The 1975 elude categorisation. The Mancunian four-piece have embraced the eroding margins of pop music and an era of excess, continuing to blur and blend an eclectic mix of influences and stylistic digressions across all of their four studio albums. Assembling a cult fanbase in thrall to their expression of emo-tinged existential dread, bare-boned confessionals with stadium-sized ambitions, The 1975 have thrilled and polarized in equal measure.
In anticipation of the The 1975’s fifth album ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’, the Clash team have compiled a list of our Top 19 favourite tracks. The list dives deep into an expansive discography that is nimble, decadent, sprawling and always attuned to the instincts of the hyper-aware generation they make their music for.
Arriving urgently bombastic, ‘Love Me’, the lead cut on sophomore record ‘ILIWYS’, is a powerhouse of sugary 1980s pop. The 2015 hit was likened to David Bowie’s ‘Fame’, with its funky composition and loud guitar riffs. The Diane Martel-directed video for the single is just as delicious, with Healy clad in leather pants, donning blue eyeshadow, strutting around a stage with cardboard cut-outs of various stars, including Rita Ora, Charli XCX, Elvis Presley and Mr. Bean. Sexy, rhythmic and a bit bonkers, ‘Love Me’ is glittery highlight in the 1975 archives. Isabella Miller
‘Undo’, taken from the 2012 ‘Sex’ EP, is an example of The 1975’s intricate musicianship. A slow instrumental grounded by a melancholic bassline bleeds through the track and Healy’s lyricism is ever confessional as he recounts a relationship that doesn’t seem to align. Co-produced by Dirty Hit-signed indie icons Little Comets, this pensive tune is a hidden gem in their catalogue of hits. Isabella Miller
Its hard to put into words the feelings that are evoked when the opening riff of ‘Sex’ is played at a 1975 show. Undoubtedly a 1975 essential, this is a track that has soundtracked many an angsty teenage experience and continues to profoundly impact lives across the globe. Energetic, powerful and infused with unbridled tension, ‘Sex’ is a track that has contributed to The 1975’s title as the biggest band to come out of the 2010s. Isabella Miller
By Your Side
Covering Sade’s ‘By Your Side’, The 1975 again prove their artistry. In aid of War Child UK, the track is strikingly gentle and utilises a blend of electronic synths alongside saxophone and keys. Healy’s voice is heavily autotuned which adds to the ethereal, unique take of the iconic noughties hit. Isabella Miller
Sincerity Is Scary
Now we all know that The 1975 are certainly partial towards a more eloquent songwriting style over the common ‘I love you, you love me’ trope. ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, somehow manages to be as introspective as it is plain spoken on the topic of vulnerability in relationships. Despite this vulnerability, The 1975 still remember to keep it real by ending the track singing: “I’m just pissed off because you pied me off.” While the lyrics are for the most part candid and observant, the music is vibrantly lifted with soulful choir vocals, horns and a lively piano – making it the kind of track that you know will sound 10 times better live. Milcah Fajardo
Love It If We Made It
‘Love It If We Made It’ is a powerhouse song. The 1975 amplify the fraught sociopolitical reality of four times. Matty Healy sings from the top of his lungs from the same high note, expressing outrage and urgency. Listen out for the penultimate chorus where you’ll hear the song build with momentum before it bursts into a crescendo of hope and elation. Milcah Fajardo
Bagsy Not In Net
Woozy two-step drums, ethereal vocal chops and those swooning strings: ‘Bagsy Not In Net’ comes as a love-letter to UK garage and The Streets, but also a testament to how far the band can stretch themselves and what shapes they can contort themselves into. “Do you wanna leave at the same time?” Healy asks his lover, desperate not to be the guy who dies last. In the track’s Spotify notes, Healy remembers the moment he and co-writer George Daniel heard ‘Sailing’ by Christopher Cross and decided to sample it: “We kind of looked at each other like: fuck!” It’s fleeting, it’s over too quick, it’s a love song. Louis Norton
