Most boybands have a cradle to grave life cycle of 5 years, nothing lasts forever, and in the music industry, it is common parlance you must evolve your act or become irrelevant. Five Seconds of Summer (5SOS) formed in 2011, released 2 albums, took a 3-year extended break in 2015, released Youngblood in 2018, then Calm in 2020. Deciding not to just fade away, the Aussie group seems to have hijacked the fate which befell even One Direction… over 10 years on and they are still reaching a global fanbase, yet their sudden vanishing and reappearance on the music scene always come as a shock. On April 1st they have released a new EP with 2 singles Take My Hand and Complete Mess which drove fans crazy with excitement.
Usually combining anthemic rock, high energy, and an electric pulsing beat, they have become linked to punk-pop often (Blink 182 and All Time Low are referenced a lot.) Take My Hand is no exception sound-wise. 5SOS never make albums, they make atmospheres. As they sang in their hit single from 2020 Wildflower “I hear you calling out my name/I love the sound, I love the taste.” While their sound hasn’t changed drastically, their ability to create albums that connect to their fanbase on deeper levels means they are now and forevermore. One of the most radically vulnerable mainstream artists today. As Callum Hood wrote in a recent Instagram post ‘’Time is an illusion, 5SOS is forever.’’
Lyrically, Take My Hand is a self-reflexive song about change: the hook goes “Shut my eyes at seventeen” then later “Open eyes right at twenty-three/Always hits me/That I’m always shifting.” Perhaps given their audience is considerably younger, their music usually provides an antidote to heartbreak and is affirmational. The belief that forgiveness is the key to unlocking unhappiness, that even sinners can redeem themselves and we are in a constant state of evanescence. Growing up with 5SOS is to connect with reality differently: social casualty, wildflower, lonely heart, and a complete mess.
The vein of suggestiveness hiding in between the lyrics is accompanied by a backdrop of dystopian anguish: bleeding suns and shallow minds. What makes the relationship between 5SOS and their fanbase so special is trust, the helpful feeling of big brotherly protection. And their ability to take us by the hand and sing “now and forever, don’t you ever let go.” Let the record show, 5S0S are consistently inconsistent and are the chaotic good of boybands today. Their lyrics do not hide this: “treat my mind like an ashtray/I owe you an apology.” Yet, they never fail to ‘’send in the cavalry’’ the high falsetto vocals of Luke Hemmings, the gentle melancholy of the lyrics, it is hard not to feel cosmically tied to 5SOS in some way, or even saved by them.
Complete Mess has the typical pop-punk trope of redemption: ‘’Caught up in Heaven but your Heaven ain’t the same/And I’ve never been a saint, have I?” The lyrics feel almost like white noise, calming and dream-like, attention is mostly focused on the low guitar lead, the clicking and slow-building momentum which almost catches you off guard when it voyages into the chorus “You make me complete/You make me a complete mess.” It’s also very romantic “I learned my lesson when I felt you slip away/And I’m missing out on half my life.” Their albums always have a ready-made, imperfect quality, like part of a mixtape made in a college dorm room: still the stuff of teenage dreams.
Its been 10 years since the beginning, and they are still finding new ways to take us by the hand. Their ability to remain current is not miraculous but it’s also not lucid, their career is a fragmented phenomenon, Complete Mess is perhaps their most honest song, because that is the promise of 5S0S, now and forever.