CALM together now: 5 Seconds of Summer creates cohesive masterpiece with 2020 album

Opening Spotify to 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS’s) fourth studio album, I had zero expectations. Zero. However, despite the infantile album name (which in hindsight is fitting… 5 Seconds of Summer sounds like a four-year old’s idea for a YouTube band), I was mesmerized by the cohesion of this album. Dare I say that this was the most cohesive album I’ve ever listened to?


The band is composed of four members: bassist Calum Hood, drummer Ashton Irwin, lead vocalist Luke Hemmings and lead guitarist Michael Clifford. The band has seen large-scale success since their formation in 2011. However, the fourth album received less commercial success than its predecessors since it was released during the 2020 pandemic.


When it came time to name the album, 5SOS chose CALM… as in their initials…. 


Nonetheless, the lyrical components of the album made up for where the title lacked. 


For example, at first glance,“No Shame” appears to be yet another self-destructive love song, with lyrics such as “Angel, with the gun in your hand. Pointing in my direction, giving me affection.” However upon deeper analysis, the “Angel” in question is not a person, but rather an entity of toxic fame. 


Hemmings delivers this powerful message by citing examples of how destructive the celebrity environment has become. He throws shade at influencers such as Logan Paul, through the line “digging my grave to get a reaction,” in order to emphasize that some influencers will do anything for fame.  He then masterfully changes the narrative to call out artists who turn to plastic surgery to make headlines with the line “changing my face and calling it fashion.” The latter line hits particularly close to home for Irwin, who has been vocal about his struggles with body dysmorphia, which became worse with the band’s growing fame. These powerful messages are quite refreshing in a time period where lyricism has evolved to almost entirely drugs and innuendos. 


Another exhilarating element of 5SOS’ production is their ability to effectively utilize real instruments in a way that uplifts their music, rather than overpower it. 


“Red Desert” is one of the best examples of instrumental perfection. Rhythmically complex drumming by Irwin is the foreground of the chorus, with a very full, harmonic vocal sound from the entire band in the background. The verses of the song have more of a lyrical emphasis from Hemmings, but it’s in those instances where Hood’s talent as a bassist shine through.   


Clifford’s guitar is the highlight in my favorite of the album, “Thin White Lies.” A beautiful addition to the album, the sound is mainly alternative, but still has a clear pop punk influence that is reminiscent of the band’s older work. The lyrics are painfully real, with lines such as “I don’t think I like me anymore. Will someone tell me who I was before?” In my opinion, this song fully encapsulates the essence of the album lyrically, instrumentally and vocally. 


In fact, every song on the album shares similar messages and production styles, which makes it brilliantly coherent. Too often artists’ albums appear to be playlists and don’t fit together to tell a bigger story, which is why “shuffling” albums has become a norm.


CALM is an exception: each song was meticulously chosen and fits very well together. 


The album’s first three tracks tell the story of how the band stays true to themselves in the midst of their fame. The next tracks, “Easier” and “Teeth”, cover toxic love and show 5SOS striving away from that authenticity. “Wildflower”, “Lover of Mine” and “Best Years” show a rediscovery of healthy relationships, but it is short-lived as heartbreak is experienced in “Not in the Same Way,” “Lonely Heart,” and “High”. 


For me, it’s mesmerizing to see how all these tracks fit together. It truly shows the limitless talent of 5 Seconds of Summer, both from a musical and productional standpoint. 


CALM is an album that deserved much more critical acclaim than it initially received. I strongly urge readers to consider listening, without shuffling, for full effect.


In reality, this childish album title is grossly misleading for such an intellectually mature piece of art.