Text, or content, of The 1975’s “Looking For Somebody (To Love)” contributes to audiences’ overall reception and understanding of the song itself. This in turn impacts how the social justice issue (mass shootings, in this case) is perceived. Since the song was released less than a year ago, there aren’t that many different alternate versions, covers, and videos out there. However, I was able to find two live performances, the Vevo version which I suppose could also function as the official music video, and one live at Madison Square Garden as a part of the tour for Being Funny in a Foreign Language.  

Madison Square Garden Performance

The first performance I want to discuss is the one from Madison Square Garden. Right off the bat I noticed that lead vocalist Matty Healy’s vocal performance is very all over the place. Obviously I wouldn’t expect an artist singing live on tour to sound the exact same that they do recording in the studio, but Healy is clearly straining or screeching at multiple points throughout the performance. He gets off-key and does funny voices or inflections. This is actually a pretty common occurrence on tour, one example being Healy’s live version of Happiness around 0:50-1:15. While this change in vocal delivery could be a result of Healy being under the influence, I believe that he is also trying to call attention to the specific lyrics that he sings differently. At the line “like a man should”, instead of keeping his voice steady, he places vocal emphasis on and draws out the word “man”. This line is referring to violent behavior that is a result of toxic masculinity, specifically the phrase “be a man” or “man up”, which many believe can be directly related to the spike in mass shootings we have seen lately. 

Official Live Performance | Vevo

The second performance I want to discuss is the Official Vevo Live Performance. The first thing I noticed were motions that Healy makes at specific times during the song. For example, he makes a gun symbol with his hand during the line “Somebody  picking up the body of somebody they were getting to know”. I interpreted this as a potential reference to incel culture and the violence it supports. He also makes it a point to dance more femininely during the line “I wanna show him he’s a bitch”. I interpreted this as a comment on “bitch” being a word used to insult a man if they aren’t acting strong or masculine enough. 

This performance is also visually interesting, adding even more content to analyze in conjunction with the song itself. It creates more of a spectacle, using flashing lights and imagery very in line with the pop-synth sound. The set design is pretty straightforward/minimalist, but that almost makes it more impactful. There’s no filler or anything to distract you. It literally just shows people jogging around during the chorus, and their formation made me think of people running away during a mass shooting. It also emphasizes their humanity, and how many people have died during these types of events because all the extras are dressed the same and eventually get lost amongst the others, similar to shooting victims, as discussed in this article by AP News

Even though the set design is pretty sparse, what is present is meant to make a statement. All of the people in the video are wearing black tuxedos with white shirts underneath. The background is blue, and Matty’s guitar is bright red. Once the camera zooms out from just focusing on Healy, the viewer will notice that the colors present are red, white, and blue. I think this is alluding to the fact that the US has the highest number of mass shootings in the world, and maybe even a critique of what the flag itself stands for. There are also lots of flower stems lying on the ground. Flowers are often placed at graves, and they represent innocence, but they are getting trampled by the dancers as they run around the set. I connected this to the countless young lives lost in mass shootings (school shootings specifically).