A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships

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A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships.png
Studio album by
Released30 November 2018 (2018-11-30)
RecordedJune 2017 – September 2018
Studio
Genre
Length58:26
Label
Producer
  • George Daniel
  • Matthew Healy[a]
The 1975 chronology
I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It
(2016)
A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
(2018)
Notes on a Conditional Form
(2020)
Singles from A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
  1. "Give Yourself a Try"
    Released: 1 June 2018[4]
  2. "Love It If We Made It"
    Released: 19 July 2018[5]
  3. "TooTimeTooTimeTooTime"
    Released: 15 August 2018[6]
  4. "Sincerity Is Scary"
    Released: 13 September 2018[7]
  5. "It's Not Living (If It's Not with You)"
    Released: 18 October 2018[8]

A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is the third studio album by English rock band the 1975, released on 30 November 2018 by Dirty Hit and Polydor Records. It was produced entirely by band members George Daniel and Matthew Healy, and is the band's first album not to be produced with regular collaborator Mike Crossey.

Following the release of the band's previous album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It, Healy announced the album with a working title of Music for Cars, sharing the name with the band's third extended play. Following a nearly year long hiatus, Healy announced that the album had grown into the band's titular third campaign, and that ABIIOR was the first of two albums within the cycle. The second, Notes on a Conditional Form, was released in May 2020.

The band released five singles from the album: "Give Yourself a Try", "Love It If We Made It", "TooTimeTooTimeTooTime", "Sincerity Is Scary" and "It's Not Living (If It's Not with You)".[9] Upon release, the album received widespread critical acclaim and was considered one of the best albums of 2018. Critics applauded its eclectic nature and lyrical relevance; in relation to the lyrical themes and narrative, some critics drew comparison to Radiohead's OK Computer.[10][11][12] The album reached number one in the UK and number four in the US, becoming their second album to reach the top five in the US, and their third album to reach number 1 in the UK. The band went on a world tour with material from the album in January 2019. The album was shortlisted for the 2019 Mercury Prize and went on to win the award for British Album of the Year at the 2019 Brit Awards.[13]

The album has been considered by various publications as one of the best albums of the 2010s. NME placed it at number 16 on their list of Best Albums of the Decade. Additionally, Albumism included it on their unranked list of The 110 Best Albums of the 2010s; Pitchfork placed it at number 157 on their list of the 200 Best Albums of the 2010s; and Uproxx placed it at number 74 on their list of the Best Albums of the 2010s.

Background and recording[edit]

The 1975 began writing A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships as early as 2015, drummer George Daniel having composed "Love It If We Made It" that year.[14] The following year, the band released their sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It, to positive reviews and commercial success, debuting atop the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200.[15][16][17] The album brought about seven singles, three of which received a certification from the British Phonographic Industry.[18] The band subsequently began working on an EP titled What A Shame as well as a third studio album, originally to be called Music For Cars as a reference to their third EP. However, plans for the EP were dropped as the band's manager Jamie Oborne explained that "it’s become a much bigger idea."[19][20][21] Music For Cars was described by lead singer Matty Healy as "the end of an era" and Healy also revealed that he had speculated on whether it would be the band's last venture, but decided against it, stating in an interview with Dork that "we’re not good enough to quit yet."[22][23] In 2018, however, two albums, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships and Notes on a Conditional Form, were announced, while Music For Cars was revealed as an "era" for the band, comprising the two albums.[24]

A month after the end of the I Like it When You Sleep Tour in July 2017, the band began recording the new album.[25] Shortly after, Healy admitted himself into a drug rehabilitation center in Barbados for two months in November 2017 to treat his on-and-off four-year heroin and benzodiazepines addiction.[26] He explained to NME that one of the reasons he admitted himself to rehab was because "I could just never let [drug addiction] be part of my identity because I think junkies are fucking losers."[27] Many of the tracks from the album were written during his stay in rehab, the songwriting process described by Healy as "genuine catharsis."[28] The album was wholly produced by Healy and Daniel, their first without Mike Crossey[29] and recorded at Waldenfeld House, Montague Court and Abbey Road in London, Conway Sound, Capitol and Perfect Sound in Los Angeles, Angelic in Halse and The Beach House in Santa Monica between June 2017 and September 2018.[30] A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships was released through Dirty Hit and Polydor Records on 30 November 2018.[31]

Theme[edit]

As expressed in the title, the overarching theme of the album is that of the internet.[32] Broadly, the album lyrically explores our modern relationship with the internet, as well as how it impacts and influences our interpersonal relationships and our relationship with politics, culture, society and life as a whole. Healy noted that around this time, he came to the "profound-not-profound realisation" that "all of our communication, outside of face-to-face, is mediated through the internet," and subsequently became obsessed with this idea; he noted that for him, this idea "provokes questions...that just aren't asked now." Healy noted that across much of the album, rather than being particularly judgemental or opinionated, he is more so asking questions pertaining to the different issues he raises.[33]

Release and promotion[edit]

The band updated their website to display a timer counting down towards 1 June at the beginning of May 2018, becoming active again on social media.[34] Within its first hours, it was revealed to contain a hidden zip file with four individual posters, each of the names leading to a hidden page on the website that displayed a conversation between a 'human' and a 'machine'.[35]

