The 1975 are no strangers to the Live Lounge. Since day dot, they’ve used their appearances in the BBC’s teeny session spot to highlight both the pop core at the heart of what they do and the lovelorn, emo sentiment that backs up even the biggest pop hits. They took on One Direction’s breakthrough ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ back when they were almost as hated as those who sung the original. A couple of years on, they returned with a take on Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’, remodelling it into a louche, jazzy new guise.
Today, with their unbelievably good new album ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ nearing release, they returned to the Radio 1 fold with a new take on Ariana Grande’s autumnal bop ‘Thank U, Next’ in tow. It’s a rendition that’s cemented their place stars.
Once a widely derided indie-pop prospect, criticised for being ‘style over substance’, the 1975 of 2018 have worked endlessly to prove the naysayers wrong. In an era when pop music has been critically embraced like never before, they’ve ridden the slipstream – still an outsider art prospect, they’ve nevertheless polished up their pop core, unashamed of the beauty of a three chord, three-minute hit.
‘Thank U, Next’ was the perfect choice for The 1975. A pop banger that deals in both triumph and tragedy, it’s already become Ariana Grande’s quintessential number – a track that’s seen her rise from the ashes of a torrid couple of years, stronger than ever. It’s that duality which makes the best 1975 tracks really shine – from ‘Somebody Else’’s slow dance through the dissolution of a relationship, to ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ taking on the modern world’s destruction of meaningful, honest human connection through jazz-inflected pop, there’s a danceable darkness to the very best of The 1975.
Ahead of the cover, they dedicated ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ to the late, great jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, while Matty chuckled, yelped and whooped his way through ‘’It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ and the house-indebted ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’. “It’s just a fun pop song,” said Healy of the latter, “It can’t all be heavy, can it?”
With six backing singers along for the ride, Matt Healy and co. then took the themes of ‘Thank U, Next’ to heart. Treating the original with all the respect it deserves, referring to it as “a song about gratitude” ahead of the performance, “the artist of this song has become the main person in a lot of people’s lives. And I’ve started to really like her. I think she’s cool.”
Exploding the original’s stripped-back production, The 1975 turned ‘Thank U, Next’ into an expansive, neo-gospel version, complete with digitised vocals and pitch-shifting electronic wizardry. It’s a rework that proves the majesty of the original – no matter the instrumental backing, ‘Thank U, Next’ stands up as one of the year’s very best.
It’s proof that, regardless of how special, complicated and intelligent a record ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ may be, The 1975’s greatest strength lies in their ability to see the beauty in a pop hit. While the rest of the world is playing catch-up, finally appreciating the mainstream mega-stars of the world after decades of derision, The 1975 have been arranging their chess pieces – now, they’re positioning themselves at the very top of the pops.