ALBUM REVIEW: calm by 5 seconds of summer
5 Seconds of Summer. Chances are that you’ve heard the name before. Whether you discovered them by yourself, or you found them through One Direction, the quartet hailing from Australia has definitely been around the block a few times before. With the release of their fourth studio album, CALM, 5SOS is proving that they’ve come a long way from the teenagers that rose to fame with “She Looks So Perfect.” It has been explained in multiple interviews that this album is the new era of 5 Seconds of Summer, which is why it’s named CALM; for the members of the band, Calum, Ashton, Luke, and Michael. Ashton stated in an interview with Zane Lowe that this album is “the beginning and the end of the younger version of us.”
CALM opens with “Red Desert,” my personal favorite on the entire album. Within the first opening notes, you are able to tell that this album is going to be far different from any of its predecessors. The song opens with all four members of the band harmonizing the chorus, “Red, red desert, heal our blues. I’d dive deeper for you. What a blessing, to feel your love. Twilight moments with you.” It’s not the first time that 5 Seconds of Summer has done a group harmony at the start of the song, their first time being when they covered “Killer Queen” by Queen. “Red Desert” is definitely a song that’s heavy on the drums, something I personally love. It’s upbeat. It’s definitely a song you can dance in a club to, and when I heard it the first time, I pictured a movie scene of someone walking in slow motion through a crowded dance floor during the versus, and during the chorus I imagine the entire dance floor dancing their hearts out.
The next song on the album is “No Shame,” the first single release from the album during the year 2020. The song definitely shows how the band looks at how society has been twisted to make it so fame is the most important thing with lyrics like “I only light up when cameras are flashing,” “Digging my grave to get a reaction,” and the most notable of the entire song, “Got no shame, I love the way you’re screaming my name.” These views are definitely cemented in the music video to the song as well. “No Shame” still manages to be a song that you want to bop your head to as you belt the lyrics. After listening, “No Shame” is a song that definitely makes you reconsider how you look at fame and society as a whole.
“No Shame” is followed by “Old Me” with very little time in between. The way that 5SOS put these two songs together on the album says a lot about them as a band. “Old Me” is Luke singing to the younger version of himself and talking about what he went through to become the person that he is today, and this is shown in the lyrics, “Had to fuck it up before I really got to know me,” “All of the mistakes I made, I made, I made, I made,” and “Shout out to the old me and everything you showed me, glad you didn't listen when the world was trying to slow me.” This is another song that is high on the drums and vocals, but you are still able to tell that each member is incorporated into the song, whether it’s hearing Michael’s guitar in the first two verses, or it’s Calum’s bass ringing in your ears during the third verse as well as his voice hitting the background vocals in the last round of the chorus. Each member had a hand in this song, and it shows throughout the entire thing.
The next two tracks on the album are the two that have been released the longest. First is “Easier,” the first single released for the album, having been released almost an entire year ago. “Easier” is the first song of the CALM era, and it was a very good song to pave the way to the rest of the era with. This song is very different from where the band started, but it has a touch of “Want You Back” in it with the high vocals provided by Luke. “Easier,” however, is very bass and drum heavy, and has more of a touch of rock in it than their usual pop tones. It is very fitting that the instrumentals of this song are of a heavier variety and tone as the lyrics themselves are about debating on whether or not to leave a toxic relationship.
Then follows, “Teeth,” the next single to be released by the band. “Teeth” and “Easier” very much go hand in hand with their aesthetic and sound. “Teeth” is very bass heavy, and unlike “Easier,” doesn’t feature a heavy amount of drums. “Teeth” follows the same storyline as “Easier” and goes through the highs and lows of a relationship. One of my favorite things about this track is since the band chose not to feature a heavy variety of drums, they got creative in how they made similar sounds. During the choruses, instead of using a snare drum, they just have Luke breathing, which is very creative and unique.
The sixth song on CALM is ultimately one of the most anticipated songs of the entire album by pretty much the whole fanbase. “Wildflower.” This is the part where I think I’m supposed to tell the Calum Stans to rise because this is definitely his song. I couldn’t imagine anyone else singing this song, if I’m being completely honest. Calum absolutely kills it in his vocals. “Wildflower” is another song that thrives on the group harmonizing to start the song. It is the start of the lighter sound on the album. It’s a nice refresher after the heavier and darker tones of the first five songs. This song is very happy-go-lucky and it makes you want to get up and dance around your room while having it on full blast, and I’ll admit that’s absolutely something I did while listening to it.
“Best Years” is by far the cutest song on the entire record. It’s a literal love note written by Luke. I’ve claimed this as my wedding song right now. I don’t know when I’m getting married, but this is going to be my wedding song for sure. “Best Years” is the perfect amount of slow and upbeat blended together. I can definitely tell that Luke was thinking about his girlfriend, Sierra when writing this song, and that just warms my heart and makes this song all the more romantic.
