If you follow the British indie band The 1975, you might be aware that each of their albums begins with an eponymous track, usually about ninety seconds long, that sets the thematic and stylistic tone for the rest of it. So, when The 1975 released its five-minute eponymous single featuring a speech from climate change activist Greta Thunberg accompanied solely by a soft piano, I’d say that most fans were initially surprised.
Despite the break from the norm, “The 1975” evinces the social commentary that is becoming increasingly present in the band’s work; in their most recent album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (2018), songs like Love It If We Made It and I Always Want to Die (Sometimes) touch on a myriad of subjects united by current digital culture. In a recent interview with 101 WKQX, Matty Healy, the band’s vocalist, stated that addressing political issues in music is “the burden of any decent artist.”
I could dive into the musical choices of “The 1975”, but to do that would miss the point of the song. This song is not about music, but rather using the influence that popular music brings as a vessel to amplify voices that need to be heard. For me, the most powerful statement in the song is not anything said by Thunberg, but rather the members of The 1975 titling the song after themselves—essentially acknowledging that their existence, their being depends fully on the success of climate action.
Now more than ever, it is essential that popular figures address climate change, rather the climate crisis. Even if the entire world were to immediately stop emitting greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane), global temperatures would still rise for possibly hundreds of years. However, there is still hope to prevent or mitigate the most disastrous effects of the crisis, but as the Climate Reality Project states, “a global challenge requires a global solution.” And global means everybody, including climate deniers and people who just do not care, which unfortunately includes the presidential administration that actively works against climate science. This song takes one more step to remind the world that young people will not be complicit in the degradation of their own future—and that solutions at the scale of the proposed Green New Deal are urgently needed going forward.
“The 1975” sets the stage for the band’s album Notes on a Conditional Form to be released next February, and is a continuation of the band’s last album. All proceeds from the song will be donated to Extinction Rebellion, an international movement that uses nonviolent tactics to “halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.” If you would like to read more about Thunberg and have a few minutes to spare, I would recommend this interview with her published last March by The Guardian.
You can listen to the song in full here: