I absolutely love music. From a young age, music was a way for me to express my emotions, to change my mood, and to generally connect with the world and the people around me. When I’m not seeing patients, you’ll probably find me at work with headphones in, and as soon as I get home I’ve usually got a playlist on. For a bit of fun I thought I’d have a look at some lyrics from a psychological perspective, and for the first one of these I’ve chosen one of my favourite bands – the 1975.
For those not in the know, the 1975 are an alt-rock band from Manchester. Their songs are quite lyrically involved and rich, and their lead singer Matty Healy makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t mind being called pretentious. He’s also honest about his own struggles with drug addiction, which is another lens to view their music through.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to psychology via lyrics! Click the title of the song to listen to it.
Sincerity is Scary
“And why would you believe you could control how you’re perceived when at your best you’re intermediately versed in your own feelings”
We’re starting with one of my favourite lyrics from an amazing song. As humans, a lot of us try to control what other people think of us – we want people to see us as clever, or witty, or generally better than we secretly fear that we are. And how can we do that, The 1975 argue, if we don’t understand where that drive to impress people is coming from? If we don’t understand what’s going on in our own heads first? I think it’s an important point, and one that therapy can often help people to work out. Being more than “intermediately versed in your own feelings” is a good starting point for all sorts of things, like forming healthy relationships, looking after yourself, and generally having more of an understanding of how you navigate the world. As a bonus, the video for this track is brilliant!
“You got something to say? Why don’t you speak it out loud, instead of living in your head? It’s always the same, why don’t you take your heart out, instead of living in your head?”
Another important point. How many of us are guilty of having whole conversations in our heads, full of things that we want to say? What would the world be like if we were all more honest with each other, if we truly said what was in our hearts rather than keeping it inside? I don’t know, but I think for some of us it wouldn't be as terrible as we fear it might be. It’s okay to ask for what you want sometimes, it’s fine to tell people how you feel. If you keep it in, and “live in your head,” you might miss the chance to experience something great.
She Lays Down
“She lays down on her bedroom floor. The chemicals that make her love don’t seem to be working any more”
I’ve always found this song – about singer Matty Healy’s mum and her battle with post-natal depression – to be beautifully written and very sad. It really captures the feeling of knowing that people expect you to be doing something, and the horror when you realise that it doesn’t feel like that for you. Matty’s mum wants to love her son, but because she’s depressed she can’t find it in herself, and that appals her. It explains why people struggle to ask for help when they experience post-natal depression, and why some people battle on for ages without getting what they need. Luckily, the “chemicals that make her love” can be changed to some extent, and post-natal depression is manageable as long as you get the right help.
I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) – TW for talk about suicide on this song
“Your death it won’t happen to you, it happens to your family and your friends”
“You win you lose, you sing the blues, there’s no point in buying concrete shoes, I refuse”
“If you can’t survive, just try”
This song covers a difficult topic to talk about – suicide. The 1975 have never shied away from anything difficult, and it doesn’t seem like they’re about to start now. The song title, and the lyrics, seem to me to be a nod to the idea that suicidal thoughts are fairly common – a lot of people think about what it would be like not to be here, and how their family and friends would cope. But there’s a big difference between thoughts and actions, and Matty Healy is saying that he refuses to act on those thoughts. He ends part of the song with a plea – “if you can’t survive, just try” – do what is necessary to get you through, whether that’s self-care, talking to a friend, medication or therapy. The world needs you in it.
Give Yourself a Try
“And what would you say to your younger self? Growing a beard’s quite hard and whiskey never starts to taste nice”
This one is just here because it makes me smile (as someone who tried to drink coffee for years because people told me I should like it). Stop trying to make yourself like things or do things just because you think you should, or because other people tell you that you should. You might never like whiskey, or other things that you feel make you “an adult,” but that’s okay!
How To Draw/Petrichor
“Take something and then make it brand new, try and do anything fourteen times, love yourself like someone you love (one you love), don’t take any of my advice, write a letter to your future self who won’t change, don’t let the internet ruin your time, they can take anything as long as it’s true, what they can’t take is you telling them lies, lies, lies”
Even though The 1975 say not to take any of their advice, I still think some of this is good advice to take. Studies suggest that you might need to do something more than fourteen times to like it or to get good at it, though! Loving yourself as much as, or as well as, someone you love is also good advice. We’re often much more harsh towards ourselves than we are to others – would you speak to your partner the way you speak to yourself? If not, maybe you’re being unfair to yourself.
I also think that being honest with people is the best way to be – psychologically, getting caught up in lies is difficult and can make you feel worse. It’s better to be truthful, even if it’s hard.
I don’t agree that your future self won’t change though – there are lots of ways to get out of destructive patterns and work towards a healthier way of being. Sorry Matty, not all your advice is good all the time!
“My heart is telling me the telly isn’t telling me anything I need but it needs to keep selling me”
This links back to my blog on hedonic adaptation. We know that advertisements aren’t really telling us anything that we desperately need to know, and yet we cling to them to try to increase our happiness. This is ultimately destructive – turning the adverts off is the best way to make sure that you’re not being influenced by something that is unhelpful to you.
And there we have it! I loved writing this post, and will probably do another one on a different band - let me know which one in the comments.
Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects