You feel Healy's recognition of his visibility on the new album; even the songs narrated by characters that aren't him, like the God-fearing gay kid in "Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America," seem shaped by the singer's understanding that when he takes a position, people listen. (The son of two television actors well known in Britain, he comes naturally, perhaps, to the role.)
In quarantine, Healy -- said to be dating FKA Twigs, who appears on "Notes" -- says he's been pondering the dangers of his celebrity. "Doing what I do, self-obsession is the fuel of the engine, and of course people don't challenge you on it," he said. "I mean, if I'm on smack, the guys will call me out, as they did. But if it's just being selfish, and that's part of my process" -- here he grimaced as he made air quotes -- "then everybody just leaves it."
True to his restlessly analytical mind, Healy then wondered aloud if knowing you're a narcissist makes you better or worse than someone more oblivious. And though that's precisely the type of question that drives the 1975's deeply layered music, the singer sometimes wishes he could shake the impulse to double back on himself.
One reason he's drawn to the gleaming surfaces in "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)" -- also a hallmark of earlier 1975 hits such as the Whitney Houston-ish "The Sound" -- is because they remind him of music from the '80s, he said, "when pop stars weren't so encumbered with self-awareness. I know that time had its decadence, but there's a real freedom in those records."
His approach to songwriting basically amounts to trying to create the same sensation he gets out of the music he loves. "I'll hear a song and say, 'Oh, we should do a song that makes us feel like that,'" he said. "Then George makes a piece of music and I emotionally react to it."
With Daniel, who's also quarantining at the studio, Healy's already started work on new 1975 music -- a product of his "weird compulsion to make stuff," as he put it, as well as the knowledge that the modern pop environment demands constant engagement.
"The days of the NME being like, 'This is your new favorite band, and here's one song' -- that's over," he said, referring to the taste-making British magazine. "People want a real-time relationship now. When I saw Cardi B communicating with her audience on Instagram with zero mediation, I knew everything had changed."
As he spoke, Mayhem let out a little squeak, evidently wanting to be cuddled again.
"He's a proper quarantine pup, this one," Healy said as he resettled the dog on his lap. "Someday I'll tell my kids, 'You don't even know what this dog's been through. You want 20 pounds for the shops? He didn't even have a shop to go to when he was your age."
(c)2020 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.