BEING FUNNY IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE // THE 1975 ALBUM REVIEW

Being Funny In A Foreign Language is the fifth album by The 1975 and one that not only surpassed all of my expectations, but also encapsulates everything that made me fall in love with their music when I was 15 years old.

When they announced the album in early 2022, they captioned the post; "Your new album. Your new era. Your old friends. The 1975." which really feels so perfect since it truly feels like a return to their classic sound that we all know and love from the band.  

"Every record I've made, I convinced myself that I had so much to prove, so it had to be about everything that ever happened, everything that's happening now, and everything that could ever happen. But on this record, I said, 'Instead of a magnum opus, what about more like a polaroid?" Matty Healy, the band's lead singer, said in an interview with Pitchfork. 

Being Funny In A Foreign Language is also a great name for the project, because it is full of really funny and sarcastic one-liners that never fail to make me genuinely laugh every time I hear them. "I like my men like I like my coffee, full of soy milk and so sweet it won't offend anybody," is a line from "Part of the Band" that first comes to mind as one of my favorite lyrics from the album for that reason. Their song "Wintering" also comes to mind, which in a way is their version of a Christmas song, that follows a group of eccentric characters catching up over the holidays and is truly funny from beginning to end. However, there is a lot of introspection and real sincerity to these songs in between all of the light-hearted moments. In fact, some of these songs are probably the most personal Matty Healy has been in his music yet. Many moments throughout this album he is notably very open about his sobriety and past public mistakes, which is great to see his growth in that regard.

Their self titled debut album and their sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, were two very formative albums in my life and continue to have such an impact on me and my music taste to this day. Both are such classics that I think will forever be in my ranking of my top albums ever. I saw them live in 2017 in support of their album ILIWYS and it was the first time I left a show and felt like a different person after it. It felt like a transcending experience that I really can't put into words. I think about that feeling all the time and what makes their music so powerful. They can really evoke so much emotion and nostalgia and bring people together in such a powerful way. 

Their last album, Notes On A Conditional Form, was released in 2020 and was overall a miss for me so I really didn't know what to expect from The 1975 going forward. Although that album did have some gems on it, those songs felt overshadowed by all of the filler surrounding it on the tracklist. If Notes On A Conditional Form was half the length, I would probably have a very different review of it, but ultimately it was never an album I fully connected with. Being Funny In A Foreign Language in comparison to that, is much more cohesive and every song holds its own on the tracklist. There really isn't a single song that I skip on it, which really differentiates this from their last release. 

The album was largely produced in collaboration with Jack Antonoff, who is one of my favorite artists ever and one I have written about many times over the years in several of my album reviews. It is rare for The 1975 to work with other musicians like this in an extended way, most of their music has been solely written by all four members of the band and produced by Matty Healy and George Daniel, The 1975's drummer, up until this point. The 1975 x Jack Antonoff crossover is something I never expected to happen, but once I heard "Part of the Band" for the first time I couldn't believe how much he truly elevated their sound for this new era.  

Jack's influence is very prominent throughout this album, to the point it seems Matty even picked up some of his vocal mannerisms while singing. Songs like "Happiness", "Looking For Somebody (To Love), and "Part of the Band" are most reminiscent of something Jack would usually put out with Bleachers, but in a way that still feels very much like an album by The 1975. I say that in the best way possible because this style of music feels like a natural sonic progression for The 1975 entering what feels like a new chapter of their career. There is also a notable departure from the electronic music that carried through on the majority of their last three albums, which was instead replaced with traditional instruments, so that hopefully is an indication of their creative direction for the future too. I think having Jack co-produce this album is honestly one of the best creative choices they have made in years and a collaboration I hope continues with future releases.

As always, every album of their's starts with the self-titled track, "The 1975", but it differs with each release to reflect the tone and sound of the new era of music. This iteration is by far my favorite of the five versions, it is completely different lyrically compared to what it was on their first three albums and also a departure from the Greta Thunberg monologue that started Notes On A Conditional Form

It serves as a "status update" from the band for the listener, as Matty Healy said in his commentary for Spotify. I wasn't expecting this song to be one of the best on the album going into it, since it usually is just a short intro, but it absolutely is. Lyrically it is so thought-provoking and has so many lines that are truly some of the best they have ever written. "You're making an aesthetic out of not doing well, and mining all the bits of you you think you can sell whilst the fans are on", is one lyric that has really stuck with me. The societal commentary about what it's like to be growing up, specifically in America, when he sings "whimsical, political, liberal, with young people as collateral" is also something that has stood out to me ever since I first heard it, followed by the repetition of "I'm sorry if you're living and you're seventeen" over and over at the end of the track.