One of their sweetest, cleanest sounding tracks that ironically finds lyricist Matty Healy at his lowest, ‘Paris’ concerns itself with the inevitable comedown: “And then she pointed at the bag of her dreams / in a well posh magazine / I said I’m done babe I’m out of the scene / but I was picking up from Bethnal Green”. In its construction, its arpeggiated synths, its palm-muted looping guitar melody, ‘Paris’ feels contained and perfect; separate from the rest of the album, akin to a dream-sequence. It’s one of his most brutal dashboard-confessionals, and to me his eeriest, most unglamorous song. Louis Norton
‘Menswear’s technical but rhythmic structure heralded drummer George Daniel’s talents as not just a producer but as a writer, contributing to the sonic atmosphere through minimalism, tension and release. These are skills Daniel would go on to sharpen on tracks like ‘How to Draw/Petrichor’, ILIWYS’ title track and ‘Having No Head’. Its first half sounds lopsided and syncopated before coming undone in a rush of four-on-the-floor ecstasy as Healy captures a wedding in disarray, chewing scenery like a Beat whilst his friends make marital vows. It’s clear that the writing was on the wall for this dream-duo from the start – talk about a match made in heaven. Louis Norton
Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)
“The plan for it was College Dropout Kanye meets the Backstreet Boys” – it’s never as simple as that though. Combining a sample of The Temptations’ ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’, a contribution from No Rome interpolating a sample of Hiroshi Sato’s ‘Say Goodbye’ and a piano section from George Daniel, ‘Tonight’ has a lot of variables, none riskier than it’s bid for 90s melodrama perfection. As the rest of the noise tears away at its climax, leaving only a horn section where a party used to be, all that’s left is Healy starring in his own rom-com, running out of grand romantic gestures. Louis Norton
I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)
Conceived alone by Healy on an acoustic guitar, ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ is arguably a Britpop fist-pumper, but it closes an album largely about his recovery from heroin addiction; its humanistic imagery is hard-won and cutting: “Am I me through geography? A face collapsed through entropy”. Healy conceded the song retains elements of Britpop catharsis such as The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and Oasis, but he aimed for a more cinematic ending when employing composer David Campbell (notably responsible for the string section on ‘Iris’ by The Goo Goo Dolls). By the time those strings surge, though, it’s lyrically, viscerally, so very Manchester: “You win, you lose, you sing the blues, there’s no point in buying concrete shoes/I’ll refuse.” The chorus is repeated over and over again; Sisyphean, it’s layered thinly over a dense electronic mixture of drum fills and keys and synths that threaten to submerge his pleading vocals. “If you can’t survive – just try”: getting up in the morning never sounded more heroic. Louis Norton
The scene: photographed in black and white, on a bridge somewhere overlooking a motorway, and opening with Matty smoking and drinking. There’s something about this music video that feels like you’ve just ran into him here and he needs to get something out of his system. The song doesn’t come close to his best writing, but in this performance, you can hear how much it means to him. The heartbreak in his voice is palpable across his delivery: “And I like the way that your face looks, when you’re yappin’ on about him’. He can continue to write songs about love, loss, and God forever. But there’s something about how earnest this one is that has stayed with me. Jacob Gandy
Arguably the best of The 1975’s deep cuts, ‘Haunt/Bed’ is the ultimate background noise for all the nocturnal deep thinkers. The track is also the epitome of the band’s OG spacey synth sound. With rhythmic electronic sparkles careering around shoegaze-y vocals, this piece (yes, it’s art!) is guaranteed to make all your little hairs stand up on end. Following early era themes of sex, loss and love, we can only ascertain from the deliciously ambiguous lyrics that Healy is crooning about his friend with a dead Dad that uses him for sex. Edgy. Gem Stokes
Frail State Of Mind
