The 1975 – “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” – Song Discussion

If there’s anything we should expect from The 1975, it’s to not expect anything. “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” is the third single released from their upcoming album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and is the most listenable of the three released so far (there are a few promotional singles released as well, however, I’m only speaking about the actual labeled singles in this case). Don’t get me wrong; I’ve loved every song they’ve released on this new record. This one in particular is the most intriguing, albeit the most 1975 sounding song we’ve heard up to this point. With a title like this and an 80’s inspired musical element you might assume this is a cute love song. Concentrating on the lyrics will prove otherwise, though.

The vibe of this song is reminiscent of “She’s American” from their sophomore attempt which is a fan favorite (and one that we’re all still waiting for a music video for). This one consists of even drumming, light guitar hooks, and some easy keyboard tunes to fill some gaps in terms of instrumentation, kind of like “She’s American”. Still, the meaning of these two songs is much different. If the lyric “collapse my veins wearing beautiful shoes” doesn’t get the message across, this song is about drug addiction. That line most notably refers to heroin but there are other clues about opioid addiction and alcoholism. The upbeat nature of the song can distract you from the ridiculously dark lyrics about two addicts and their feelings while trying to live without the drug they’re taking. The 1975 have talked about drugs extensively in many of their previous songs but never this explicitly. With lines like “He’s gotta search the streets when he’s on vacation”, “Distract my brain from the terrible news/ It’s not living if it’s not with you”, “I can’t stop sweating or control my feet” and “If I choose I lose” the listener is presented a raw image of addiction which is unfortunately not resolved within the time fame of the song.

Despite there not being a real resolution, this song doesn’t leave the listener feeling so hopeless. The music supporting the words is so delightful and the songwriting is perfectly crafted to match, no matter the contrast between the two. The 1975’s ability to be so blunt in terms of songwriting but still still create a piece of music that’s extremely listenable is something I enjoy most from this group and hearing a song like this makes me extremely excited to listen to the rest of the project, out November 30.


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