The album was originally slated to be released in October 2018,[36] but was finalized as 30 November on 10 September.[37]

Promotion and singles[edit]

On 31 May 2018, the band released "Give Yourself a Try" as the lead single from the album, premiering as Annie Mac's "Hottest Record in the World" on BBC Radio 1 that same day.[36] "Love It If We Made It" was released as the second single on 19 July.[5] On 15 August, "TooTimeTooTimeTooTime" was released as the third single from the album. On 13 September, "Sincerity Is Scary" was released as the fourth single.[7] The fifth single "It's Not Living (If It's Not with You)" was released on 18 October.[8]

"Music for Cars"[edit]

At the end of April 2018, cryptic posters titled "Music for Cars" appeared in London and Manchester, containing taglines and a Dirty Hit catalogue number, DH00327, amongst a black background.[38] Various billboards were also spotted in the United Kingdom, having used détournement to apply themselves over existing advertisements.[39]

Over social media, the band frequently released different posters titled "A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships".[40][41] Furthermore, the initialisation "MFC" appeared in small print across all further promotional graphics, sometimes accompanied by "2018 - 2019".

In an interview for Beats 1 on 31 May 2018, Healy stated that "Music for Cars" is an "era" rather than a single album, spanning 2018 and 2019. Though first reported to be the title of the band's 2018 album, Healy has stated that "Music for Cars" contains both A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships and a follow-up album, Notes on a Conditional Form.[42]

Tour[edit]

At the Latitude Festival in July 2017, it was announced that the band would begin touring again in October 2018.[43] In April 2018, Oborne commented that the band will deter from "surprise" or "pop-up" shows in order for the tour to be "the biggest live spectacle in the world". A 2019 tour was officially announced on 15 October 2018.[44]

Artwork and title[edit]

The artwork for the album was curated by Samuel Burgess-Johnson and Matty Healy. Eschewing the neon signs of previous albums, A Brief Inquiry's artwork is noticeably more stark and simple: it features the band name, album title and track list vertically on the cover. A minimalist graphic design based on pixilation accompanies the text. The "Music for Cars" initialisation "MFC" appears in the lower left corner of the cover and on the spine of the packaging.[citation needed]For the package, Healy decided on using a minimalist cover as he did not want something that was "full of interpretations." He also cited the work of Dutch artist Piet Mondriaan as inspiration for the artwork, as he said his works "come more from the world of information than they do from the world of design." Healy also said that Mondriaan's work "was about utopian ideals", which related to the album as Healy said that it didn't say "utopia is this way and you're wrong" but rather had "no opinions" and is "not, like, a thesis, or it's not an opinion: it's a brief inquiry..." [33]

The album is titled after an essay. Healy stated that while he was listening to the album's demos on a train a woman beside him was reading a book containing the essay which he then decided to use for the project. The essay Healy referenced is titled "The Context of the Digital: A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships" by Gene McHugh, which was included in the anthology of essays You Are Here: Art After the Internet edited by Omar Kholeif.[45][46]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?8.0/10[48]
Metacritic83/100[49]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3/5 stars[50]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[51]
The Guardian4/5 stars[52]
The Independent4/5 stars[1]
Mojo4/5 stars[53]
NME5/5 stars[10]
Pitchfork8.5/10[54]
Q5/5 stars[55]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[56]
The Times5/5 stars[57]

The album garnered almost universal praise from critics. According to review aggregator Metacritic, the album has received a weighted score of 83 based on 29 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[49] Dan Stubbs of NME awarded the album five stars out of five, likening the album to a millennial version of OK Computer and summarised: "Clever and profound, funny and light, serious and heartbreaking, painfully modern and classic-sounding all at the same time, 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships' is a game-changing album, one that challenges The 1975's peers – if, indeed, there are any – to raise their game."[10] Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork gave the album a score of 8.5, earning it the Best New Music tag, and called it "outrageous and eclectic", as well as "similar to its predecessor in its boundless sense of style, swerving from Afrobeats to brushed-snare jazz balladry to one track that sounds like a trap remix of a Bon Iver ayahuasca trip", but "more purposeful" than I Like It When You Sleep.[54] Time considered it one of the Best Albums of 2018, placing it at number nine on their list.[58]

In a mixed review, AllMusic reviewer Matt Collar stated "Taken as a whole, the album is often as disparate and difficult to wade through as the social-media landscape it hopes to comment on."[50] Writing for Under the Radar, Dom Gourlay labeled the album "over hyped" [sic], bland, "slightly passable background music" at best and a "self-indulgent mess" at worst. He further criticized frontman Healy's "narcissistic persona" and his prevalent use of Auto-Tune.[59] However, Conrad Duncan writing for the same site gave the album a positive review, calling it "full of genuine heart, intelligence and wit".[60] Chris Conaton of PopMatters criticized the album as bloated and inconsistent, stating "The band's reach exceeds their grasp here, and vocalist/band leader Matt Healy's indulgences are often more tiresome than charming", while still praising it as "fascinating".[61]

Accolades[edit]

