ALBUM REVIEW: CALM by 5 Seconds of Summer

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WRITTEN BY: Caitlin McGeehan

5 Seconds of Summer’s fourth album, which was released this past Friday, March 27th, aligns with its title–CALM. The word is what the world needs at the moment amidst global chaos, and provides cohesive variety in its sounds and lyrics. But the title also digs deeper into the Australian pop-rock band’s identity. CALM is an anagram of the members’ first initials: Calum (Hood), Ashton (Irwin), Luke (Hemmings), and Michael (Clifford). The anagram title is fitting, as Hood, 5SOS bassist, described this release as, “the best representation of who we are, not just as artists, but as people” in an interview with Billboard

The album opens with the layered group vocals in the bluesy-rock “Red Desert,” whose hook appropriately is “red, red desert, heal our blues.” “No Shame” follows and showcases a different generation of rock, with an upbeat chorus and commentary about fame in society that is reminiscent of early 2000s pop punk. “Old Me” is a charming ode to the people 5SOS were as teenagers who had influential pop punk songs in their playlists, as well as who they were just a few years ago. The modern pop chorus holds lyrics that any listener can relate to in looking back on mistakes and learning from them: “shout out to the old me and everything he showed me.” 

CALM takes a shift away from big picture topics and towards the open and honest look into relationships with the next tracks, “Easier” and “Teeth,” which were the album’s first singles last year. Hemmings’ vocals reach a higher range with the help of immaculate production on the industrial pop track “Easier” per the influence of Charlie Puth, one of its writers. “Teeth” takes the ‘industrial’ title a step further with its distinguished bassline, which harkens back to that of the band’s 2018 radio hit, “Youngblood.” Both singles address two conflicting perspectives in a relationship, and whether it is easier to stay or break it off. 

Taking a step away from the darker sounds of the singles, the flirty “Wildflower,” with lead vocals by Hood, delivers a synth pop sound. This begins a trend for the remaining six tracks, and is especially weaved into “Best Years” and “Lover of Mine” to create a nostalgic feel of a relationship that’s still in progress. “Not In The Same Way” is unique in structure, with shorter verses and a longer, rhythmic chorus. 

The rhythmic return of hard-hitting drums comes within “Thin White Lies” and “Lonely Heart” thanks to 5SOS’ drummer, Irwin. “High” is a surprising 5SOS take on a ballad, but provides a conclusive end to CALM in terms of songwriting and personal experience. “High” reflects coming to terms with the end of a relationship, and for the listener–coming to terms with the end of the album because of Hemmings’ satisfying vocal transition. 

CALM brings back the guitar-centric sound that is in 5SOS’ roots, which they seemed to have lost sight of in their previous album, Youngblood. This album also allowed for a great deal of successful experimentation within the realm of synthetic instruments and production. In terms of vocals, Hemmings steps into the lead singer role (the band had previously varied lead vocals depending on the song). From the rhythmic cadence of “Not In The Same Way” to the sentimental chorus of “Best Years,” and falsetto notes of “Teeth,” Hemmings’ demonstrates his impressive vocal range, and stepped up to his new role.

Due to its cohesive sound, CALM provides the perfect progression of emotions from beginning to end.

Tracklist:

  1. Red Desert
  2. No Shame
  3. Old Me
  4. Easier
  5. Teeth
  6. Wildflower
  7. Best Years
  8. Not In The Same Way
  9. Lover Of Mine
  10. Thin White Lies
  11. Lonely Heart
  12. High

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