Pop music, but at its most poignant.
In a move that came truly out of the blue, the young climate activist Greta Thunberg has collaborated with indie band The 1975 on their latest track.
The song, released today, coincided with what was to be Britain’s hottest day on record – a day that unfortunately has been held in high regard by mainstream media.
The track is simply called, The 1975, and is intended to be the intro track to the band’s upcoming new album Notes on a Conditional Form, which is set to be released in February 2020. We are not here to critique The 1975 in their work, which has seemed to polarise music fans, seemingly fitting into both the ‘underrated’ and ‘overhyped’ categories, but for a band with an undeniably massive presence within younger audiences, for them to ask to Greta to pen an original monologue for the intro, it is nothing short of prophetic.
“We are right now, in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis” Thunberg begins, in her now well-known accent. “And we need to call it what it is. An emergency.” It is the classic combination of hard-hitting truths and a realistic and moving sense of optimism we have come to admire and respect from the young climate activist.
“We have to acknowledge that older generations have failed. All political movements in their present form have failed. But homo sapiens have not failed.”
“Unless we recognise the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance.”
One of the most poignant parts of the track is probably its shortest line. Thunberg states “Now is the time to speak clearly.” In the age of ‘fake news’, Cambridge Analytica, and the political echo chambers of social media, speaking clearly is an increasingly radical act. This, amongst the other messages of the track, will hopefully speak volumes within the minds of fans worldwide. And speak clearly Greta does.
“You say that nothing in life is black or white. But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie. Either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming, or we don’t.”
“There are no grey areas when it comes to survival.”
Thunberg also touches upon an issue inherent within the realm of environmental action, the war between systematic change and individual action. Forms of mainstream media, global multinationals, and neoliberalism itself do a great job of convincing us that we, the everyday citizens of the globe, are to blame. In part, they are correct, our consumer actions influence every corporate decision. Yet, it is the choices of a few incredibly rich individuals that have an incredibly large impact also, and our systems of government allow those decisions to be carried out. Thunberg does well to encapsulate this idea, and provide a succinct argument to align both ideas: “We need a system change rather than an individual change, but you cannot have one without the other.”
What is most inspiring about this piece in terms of its context within music history and culture, is that the ‘lyrics’ resemble early anarchic punk rock songs, the traditional ‘tear down the government’ politic. Yet this song is seemingly more ‘punk’ than any of those. Here we have a 16 year old imploring the minds of youths to change the world, not by smashing glass and wearing plaid jeans, but by restructuring both our economics and our politics into forms that do not exploit the living world.
“We can no longer save the world by playing by the rules. The rules need to be changed.”
Aesthetically speaking, this is a slow and sombre piece. It will have no sympathy for those moved to sadness by Thunberg’s words. We’d argue that this track is The 1975’s way of saying, ‘we are not here to play games’. Rather heroically on their part, all proceeds for the track will be going to climate activism group Extinction Rebellion.
“Everyone out there, it is now time to civil disobedience.” Thunberg says in the penultimate line, and then the music stops.
“It is now time to rebel.”