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  • Megan O'Brien

Being Funny In A Foreign Language | Album Review

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Review of The 1975's album Being Funny In A Foreign Language | Megan O'Brien

The 1975 opens their new album Being Funny In A Foreign Language as they usually do, with a track titled “The 1975.” This is meant to both set the tone of the album and to document where The 1975 are at this moment in time. “The 1975” is a culmination of everything lead singer Matty Healy has been thinking, feeling, and doing since the last album, Notes On A Conditional Form, was released in 2020. In classic 1975 fashion, the lyricism is thought-provoking, interspersed with humor. Healy reflects on his past faults, and while he’s beginning to see things from a new perspective, he still finds himself unhappy with the world around him. As strings are added on top of the piano melody, emotions gradually build until, at last, they dissipate with the line, “I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re seventeen.” Despite powerful lyrics about the state of society, the music is so beautiful that it makes for an easy listen. I couldn’t imagine a better way to start off this season of The 1975.

The album leaves little time for listeners to emotionally recover from the intensity of “The 1975” before throwing them into “Happiness.” The song is about an all-consuming love–a theme that has reappeared throughout The 1975’s discography. The lyrics describe a love that is so strong, it’s overwhelming. Whether that person is with you or not, nothing else seems to matter. Healy expresses how he would do anything for the person he’s singing about, to the point where it might even be detrimental, for example in the line “I’d go blind just to see you.” The repetition and stuttering in the chorus show the intensity of his overthinking, just for him to calm back down at the mention of this person. “She’s insatiable, it’s what she is.” This love truly makes Healy happy despite his worries, a theme that will be repeated throughout this album. The undertones of jazz in this pop song make it irresistible to dance to.

The third song on the album is “Looking For Somebody (To Love).” In full transparency, during my first listen to this album, I was caught off guard by this song. Ironically, although it’s one of the more upbeat-sounding songs on the album, it’s about a school shooter. While the lyrics are meant to explore and understand why shootings occur, I thought they may have simplified the topic too much. While this song wasn’t my favorite at first, it did grow on me eventually, and I respect Healy’s ability to delve into sensitive and important issues and pair them with music so enjoyable that people are almost forced to face the issues being presented in the lyrics.

“Part Of The Band” was truly the best song The 1975 could’ve released as their first single for this album because it covers just about everything the album discusses. Considering how frequently The 1975 crosses genres, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I first heard this song and there was a folk, Phoebe Bridgers–inspired sound, yet it had me questioning the album’s whole sound. The song starts by telling a story about being young and in relationships and ends with how long Healy has been clean from drug-use. The lyrics somehow manage to creatively and cohesively tie together so many topics, from love to drugs, mental illness, self-perception, and finding your place in a modern society. The only way to understand the power of this song is by listening.

The next track on Being Funny In A Foreign Language is “Oh Caroline,” which was immediately my favorite song on the album, and I wouldn’t be surprised to watch it become a crowd favorite as well. This song has everything necessary to become a pop hit; from straight forward lyrics about love to an easy-to-move-to pop sound. The ideas presented in the lyrics are similar to many of The 1975’s other works, but the music is completely original. And for everyone disappointed that Healy is singing about someone named Caroline instead of you, he finishes the song by saying “I’ve tried to find another name a thousand times, but the only one that rhymes is Caroline.” Some people may say this is a metaphor, but I say it means you still have a chance. You’re welcome.

“I’m In Love With You” is what it’s meant to be: simple. Healy reminisces on a past relationship and how he was in love with this person, whether he was able to say it or just think it. In an Apple Music interview, Healy shared how, in 2020, his girlfriend had been trying to teach him about the social and political issues going on in the world, but all he could do was look at her and think about how in love with her he was. Sweet–not very sensitive of him, but sweet, nonetheless. The song has great background vocals paired with a seemingly hypnotic bridge that’s making its rounds on TikTok right now. This is a perfect song to share with a friend who doesn’t listen to The 1975 yet.

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I’m a single 20-year-old with a carefully curated wedding playlist – it’s true! – and when “All I Need To Hear” was released, I added it straight to that playlist. That is about the biggest compliment I can give to a song. “All I Need To Hear” is a slow pop ballad, and when listening, you can feel the heart that was put into it when The 1975 recorded it in one-take. In this song, Healy reveals that all he needs to hear is that the woman loves him, even if it’s insincere. The music tells the story as much as the lyrics, and the theatrical decrescendo makes the song more powerful. Often The 1975’s music and Healy’s voice can be overlooked by their interesting and often intense lyrics, but this song is the perfect chance to close your eyes and listen to the band’s real talent.

The next track is a light-hearted, Christmas track called “Wintering.” The song is about going home for the holidays and the typical conversations you may have or hear. This is another great example of how The 1975 is able to use music to capture life in its rawest form. Maybe Healy misses his family and wants an excuse to write a song about them, or maybe he thinks there’s an untapped indie-rock Christmas music market, but either way, I’m buying it. This light-hearted and cheerful song gives listeners a peek into Healy’s normal life away from the drugs, money, and fame. My friends yell at me when I try to play Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but absolutely no one was complaining when I had this song blaring in late October.

The album then shifts to the song “Human Too,” because the band clearly has no empathy for their fans’ emotional stability. “Human Too” is all about making mistakes, and how it’s okay because we’re only human. Healy acknowledges his flaws, and his inability to change, but asks listeners to recognize that this is the human condition. He asks for forgiveness for not only himself, but everyone. While I like the message of this song, it doesn’t stand out to me as much as other songs on the album. But since this album is a sort of band time capsule, it is fitting with Healy’s many controversies over the past years. Healy summed the song up best in an interview with Apple Music. Speaking about online hate, Healy said, “It does affect me a bit. I totally get it, I’m a messy person… but I’m a good person. Give me a break a bit.”

A continuation of “Robbers,” “About You” is a nostalgic piece that pulls on your heartstrings the same way their debut album did. The strings, horns, and background vocals that have been used throughout the whole album come together in this song to create a strong, full sound. But undeniably, the best part is the bridge, featuring Carly Holt. Holt’s voice is mesmerizing and arguably what makes the song what it is. I only have so many words to describe how cathartic this song is. It is a true testament to The 1975’s ability to create painfully heartfelt love songs that leave their fans wanting more.

The album takes on so many heavy topics that it only feels right to close with this light, folk song called “When We Are Together.” Being Funny In A Foreign Language tackles all of the feelings Healy is experiencing at this point in time, and puts them together to express that, “The only time I feel I might get better, is when we are together.” When the song nears the end, it fades out and the piano brings you back to the beginning of the album.

Being Funny In A Foreign Language is a profound, multidimensional album. In my opinion, the 1975, in conjunction with Jack Antonoff’s always-amazing production, has managed to create one of their best works yet. Despite exploring new sounds, this album is arguably their most clear, cohesive sound and lyricism yet. I have grown to have such a deep admiration for the music on this album. No matter where you are in life, The 1975 reminds us that we’re all just humans trying our best, and gives us somewhere to turn to question, feel, and simply live. My final rating of this album is a 90/100. While there are a few things I’ve critiqued this album for, it mainly loses 10 points for being so good that I decided to write a review. Being Funny In A Foreign Language beautifully captured this moment in time, and I can’t wait to see what will come next for The 1975.

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