Matt Healy of The 1975 during a live performance

Will ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Offer New Insight on Matt Healy’s Controversies?

Matt Healy’s many controversies began receiving renewed attention following his short-lived relationship with Taylor Swift. Now, it seems Swift herself may have something to say about Healy in her new album, The Tortured Poets Department.

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The 1975 frontman’s past controversies received scrutiny after he dated Swift for several months in 2023. In particular, disturbing comments he made on a podcast earlier this year have resurfaced and are horrific enough that they’ve been drawing comparisons to David Choe’s disgusting rape comments. Many Swift fans were even contemplating withdrawing support from the singer for her decision to be involved with someone so unapologetic about his offensive behavior.

Healy’s controversies go back pretty far and include allegations of racism and sexism. Ironically, Swift’s name was dropped in some of the controversial comments Healy made in the past. In one bizarre interview from 2016, Healy vigorously insisted that he would never date Swift and that doing so would “emasculate” him. Meanwhile, he has been known for making racist comments and going so far as to mock his fans’ ethnicities during meet-and-greets. Healy has displayed very erratic behavior both on and off stage and is known for trying to get a reaction out of people.

Before 2023, some fans attempted to defend the singer and claimed this outrageous behavior was just “satire.” However, after Healy’s appearance on The Adam Friedland Show in February 2023, such excuses cannot be made. There should be consequences for him openly touting his racism and sexism, but several high-profile associates—including Swift—are oddly choosing to look the other way. Here’s what you need to know about Healy’s biggest controversies.

Is The Tortured Poets Department about Matt Healy?

Days before Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department, was released, it allegedly leaked on social media. Those who listened to the purportedly leaked tracks claimed the album is mostly about Healy. The allegation is surprising, considering many suspected it to be about her ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn, with whom she had a long-term relationship before they split in early 2023. Given how brief and controversial her mid-2023 romance with Healy was, few expected him to make it into The Tortured Poets Department.

The leak is not verified yet. However, if the songs are legitimate, fans are claiming at least 80% appear to be about Healy. For example, the alleged leaked lyrics, “You smoked then ate seven bars of chocolate / We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist / I scratch your head, you fall asleep / Like a tattooed Golden Retriever,” seem to refer to the tatted Healy known for his erratic behavior. Some also felt these scathing lyrics referred to him: “You’re not Dylan Thomas, I’m not Patti Smith / This ain’t the Chelsea Hotel, we’re modern idiots.”

Even before the leak, many speculated that songs on the album, like “I Can Fix Him (No I Really Can)” and “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” were about Healy, simply based on the titles. Given Healy’s controversies, he certainly sounds like a man who might need “fixing,” and his past comments on Swift certainly made him sound like a very small and scared man.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen if the album will provide new insight into Healy. Even without the album, though, there’s plenty to discuss about him.

Healy’s disturbing comments on The Adam Friedland Show

As said above, Healy appeared on The Adam Friedland Show back in February. Part of the reason why it only made headlines recently may have something to do with the fact that Apple and Spotify pulled the episode from their platforms because of how offensive it was. Clips of the episode are still circulating on social media, though, including several in which Healy can be heard mocking Ice Spice.

In the podcast, Healy, Mike Mullen, and Adam Friedland watched a brief clip of Ice Spice talking about her singing career and influences. They then launched into a racist “discussion” in which they speculated about the singer’s ethnicity, tried to mimic her accent, and made other derogatory comments about her ethnicity and body, including calling her “one of the Inuit Spice Girls” and a “chubby Chinese lady.” Healy could also be heard laughing and urging the host to mimic Japanese accents. At one of the 1975’s shows in April, Healy issued what was supposed to be an apology to Ice Spice. However, he denied any wrongdoing, claiming his comments were “misconstrued,” and only apologizing because he didn’t want Ice Spice to think he was “mean.”

Meanwhile, his comments became even more disturbing in a separate resurfaced portion of the podcast. While recounting an incident where a friend walked in on him masturbating after a party, Healy nonchalantly revealed that he was watching pornography from a hardcore site known for posting videos of white men sexually degrading and humiliating women of color. It is an extremely racist, violent, and sexist porn site filled with hatred of women and minorities. Redditors who resurfaced the comments visited the site in question and said it contains some of the most horrific and disturbing things they have ever seen. Some questioned how the site is even legal, referencing past allegations that the site exploits and abuses vulnerable women and sex workers who may be in desperate circumstances.

