One of the first things I do upon waking up is check my phone, and this urge to stay connected does not go away for the rest of the day. I want to read every notification from every app, to the point that I leave my phone facing upward so I can immediately read each message as it comes in and see who it is from.
When the people I know transform into a neat list of profiles on my screen, however, relationships change. The connections we forge among ourselves gain another layer of meaning in the age of the internet, and pop band The 1975’s third album, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” sincerely questions what this added complexity does to human connection.
“A Brief Inquiry” stands out among The 1975’s discography thanks to its use of many genres to touch on numerous themes. Love, loss and hope are expressed through elements of synth-pop, jazz and folk. This wide array of styles pays homage to other bands with a broad incorporation of genres like Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend and Radiohead.
This kaleidoscope of topics and styles reflects a virtual reality where an incredible, seemingly limitless amount of information bombards users daily, and relationships morph into bizarre shapes. By being so forthcoming about the band’s own unfulfilled connections, “A Brief Inquiry” pushes its listeners to take in its contents through the lens of their own experience of living with the internet.
As a whole, “A Brief Inquiry” also describes how the internet has complicated expressing emotion candidly. In “Sincerity is Scary,” the band targets the way the internet helps compensate for insecurity through online, superficial profiles by asserting, “You try to mask your pain in the most postmodern way.”
In the digital age, I can post highlights of my life, but texting someone about a depressing thought and expecting a response has unfortunately become difficult. As the internet deprives me of face-to-face interactions, a sense of alienation emerges each time I open a new app to try and find someone to talk to.
Still, life is not always like Instagram photos by the beach or upbeat songs with a summer vibe. Listening to band frontrunner Matty Healy’s honest exposes of his battles against heroin addiction that bring feelings of guilt, anger and disappointment puts summer’s gilded facades into perspective. By hearing his confessions of weakness, it is all right for me to embrace my own vulnerability for the length of a song.
Vulnerability on a personal level runs deep in the album. Unrequited and deformed love appears prominently in many songs: fears of being deceived show up in “Inside Your Mind,” Healy describes love on the verge of insanity in “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and, ending the album on a sad note, feelings of defeat and uselessness run rampant in “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes).”
The dark subject matter and melancholy tone reveal that vulnerability and honesty do not always lead to happiness, and “modernity has failed us,” shouts Healy in “Love It If We Made It.” The internet connects billions of people around the globe, but this live connection heightens awareness of social and personal issues that others confront daily. As a result, it has become easier to become disillusioned with the modern world, and perhaps some people already are.
While a sense of dejection has formed their artistic identity since their first album, The 1975 has broadened their musical style and begun to include more topics into their new songs. “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” could serve well as a transitional album to future ventures, provided that the band keeps up its creativity and stylistic diversity. This uncertainty is, undoubtedly, another symptom of our digital age.
Ellie Yang is a rising junior in the College. Tune In, Zone Out updates online every other week.