young woman strikes an innocent/ shy pose

If You’re too Shy, Let me Know

young woman strikes an innocent/ shy pose
Thoughts around a song by the 1975 – this post originally was originally written for Songstories on Medium, but I’m now sharing it for #mmmMonday & #SnakeDen’sA-Z memes


I enjoy The 1975, from their name you might expect their music to be a little bit retro, taking us back to the tracks popular in my youth, but that’s not their style. Their music is catchy but what really grabs me is their lyrics. I’m the kind of person who cannot let a song just be background, my ears pick up snatches of the words, a few more each time I listen, until I think I know what the song is about.

Some songs have their lyrics right at the forefront like Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the Hill or Adele’s iconic Hello.

I enjoy these ‘lyric-forward’ songs less than the ones where it’s necessary to crack the lyrics like a code, and that’s what the 1975 songs have it in spades.

The verses are intricate, giving an impression of a thought or idea, like a poem which must be studied. Sometimes a line will jump out at you, but beware of hanging your idea of the song’s message on that line because it’s likely to be deeper than that, the chorus or the title is the tip of the iceberg.

If you’re too shy is just such a song. Driving in my car, or working in my lab I would listen to the track and was hit between the eyes by this lyric:

Maybe I would like you better if you took off your clothes …

Honestly I was indignant and infuriated. It was just the sort of thing I could picture being said by kids in their late teens: At a stage of life when the CiS male agenda is as many notches on the bedpost as possible and some girls’ insecurity is the catalyst for persuading them to go further sexually than they felt comfortable. (Apologies for generalising about male/female roles here but I’m talking from my own experience). Fuming that the lyrics were irresponsible, I looked them up online, where I found this clip where Matty Healey (the lead singer and songwriter) elaborates on the roots of his inspiration and how the song was originally 2 separate things which they merged together.

Foremost is the context that the song was written in lockdown, when many could not see their loved ones in person. When on tour Matty (like many band members) frequently utilises media (such as skype or zoom) to interact with his significant other. What he’s trying to express with the line I took offence at, is that taking your clothes off, or trying to behave in a manner that would be intimate if all parties were in the same room, takes on a completely different context when conducted online, remotely.

Matty believes that online, what would be personal becomes impersonal and can feel a bit like cam sex, which is strongly implied.

The song conveys the confusion of being in different time zones and how touring can make one city blend into another, until every hotel room seems like the same bed and 4 walls combination, without individuality and home comforts. The artists can be tired and wired at the same time, wanting to get access to their room to sleep and yet needing to unwind by ‘going out out’ or talking with loved ones online.

The lyrics also take a swipe at how the internet and social media so frequently portray other people’s lives / situations as perfect. Curated posts and pictures strike up a yearning in us to have what they ‘seem to’ have. I hate this too. I wish more people could be happy in their moment, right here right now: who you are with and what you are doing. Social posts can so easily be manipulated to give a fake impression that everything is rosy in someone (everyone) else’s garden — if we saw it in real life we’d see that every ‘garden’ has its cracks, stones and weeds.

I am delighted to have been wrong in my initial perception of the song’s message.

Yet I can’t imagine every listener is going to delve into its meaning to the extent that I did. This track activated my ‘little grey cells’ to create a piece of fiction from my misconception. My tale was also inspired by the thought-provoking book / Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and the film Easy A (which in turn owes much to the classic novel The Scarlet Letter).

The common theme is that a female’s reputation can be stained by people’s conceptions of her morality. Herd beliefs can be strongly influenced by the rumour mill, whether or not the rumours are true.

Please follow these links to read the story this song inspired

The Price of Being a Wallflower [part 1][part 2]

My image is from Pixabay


4 thoughts on “If You’re too Shy, Let me Know”

  1. The lyrics of many songs do not make sense if you do not know the original intent. But sometimes it happens in life that you listen to a song and realize that it is so appropriate for your moment. And then it doesn’t matter to you what the author meant. But he could have had completely different starting points.

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