A state of the union address for a fractured planet, we unpick every cultural reference in Healy and co.’s latest video
With ‘Love It If We Made It’, The 1975 have already proven themselves masters of millennial malaise. Sure, some have pointed out it’s essentially a present day ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, but it remains one of the year’s most essential songs – a no-holds-barred state of the planet address, it takes on everything from police brutality to ‘stan’ culture within the confines of a euphoric, four-minute pop hit.
- Read more: NME Big Read – A Brief Inquiry Into The 1975
Released yesterday (October 15), the track’s video takes things up a notch. A blindingly colourful run-through of current affairs, pop culture and the spaces where the two collide, the clip flickers between footage of war and selfies, heroes and villains, and close-up images of the youth who are affected by those very incidents. Meanwhile, the whole thing glitches and warps like a poorly buffered video (don’t worry, it wasn’t just your dodgy internet connection). It’s as gripping as it is effortlessly stylish.
The incessant, scatter-brained pace of the clip is core to its composition, but doesn’t do many favours for those trying to unpick it. With that in mind, we thought we’d slow things down a bit, and break down every cultural reference in the video – from Grenfell to Brett Kavanaugh, Michael Jackson to the prison system. Altogether now: “FFFFUCKIN’ IN A CAR”.
The plastic crisis (0:00)
You’ve all heard the reports – we’re filling the oceans with plastic. Nice one, everyone. Bars are swapping out plastic straws for paper ones, and idiots are ‘protesting’ by ripping fruit from its wrappers and leaving underpaid and overworked supermarket staff to clean it up (stop doing that, by the way). As a plastic bag silently floats through the sea, and ‘Love It If We Made It’ whirs into life, the achingly modern scene is set.
Milo Yiannopoulos (0:30)
“Saying controversial things just for the hell of it,” yelps Matty Healy against a visual backdrop of Milo Yiannopoulos, the right-wing political commentator and former Breitbart editor, whose opinions on everything from free speech to Islam, social justice to feminism are as acerbic as they are knee-jerk.
Black Friday and melanin (0:34)
This one’s a little less immediate. The contrast between Healy’s references to “selling melanin” – a recent phenomenon that sees the super-rich and super-white purchasing the pigment which makes skin darker – and the footage of people battering each other at Black Friday are both a comment on rampant consumerism and the hypocrisy of white people darkening their skin, while racism still runs rampant. Which leads us directly onto…
Eric Garner (0:35)
“…and then suffocate the black men,” Healy’s follow-up line. Coming directly after his reference to white people’s idolisation of melanin and darker skin, the ‘Love It If We Made It’ video flashes up the phone-shot footage of the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American man who was choked to death in the street by an NYPD police officer in 2014. The killing – which broke NYPD codes of conduct – prompted international disgust and nationwide protests, and was later settled out of court settlement of $5.9 million, paid by the City of New York to Garner’s family.
The prison industrial complex (0:43)
“Start with misdemeanours and we’ll make a business out of them,” Healy sings, as footage of – a reference to the escalating privatisation of the prison system, which is often criticised as prioritising the financial gain of the private sector over the rehabilitation of the imprisoned persons themselves.
The Westboro Baptist Church (0:58)
A brief flash of footage from a protest by controversial Christian extremist group the Westboro Baptist Church as Healy barks that “truth is only hearsay” is likely a comment on the dogmatic approach employed by religion – famously, not Healy’s favourite thing.
Harvey Weinstein (1:04)
An image of the shamed movie mogul – whose reported sexual abuse sparked the #MeToo movement – comes as Healy sings the first instance of that already-iconic hook: “modernity has failed us”.
“Poison me daddy” has undoubtedly been the most widely-shared lyric from ‘Love It If We Made It’ – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the all-or-nothing fan culture employed by modern audiences. A poster of that very lyric appeared in various locations while the band were promoting the single, and became something of an Instagram pilgrimage for fans – in the video, that same billboard appears, with Healy himself snapping selfie after selfie with his own lyric.
The London riots (1:35)
Footage is then used from the London riots, which were sparked in 2011 by the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of the Metropolitan police. The destructive five-day riot spread across the capital city and into other areas, claiming five lives and and quickly becoming a defining event of the early 2010s.
Alan Kurdî (1:38)
The impossibly upsetting image of a three-year-old boy drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in the midst of the European Refugee Crisis made headlines nationally. Referenced lyrically through Healy’s callout to “a beach of drowning three-year-olds”, it marked a huge spike in attention on the crisis, and remains one of the most important – and tragic – images of the 21st century.
Lil Peep (1:41)
The rapper, who died last year, has previously been praised by Healy, who told Beats 1’s Zane Lowe, “regardless of what you think of [Peep’s music] musically—I felt like it was the closest thing that this generation has to a kind of punk.” Much as with the ‘poison me daddy’ billboards, 1975 plastered ‘Rest In Peace Lil Peep” posters over major cities earlier this year, with another of those popping up in the video.
The Grenfell disaster (1:49)
The second “modernity has failed us” comes atop images of the Grenfell Tower burning, which took place on 14 June 2017. The incident – the deadliest structural fire in the United Kingdom in 29 years – caused 72 deaths, and has been held up as an example of London’s immense class divide, with Grenfell standing in the middle of one of the city’s most affluent areas. Residents and families have been fighting for answers since, with an inquiry into the incident still underway.
Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ (2:08)
A reference to ‘the MTV generation’ – a somewhat out-of-date term for post-‘80s youth – the video’s composition takes a left-turn here, with Healy and some accompanying dancers parodying the iconic dance scene in MJ’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. A comment on the nature of entertainment and the youth it inspires, it’s a cheeky nod to a music video that was once equally as how stopping as ‘Love It If We Made It’’s.
Brett Kavanaugh (2:51)
The most up-to-date reference in the video, Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the US Supreme Court on October 6 this year, amidst widespread condemnation following a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and FBI investigation into allegations ofsexual assault by psychologist Christine Blasey Ford and two other women. “Liberal kitsch”, Healy snorts, as an image of Kavanaugh flashes up – likely a reference to the way the Republicans accused the Democrats and other liberally-minded individuals of politicising the accusations, and attempting to block Kavanaugh’s appointment on purely partisan motives.
Donald Trump (2:55)
“I moved on her like a bitch” is, mind-blowingly, a direct quote from the US President, whose electoral run was blighted recording made of him in 2005 with TV personality Billy Bush. Bragging about his sexual prowess with women, Trump said that he “moved on her like a bitch”, and later went onto say that his star power allowed him to “grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Images of Trump himself accompany that particular line, while its follow-up – “Excited to be indicted” – features footage of anti-Trump protests calling for the President to be impeached.
Kanye West (3:04)
“Thank you Kanye, very cool!” is yet another direct quote from Donald Trump. In April 2018, Kanye West called Trump his “brother” and said that they both had “dragon energy”. Trump would later retweet the message with the message, “Thank you Kanye, very cool!”. Sadly, such is the pace of the modern world, even The 1975 couldn’t be totally up-to-date – last week, Kanye met with Trump in the Oval Office, with images of the rapper hugging the Apprentice host-turned-President coming to define the pair’s relationship since.
The World Trade Center attacks (3:07)
“The war has been incited”, sings Healy, as footage of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center flashes up – the attacks were, famously, the catalyst for the 2000s’ Iraq War.
The iPhone (4:14)
And, just like that, following a flick book of close-up images of The 1975 fans (and, of course, their biggest fan of all, Healy himself), the video comes to a close with a super-imposed ‘slide to power off’ message, lifted from the screen of an iPhone. Because, like, technology – y’know?
Right, after all that, we need a lie down.