Most of the rave reviews of the 1975’s album A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships are missing something. It’s true A Brief Enquiry represents “15 songs that are about possibilities over conclusions”, “a reflection of the times we live in,” and, maybe, the “millennial answer to ‘OK Computer.’”
But I think A Brief Enquiry is one of the best albums in several years for another reason (a reason aside from me being a biased, unrepentant The 1975 fanboy): Matty Healy and The 1975 have made sincerity cool again. The 1975 has made sincerity possible again.
Irony has dominated the internet and popular culture for at least the last decade. Vulnerability is nowhere to be found on Twitter. Christmas sweaters are now cheesy and worn as a joke — not because they’re comfortable and festive. Even our fascination with nostalgia has nothing to do with earnest feelings. When performers like Dashboard Confessional attract thousands to concerts many years after their peak, it’s not because we love the music so much. It’s because we can joke on Instagram about how funny it is to still be listening to them, how we’re so beyond a band that shared its feelings at a time when we didn’t have to hide behind a veneer of cool.
Well, bands like Dashboard, Bright Eyes and their emo brethren inspired The 1975, who just released an album that, on lyrics anyway, can only be categorized as emo. Some of Healy’s verses seem ripped out of the notebook of an Oberlin sophomore Creative Writing major, and I love all of them. Three of my favorites:
“And what would you say to your younger self?”
“Maybe I will wait until you’re fast asleep/Dreaming things I have the right to see.”
“Modernity has failed us.”
Then, in “Sincerity Is Scary,” Healy confronts irony head on, explaining the opening lines are about how he feels he was conditioned to be ironic all the time, a habit that has served him well, and is now not trying to be “sarcastic all the time.” Facing climate change, social media hell and an insane political landscape, the easy way out is irony. The 1975 have made a classic album by being genuine, truthful, vulnerable and brave, by making the kind of music we listened to years ago without worrying whether we’d be judged.
I’m as guilty as anyone of resorting to irony the last few years. In 2019, I’m going big on vulnerability and have a feeling many others will, too. Sincerity is scary, but it’s amazing.
Now, for the list (on Spotify here). The top 20 songs of 2018 (a couple are from recent years but are new to me):
20. “Because I Love You,” Montaigne
19. “Mo Bamba,” Sheck Wes
18. “Sugar & Spice,” Hatchie
17. “Tell Me Tell Me,” Courtship
16. “Without You,” Avicii
15. “thank u, next,” Ariana Grande
14. “Pink in the Night,” Mitski
13. “Sleep Tonight,” Stars
12. “San Marcos,” Brockhampton
11. “When I’m With Him,” Empress Of
10. “New Year’s Eve,” Pale Waves
9. “Loading Zones,” Kurt Vile
8. “Graffiti,” Chvrches
7. “Thick and Thin,” LANY
6. “Oodles O’ Noodles Babies,” Meek Mill
5. “Slow Burn,” Kacey Musgraves
4. “I Will Be Waiting,” Let’s Eat Grandma
3. “Fast Slow Disco,” St. Vincent
2. “Missing U,” Robyn
1. “Give Yourself A Try,” The 1975