With their critically acclaimed fifth album “Being Funny in a Foreign Language,” The 1975 is arguably the hottest band around right now. It’s no surprise, then, that frontman Matty Healy, with his boyish charm and great hair, is one of the hottest figures in pop culture right now. However, he’s also been one of the most controversial.
In the past, Healy has made his stance on political correctness clear online, as reporter Andrew Trendell for NME wrote that, “his Instagram stories have been awash with eyebrow-raising jokes, artful trolling of hardcore fans, and explicit attempts to get cancelled.”
However, on tour this year, Healy has caused more controversy and discourse live, gaining a reputation for his onstage antics. These behaviors range from kissing multiple fans to eating raw meat (yes, really) to calling the Irish “a simple people” and in a different context saying, “I don’t think it’s a racist thing to say…” before being cut off by his bandmates.
Now, Healy has started receiving backlash for something else he recently did onstage: a Nazi salute while marching in place and singing the lyrics “Thank you, Kanye, very cool.”
But there is important context and nuance here. So, let’s discuss.
Did Matty Healy really do a Nazi salute onstage?
Basically, yes. A fan took this video during a recent The 1975 concert:
tw // antisemitism
why is no one talking about the fact matty healy did a h!tler salute on stage?? pic.twitter.com/QXdza5gzuX
— nat (@natluvsfilm) January 26, 2023
User @natluvsfilm posted the video on January 26th, so the salute likely took place during The 1975’s gig in Liverpool that day, their show in Newcastle the day before or at their performance in Leeds on January 23rd.
For what it’s worth, Matty is using his left arm and hand to perform the salute. Technically, the Heil Hitler salute is performed with one’s right arm and hand. But, you know, the devil’s in the details.
Why on Earth would he do that?!
Great question. Though I don’t have insight into the inner machinations of Mr. Healy, here’s what I can deduce.
In the clip, The 1975 is performing “Love It If We Made It,” a song from their 2018 album “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.” Despite the poppy musical backtrack, the lyrics touch on extremely heavy topics concerning how, quoting the song, “modernity has failed us.” (You can listen to the full song here and listen to Matty Healy himself break down the lyrics here.)
The third verse of the song, which Matty is partially singing in the video of the Nazi salute, goes, in full:
“‘I moved on her like a bitch,’ excited to be indictedUnrequited house with seven pools, ‘Thank you, Kanye, very cool’ The war has been incited, and guess what? You’re all invited And you’re famous, modernity has failed us”
This part of the song expresses clear disdain for former President Donald Trump and his attitude towards women and care for notoriety, fame and ego over the importance of his office. When Matty Healy sings, “Thank you, Kanye, very cool,” he’s referring to this tweet:
So, all that to say: When Matty performed the Nazi salute and march onstage while singing, “Thank you, Kanye, very cool,” it seems as though he is referencing Kanye West’s recent months-long antisemitic tirade on Twitter, including praise for Hitler, and is implicitly calling Kanye a Nazi. Thus, even though sans context it may look like Matty is praising and agreeing with Kanye, he is actually doing the opposite.
Has he done something like this before?
To the best of my knowledge, Matty Healy has never publicly performed a Heil Hitler salute before, nor has he expressed serious Nazi sentiment. That said, this isn’t the first time he’s faced backlash for making a confused political statement.
In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Healy tweeted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “If you truly believe that ‘ALL LIVES MATTER’ you need to stop facilitating the end of black ones,” he wrote, including a link to The 1975’s song “Love It If We Made It.”
Healy quickly received criticism from users who pointed out that he seemed to be co-opting Black Lives Matter to promote his music. He then deleted the original tweet, replacing it with a tweet that said, “Sorry I did not link my song in that tweet to make it about me it’s just that the song is literally about this disgusting situation and speaks more eloquently than I can on Twitter.” However, he then reposted the original tweet, including the link to “Love It If We Made It.” After incensing critics more, Healy deactivated his Twitter account.
“I didn’t run away from Twitter,” Healy said of the incident in 2022. “I was just like, ‘You know what? If I want to write about the culture war, I don’t wanna be a pawn in it anymore.’”
*squints eyes* OK, Matty.
So, what has the response been to the Nazi salute?
The online response to Healy’s Nazi salute has been mixed between those who think the gesture was antisemitic, those who are calling it satire and those who don’t necessarily think it was antisemitism but still don’t support his actions. Here’s a smattering of thoughts:
why are ppl tryna defend matty healy doing a Nazi Salute … ‘it’s the opposite arm’ ‘he’s doing it to take the piss outta kanye etc’ literally shut the fuck up. are u hearing urself. Don’t do a nazi salute ?? no matter what ????? there’s literally no excuse.
— Mace 🪱🍄✨ (@indigopu_ff) January 27, 2023
there is no way that video of matty healy is "out of context" btw. even with all the facts (which i have, bc i have been a fan of this band for years) the impact of some edgelord standing on a stage doing a nazi salute is greater than any of you can comprehend unless youre jewish
— tam (@ymmatymmatt) January 28, 2023
even if matty healy’s salute was satire, he should be addressing it instead of doing something that can be perceived as hateful without any further explanation
— shira 🦇 (@gngmercury) January 28, 2023
There are more antisemitic things than Matty Healy doing an improper nazi salute during a song where he is quoting a former US president, who *is* nazi-aligned, thanking another nazi.
— Padmé 🐇□ @ Anime Milwaukee (@pastelhylia) January 27, 2023
If anyone truly believes that Matty Healy is a nazi then I’m sorry but you clearly lack critical thinking skills, he’s no angel sure but calling someone a nazi is not something that should ever be taken lightly
— Emily (@Emily__857) January 30, 2023
Has Matty Healy or The 1975 commented on this?
At time of publication, no.
So, is this antisemitism or satire?
First, I want to note that any reaction a Jewish person has to Nazi symbols in any context — whether that be a white supremacist wearing a swastika or Matty Healy doing an onstage Heil Hitler — is a valid one. Jews have endured so much intergenerational trauma, and antisemitism is once again on the rise. It’s important that we express how we feel about moments like this one.
Jews are not a monolith, however, so there’s not one Jewish answer or response to Matty Healy. Personally? Here are my thoughts.
Do I think it’s possible to satirize literal Nazis and Nazi ideology by using their symbols? Absolutely. A successful example of this is the “Springtime for Hitler” scene in “The Producers,” a musical and movie written by Mel Brooks. The important context here, of course, is that Mel Brooks is Jewish and that the main characters in the movie clearly disavow Nazism.
With Matty Healy, I think his Nazi salute was an unwise and insensitive attempt at irony that failed because of his controversial status and because social media removed what little context there was in the situation. Does that make it antisemitism? Truthfully, it’s hard to say. I don’t think Matty Healy harbors any hatred towards Jews, but here we’re looking at a case of intent over impact. The impact has been that more Jews are hurt than if he hadn’t done the salute at all, so the situation is closer to being antisemitic than it is to not.
In any event, it wouldn’t hurt for Matty Healy to apologize.