Creepy behavior or pop performance? 1975 Matti Healy Reignites the Stage Kissing Debate | The music

TThe 1975 tour was a spectacle of manufactured mayhem, thanks in large part to the band’s frontman, Matty Healy. The sets provided a feast of made-for-TikTok moments. The singer subjected fans to everything from push-ups on stage to yelling at security through an auto-tuning microphone. He even risked the tapeworm he eats raw meat on stage. But the biggest buzz comes from his seemingly most favorite trick: kissing fans. (One hopes they will Before consuming fish.)

According to videos posted on Twitter and TikTok, Healy invited men and women to kiss each other. Avoiding rock music’s dismal history of consent, he popped the question asking fans if they’d like to “get naked” before going in for a kiss, with Isabella, a 24-year-old bartender from Dallas, tweeting “he ASKED me before kissed” and adding in the interview that Healy told her “we don’t have to snuggle if you don’t want to” before she fully agreed to the kiss. Austin, from San Diego, he wrote on Twitter that his makeup was a “crazy experience” that “made [him] feel something [he] could not be fully described in words”.

Kissing fans on stage isn’t exactly new territory for pop stars. In Elvis Presley’s performances in the 70s, the singer kissed almost every woman in the room when he performed Love Me Tender. Diamond Dogs-era David Bowie made it part of his business. Bono has spent years mingling with fans on arena tours. It’s not even the first time for Healy: fans said he did the same during a tour in 2014 and again at a concert in Dubai in 2019 to protest the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ stance.

the man dips the woman with their faces together
Bruce Springsteen kisses a fan on stage in 1985. Photo: Richard E Aaron/Redferns

“Pulling a fan out of the audience to kiss them is a kind of fantasy, and it’s a pretty well-worn trope,” said Jack Hamilton, an associate professor of cultural studies at the University of Virginia and author of Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination. “If you think about the tradition of singers or singing love songs, it’s nothing new for people to fall in love with stars.” Kissing someone on stage is literally fulfilling that fantasy.”

But fantasy fulfillment relies on consent. In 2019, footage from 2010 surfaced showing Drake kissing and groping a 17-year-old girl (when the rapper learned her age, he took her back and admonished, “Why do you look like that?”).

This year Enrique Iglesias published a video showing him kissing and caressing a woman at a meeting and reception; some fans criticized the singer for his behavior, noting that he is in a partnership with tennis player Anna Kournikova since 2001.

Healy’s make-up takes place in front of fans, who post their snaps on social media. “It seems like a relatively safe space that’s documented, part performance and part act,” said Theo Kateforis, an associate professor of music history at Syracuse University. “Creepy behavior.” [from musicians] tends to be private and out of the public eye.”

Eva Walker, who plays in the band Black Tones and DJs for Seattle alternative radio station KEXP, says her two rules for onstage antics are: “Don’t hurt anyone, and ask first.” She remembers a play she was doing in her early twenties, when a woman came up to her and asked for a kiss. When she agreed, the woman’s girlfriend came running, angry. “I was like, ‘Oh no,’ and then I asked, ‘Would you like a kiss, too?’ And her mood changed, she was so happy and she said ‘Oh yes.’ So I kissed the girl and they all lived happily ever after.”

Healy’s behavior is nothing new for these artists. “As long as there’s agreement, it can be fun,” Walker said. “It seems that if there is an ethical way for a rock star to be sleazy on stage, [Healy] found him. Both parties seemed happy. I hope the days of the damsel in distress are over, bend over and kiss her thing, because that’s how you get punched in the face.”

Portrait of the JNA in front of the lights
Disco artist JNA from Seattle. Photo: JNA

JNA, a disco artist from Seattle, says the audience doesn’t need to know if she’s had previous contact with the person she’s kissing on stage. “It’s one of those rock ‘n’ roll tricks that’s a story as old as time,” she says. When she performs, she often asks her husband to stand near the stage. “I tell him, ‘You need to be here, because I’m not going to touch anybody else, but I’m going to be sexy with you and nobody in the crowd knows you’re my husband.’ But when I was younger, I was definitely front and center, ready for someone to pull me up on stage. That’s why we go to shows when we’re young.”

Regardless of how ideas about consent and boundaries have evolved, the prototypical pop star still holds a special place in the collective imagination. “There’s still a pretty resistant set of assumptions about how pop stars have permission to behave in a way that the rest of us don’t,” said Steve Waxman, associate professor of music and American studies at Smith College. “They are allowed to act out things that we are not allowed to do ourselves.”

In some ways, Healy’s kisses can seem less like a spontaneous transgression and more like a carefully planned choreography – especially when the same script repeats itself night after night.

“A kiss with one fan in the context of an arena show allows for a moment of intimacy that everyone can share,” Waxman said. “It’s a way to break the fourth wall, and even if it’s silly, pop is the realm of these kinds of grand gestures.”

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