There is also a level of accountability and personal introspection that he is taking on this album, specifically in this song as well as on a later track called "Human Too", where he is apologizing for past public mistakes. On "The 1975", he sings "I'm sorry about my twenties, I was learning the ropes, I had a tendency of thinking about it after I spoke". In some ways it reminds me of their song "Give Yourself A Try", in the way both his personal life as well as the political climate are explored. A similar theme is also present later on "Human Too" when he sings, "...I'm sorry that I'm someone that I wish I could change, but I've always been the same". 

"I describe the cultural, societal, political environment I'm living in at my age. Then we go into the album, which is me living that life in that time," Matty said for Spotify. 

"Part of the Band" was the first single released when the album was announced, which introduced a new outlook and style for the band. Lyrically, it is one if the best and most complex on the album - one that brings together the funny quips as well as the deep introspection and societal commentary that makes up so much of this project as a whole. In his Spotify commentary Matty said, "This song is me not afraid to be journaling. The word 'era' gets used a lot everytime we put out an album, as it's almost like a new season or series. You know it's going to be me and a continuation of the story." He continued, "I know I can almost do a song where I'm reading from my notebook, and people will know what that scene from the film is. It's a kind of vignette - sometimes you do a painting, sometimes you do a sketch. You do enough sketches next to each other and they become a painting."

Approaching "Part of the Band" from that viewpoint - smaller sketches making up a larger painting - is such an interesting way to dissect this song. Each verse is so different from the other but in the end still comes together to form such a beautiful finished piece from different perspectives and points in time. 

He expanded on that in his interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, "I really just trusted my instinct. As a narrative, I don’t know what the song is about. It was just this belief that I could talk, and that was OK, and it made sense, and I didn’t have to qualify it that much. I have a friend who is much more articulate than me, and there’s been so many times that he’s explained my lyrics back to me better than I ever could. So, I’ve learned I can sit there and spend five hours articulating what I mean, but I don’t think I need to. A movie doesn’t start by explaining what’s going to happen; it opens on a conversation, and you get what’s going on straight away. So, there’s a level of abstraction in this song where I’m giving the audience the benefit of the doubt."

There are so many lyrics from this song that I love, of course the line "I know some vaccinista tote bag chic barista, sitting east of their communista keisters" is one that stands out and is something only Matty Healy could write. The outro is one of the best verses of the entire album: "Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke? Or am I just some post-coke average skinny bloke calling his ego imaginition?" And closes out the song with a lyric about his sobriety, "I've not picked up that in a thousand four hundred days and nine hours and sixteen minutes, babe, it's kind of my daily iteration".

"Happiness" is the second track, which has a fun 80s inspired synth that feels like a very familiar sound and vibe we are used to usually hearing from them. The chorus is especially so catchy when Matty sings "Oh my my my, you mind my mind". I also love the video, they always nail it with the visuals. One of my favorite lyrics from this song is, "In case you didn't notice, I would go blind just to see you". 

The majority of Being Funny In A Foreign Language is made up of really pure love songs, which are also some of the best parts of the album because they aren't taking themselves too seriously. "Oh Caroline" is such a beautiful song about a fictional person named Caroline because it's "...the only one that rhymes". In his Spotify commentary, Matty said, "It's an invented character, where the cadence really mattered. It couldn't be 'Oh Linda' or 'Oh Jane' - it had to have a 3 syllable that really works. I knew what the song was about, I had felt that about someone before, and I got to write an episodic mini movie about the subject. It turned out to be one of our more universal songs."

"I'm In Love With You" is another song that really isn't trying to be anything it isn't, just pure fun and straight to the point. The chorus simply goes "I - I - I - I - I I'm in love with you" - I absolutely love this song and it has become an instant favorite of mine from the album! I also adore the video and all the connections it has to the "Change of Heart" video especially! 