Healy also casually mentioned how a woman was being “brutalized” in the video he was watching when someone walked in on him masturbating. He openly admitted to getting off on women being violently degraded, as if it were a wholly normal thing to be talking about. Mullen and Friedland, the other two men on the show, also acted as if there was nothing wrong with Healy’s comments, with both laughing along as he told the story. There’s a possibility they weren’t familiar with the porn site, but those who did recognize the name were shocked and disgusted, with one Redditor writing that those who watch and get off on the videos are “disgusting, racist, and misogynist.”

Healy’s comments weren’t satire—they were very targeted racist attacks on Ice Spice and a sickening confession of what he watches for enjoyment. His comments on the podcast also add greater weight to prior allegations about his racism, sexism, and erratic behavior.

Healy’s troubling onstage incidents

Back in January, Healy and The 1975 took the stage in Leeds at the First Direct Arena during a stop on the At Their Very Best tour. Things took a very awkward turn when Healy took the mic and began some kind of racist rant. “I don’t think it’s a racist thing to say …,” Healy said before his bandmates cut him off by beginning the next song.

It’s unclear what Healy was going to say, but those words are the typical prelude to saying something that is racist. Even his bandmates realized that Healy was about to land himself in hot water and narrowly prevented him from starting a controversy. Healy was also visibly upset at being cut off, muttering “Oh for f**k sake” into the microphone before joining his band in the song.

Not long after this incident, Healy was filmed onstage at another concert, seemingly giving the Nazi salute. He made the gesture while marching on stage and singing, “Thank you, Kanye, very cool.” The words are from 1975’s “Love It If We Made It” song and are meant to mock Donald Trump, who once tweeted those same words to Kanye, who has made numerous antisemitic statements. Fans have defended Healy’s salute as part of his mockery of Trump and Kanye. However, he did not explain the gesture, making it difficult to understand his motives. Regardless of what it meant, there is simply no reason to be giving a Nazi salute publicly, onstage in front of thousands of spectators.

The same month that he did the Nazi salute, Healy posted a screenshot of the Wikipedia page “List of Jews” to his Instagram Story. He posted the image with no context and never explained why he was sharing it, which many found unsettling, especially because Nazis kept records of Jews during the Holocaust.

Matt Healy and Black Lives Matter

Racist allegations against Healy first surfaced in 2020 after he posted an insensitive tweet about Black Lives Matter. Just days after the murder of George Floyd, Healy took to Twitter to share his perspective, writing, “If you truly believe that ‘ALL LIVES MATTER’ you need to stop facilitating the end of black ones.” What drew criticism was his decision to include a link to The 1975 song “Love It if We Made It” in the tweet. Twitter users quickly pointed out how inappropriate it was for him to try to promote one of his songs using the Black Lives Matter movement.

Upon receiving backlash, Healy deleted the tweet and posted another, claiming that he had only included the song because the lyrics touch on racism and other issues in modern society. Healy then reposted his initial message without the song. However, he followed it with another tweet with a link to “Love It if We Made It.” Of course, this sparked further criticism as Healy still tried to promote the song even after users explained to him why it was insensitive to do so. While the song does offer a pretty interesting commentary on modern society, it was very wrong for Healy to attempt to use the tragedy of Floyd’s death to generate interest in it.

Healy ended up deactivating his Twitter account after receiving backlash the second time around. However, in an interview, he continued to defend his Tweet, claiming he only made a “half-a-pence” for every YouTube view of the song. He also stated that he wasn’t going to be part of the “culture war” anymore and that he felt like he was a “pawn” of the left. Healy concluded by saying that he didn’t have to prove to anyone that he was anti-racist and that he wasn’t “interested” in the accusations of racism from the internet. He also failed to apologize for, or acknowledge, the insensitivity of his initial Tweet.

Healy’s blatant Islamophobia

Healy has also been accused of Islamophobia multiple times over the years. He is an atheist and has expressed disdain for organized religion. Now, there is nothing wrong with not believing in religion and in raising awareness for the potential harm that can arise from organized religion when corruption seeps in. However, Healy has used his atheism to single out Islam and spread misinformation about the religion. Back in 2014, he took to Twitter to claim that ISIS and Islam are the same things and completely dismissed users who tried to explain why his statements were inaccurate and dangerous.

Healy’s Twitter account has since been deleted, but a user he argued with took screenshots of the conversation and uploaded the thread to Tumblr. The user can be seen explaining to Healy that ISIS goes against Islam in many ways, and encouraging the musician to get educated and actually learn about the religion before spreading misinformation. Healy ignored them, instead asking what the punishment for apostasy in Islam was and mocking that the user ran a Harry Styles fan page. While there are some Muslim-majority nations where apostasy is punishable by the death penalty, the number has been growing smaller over the years, and countless Muslims do not believe in any punishment for apostasy. Healy responded by sharing a photo stating that, “People have rights. Ideas don’t have rights,” and said he was deleting Twitter.