Publication List Rank Ref.
BBC The Best Albums of 2018
13
Billboard 50 Best Albums of 2018
13
Clash Clash Albums Of The Year 2018
26
Consequence of Sound Top 50 Albums of 2018
19
Entertainment Weekly The 20 Best Albums of 2018
16
Esquire The Best Albums of 2018
13
The Guardian The 50 Best Albums of 2018
34
The Independent The 40 Best Albums of 2018
29
NME NME’s 100 Best Albums of 2018
1
The Best Albums of The Decade: The 2010s
16
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2018
21
The 200 Best Albums of the 2010s
157
Rolling Stone 20 Best Pop Albums of 2018
20
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums Of 2018
45
Time The 10 Best Albums of 2018
9
Q Top 50 albums of 2018
3
Uproxx The 50 Best Albums of 2018
9
The Best Albums Of The 2010s
74

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200,[80] with the highest pure album sales of the week, selling 48,000 pure copies, selling 66,000 overall.[81]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by The 1975 (George Daniel, Adam Hann, Matthew Healy, Ross MacDonald), except for "TooTimeTooTimeTooTime" written by Daniel, Healy, and Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez.

No.TitleLength
1."The 1975"1:34
2."Give Yourself a Try"3:17
3."TooTimeTooTimeTooTime"3:28
4."How to Draw / Petrichor"5:49
5."Love It If We Made It"4:13
6."Be My Mistake"4:16
7."Sincerity Is Scary"3:45
8."I Like America & America Likes Me"3:26
9."The Man Who Married a Robot / Love Theme"3:33
10."Inside Your Mind"3:50
11."It's Not Living (If It's Not with You)"4:08
12."Surrounded by Heads and Bodies"3:56
13."Mine"4:06
14."I Couldn't Be More in Love"3:51
15."I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)"5:14
Total length:58:26
Japanese CD edition bonus track[82]
No.TitleLength
16."102"3:27
Total length:61:53

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[83]

The 1975

  • George Daniel – programming (1–8, 10–12), synthesiser programming (1, 4, 7), drums (2–5, 7, 10, 11, 13–15), synthesiser (2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15), keyboards (3, 6–8, 11), percussion (3), background vocals (4, 7, 12), piano (13)
  • Adam Hann – guitar (2, 5, 7, 11, 13, 15)
  • Matthew Healy – vocals (all tracks), piano (1, 4, 9–11, 13), guitar (2, 5, 6, 11, 12, 14, 15), keyboards (3, 4, 7, 8, 12–14), background vocals (11, 14, 15), drums (12), acoustic guitar (15)
  • Ross MacDonald – bass guitar (2, 3, 5, 11, 14, 15), double bass (12, 13)

Additional musicians

  • Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez – background vocals (3, 8), drums (3), programming (3, 7), synthesiser (3), keyboards (7)
  • Amber Bain - background vocals, keyboard, electric guitar (11)
  • The London Community Gospel Choir – choir vocals (5, 7, 11, 14)
  • Dave Fuest – basset clarinet (9)
  • Gavin McNaughton – bassoon (9)
  • David Stewart – bass trombone (9)
  • Chris Allan – cello (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Chris Worsey – cello (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Ian Burdge – cello (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Sophie Harris – cello (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Jon Carnac – clarinet (9, 13)
  • Sam Swallow – conductor, piano, and recording arranger (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Chris Laurence – double bass (9, 10)
  • Stacey Watton – double bass (9, 10)
  • Paul Edmund Davies – flute (9, 13)
  • John Ryan – French horn (9, 13)
  • Richard Berry – French horn (9, 13)
  • Skaila Kanga – harp (9, 13)
  • Gareth Hulse – oboe (9)
  • Chris Baron – percussion (9)
  • Frank Ricotti – percussion (9)
  • Clare Jeffries – piccolo (9)
  • Andy Wool – trombone (9, 14)
  • Ed Tarrant – trombone (9, 14)
  • Andy Crowley – trumpet (9, 14)
  • James Fountain – trumpet (9, 14)
  • Andy Parker – viola (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Helen Kamminga – viola (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Martin Humbey – viola (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Peter Lale – viola (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Rachel Bolt – viola (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Debbie Widdup – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Emil Chakalov – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Everton Nelson – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Kate Robinson – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Kathy Gowers – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Matt Ward – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Natalia Bonner – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Oli Langford – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Patrick Kiernan – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Perry Montague-Mason – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Rita Manning – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Simon Baggs – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Sonia Slany – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Tom Pigott-Smith – violin (9, 10, 13, 14)
  • Roy Hargrove – trumpet (13)
  • Derek Stein – cello (15)
  • Rudolph Stein – cello (15)
  • David Campbell – conductor, piano, and string arranger (15)
  • Luke Maurer – viola (15)
  • Thomas Lea – viola (15)
  • Mario De Leon – violin (15)
  • Michele Richards – violin (15)
  • Nina Evtuhov – violin (15)
  • Sara Parkins – violin (15)
  • Songa Lee – violin (15)

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[107] Gold 100,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Except "I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)", produced by Daniel, Healy and Jonathan Gilmore

References[edit]

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