Thursday, September 28, 2023

Matty Healy from 1975 is TikTok’s latest heartthrob

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Shreya Christina
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The best way to describe the latest viral heartthrob is the following interaction between two people commenting on a TikTok of his: “please tell me who this is,” one wrote. The other person’s response: “You don’t want to know.”

The man is Matty Healy, the enigmatic 33-year-old singer, songwriter and frontman of English synthpop band The 1975, who makes music with a particularly iron grip on young, extremely online women and who has confused and furious music critics since 2013.

The most recent resurgence of the thirst for Healy on social media is a result of the band’s latest album, Being funny in a foreign language, which was released in October, received excellent reviews. More specifically, it comes during their ongoing world tour, which shows clips of Healy’s onstage antics – including making jokey auto-tuned asides, kissing fans, eat raw meat, simulate masturbationunbuttoning his pants so low that he almost exposes himself – have gone viral. This is crucial to Healy’s schtick, though, which has the unlikely ability to come across as endearing rather than gross, partly because it’s a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek performance of fame and authenticity in the age of social media and partly because — well, he’s Yummy.

But before you understand what’s so attractive about Healy, you need to understand all the ways he isn’t. First, he belongs to the most despised cohort of contemporary culture, the fake babies, or children of famous parents (Healy’s are British actors Tim Healy and Denise Welch). He is notoriously loose-lipped and often comes across as very pretentious; once a Billboard reporter described him as having “the helter-skelter intelligence of a self-taught artist, name-dropping Debord and Dostoyevsky, and accidentally inventing words like “dissolution.” He is thin and not tall, and has been quasi-cancelled several times (after the murder of George Floyd, he tweeted, “If you really believe ‘ALL LIVES MATTER’ you should stop facilitating the end of the black” with a link to the music video for “Love It If We Made It”, a song that references police brutality, and was accused of using a tragedy to promote his own music). He conceded gaslighting and manipulating ex-girlfriendsdudebro idolizes literary icons like Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson (the name of the band has been taken of an annotated version of On the road), and is obsessed with his penis, According to him. (I contacted him for an interview, but didn’t hear back.)

Perhaps that’s why even his most devoted fans, like the TikTok commenter who replied “you don’t want to know,” hint that their obsession with him has a psychic cost. To be fair, a lot of people really dislike Matty Healy, possibly because of those things, but also because, to use the usual phrase, he gives them “the ick”. On the many TikToks devoted to fanning about him, a fair share of comments read some variation of “WTF HE LOOKS SICK THAT YOU ALL NEED TO TOUCH GRASS.” Still, devoted fans remain, not so much in spite of its flaws as because of them.

Lucy Blakiston, like many 25-year-olds, discovered The 1975 on Tumblr when she was in high school after the release of the band’s 2013 album of the same name. Soon after, Healy built a large following on Twitter and Instagram, where he ranted, posted shit, and sometimes argued with other famous people (“I don’t know what the fuck that is, but I love that song about being in a phone). box or whatever it is,” he once tweeted at Maroon 5 after they suggested The 1975 copied their album artwork) “We’re so used to seeing celebrities be so fabricated, living and dying by their publicists, made for our consumption she explains. “There’s something very seductive about someone who seems unpolished.”

Since the tour made the rounds on TikTok and Twitter in November, Blakiston has been running the social channels for her media company, Shit you should care about, in Matty Healy stan accounts – semi-ironic of course, befitting Healy herself. “I’ve had so many interviews with him and learned who he is as a person. Early on he labeled himself as pretentious and potentially problematic, but it’s pretty clear he has a heart of gold and a lot of values ​​that people like me close to to,” she says. “He blurs the line between performance art and authenticity in a really interesting way.”

Exactly how much of Healy’s persona is “authentic” – or if it even matters – is a subject of constant debate, mostly by Healy herself. But the older he gets, the more he seems to yearn for seriousness. “I’m kind of doing the Jim Morrison thing, but I know you know I know this isn’t real,” he said. told Billboard. “It’s hard because everything is so postmodern and self-referential and hyperaware that everything is bullshit. As I grow as an artist, I just want to be sincere.”

It’s that glimpse of sincerity – which is also prevalent in The 1975’s catalog, particularly in the 2018 catalog “Sincerity Is Scary”) — that draws in fans like 25-year-old Brittany Tomlinson, better known as Brittany Broski, who first rose to national fame for a TikTok in which she tried kombucha. She specifically points to a Alabama 2019 performance in which Healy gave a passionate speech against the state’s six-week abortion ban. “Matty understands on an intrinsic level what many ‘internet kids’ feel: this indescribable sense of hyper-self-conscious cringe that creates a hard shell around the deep-seated desire to be sincere and sincere,” she told me via DM.

Broski happens to be so famous that when she met Healy at an after party after one of his shows at Madison Square Garden in November, he recognized her. “I LITERALLY LIKE REALLY HAD AN OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE I SMELLED LIKE CIGARETTES AND PISS AND I HAD MATTY ON AND HE HUGGED ME AND TOUCHED MY ARM,” she wrote about the experience.

However, no fan was as lucky as Carmen Matson, who managed to secure a front row seat at the December 1975 show in Minneapolis. She told me she knew that Healy usually singles out one fan (or sometimes a bodyguard) from the front row to kiss during the song “Robbers,” so she arrived prepared, armed with a sign that read, “Be my first kiss.” “After the song was over, I was like, ‘Oh damn, there goes my chance,'” she says. “And shortly after that, he raised my plate and said, ‘Yeah, one hundred percent.'” What happened next went ultraviral: Healy came to the den to check her ID to make sure she was of legal age (she’s 22), then held her face, asked if she was ready, and kissed her twice. “I was like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah.’ It was like I was blocking everyone and I’ll never forget it. It was such a special moment for me.” (And yes, it really was her first kiss, she says.)

That a grungy, skinny British rock star with asshole-adjacent tendencies and a history of drug abuse (Healy addicted to heroin since several mid-2010s) is also a sex symbol is not particularly revealing; just ask any Manchester rock band from the last 60 years. But Healy lies unlike a decade of healthy, “unproblematic” hunks – the “golden retriever” internet buddies such as Chris Evans, Harry Styles, Michael B. Jordan and Oscar Isaac. He’s got what many of today’s leading men lack: a sex appeal that’s messy and maybe a little icky. His bonafides don’t include being “unproblematic”; in fact some people on social media be accused stage kisses of being non-consensual or creepy because of the “power imbalance” (Matson and another fan who went viral after her kiss have stated that it was highly consensual).

Healy’s brand of brashness has less in common with the oft-sterilized cultural discourse of recent years and more with the idea of “indie sleazy”, or the era of hipster debauchery in the late 90s and early 2010s, around the time Healy rose to fame. “Indie sleaze” wasn’t exactly an aesthetic that celebrated meaningful (or, really, all) values ​​beyond having fun and looking cool; so it’s not exactly a surprise that some of the scene’s most notable pioneers turned out to be creeps (American Apparel’s Dov Charney and photographer Terry Richardson, to name two). However, Healy keeps the line between sexy and skeezy because, as Broski told me, he “gets it.” “He’s hot in the skinny, canned British rock star kind of way. It just works,” she says. “It’s science.”

This column first appeared in the newsletter The Goods. Register here so you don’t miss the next one, plus exclusive newsletters.

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