the song’s title. The upbeat pop number is riddled with horns and jazz-style percussion that create a joyous transition to the rest of the album. In this track, Healy details a blossoming relationship and the euphoric feeling that comes with puppy love. Though Healy’s ever-present cynicism peaks through in his declaration of “I’m never gonna love again,” the song invites listeners to get up, dance and appreciate the bliss that young love brings.
The album continues with “Looking for Somebody (To Love),” a synth-heavy track reminiscent of classic ‘80s pop ballads. Again, Healy employs his sarcastic lyricism in his discussion of masculinity in the modern age through implied darker themes of its consequences. Like Van Halen’s “Jump,” “Looking for Somebody” follows the pattern of layering heavy themes under upbeat, joyous instrumental tracks that listeners flock to. The song is likely to be one that is heavily analyzed by fans in the coming weeks, but it is undoubtedly a mood booster despite its subtext.
The album’s lead single, “Part of the Band,” was initially released on July 7 and is the next track of eleven total. Compared to their traditionally more angsty tone, Sam Sodomsky described the song to Pitchfork as being “light and buoyant” with “percussive strings, lush acoustics, and [a] bittersweet melody.” The song brings a folkish air to an otherwise pop and rock-centered album and employs one of Healy’s favorite types of lyric work: storytelling. Healy croons the tale of a man reflecting on his life and decisions, including poor relationships and drug abuse, with the sarcastic twist of much of the story being imaginary. The singer considered this to be the album’s “‘starting statement,’” and it serves as a gentle invitation for fans to discover a new era of the band’s sound.
“Oh Caroline,” the following track, is fairly straightforward in its almost epistolary style with the speaker directly addressing his lover, Caroline. While it may seem like a typical pop melody, the lyrics unveil darker themes of an obsessive, inescapable kind of love, as the speaker is desperate for Caroline to return. Healy’s father, Tim Healy, felt the song would “fly,” and he was right, as it has already hit over one million plays on Spotify. The deceivingly dark pop hit is a perfect example of how each of the band’s elements help to characterize their sound and an excellent addition to the album.
Oh Caroline is gonna fly. This is there best Album, proud dad xx https://t.co/DwimXzHoEa
— Tim Healy (@TheRealTimHealy) June 30, 2022
Another pre-released single, “I’m In Love With You,” is another pop ballad, this time a guitar-heavy track that is meant to be a prequel to “A Change of Heart,” which was released in 2016. The music videos for both songs feature Healy dressed as a clown who is attempting to win the heart of another female clown. It is speculated that the song refers to and centers around Healy’s former relationship with singer FKA Twigs, which is reported to have ended when both parties’ careers surged post-lockdown. The track “I’m In Love With You” helps to establish a much-needed return to — and acknowledgment of — the band’s former sound, while the more upbeat and pop-centered tune represents a new era of their music, making it an enjoyable listen for die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
The most recent of the singles released prior to the album, “All I Need to Hear,” touches upon Healy’s more tender side of songwriting and boasts a soft musical track with piano, soft guitar and gentle drums. The song feels incredibly intimate, with Healy telling his partner that all he needs is to be told that they love him; the song bears resemblance to the band’s 2018 track “Mine,” both in its lyrical content and its stripped-down, instrumental feel. A departure from the first half of the album, “All I Need to Hear” offers a gentle view into Healy’s sensitive side and gives listeners a chance to appreciate the work of the other band members for their own musical prowess.
Returning to the joyful instrumentals is “Wintering,” which is written to be a Christmas song that pays homage to the band’s debut album, “The 1975.” Healy describes the song as a “series of Polaroids” that capture a collection of moments of a family, highlighting all the unique intricacies and oddities that come along with them. Acoustic guitar riffs and buoyant drums create a sentimental musical experience that will make anyone — particularly college students — nostalgic for their hometown. With colder weather slowly approaching, “Wintering” is the perfect track to provide some much-needed warmth.
A slow, jazzy piano ballad, “Human Too,” is another self-reflective track where the speaker discusses his own fragility and weaknesses. Pitchfork called the tune “one of his most affecting vocal performances to date,” with Healy’s soft, smooth vocals accompanying mellow swing drums and subtle saxophone. The track is reminiscent of many of the works on the band’s 2018 album, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” bolstering the excitement of fans with its more vintage sound. Not only is the song a great reminder of some of the band’s best work, but its more delicate jazz sound adds great range to an already impressive album.
“About You” is the album’s penultimate track, and its longest, sitting at five minutes and 26 seconds. An elegant collaboration between Healy and Adam Hann’s wife Carly Holt, “About You” manages to showcase both instrumentals and vocals beautifully in one track. The melodic voices of Healy and Holt are complemented by a selection of violin, saxophone, drum and guitar inclusions, which create an immensely orchestral sound that feels all-encompassing. This track will be a favorite amongst music lovers for its ability to completely captivate listeners, as well as to highlight the impressive work of the band as a whole.
The album closes with “When We Are Together,” a slow, acoustic folk track that recounts one of Healy’s breakups, and the emptiness that occurs in its wake. The song is incredibly syrupy and melancholy in its description of Healy’s more intimate emotions, and is perfectly abetted by both guitar, violin and Daniels’ drums. Being that the song itself feels like an ending, it is the perfect close to the album and effortlessly sets up Healy for future albums in order to continue this intricate storyline in the band’s music.
Overall, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” is a welcome return to the music that fans have been clamoring for since the band’s last album. With its wide range of vocal and instrumental sound and exploration of themes both within the self and in society at large, this 11-track endeavor is a must-listen, both this fall and for many seasons to come.