It will be two years in July since the release of the 1975’s iconic “Love It If We Made It.” The song’s lyrics criticize the consequences of modern society by specifically naming political and cultural issues, ranging from police brutality to the death of rapper Lil Peep. The track’s powerful lyrics were one of a kind for the band, who up until then hadn’t produced anything so controversial. For many familiar with Billy Joel’s 1989 song “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” the 1975 track presents itself as a more modern spin on the American protest song. Both songs reflect on and critique current issues plaguing society, which younger generations have had no choice but to inherit from their predecessors.
It seems that even nearly two years after its release, at a time where much of the world is stuck in self-isolation, the song is just as relevant as when it first debuted. Additionally, with the 1975’s newest album released just this May, there is no better time to take a look back at the iconic “Love It If We Made It.”
The track blends electro-pop, pop, funk and new wave elements with a strong drum beat and pulsing synths. Band frontman Matthew (Matty) Healy said the song’s lyrics developed from newspaper articles. He told Pitchfork that for over a year he compiled tabloid headlines for inspiration.
Much of the lyrics are essentially shouted rather than sung. Healy said that the shouting is the result of his anger but that at the end of day he’s just reciting events that happened rather than stating any opinions.
The song begins with Healy shouting “We’re f—ing in a car, shooting heroin / saying controversial things just for the hell of it.” He explained to Genius that the second part of the lyric alludes to prominent figures like Candace Owens and Milo Yiannopoulos, who themselves have made unnecessary and disingenuous controversial claims. He went on to say that starting off a song with references to drugs and sex is the most provocative and thus controversial thing he can do to emulate the exact people he criticizes. The reference to drug use also reflects Healy’s long-term struggle to overcome heroin addiction.
The song speaks on police brutality, the fetishization of black culture and private prisons with “Selling melanin and then suffocate the black men.” Here he directly references the murder of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, by an NYPD police officer. His comments on melanin refer to the emergence of the commodification of black culture and skin in beauty and fashion trends.
He relates the two topics by connecting a society that is so quick to consume black culture, to one that is just as quick to vilify and kill its originators. “Start with misdemeanors and we’ll make a business out of them” connects previous points about the treatment of black people in America to how private prisons seek to profit from creating a business off of repeat offenders.
Healy shouts “A beach of drowning three-year olds / Rest in peace Lil Peep / The poetry is in the streets.” These very literal lyrics comment on the now infamous photo of Alan Kurdi, a young Syrian refugee whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015, and the death of rapper Lil Peep. The rapper’s death was a result of an accidental overdose due to pain medication he took that had been laced with Fentanyl. The poetry is in the streets, a common tagline in the band’s previous music videos, is inspired by a phrase used during the French student riots of 1968.
The bridge, in very “We Didn’t Start The Fire” fashion, is what Healy described as a dump of ideas on often divisive topics. “Consultation / Degradation / Fossil fueling / Masturbation / Immigration / Liberal kitsch / Kneeling on a pitch.”
Perhaps one of the most iconic set of lyrics revolves around American president Donald Trump. The lyrics “I moved on her like a bitch!” / Excited to be indicted / Unrequited house with seven pools / “Thank you Kanye, very cool!” refer to Trump’s comments toward women, his impeachment, his wealth and his friendship with rapper Kanye West. Healy said the band tries to stay away from swearing in their songs but told Pitchfork he felt it was necessary this time and added: “No, if we’re going to get censored, we’re going to get censored for verbatim quoting the leader of the free world. That is the song in its essence. How weird is reality?”
One more abstract challenge Healy introduces is the idea that we now have access to more accurate information than ever but that hasn’t resulted in people being more informed. If anything it has just given people the choice to pick what they believe is the truth. People have begun to take hardened positions on issues based on factual inaccuracies, but how can we even combat that? We curate our own newsfeed to reflect sources we deem credible, but credible is different to everyone.
There are two lyrics that are repeated throughout the song: “Modernity has failed us,” and in the chorus, “And I’d love it if we made it.” These lyrics offer polarized yet connected ideas. The entirety of the track’s lyrics support Healy’s views of modernity. He feels our everyday lives have been altered for the worse due to the consequences of the modern society the youth have inherited.
The line offers a pretty bleak vision; however, “I’d love it if we made it” adds a layer of hope to the track. It complements the fact that despite modernity setting us up to fail, we can still rise above it. It is still possible to prevail through the societal challenges we face and even change them. The juxtaposition of “I’d love it if we made it” alongside the claims that “modernity has failed us” is one that proves itself to be necessary. The Ringer even stated, “The song would be too bleak without it.”
Healy’s rapid fire shouting is a stylistic choice but also one that highlights another social problem. We can connect how fast he lists these topics to how fast society gets over them. With so much media and news to consume, many topics that outrage us don’t do so for very long. Oftentimes, just as one day people become passionate over an issue on the news, the very next day they’ve moved on to something else.
The accompanying music video to “Love It If We Made It” builds on the themes constructed by the lyrics by visually representing them. It’s essentially a compilation of video clips depicting current social issues and events spliced together with multicolored silhouettes of the band members with their respective instruments. Some clips are directly related to events present in the lyrics such as the murder of Eric Garner, Donald Trump speaking, and images of Lil Peep. Other clips add additional depth to the issues Healy alludes to with the lyric “Modernity has failed us.” These clips include Harvey Weinstein, the Grenfell Tower fire and gun sales in America.
Healy explained to Billboard that he understands the song doesn’t provide a solution to the problems he’s described but he hopes it can serve as a montage of the time. He hopes that bringing attention to these issues can lead others to change the problems we are living with. He further echoes this in the Genius annotations for the song, where he said, “I don’t have any solutions, but I’m an artist, it’s not my job.”
The controversial and bleak lyrics of “Love It If We Made It” offer social commentary that is packaged with a hopeful title and a seemingly happy and upbeat backtrack. One of the issues Healy touches on is the rise of miscommunication and misinformation, a subject that is as prevalent as ever amidst the age of COVID-19. It seems everyone is an expert and knows the best way to deal with the virus, which as Matty alludes, is the problem.