This fifth listen post, with the focus on song lineages, was the post that I was the most unsure about how to approach. While what The 1975 are doing with “Love It If We Made It” is no novel idea, I wasn’t immediately struck by any songs that I had heard that were similar in nature or approach. Since there are so many social issues that are referenced in this song, it would take forever to do a lineage focused on all of the issues mentioned in the song. So, the approach I will be taking to examine the lineage of this song is by focusing on the overall theme of creating music that is representative of a moment in time by referencing issues that the world is facing in that moment.

When discussing the writing process of “Love It If We Made It”, The 1975 say they set out to create a “Sign O’ the Times” kind of song. In making this claim, they are directly referencing Prince’s song “Sign O’ the Times” that was released in 1987. Prince’s song addresses some bleak subjects like drugs, violence, natural disasters, AIDS, poverty, and the Challenger explosion. The music also relies on heavy use of the synthesizer throughout the song. With this song, Prince wanted to give his not so optimistic view on the state of the world, and the lyrics definitely have a bleak feel to them. Since The 1975 have directly said that “Love It If We Made It” has some sort of connection to Prince’s “Sign O’ The Times”, it is an important place to start when looking into its lineage.

Another connection was made with the help of my mom. I was explaining the project for this class and played her “Love It If We Made It” and she said it reminded her of a song she loved when she was younger- “Its the End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. This song is very much a stream of consciousness, similar to Matty Healy’s delivery of “Love It If We Made It” with fast vocals and phrases running into each other and the “apocalyptic” tone. This song was released in 1987 and its lyrics reference issues from the Reagan presidency, the Cold War, political corruption, airline disasters, over consumption of resources, individualistic mentalities, the influence of the media, natural disasters, and more. This song is very often to interpretation, with much of lyrics being so open ended a variety of meanings can be derived from them. Michael Stripe (who wrote the song), when describing how he came up with the lyrics said, “So that ended up in the song along with a lot of stuff I’d seen when I was flipping TV channels. It’s a collection of streams of consciousness.” Healy explains how he wrote “Love It If We Made It” in a similar way, taking ideas from news headlines. Also, similarly to the way “Love It If We Made It” quotes sitting President Donald Trump over the course of the song, “Its the End Of The World As We Know It” frequently addresses issue related to then-sitting president Ronald Reagan and includes phrases that can be related to him. Ironically, Donald Trump used this song during his 2015 election campaign (which REM strongly objected to). This song is an interesting example right now, because of what is going on in the world currently with the coronavirus pandemic directly affecting everyone’s daily lives, it has returned to the Billboard charts, as people are able to relate to the sentiment of the song.

R.E.M has cited Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” as a source of inspiration for this song. Dylan’s song was released in 1965 and references political oppression, drug use, the violence of the civil rights movement, and the counterculture appearing in the 1960’s. Dylan is known to be a musical activist and this song especially touches on many of the societal issues of the time in that “stream of consciousness” way.

Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (released in 1989) is another songs that fits well into the musical lineage of “Love It If We Made It”. Joel’s song is a little bit different than the others because it covers a longer period of time (from 1949-1989) and also there is a consensus on the meaning of the lyrics, with not much room for interpretation. His rapid fire delivery is similar to that of the other songs mentioned in this post and he clearly mentions 119 headline events, from people to pop culture references and sports to foreign affairs and there are a lot of references to the Cold War. One of the points Joel is trying to make is that these are problems that his generation inherited and are now responsible for fighting.

Overall, I think songs that capture the feel of a moment in time are incredibly important, not just in the musical sense, but in the historical sense as well. It can be easy to think that what is happening in our world right now is some novel experience and that life has never been crazier because we are living it and experiencing it in real time. When in reality, people have been dealing with similar issues and experiences for many years before right now. These songs also show how the focus on certain issues shift over time and looking back at this songs can give us glimpse into the main focuses of society at the time. For instance, in “Sign O’ the Times”, Prince brings up the issues of drug addiction and the influence of the media. These issues are also brought up in “Love It If We Made It” over 30 years later. But Prince also touches on the Challenger rocket explosion, something very infrequently talked about now but that was major event in 1987, when space exploration was at the forefront of societal attention.

These songs also have many similar themes such as critiquing the government or president of the time, taking on a sort of depressing feel (by issues referenced and/or use of music), gathering topics from the news and media, addressing the “wars” or violence of that period, and approaching the overall song delivery as a stream of consciousness. Listening to all these songs that define a moment in time I found it interesting to see what the reoccurring issues are and what issues are specific to each specific time period. An important takeaway I have from the analysis of these lineages is, in the words of Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning since the world’s been turning.” The world always seems to be stuck in a bad place with the never-ending stream of social and political issues bombarding us, but this is how things have been for a very long time. There will always be “fires” in the world and these songs serve to remind us of how we as a society can be defined by the issues of our time.