“Go outside? Seems unlikely. I’m sorry that I missed your call.” Matty Healy seems to have foreseen the looming pandemic in the opening lines of ‘Frail State of Mind’. A painfully honest exploration of social anxiety, the track fabricates an electronic soundscape with glitching production and a UK garage-esque drumbeat. Addictive percussion rhythmically twinkles, stutters, and halts, before being regurgitated all over again. The lead singer apologises profusely to his friends for checking out and feeling insecure amid a period of unstable mental health. The track puts into words the painfully relatable feeling of dealing with long-term mental illness: “Don’t wanna bore you with my frail state of mind.” An unexpected but welcome deviation from The 1975’s usual synth-pop sound, ‘Frail State of Mind’ is a poignant expression of mental fragility. Gem Stokes
Being a teenager in 2018 meant your late night YouTube searches consisted of “Walmart Yodeling Kid” and “songs when you’re in the bathroom at a party”. The latter is a nostalgic ASMR trend that saw the resurgence of The 1975’s iconic track ‘Somebody Else’ two years after its release. Even through the edit’s crunchy, muffled filter, the slow jam’s pastel synths and addictive 808s prevail. The track’s cloudy pop details the stickiness of a breakup, and the pains of moving on. What makes ‘Somebody Else’ worthy of this list? Its refusal to age. Seven years on, the track still slaps as hard, if not harder, than it did in 2016. Gem Stokes
‘The 1975’ (iliwysfyasbysuoi version)
The 1975 opened every album with a self-titled introduction, setting the tone of the album ahead. That is, until the band’s fourth full-length release, which featured a monologue from activist Greta Thunberg about the global climate crisis. Intended to provoke, this introduction was a surprising about-turn, but didn’t seem to hit quite as hard as the other albums’ openers. Choosing a favourite is like asking a parent to choose their favourite child; it’s difficult, but absolutely doable. The best version of ‘The 1975’ can be found on sophomore album ‘I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it’: one minute and twenty three seconds of pure euphoria, ‘The 1975’ is as blissful as it is iconic. Gem Stokes
If you see ‘Me’ on your friend’s Spotify activity, ask them if they’re OK. The ultimate sad boy song, ‘Me’ explores dark themes borne from the lead singer’s guilt and realisation that actions can have pretty serious consequences. The 2013 release sees Healy apologising from different perspectives alongside stripped-back, minimal instrumentation. His slurring words wade through a space orbited by synths, clicks and saxophone. ‘Me’ is a song that grows with you; the kind of track you’ll find yourself returning to at different stages in your life. Gem Stokes
‘You’ is one of the rockier tracks on the band’s second EP, ‘Sex’, released back in 2012. The gauzy song embodies the classic 1975 sound we’ve come to instantly recognise. The atmospheric intro segues into a bright riff that runs wild throughout. Matty’s storytelling never misses the mark. Detailing the mutual destruction and chaos of a toxic relationship, the singer shows there’s a lot more to life than being stuck in a cyclical, unstable situation. Matty releases feelings of self-pity for a fleeting moment, as the melody sparkles in sweet piano notes and a bridge that forgets the wreckage. Asking his lover to dance, the song cuts to a happier time that is now lodged firmly in the past. Sahar Ghadirian
There aren’t many tracks that have the emotional capability to fill your stomach with butterflies within the first few notes, but ‘Robbers’ manages to do just that. Despite being played on pretty much every live setlist since the band’s formation, Robbers is a rock ballad that is worth so much more than the title of being just another festival anthem. An ode to romantic obsession, love, and the way the world feels when you’re oh-so infatuated with somebody else, the track zones in on feelings of fearlessness and invincibility, portraying the idea that this kind of connection makes you feel like the centre of the universe, and like nothing else matters.
Enthused with heartrending vocals and piercing guitar, Robbers embodies everything that has made The 1975 so important, and deserves all the credit it can get for being potentially the most emo 1975 track to date. Samantha Hall
The 1975’s forthcoming fifth album ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’, lands October 14th.