5 Seconds of Summer finds a new maturity with ‘Calm’
April 15, 2020
Australian pop rock band 5 Seconds of Summer released their fourth studio album, “Calm,” on March 27 under Interscope Records. The album title is an acronym of the band’s members: Calum Hood, Ashton Irwin, Luke Hemmings and Michael Clifford. Ironically, the album is anything but calm.
The album opens with the intense harmonies of “Red Desert,” a song that, with the lyrics “you’re the only one I’d do this for,” hums with dedication. The song features a steady drum beat throughout and a call-and-response between vocals, guitar and bass in the bridge, which serves to build tension.
Singles “Easier” and “Teeth,” tracks four and five respectively, are sonically cohesive and have similar elements. Lyrically, the two songs question a relationship that seems doomed while acknowledging the difficulties of leaving. They both have a haunting tone thanks to ominous lyrics and a chilling falsetto in the chorus.
The verses of “Easier” are rather minimalist, with drums and the slightest bit of melodic instruments supporting Hemmings’ decisive singing. The haunting harmonies in the pre-chorus meld with lyrics: “I love you so much that I hate you.” In “Teeth,” the verse is underlined with a strong bass line and minimal percussion, allowing Hemmings’ vocals to creep through. The pre-chorus features belting that ends with “I don’t know if I’m gonna make it out alive,” contributing to the overall unsettling mood.
Seeing as the album’s title comes from what fans used to call 5 Seconds of Summer in their earlier days, it’s fitting that “Old Me” pays homage to the past. Hemmings sings, “Shout out to the old me and everything you showed me, glad you didn’t listen when the world was trying to slow me.” The song analyzes the importance of staying true to yourself and learning from the mistakes you’ve made. The repetition (ex. “all of the mistakes I made, I made, I made, I made” in the chorus), makes “Old Me” soothing to listen to.
The band dedicates “Lover of Mine” to regrets of the past. The chorus includes the lyrics “when I take a look at my life and all of my crimes, you’re the only thing that I think I got right.” The speaker does not want to lose their love interest yet again, as they “already made that mistake.” Hemmings’ pleading tone contributes to the heart wrenching effect of the song, as does a gloomy instrumental outro.
Any good album must include variety; “Calm” steps away from mopey ballads to the catchy tune of the fourth single, “No Shame.” The chorus includes falsetto and describes life in the limelight: “I only light up when cameras are flashing… diggin’ my grave to get a reaction, changin’ my face and callin’ it fashion,” however, all of these actions are done unapologetically and with “no shame.” The song covers how celebrities face pressure to behave a certain way in order to remain relevant.
5 Seconds of Summer display a new side to themselves with their newest album—the bubblegum pop of their debut album has been replaced with a more mature sound. The album contrasts embracing past mistakes with regretting past actions, being yourself with putting on a persona for the world to see, falling head over heels in love with experiencing heartbreak. Sonically and lyrically, “Calm” is an excellent album.