How Matty Healy ended up being Taylor Swift’s most toxic boyfriend

Taylor Swift and Matty Healy
Taylor Swift and Matty Healy

Such is the state of modern pop culture that the most famous woman in the world appears to be picking a public fight with the son of a Loose Women panellist.

Though they only dated for a few weeks last spring, the 1975 frontman Matt Healy seems to have had a big impact on Taylor Swift. So much so that she has released The Tortured Poets Department, her 11th studio album that, in large part, dwells on her grievances about their relationship.

Swift compares the former heroin addict to a “tattooed golden retriever”, says he is in “in self sabotage mode / Throwing spikes down on the road” and asks whether “rusting my sparkling summer was the goal”.

Swift, 34, and Healy, 35, had a whirlwind romance last year after she broke up with her long-term boyfriend, the British actor Joe Alwyn. They attended one another’s gigs after being hooked up by Jack Antonoff, who has produced songs for both Swift and the 1975.

“She and Matty are madly in love,” a source breathlessly briefed the tabloids last May. “It’s super-early days, but it feels right.”

The couple were seen kissing in a New York members’ club and papped leaving restaurants. But by June, it was over.

Swift has form for mining her love life in her songs. The likes of Joe Jonas (Last Kiss), Harry Styles (Style), Calvin Harris (I Forgot That You Existed) and Tom Hiddleston (Getaway Car) are just some of the exes she puts in her songs.

But Healy appears to be the former lover to have scorned Swift the most — and she is settling scores. The new album’s title track is full of references to Healy, including puncturing the pop poet’s ego by saying he’s “not Dylan Thomas”.

But Swift really sticks the knife in with The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived:

The latter song’s title may particularly rile up Healy, as he has often been the butt of jokes for his supposedly diminutive stature. “I am sick to f***ing death of this,” he said in a video filmed by a fan asking about his height. “I am a big boy!”

Healy has spent much of the past few years seeming to be deliberately courting controversy. Long a gobby champion of progressive causes, he has become a more complex — and, in Swiftie circles, outrageous — character.

He was criticised for giving a Hitler salute on stage and laughing at racist jokes on an Adam Friedland podcast that was deemed so far beyond the pale that it was removed from streaming services. Eyebrows were raised with his other on-stage behaviour, such as eating raw steak with his hands and having “iM a MaN” tattooed on his torso during a gig.

Healy’s inflammatory nature is never far below the surface. The band was chased out of Malaysia, where homosexuality is illegal, last year after Healy kissed bassist Ross MacDonald on stage as a protest against anti-gay laws. In 2019, he urged a hostile Alabama crowd to “f______ shoot me” after he was booed for criticising the state’s recently-passed abortion ban.

Taylor Swift and Matty Healy seen leaving 'The Electric Lady' studio in Manhattan, summer 2023
Taylor Swift and Matty Healy seen leaving 'The Electric Lady' studio in Manhattan, summer 2023 - Robert Kamau/GC Images

He appears to have some self-awareness. On Part of the Band, released two years ago on the 1975’s latest record, Healy sings, “Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke? / Or am I just some post-coke, average, skinny bloke / Calling his ego imagination?”

In a lengthy New Yorker profile published while he was dating Swift, Healy was asked if he had been deliberately baiting the tweenyboppers and left-wingers (he once recorded a spoken-word track with Greta Thunberg) that forms the bulk of the 1975’s fanbase.

“A little bit,” he replied. “But it doesn’t actually matter. Nobody is sitting there at night slumped at their computer, and their boyfriend comes over and goes, ‘What’s wrong, darling?’ and they go, ‘It’s just this thing with Matty Healy.’ That doesn’t happen.”

“If it does,” he went on, “you’re either deluded or you are, sorry, a liar. You’re either lying that you are hurt, or you’re a bit mental for being hurt. It’s just people going, ‘Oh, there’s a bad thing over there, let me get as close to it as possible so you can see how good I am.’ And I kind of want them to do that, because they’re demonstrating something so base level.”

From the heart: Swift's latest album The Tortured Poets Department
From the heart: Swift's latest album The Tortured Poets Department

Healy is also a magnet for cod psychologists. The post-woke rocker was once described by the 1975’s manager as “a combination of limitless ego and zero self-worth”. Antonoff told The New Yorker: “I think Matty is a deeply sincere person, who can, at different points, be misunderstood because of how much he enjoys a bit. If you don’t know him, if you don’t get him, because you’re not really tuned in to the work, you might assume a cynicism that is literally not there.”

Healy was born in London to Welch, the erstwhile Coronation Street actress, and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet star Tim Healy. After spending his early years in Newcastle, the family moved to Cheshire once Welch was cast in the ITV soap.

While a student at the private King’s School, Macclesfield, Healy started a fight club in the changing rooms, charging 50p for admission. He was expelled and moved to the comprehensive Wilmslow High School, where he met his future 1975 bandmates. The lineup has not changed and they are still going strong two decades later, though the frontman has said that the band will go on hiatus at the end of their current sell-out tour.

Swift with Matty Healy's mother Denise Welch
Swift with Matty Healy's mother Denise Welch - DIGITAL

Though Swift and Healy were a proper couple for just a few weeks last year, they first sparked rumours about being an item a decade ago, when they were photographed together at a Brit Awards after party. Two years after their initial dalliance, Healy said that being Swift’s boyfriend would have been a “de-masculinating, emasculating thing”.

Will it affect Healy’s career as a rock star? Probably not – his own fans are apparently immune to his foibles, and love him the more for them. But as he comes under fire from dedicated Swifties on platforms like Reddit and X — though forcefully defended by his own superfans — he may feel that it was not dating the superstar, but breaking up with her, that was the actual problem.

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