Australian pop rock band 5 Seconds of Summer’s third full-length studio album, “Youngblood,” was released June 15. The album is a drastic but not well-executed departure from the band’s previous cheeky pop-rock, almost punk style.
I’ve been following the band, called 5SOS for brevity, almost since the beginning. Although they got their claim to fame from opening for One Direction on two world tours, their sound was closer to that of early Fall Out Boy and All Time Low than the traditional boy band pop that One Direction peddled.
5SOS was at its peak when the members were very young. As a freshman in high school, I fell in love with their charming senses of humor and how earnest and real they seemed.
Their music felt just as authentic as their personalities, with the band members writing most of their own lyrics and playing their own instruments. They were as raw and real as a garage band with the fun and boyish charm of a typical boy band.
5 Seconds of Summer’s genre of music was always a little hard for me to nail down, but “Youngblood” is the epitome of an identity crisis. It sounds like the band is caught between its pop rock/emo/punk past and the alt pop band it wants so badly to be.
The band’s newest release has a decidedly more mature sound than the carefree anthemic pop rock it’s put out in the past. There’s more production on this album in general, with more effects applied to the vocals and an ‘80s glam pop feel at times, namely in “Talk Fast” and “Valentine.”
Their desire to move away from their association with One Direction has been clear since the beginning. In their earlier stages, 5SOS cited bands like Green Day, My Chemical Romance and Blink-182 as some of their major influences — all definitely more emo and punk than what One Direction was doing.
Personally, I thought pop rock/punk was a great niche for 5SOS to settle into. It suited their voices and their personal style really well, and they had plenty of support from other pop punk artists like Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low and the Madden brothers of Good Charlotte.
I like the melodies and beats on most of the tracks, but where this album suffers is its subject matter and lyrics. As a whole, the album is tonally confusing and doesn’t have a good range of emotion. Almost all of the songs are breakup songs that come off as whiny at best and emotionally abusive at worst.
The sixth track “Moving Along” has a catchy chorus and an honestly enjoyable melody, but the lyrics in the first and second verses are just not good. Luke Hemmings, lead singer and guitarist, sings in the second verse, “Is it bad if I ask you to come over? / Is it wrong if I tell you that I love you / Even though I’d never do it when I’m sober?”
The answer is yes.
And that’s not the only song that has this vibe. “Want You Back,” “Why Won’t You Love Me,” “Meet You There,” “Lie to Me” and the title track “Youngblood” all have a cloying, mournful whine to them despite some deceivingly upbeat rhythms.
I love a good breakup song as much as anyone, but most of these aren’t … good. There’s so many of them that it makes the album repetitive and, to be honest, a bummer to listen to. While listening to some of these tracks, I found myself thinking, “Wow, I feel bad for the girls they’re writing these songs about, and I don’t want these guys to ever talk to them again.”
“If Walls Could Talk” and “Monster Among Men” are probably my least favorite in terms of lyrics. The songwriting on these and a few other songs just seem trite and full of played out platitudes. I think the band experimented with lyrics the most on this album, and it was a risk that didn’t pay off, in my opinion. My favorite song, lyrically, is “Ghost of You” because it’s the rawest and simplest.
Really that’s what this whole album boils down to. There are too many effects and some of the songs feel overproduced, while I feel like 5SOS shines the best when it’s just them and their instruments. This is a callback to one of their older songs that many probably won’t get, but they’re trying too hard again.