And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #293: The 1975 v One Direction

By | Published on Friday 12 February 2016

The 1975

Look, I don’t want to alarm you, but the artistic credibility of One Direction has been called into question. Sorry for just coming out and saying it, but I thought it was the best way. Just get it out there. Then we can sit here together and work this thing out.

The claim that members of One Direction might not be driven entirely by art for art’s sake came from Matt Healy of leftfield experimentalists The 1975. And this isn’t just some Jake Bugg-style scattergun insult, it stems from a meeting that occurred while 1D were working on their 2014 album ‘Four’.

“They got me in, and they said, ‘We really like your band. Would you write a song for us?'” Healy told Spin. “[But] they didn’t seem to be actually that interested; they just wanted to play me this song that they said was really, really inspired by us”.

He means ‘Change Your Ticket’, by the way, which sounds a bit like The 1975’s ‘Girls’, but much better.

‘”Listen guys, fill your boots, the song doesn’t sound that much like ‘Girls'”, Healy recalls telling them. “‘But the guitar and the whole vibe of it is a complete lift. So take the guitars off, and we’re good'”.

Apparently the group agreed to this, which would be a weird thing to do, given that it’s the guitar part that drives the track. Presumably they realised this fact later, because the song appeared as a bonus track on ‘Four’ with guitars very much still in place. “It would have been a bad 1975 song”, said Healy of the finished product. Which isn’t correct, because, as I’ve already noted, it is definitely better than ‘Girls’.

“They’re nice guys”, he added. “[But] they’re four guys who queued up outside an arena to sing in front of Simon Cowell. Do they really have any artistic credibility? That sounds like a mean thing to say, but it’s a good question. Like, do they?”

It’s not a good question, because no they don’t. Nor should they. When was it decided that boybands should have artistic credibility? This is all Gary Barlow’s fault, isn’t it? Healy’s mistake was assuming that One Direction were the creative directors of their own record and would therefore be able to simply remove the guitars from a track.

Also, what was the purpose of this meeting? Why would they invite him in, to ask him to write them a song, and then just whip out one they’d already done out like, “Ah mate, we don’t even need you”? Did they do this to The Who and Def Leppard too?

And what does this meeting say of Healy’s songwriting in the first place? He has strived all of his life to kick against the mainstream, but then he accidentally formed a commercial sounding band who signed to a major label and release songs that sound like a boyband could perform them. Perhaps Healy is actually mirroring his own fears onto One Direction. Does Matt Healy really have any artistic credibility? That sounds like a mean thing to say, but it’s a good question. Like, does he?

I suppose, to answer that good question, we have to start by arriving at a clear definition of terms. What is ‘artistic credibility’? Is it writing songs that don’t show any signs of outside influence? In which case, everyone’s fucked. Is it not making music for commercial gain? Again, not sure that’s much good for anyone here. Could it perhaps be, as Healy suggested, not queuing up to perform for Simon Cowell? Perhaps. But do you just stop at Simon Cowell, or do we include the courting of any record label exec?

Can entertainers be artists? Can artists be entertainers? It’s a minefield, isn’t it? I think the only safe way to ensure artistic credibility is to perform songs alone in a locked room. No one should enjoy it, no money should change hands, and no one should ever know it happened.

And if we all agree on that – which we do – then we can agree that no one has any artistic credibility and the notion of such a thing is stupid. Therefore everyone is in the same boat as One Direction. Bad luck, Tchaikovsky.