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The Matty Healy, Ice Spice (and Taylor Swift) drama, explained

Healy, who is rumored to be dating Swift, has dismissed criticism over comments he made about the rapper Ice Spice

Rapper Ice Spice and singer Matty Healy. (From left, Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for iHeartRadio; Francois Durand/Getty Images for Christian Dior)
7 min

Taylor Swift critics — and even longtime Swifties — are accusing the pop star of “performative activism” after she recorded a song with rapper Ice Spice, who was discussed by Swift’s rumored lover Matty Healy in a podcast conversation that many listeners deemed offensive.

Some fans are skeptical of Swift’s decision to work with the rapper after Healy faced backlash for laughing and agreeing with racist comments made about Ice Spice in the February episode.

Swift has avoided commenting on the controversy — ignoring swirling tabloid and fan speculation that she’s dating Healy — while promoting her first song to feature a female rapper: a remix of “Karma,” released Friday in a deluxe version of “Midnights.”

“I’m a massive fan of this brilliant artist and after getting to know her I can confirm: she is THE ONE to watch,” the pop star said about Ice Spice in a tweet last week. “Sweetest person ever thank u sm,” the “In Ha Mood” artist replied.

Healy has responded to the furor. In a newly published interview, the 1975 frontman said people who claimed to be upset over the podcast were either lying or being ridiculous.

Here’s the Taylor Swift-Ice Spice-Matty Healy drama, explained:

What did Matty Healy say about Ice Spice?

While a guest on “The Adam Friedland Show” in February, Healy laughed as the two podcast hosts, Friedland and Nick Mullen, made fun of Ice Spice — calling her an “Inuit Spice Girl,” and “chubby Chinese lady” and other racially derogatory terms while using contrived Chinese and Hawaiian accents to mimic her.

“Yeah, that’s what Ice Spice is like,” Healy told the hosts, who are known for their racially insensitive jokes, when asked if she sounds the way they had mimicked her. He also called the rapper “dumb” as he recounted a time he tried to message her on Instagram. Later in the episode, which has since been deleted from Spotify and Apple Music, Healy mimicked a Japanese accent and asked the hosts to do impressions of Japanese people working in concentration camps.

After facing backlash, Healy apologized while performing an April concert in New Zealand, although he also claimed people misunderstood his humor. “I just feel a bit bad, and I’m kind of a bit sorry if I’ve offended you,” he told the audience. “Ice Spice, I’m sorry. It’s not because I’m annoyed that me joking got misconstrued. It’s because I don’t want Ice Spice to think I’m a d---. I love you, Ice Spice. I’m so sorry.”

He’s since downplayed the episode even more. In an interview for the New Yorker published Monday, Healy said he was baiting people “a little bit” during the podcast, and that what he said doesn’t matter to fans. “If it does,” he said, “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.”

Ice Spice, who is Dominican and Nigerian, hasn’t publicly commented on Healy’s remarks, but she expressed her love for his band, the 1975, in a January video for Elle.

Representatives for Healy and Ice Spice didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, and Swift’s team declined to comment on the record.

Why are people upset with Taylor Swift?

The singer, who is currently traveling the country on her Eras tour, has been friends with the “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2” rapper for some time. Swift wrapped Ice Spice in a hug onstage at the iHeartRadio Music Awards in March.

Swift has not commented on the controversial statements made by Healy, who she’s also been spotted hanging out with in recent weeks.

Her silence has revived long-standing criticism that the megastar avoids speaking out on topical social and political issues, such as LGBTQ rights, or delays doing so until it’s convenient for her.

Swift didn’t publicly comment on politics until the 2018 midterm election season, when she endorsed two Democratic candidates in her home state of Tennessee and condemned Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has opposed LGBTQ+ rights and the Violence Against Women Act, which addresses domestic violence and stalking.

“I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent,” Swift wrote on Instagram at the time.

The music video for her 2019 hit song “You Need to Calm Down,” which was made in support of the LGBTQ community, was met with backlash, as some fans said it featured stereotypical depictions of gay people while she financially benefited during Pride Month. (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, however, thanked her at the time for making a “very generous” donation.)

The current drama has upset many of her fans, who have used the Twitter hashtag #SpeakUpNow to demand action from Swift. But some Swifties have argued that she is a musician, not an activist, and isn’t responsible for responding to every human rights issue or problematic statement her friends or partners make.

Who is Matty Healy?

Healy is the lead singer of the 1975, a British alternative band known for songs such as “Chocolate,” “Somebody Else” and “The Sound.” The group was named band of the decade by British news outlet NME in 2020, has won four Brit Awards and was nominated for a Grammy for “Give Yourself a Try.”

Healy’s behavior has raised eyebrows before. Fans have expressed discomfort with his practice of kissing fans onstage, even if it’s consensual. He was accused of using the Black Lives Matter movement to promote the band’s song “Love It if We Made It” in a deleted tweet, according to Variety. While performing the song last January, he was accused of being antisemitic after he appeared to do a Nazi salute while singing the lyric, “Thank you, Kanye, very cool.” (Kanye West, also known as Ye, has lately come under fire for overt antisemitism.)

And Healy told the Fader in 2018 that “misogyny doesn’t happen in rock and roll anymore,” although he later apologized in a tweet, writing: “I was simplifying a complex issue without the right amount of education on the subject.

Who is Ice Spice?

Ice Spice, whose real name is Isis Gaston, is a rapper from the Bronx who has exploded in popularity in the last year. She’s known for TikTok-famous songs such as “Munch (Feelin’ U),” and the pink-centric “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2.,” which she worked on with PinkPantheress.

Ice Spice’s songs have often been used as the backdrop to popular TikTok dances. Known for her Annie-esque red hair, she started rapping while a student at State University of New York at Purchase.

Is Taylor Swift actually dating Matty Healy?

Swift and Healy haven’t publicly confirmed or denied dating rumors, which came after Swift broke up with her longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn. But many Swifties are convinced they’re romantically linked.

In addition to Swift and Healy musically collaborating — performing at each other’s concerts and making unreleased “Midnights” songs — the pair were seen holding hands last month, and fans have speculated that they mouthed the same words — “This is about you. You know who you are. I love you” — during their concerts one night apart.

Healy vaguely alluded to the gossip during a performance at a music festival in Scotland in May: “Is it all a bit? Is it sincere? Will he ever address it?” he asked his fans. “All of these questions and more will be ignored in the next hour.”

This article has been updated to reflect more recent comments from Healy.