In a raw and candid address, Matthew Healy, the charismatic frontman of The 1975, spoke out in the midst of a swirling storm of controversy surrounding his onstage kiss with bassist Ross MacDonald during a concert in Malaysia. The setting was a stark contrast to the Malaysian stage, as Healy found himself in Fort Worth, Texas, sharing his thoughts with a captivated crowd.
With genuine emotion in his voice, Healy challenged the idea that artists should be duty-bound to champion liberal values. He argued that their worth should be measured not by the rewards they garner for following the status quo but by the risks they’re willing to take to uphold their beliefs.
The aftermath of the controversial kiss sent shockwaves through the music world. Malaysia’s government, in response, axed the remaining days of the Good Vibes Festival, and festival organizers placed a hefty financial burden on The 1975, demanding nearly $2.6 million in damages, a dispute still awaiting resolution.
Malaysia’s Reaction to the Controversy
Within Malaysia’s LGBTQ+ community, reactions were a mix of hope and despair, with some fearing government backlash, not Healy’s actions.
The controversy extended its reach into the world of music as Julian Casablancas, set to co-headline the festival with The Strokes, voiced his own concerns about Healy’s approach, triggering a social media exchange between the two.
Last night, Healy characterized the stance of critics like Casablancas as a “bizarre twisting of colonial identity politics.” He passionately argued that artists ought to stand up to governments with oppressive policies and stressed the importance of maintaining consistency in the promotion of liberal values worldwide.
Healy adamantly refuted the festival’s claim that his band had misled organizers regarding cultural customs. He reminded everyone that the Malaysian government was well aware of The 1975’s political views and the routine stage performances when they were invited to headline the festival.
Healy went on to stress that the kiss between bandmates was a well-established part of their stage show, something they had done many times before the Malaysian event. Healy asserted that compromising their set or steering clear of pro-freedom of speech and pro-LGBTQ songs that night to appease authorities would be tantamount to silently endorsing discriminatory policies.
Healy poignantly pointed out that when Western artists are invited to other countries, they inevitably bring their Western values with them. Thus, expecting them to conform to local customs effectively coerces them to reflect the host country’s policies through omission.
In the wake of this extraordinary controversy, Healy’s heartfelt response has ignited a much-needed dialogue on the role of artists in promoting their values, fostering cultural understanding, and navigating the complexities of global stages set amidst diverse socio-political landscapes.