In 2017 Healy was also accused of retweeting posts from an Islamic hate group before deleting them due to backlash. He has also posted crude Islamophobic “jokes” on his Instagram Story. Healy went on another Twitter rant in 2019 where he stated, in reference to Islam, “I have to get up every day and read something abhorrent that’s happened in the name of religion.” He also insinuated that he was “oppressed” as an atheist and that his “rights” need to be protected.

Healy’s controversial dating history

Some of Healy’s past relationships have also raised eyebrows, especially given the very young ages of some of his girlfriends. None of these relationships were illegal, but a few of them raise concerns about his ethics. Healy reportedly dated Gabriella Brooks from 2015 to 2019. In 2015, he would’ve been 27 while Brooks was just turning 19. In 2013, when Healy was around 24 years of age, he dated a woman named Gemma Janes, who was 17 at the time. Additionally, Healy had a brief relationship with Halsey when she was 18 and he was in his 20s. Again, these relationships weren’t illegal, as most of these girls were adults, and the age of consent in England is 16. However, it certainly is strange for a man in his mid-20s to be dating girls as young as 17.

Healy has also been spotted repping the highly controversial Red Scare podcast. The podcast is known to be very anti-feminist and has even bullied and belittled women who are victims of abuse.

Healy’s ex-girlfriend, FKA Twigs, has been targeted by the podcast, with the hosts launching a disgusting attack on the musician for accusing her Shia LaBeouf of abuse. Red Scare also once targeted Swift, brutally body-shaming the singer in a fatphobic rant. Of course, it’s unclear when Healy was spotted repping the podcast, and if it was during or after his relationships. However, supporting a podcast that is so hateful towards women and abuse victims is offensive in itself. Supporting a podcast potentially knowing that it attacked his former or current girlfriend manages to make it even more abhorrent.

Healy’s behavior toward fans

In addition to the Black Lives Matter incident, Healy has come under scrutiny for his inappropriate behavior toward fans. Last fall, he received backlash for mocking an Irish fan at one of his meet-and-greets. The young woman was named Dervla, which is an Irish name. When Dervla, who is a huge fan of Healy, told him her name, he rudely responded, “What? It sounds like something you move gravel with.” Dervla brushed it off as a humorous meeting with Healy, but other users pointed out how unnecessary and rude the comment was. While some tried to defend his comment as “British humor,” most pointed out that it was just childish and rude, especially when addressing a fan. Healy also left Irish fans shocked earlier this year when he stated that the Irish are “a simple people” while performing in Dublin.

Most recently, Healy has drawn criticism for his onstage antics during The 1975’s tour. Earlier this month, photos and videos of Healy walking into the crowd and French-kissing a fan began circulating online. In the video, some fans try to touch Healy’s face and he responds by sucking on their fingers. The bizarre moment was cut short by a security guard ushering the singer away, but it wasn’t the first time that Healy sparked controversy by locking lips with fans during the band’s concerts. Other bizarre onstage behavior includes Healy eating raw meat while performing in New York.

Healy did ask for consent before locking lips with his fans, and one woman involved even defended him from the backlash. Singers kissing fans isn’t a totally unheard of practice, as performers like Elvis Presley have done the same in the past. However, it’s a rather overused act that still comes across as creepy. Healy’s actions were especially odd considering he spoke out in September last year about feeling “sexualized” by the band’s fans.

Additionally, there are allegations on social media that some of the fans he has kissed have been underage girls. One TikToker alleged that he kissed her 15-year-old friend during a concert at Lollapalooza. Other users on Twitter have also backed up the allegations and even claim he has kissed “dozens” of underage girls. Last year, concertgoers noticed he suddenly started to check IDs at his concerts before kissing fans, which seems to imply that a few underage kissing incidents may have happen to warrant a change. Meanwhile, given his dating history, such “incidents” are likely to garner even more scrutiny.

While bizarre, Healy’s onstage behavior isn’t nearly as much of an issue as his racist and sexist comments on The Adam Friedland podcast. Those comments marked a turning point in which his behavior could no longer be excused as satire and attention-seeking, and illustrated a need for fans and colleagues to reevaluate their connections and support of him.

(featured image: Jo Hale, Redferns)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.