Why Matty Healy got it so wrong about rock, hip hop, drugs and misogyny

After The 1975 frontman apologised for comments about misogyny in rock and hip hop, musicians Queen Kwong, Tali Källström of the band Estrons, and music correspondent Roisin O'Connor explain why his apology isn't good enough

Roisin O'Connor
Thursday 06 December 2018 15:52
Matty Healy of The 1975
Matty Healy of The 1975

Queen Kwong – artist

In an interview with The Fader this week, Matty Healy is quoted saying: “The reason misogyny doesn't happen in rock and roll anymore is because it's a vocabulary that existed for so long that it got weeded out.” This statement is strangely naive — at best, coming from The 1975 frontman.

Considering he’s someone who is marketed as innovative and given his popularity among the youth, Healy denying the existence of misogyny towards women, under any circumstance, is disappointing and indecorous. Furthermore, it can be argued that a man making such a remark in the first place, is contradictory. Healy’s logic proves to be asinine as he goes on to tie misogyny and drug use together as concepts that become irrelevant with time.

According to Healy, misogyny and drugs still exist in hip hop because it’s a newer genre, unlike rock and roll, in which the prevalence of both over the years has somehow (according to Healy’s thinking) dissipated, as though there’s a capacity that was reached – ie rock and roll had enough cocaine and as a result, became straight-edge.

It’s hard to believe someone like Healy could be so clueless. While he spends most of the interview sharing his views on our relationships through and with modern technology, he is quick to dismiss old fashioned ideology but fails to realise that, though archaic, gender inequality still exists and thrives off ignorance such as his. Somehow, Healy must have been deaf to the current #metoo climate and missed the much deserved and long overdue exposure and criticism of misogyny in the rock and roll business, as well as every other area of the entertainment industry and beyond.

Queen Kwong

As a woman who has been in the rock industry for more than a decade, I can assure Healy that misogyny is an everyday occurrence in this business. Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to being one of only a handful of female acts on festival bills dominated by men; my songwriting and musicianship being credited to men with whom I’m associated; praise for my records being directed towards men who never even had a hand in the recording process; any success I achieve being an assumed result of my physical attributes rather than talent; industry execs telling me I’m “too old” (starting at the age of 23); and constantly not being taken seriously and talked down to by men in the business because they “know better”, whether it be a sound guy to promoter to label head to bandmate, simply because I’m a woman.

Healy’s argument is foolish and irresponsible and suggests that he is either delusional or has been living under a rock (or up his own ass) for far too long. The display of ignorance from someone considered so cutting edge and progressive is terrifying but serves as a reminder that in spite of our cultural and societal evolutions, misogyny is not something that will be outgrown. Its demise requires proactivity, and at the absolute, very least: acknowledgement.

Tali Källström – Estrons

I almost tripped up over my own brain at the comment that misogyny doesn't exist in the rock and roll world. First of all, the fact that a white male pop singer would even begin to make sweeping statements about the political condition of a genre he is not involved with is as valuable and as accurate as someone who is not homosexual saying that homophobia no longer exists. The comment of a white male pop singer on rap music not being “grown up” enough is another condescending remark, and in my opinion it's much worse to pretend to be sanitised and politically correct than it is to be openly misogynistic in lyrical content.

Estrons' Tali Källström​, centre

The fact is that all genres of music are still highly male dominated, patriarchal set ups, powered and run by men. Most popular music celebrates and embodies the patriarchal gaze. Women are the objects, men are the subjects. Successful female fronted rock bands are still to this day so few and far between that they are scooped together into a genre in itself. I myself have been subjected to misogyny non stop since starting my career in the industry, even from fellow musicians, I've been asked on tour solely on the basis that I could have been someone on hand to have sex with. I still turn up to soundchecks and get asked if I'm lost by security. I still get my arse grabbed in gigs. So, I just wanted to point out that before you all start dusting your hands off, using rap music as a scape goat and the paradigm of all evils and giving yourself a gold star, that patriarchy and misogyny - across all genres of music and all types of workplaces - is alive and bloody well. You've just got better at hiding it.

Roisin O'Connor – The Independent

Along with everything Queen Kwong and Tali have eloquently pointed out, my main grievance with Healy's comments was the claim that "at the moment, with Soundcloud rap, it's become a bit of a drug-taking competition, and that happened with rock and roll".

Healy's implication that rappers such as Lil Peep died because of drug mentions in hip hop is staggering hypocrisy. He has spent the entire album campaign for The 1975's album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships talking about his own heroin addiction, a subject that also appears in songs on the new record. It has been a lead topic in interviews with The Fader, The Guardian, Billboard, NPR, The Times, NME, Rolling Stone, and the Irish Independent. The song where he addresses Lil Peep, "Love it if We Made it", opens with the line: "We're f****ing in a car, shooting heroin / Saying controversial things just for the hell of it".

I have no doubt that Healy is finding some kind of catharsis by being so open about his addiction troubles, and it is important to speak about it. But the level at which he has used it as a topic of interest in interviews has become so prevalent that it has lost any impact it might have on impressionable fans. Rather, it sounds as though he has become enamoured by how the media has begun portraying him as a romantic, troubled young rock star. And if that's how he wants to do things, fine.

But ignoring your own, ongoing discussions of illicit substances in your work and then trying to use hip hop as a scapegoat for drugs-related deaths is not only laden with racial stereotyping, it is profoundly ignorant of the fact that there are more drug references in country and rock music than there are in rap. And that's something he has yet to apologise for.

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