It’s been 18 months since The 1975’s critical smash A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, and today (May 22), they’ve released its follow-up, Notes on a Conditional Form. The band’s discography is a wide spectrum of ideas and sounds, and they’re best known for their explorations of love, drugs, narcissism and toxicity in relationships. The group’s lead singer, Matty Healy, is both sainted and hated, but at least he’s aware of his over-the-top presence and persona. The band’s focus has shifted with each album, and they use every hiatus to reinvent themselves—often releasing a slew of multimedia projects to draw eyeballs. In honor of the release of Notes on a Conditional Form, we’ve compiled 20 of the band’s most essential songs—a definitive guide for anyone looking to get into The 1975 in 2020.
The legendary intro that kickstarted the group’s first studio album serves as ground zero for The 1975. This eponymous track spearheads all their studio albums, but the original rendition is the birthplace of the voice that hooked many fans from the start. These euphisms for oral sex were just a small sample of the romantic images to follow.
Healy is longing for a partner that he knows is bad for him—only it’s not a romantic partner, it’s heroin (“I can’t stop sweating or control my feet / Got a 20-stone monkey that I just can’t beat”). The juxtaposition here between the upbeat pop track and dark subject matter is stark, and it’s indicative of the wild contradictions this group thrives on.
Healy sings about the lack of transparency and honesty in modern relationships: social and romantic. As humans, we often hide behind barriers, and The 1975 address these mental hurdles with a jazzy music video that challenges how we engage with the people around us.
Some accuse The 1975 of over-intellectualizing their work, but that’s not the case on this track. Matty Healy uses loose, glazed vocals to shine a spotlight on the catchy piano riff and synth notes. No philosophy, no social or political commentary, just dancing.
Another of Healy’s honest experiences, this song—taken from their 2012 Facedown EP—documents his 17-year-old thoughts after an encounter with a woman of the night. The end result sees Healy trapped in a chamber with just his voice and simple guitar notes.
With this remix by Swedish musician and producer Dan Lissvik, a dream about a love affair becomes a club hit to dance away the breakup vibes. The only remaining lyrics are “Get back to my house / Your arms / My mouth,” but the youthful energy and desire for exploration might be more apparent with less lyrics.
Originally marketed as a “digital detox,” this calming, banjo and piano-driven track feels like the lab report of too many crackpot social experiments. A very abstract music video highlights Healy’s excessive internet use over the years and at the very least, it’s sure to grab your attention.
A strong example of the band’s punk-influenced pop, “Sex” is a love letter inspired by desire and infidelity. The mantra “She’s got a boyfriend anyway” is a reminder of the borders Healy wants to cross with the “prudish” girl he sings about. The guitar riffs and synth chords perfectly synchronize—like two people traversing an unknown world as freely as they breathe. “Sex” embodies the intermingling of pain, jealousy and heartbreak that the band often explores.
Healy uses the sixth track on their second album to slow the record down and drop to his knees. The slow drum beats and piano chords set the stage for an atheist’s plea. Healy’s repeated lyric, “If I’m lost, then how can I find myself,” is a feeling that many religious people live free of. Practicing faith keeps humans grounded, and Healy’s lack thereof for years compounded into the dysphoria that spills out of this song.
“Robbers” taught us that Healy can holler. This track from The 1975’s first studio album darkens the record, making its black and white theme feel more than appropriate. The love songs that precede fly in the face of this relationship’s dangerous toxicity. Healy erupts in screams of raw emotion and teases a violent ending to a relationship full of routine fighting. The guitar riff seems to cry, “Why won’t this work?”
Simple synth notes creep into a burst of daring chords and volatile imagery, and immediately, it’s clear that this song is far more than just a guilty pleasure—it’s a pop classic and a time capsule of the tumultuous 2010s. Healy’s vocals exude virility while his lyrics reference contentious social and political issues. Swinging between cynical pessimism and idealistic optimism, the only conclusion that the song comes to is that we have no choice but to live for another tomorrow.
This single from their brand new album, Notes on a Conditional Form, rests on the angsty guitar riffs and whiny vocals that were less prevalent on A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. It reunites fans with the band’s usual conflicted musings on sex and romance and boasts melancholy infatuation via Matty Healy’s voice.
Many have drawn connections between this song and “Fitter Happier” from Radiohead’s OK Computer, and understandably so. “The Man Who Married A Robot” is updated to sound like Siri, and it explains social media and porn in a way that makes the connection between humans and technology disturbingly intimate.
This pop-rock ballad from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is a cerebral slow-burn as Matty Healy craves to know what his partner is thinking. The heart is typically the one organ associated with love, but here, the band’s lyrics highlight the seductiveness of mysterious thought patterns. The instrumentals are as simple as Healy’s question is complicated: What are you thinking?
The 1975 has a distinct ability to diversify their pop, rock and indie sound. “Settle Down” leans fully into indie-pop, and it matches the song’s playful subject matter. Matty Healy is open and honest enough in his art to delve into the (somewhat mundane) same-sex fantasy from his teenage years, and he insists love in all forms is valid for anyone blessed to find it.
“A Change of Heart” is the calm before the relapse in “Somebody Else,” as its lyrics detail the process of falling out of love with someone. The whirring synthesizer solo embodies the emotions that stop, start and change directions while you try to forget years of a fulfilling romance (and try to avoid your ex).
Admit it. The first two chords still make you think of your ex. “Somebody Else” is Healy’s cry from lingering pain that’s reactivated at the sight of an old flame with someone new. The obsessive nature of Healy’s lyrics highlight the splintered emotions that make breakups a process.The words “Somebody Else” take on multiple meanings in the video as Healy takes someone else, but then also becomes that someone else.
“Loving Someone” addresses popular culture’s compulsion for romance. The high-pitched vocal refrains of “You should be loving someone” create a stark tension, much like constant societal pressures to find a mate and “complete” oneself.
Written solely by Healy, the lyrics are a deep exploration of his lack of religion and feelings toward his mother. This track from their self-titled EP is a fan favorite, and to many listeners’ dismay, the band has never played it live. Healy’s voice is personable, the chorus is mystifying and the break is to die for, even if there’s no afterlife.
Where many contemporary artists merely broach the subject, The 1975 expands on the reality of suicidal thoughts. Healy offers solidarity with those who think they’d only find solace via death, but he doesn’t stop there. Instead of revelling in suicidal ideation, and possibly romanticizing it, he makes sure to emphasize the repercussions of suicide outside of our temporary distress. “Your death, it won’t happen to you / It happens to your family and your friends,” is perhaps a saving grace for a generation with record-high levels of suicide.