The 1975, the British pop-rock band fronted by Matty Healy, is facing a potential class-action lawsuit in the wake of its stage protest against Malaysia's anti-LGBTQ laws on Friday at the Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur. The band has been banned from performing in the country and there's a police investigation into what happened. Homosexuality is a crime in Malaysia and punishable by up to 20 years in prison and caning.
According to NME, Malaysian attorney Matthew Thomas Philip announced the lawsuit on behalf of Malaysian artists and festival vendors against Healy and his bandmates – Ross MacDonald, George Daniel and Adam Hann over losses incurred by the remainder of the three-day festival being canceled. While international artists who had been booked were paid prior to the event, payment terms differ for local artists. They may not have been paid or received less than they were supposed to.
Thomas Philip called the protest — which saw Healy blasting Malaysia's "f***ing ridiculous" anti-gay laws and sharing a same-sex kiss with bassist Ross MacDonald — a "deliberate reckless act done knowing well [sic] of the consequences... My view is that the 1975 must be held responsible and accountable for the losses suffered by the artists and vendors." As of Tuesday, there were five artists and five vendors who joined the suit, which seeks general damages as well as exemplary and aggravated damages.
And other lawsuits could follow. A spokesperson for Future Sound Asia, which organized the festival, said it is "currently exploring legal options." Wan Alman, who runs the company, told Billboard the cancellation led to heavy financial losses this year — and it could limit future concerts in the country going forward.
Healy slammed Malaysia's anti-LGBTQ laws
Healy went off on Malaysia's anti-gay laws on Friday as the band headlined the fest lineup.
"I made a mistake," he told the crowd. "When we were booking shows, I wasn't looking into it. I don't see the f***ing point, right? I do not see the point of inviting the 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with."
"I'm sorry if that offends you, and you're religious and it's part of your f***ing government," Healy continued. "I don't care anymore. If you push, I'm gonna push back."
He called it "f***ing ridiculous to tell people what they can do with that and that," pointing to his groin and mouth. "If you want to invite me here to do a show, you can f*** off. I'll take your money, you can ban me, but I've done this before and it doesn't feel good," said Healy, who previously protest of United Arab Emirates's anti-gay laws by kissing a male fan onstage in Dubai in 2019.
When he finished his remarks, which audience members cheered according to social media videos, MacDonald over to him and they shared a lengthy kiss. After, they continued to perform, but the group's set ended early.
"All right, we just got banned from Kuala Lumpur," Healy said of the abrupt end to the show. "See you later."
As a result of the kiss, the country's Ministry of Communications canceled the remainder of the festival, which was supposed to run all weekend with other acts including the Strokes. In a statement, it said the fest was "canceled following the controversial conduct and remarks made by U.K. artist Matty Healy from the band The 1975."
Malaysia's Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil wrote on Facebook, "There will be no compromise with any party that challenges, belittles or violates Malaysian laws."
Organizers said the group went against the terms of their deal by speaking, saying, "Prior to the festival, the 1975 management team reassured us that Healy and the band would adhere to local performance guidelines. Regrettably, Healy did not honor these assurances, despite our trust in their commitment. Healy's actions took us by complete surprise, and we halted the show as promptly as feasible following the incident."
The fallout continued. The agency that approves performances by foreign artists in Malaysia slammed the 1975 for "disrespecting the laws of the country," noting the band would be banned from performing in Malaysia in the future.
Local police announced an investigation into the protest, saying the incident "belittled Malaysia's laws." The band had departed the country before the report was lodged. As of Tuesday, there have been 18 police reports filed over the incident.
The group canceled two shows — in Indonesia and Taiwan — in the wake of the protest. They were supposed to perform at We The Fest in Jakarta on Sunday night as well as at the Taipei Music Center on Tuesday as part of their 2023 Asia tour. The change of plans — that the shows "will no longer be going ahead as planned" due to "current circumstances" leaving it "impossible to proceed" — was announced on social media.
The 1975 regret to announce that their forthcoming shows in Jakarta and Taipei will no longer be going ahead as planned.
Please see the official statement from the band. pic.twitter.com/XpZskFnyeD
— We The Fest (@WeTheFest) July 23, 2023
And now, as we noted, the lawsuit — and potentially more. Alman, whose Future Sound Asia organized the festival, told Billboard that Healy's manager "had acknowledged in writing that Matt Healy would adhere to all local guidelines and regulations" prior to his performance. "Artists are briefed on the guidelines before the event."
No official word yet from the group, but backlash from some LGBTQ groups
As this plays out, there's been no official statement from the band. However, a source defended Healy in a statement obtained by multiple outlets, saying, "Matty has a long-time record of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and the band wanted to stand up for their LGBTQ+ fans and the community."
Healy did made light of the drama on Instagram, posting the festival cancellation announcement and writing, "Ok well why don't you try and not make out with Ross for 20 years. Not as easy as it looks."
Matty Healy reacts to the Good Vibes festival in Malaysia getting cancelled as a result of his remarks against the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws and making out with his bandmate on stage:
“Ok well why don’t you try and not make out with Ross for 20 years. Not as easy as it looks” pic.twitter.com/LyiIaWSXl7
— Pop Base (@PopBase) July 23, 2023
However, his protest has drawn criticism from some members of the country's LGBTQ community, including that it could lead to further discrimination.
Carmen Rose, a Malaysian drag performer, said, "What Matty Healy did, he thought he was doing something for us, but it's giving white savior complex. He thinks we need saving, he thinks we need fixing, when in reality we have queer organizations here already doing the work."
Some critics have also pointed out that the timing isn't great as it's a pivotal time politically in Malaysia, with it being just weeks before highly contested state elections.
"One can appreciate the meaning of Healy's protest, but I think the timing of it may not necessarily benefit folks," Thilaga Sulathireh, a founder of the LGBTQ group Justice for Sisters, told the Washington Post. "Political parties are currently campaigning, and we know LGBT issues are often scapegoated."
Healy has been in the news a lot this year — also due to a brief relationship with Taylor Swift. Many of her fans breathed a sigh of relief after their split as Healy is no stranger to controversy beyond these noted onstage protests. Swift's fans even wrote her an open letter asking her to address Healy's past behavior, but the relationship fizzled out before it came to that.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 24, 2023, and has been updated to include new information.