5 Seconds of Summer
Interscope Records · March 27, 2020
The Australian pop-rock band has officially cemented its status in the new genre after teetering between the pop-punk boundaries with earlier albums like their self-titled debut, 5 Seconds of Summer, or Sounds Good Feels Good. After a two-year hiatus, the band returns all grown up, and their vibe has undergone some sonic transformation. However, 5SOS fails to achieve a clear vision.
Though bassist Calum Hood claimed in a Billboard interview, “This is the best representation of who we are, not just as artists, but as people,” the album fails to paint a clear picture. Maybe as a sort of coming-of age album, that is exactly what they intended.
“Easier,” written alongside Charlie Puth among others, acted as a “first stepping stone” for the rest of the album, which also focuses largely on relationships. “Easier” is the kind of song that receives air-time on the radio, but sounds far too similar to the rest of Puth’s work to truly be claimed by 5SOS. The bounce and isolated bass chorus mirrors that of Puth’s “Attention,” Hemmings’ runs, though rougher around the edges, following the same pattern. The song is characterized by electro-pop beats and Hemming’s high riffs, which dominate the rest of the album as well. In the band’s earlier works, they were able to graciously rotate between each other’s voices, but as of late, the frontman stands in the limelight.
Other songs off the album, such as “Old Me” and “No Shame” sound like the band is hoping to imitate fellow popular artists. “Old Me” is reminiscent of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine’s high reaches, but sounds strained coming from Hemmings. “No Shame,” a song critiquing the fakeness in society, has a chorus which somewhat resembles the bouncy timing of Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever” chorus, which seems off-putting in the context of the album. Though it’s clear 5SOS is trying to draw inspiration from those around them, the end result is an album with indistinguishable and unmemorable tracks.
“Teeth,” one of the pre released singles on the album, is an example of this as the whole three-minute song is an obnoxious sound clash. The lyrics, “Fight so dirty, but your love’s so sweet / Talk so pretty, but your heart got teeth,” grapples with the ups and downs of a relationship, but the erratic energy makes it difficult to listen to the message.
Additionally, the simplistic song titles are overdone instead of coming off as clever. “Best Years” and “Lover of Mine” deliver what one would expect and leave little room for creative interpretation. In an interview, Hemmings describes “Best Years” as a “beautiful love note,” and the band mentioned in an Instagram Live they hoped the song would become some of their fans’ wedding songs. Despite the sweet sentiment, there is nothing special about the song that helps it stand out above the rest, let alone earn a spot in future ceremonies.
“High,” the last track, serves as a small redemption to the rest of the album. Hemmings explained, “Songwriting in itself is very selfish, and this song in particular, the lyric [‘I hope you think of me high / I hope you think of me highly’] is very clever and very self-involved. I love the honesty. That’s why I wanted to close the album with it.” It shows, if only briefly, the musical progression the band has gone through from their start as young teenagers to full-blown adults.Hemmings also said for this song in particular, “I really wanted a Beatles-esque song with quirky chords.” With that in mind, “High” has some vague “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” vibes, but lacks the ability to harness musical prowess.
In their first album of adulthood, 5SOS tries their best to satisfy so many needs at once. However, in doing too much, they offer up a confused story. It’s a valiant effort from the members, but hopefully as they continue growing, they’ll pay mind to revise their vision.
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