"All I Need To Hear" is more mellow and understated than a song like "I'm In Love With You" is, but holds a lot of the same sentiments. For his Spotify commentary, Matty said the final version on the album is actually from the very first demo they recorded; "It's difficult to replicate that - it's defined by the inconsistencies, the things we got wrong." One of the best moments on the entire album is the verse, "'Cause I don't need music in my ears, I don't need the crowds and the cheers, I've been told it so many times before, but hearing it from you means so much more...just tell me you love me, that's all that I need to hear". 

The concept of the third track, "Looking For Somebody (To Love)", is one that can be interpreted in many ways. I can best describe it as British men trying to wrap their head around American gun violence and also a commentary on toxic masculinity playing a part in that - the lyrics are a little bit satirical but also very dark at the same time. It sounds like a classic Bleachers-style song - "Stop Making This Hurt" or "Lets Get Married" come to mind as the most reminiscent sonically - along with some parallels to Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks" when Matty is singing "Oh he ran, oh he ran, should've seen how he ran" in the chorus. Trying to make sense of American politics and culture from an outsider perspective is very prominent throughout a lot of their work, sometimes with directly poignant songs like, "Love It If We Made It" and "People", or with lighter tracks such as "She's American". "Looking For Somebody (To Love) sounds like a very fun and high-energy song - but if you're familiar with any of Jack Antonoff or The 1975's past work, often the most upbeat sounding songs are the darkest or heaviest in terms of lyrical themes. In a way, it reminds me of "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)" because that song juxtaposes itself in the same exact way too, except in that case referring to drug addiction. 

"About You" is absolutely the best song on the album and one that I know a lot of the long-time fans will really appreciate. My reaction the first time I heard this song was like no other, it was insane. In many ways it is a sequel to their iconic song "Robbers", which anyone that loves The 1975 would fully understand the cultural impact this song had on everyone. Listening to this song makes me feel like I was somehow transported back to being 15 years old for a moment in time, the way they can evoke such a feeling of nostalgia and bring back so many feelings is something I never experienced with music before in such a strong visceral way. It's the same way I felt when I first heard "Robbers" all those years ago and what made me love their music in the first place. Their first two albums especially were so impactful on my life at that time and this song encapsulates everything that makes their music so special. 

"About You" pretty much picks up right where "Robbers" left off and is very self-referential to a lot of their early work. I hope they make a music video for this song as a follow up of the characters in "Robbers" 10 years later because something The 1975 never fails to excel at is creating stunning and complex visuals to pair with their music.

"I know a place, it's somewhere I go when I need to remember your face, we get married in our heads, something we do while we try to recall where we met", he sings in the opening lines. It is followed in the chorus by the repeated question of "Do you think that I have forgotten about you?" 

"Hold on and hope that we'll find our way back in the end" is also such a beautiful lyric, one that fits the original storyline of "Robbers" and the music video so perfectly. 

One of the greatest moments of the entire album is when the song changes to the female perspective, sung by Carly Holt, the wife of The 1975's guitarist Adam Hann. She sings on the bridge; "There was something about you that now I can't remember, it's the same damn thing that made my heart surrender, and I'll miss you on the train, I'll miss you in the morning, I never know what to think about". 

The way they were able to capture all of the energy and emotion that is in a song as classic as "Robbers" and somehow turn it into something new, fresh and modern makes "About You" such a masterpiece. Also, listening to both of those songs back to back is something I will never recover from, its amazing! 

"When We Are Together" is the final song on the album, one that didn't seem like the obvious choice as the closing track to me at first, considering how strong "About You" is. However, the more I listened to the album I realize that it actually works perfectly since this song ends the exact same way the first song, "The 1975", begins. It has kind of a folk sound to it, with sweet and simple lyricism reflecting back on specific moments and conversations he's had about getting canceled, cows, scented candles, socks with sandals, and how "Central Park is Sea World for trees". "The only time I feel I might get better is when we are together", he sings repeatedly throughout. It serves as such a full-circle moment for the album, as if this song is playing during the ending credits of a movie. 


Being Funny In A Foreign Language absolutely is The 1975 at their very best! Their vision for this album was executed so well, it is by far the most clear, consistent and confident they have been yet and I can't wait to hear what they do next!

Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

-Melissa ♡


photo credit: The 1975 & Dirty Hit



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