“Not In The Same Way” very quickly follows after “Best Years” and boy howdy is it completely different in almost every way. This song follows the storyline of the beginnings of a relationship. From the very first few notes, it’s very fast paced. It’s a song you can easily bop your head back and forth to. Like most of the album, the drums are featured very heavily in this song as well as group harmonizing making another comeback. The lyric that hits me the hardest is “Baby, I'm sick of sadness and you're sick of Xanax.” from the second verse. There are many other lyrics in this song that showcase the toxicness of some relationships, but that one just amplifies how toxic relationships can be.
“Lover of Mine,” the ninth song of the album, was written by Luke and his girlfriend, Sierra Deaton. It’s very much a love song with lyrics like, “When I take a look at my life, and all of my crimes. You’re the only thing that I think I got right.” and “If my name never fell off your lips again, I know it'd be such a shame.” This song definitely focuses heavily on Luke’s vocals as the verses are mainly just him singing over the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar. We do get to hear a bit of piano in the beginning that makes you realize the song is going to be a real heart clencher. It’s only when the second verse begins that the drums are finally introduced, and I think that’s definitely a bonus on this song since the majority of the album has a lot of drums featured in it. “Lover of Mine” is a song that tugs at all the right heartstrings, and it only makes sense that Luke and Sierra wrote the majority of it together.
“Thin White Lies” definitely has a huge The Cure vibe that comes from it, and you can definitely hear it in Michael’s guitar. This song definitely has a different kind of groove that the rest of the album doesn’t necessarily touch on. It does remind me of the popish vibe that 5SOS had with their last record, “Youngblood.” Lyrically, you can tell that this song is a branch off from “No Shame” and how fame can make you into someone that you aren’t, and that shows in lyrics like “When the sun goes down, we all get lonely, watch me as I disappear.” and “I don't think I like me anymore, can someone tell me who I was before?”
There are so many things that I can say about the eleventh song on CALM, “Lonely Heart,” and I don’t even know where to begin. I think my absolute favorite thing about this song is the transition instrumentally between verses and choruses. The first verse is just Luke singing with an acoustic guitar, nothing else. It’s so raw, and it is so pleasing to the ear to listen to. However, when the rest of the band members come in at the end of the verse and sing their “such a--” and Ashton comes right in with his drums again, it’s such a jolt because it’s the complete opposite of what was just happening, and I absolutely love the uniqueness of that. The fast paced tempo mixed with the slow is something that in my head, it shouldn’t work, but 5SOS has managed to put it together perfectly, and it makes it one of the most fun songs on the record.
The last song on the record is called “High,” and if I’m being honest, it’s a song I’m still trying to figure out if I like or not. In listening, it’s definitely a good song. I love the song in itself. However, it’s the placement of the song that gets me confused. I’m no professional at all, but I just don’t believe that it should have been the closing song of this album. Overall, this is definitely the slowest song on the record as it really only features a guitar and bass for the instrumentals. The lyrics present themselves in a very narcissistic manner, and Luke has said when speaking with Apple Music that was the intent for the song. Despite the selfish intent and “tone” of the song, it still manages to present itself in a very fun and sweet way. This makes it a song I can definitely see being a part of one of the earlier albums from 5 Seconds of Summer, bringing it back to Ashton’s statement of this album being the beginning and end of their younger selves.
On March 28, one day after the release of CALM, the band put out a “new” version of the album that you could buy on their website when you purchased the signed CD or the signed booklet. One dollar for every one bought was going to go to the Plus1 COVID-19 Fund and the album that you purchased featured one new song called “Kill My Time.” Of course, I was going to buy the booklet in order to have the song, and boy am I glad that I did.
“Kill My Time” is a straight bop. I really wish this song could have been featured on the actual album instead of a bonus track because it would have fit perfectly with the rest of CALM. The mix of the snare and the guitar in the background of the pre-chorus into the chorus is giving me MASSIVE The 1975 vibes, and I’m absolutely here for it. It was something that I didn’t catch at first, but after listening to it a few times I was able to realize why it sounded so familiar to me. It’s very much a new-age pop song that I can see people getting up and dancing too. I’m definitely going to be repeating myself when it comes to this song because I wholeheartedly believe it should have had a spot on the record.
If you’re like me, you definitely don’t know where to stop when supporting your favorite bands. Hence why I now own four copies of CALM, as well as a vinyl. I decided to leave my one day of quarantine to risk going to Target so I could buy the exclusive versions of this record. The Target Exclusive cd comes with three extra songs at the end, “Teeth,” “No Shame,” and “Easier” all live from The Vault. “Teeth” and “Easier” from The Vault have both been out for a little while now, so I wasn’t as excited about those as I was “No Shame.” After listening, I almost preferred The Vault version of the song to the original as it is almost haunting and creepy, which is something that I love whenever the band does a song for The Vault.