On Wednesday, the four-piece pop band the 1975 released “TooTimeTooTimeTooTime,” the third single from their upcoming album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. It’s the breeziest and most radio-friendly of the three singles the Manchester group has released this cycle, drawing influence from the trop-pop trend that’s been popularized in the past couple of years (think: Drake’s “Passionfruit”). In the song, frontman Matty Healy describes his infidelity-based paranoia under a layer of vocoder. The production may mark a new sound for the band, but thematically, the 1975 is staying consistent with their recent obsession: unfiltered, visceral reactions to an online world.
Despite the upbeat groove, the lyrics delve into the anxieties derived from the album title. On the implications of scrolling past an Instagram photo: “She said that I should have liked it / I told her, ‘I only use it sometimes’ / Except when I need reminding I’m petrified,” Healy sings, his voice alternating in and out of distortion like he’s on both ends of a phone call. When debuting the song on BBC Radio, Healy said the lyrics address how something real, like a relationship, can be convoluted by something intangible, like social media. It’s a modern angst that the 1975 have addressed in their music before; on “A Change of Heart,” from their last album, Healy sings: “You said I’m full of diseases / Your eyes were full of regret / And then you took a picture of your salad and put it on the internet.” However, on “TooTime,” logging on to social media doesn’t produce a form of escapism, but instead an acceleration of fear.
The 1975 have often exhibited self-awareness—just watch the video for “The Sound,” a single from their last album that compiles criticisms the band has received. But on this new slate of singles, the band is less concerned with their status as popular artists, and more reflective on what it means to be part of a generation that’s been raised online. The lead single, “Give Yourself a Try,” released May 31, has Healy confronting his former self, an act that’s become incredibly easy when everything has been archived on social media. “What would you say to your younger self?” he ponders. “You’ll make a lot of money, and it’s funny / ’Cause you’ll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs / And spend obscene amounts on fucking seeds and beans online.” Healy, who recently addressed his four-year heroin addiction, has seen both the perks and perils of growing up on the internet, and how the quickest and most convenient access to his vices has led to long-term consequences.
The second single, “Love It If We Made It,” is so far the most confounding track from the forthcoming album. Healy shouts a bunch of buzzwords and headlines from the past couple of years—e.g. “Rest in peace, Lil Peep,” “I moved on her like a bitch,” “Thank you Kanye, very cool!” and “A beach of drowning 3-year-olds”—like a Twitter feed translated into a spoken stream of consciousness. Each verse ends with the line “Modernity has failed us.” It’s almost as if Healy hopes that relentlessly presenting all of the bad news at once will make it harder to ignore. Everything culminates in this repeated hook: “I’d love it if we made it.” When premiering the song on Beats 1 Radio in July, Healy called this chorus “quite generous or hopeful,” but told Billboard that the song is “not going to change the times” and “doesn’t provide a solution.” All there is left to do, it seems, is send a tweet hoping everything will be OK.
While all three of these singles offer a view of the world complicated by technology, they also portray Healy’s clear and genuine reactions to his surroundings in a way we’ve yet to hear in his songwriting. Healy told The Guardian last month that for this album he wanted to drop the “postmodern schtick” from previous 1975 records, which meant losing “the denial of sentimentality.” The 1975 have always operated with a subtle wink, often toeing the line between sincerity and self-parody, but what happens when it’s the world that becomes a parody of itself? Healy responds with the only antidote at his disposal: honesty.