5 Seconds of Summer create a seasonal (and beyond) hit with “Youngblood”

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5 Seconds of Summer is the Australian band whose popularity grew from YouTube videos. The band formed in 2011, and in just a couple years, they were touring with One Direction. The quartet combines the sensibilities of the last 30 years of popular music history to create a song that is unforgettable even for people who might be far removed from what is considered 5 Seconds of Summer’s demographic.

“Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer (also stylized 5SSoS) is the title track from the band’s third album, which is scheduled for release June 22, 2018. The song sounds like summer in a way that pop songs haven’t in recent years. It is at once fun, but full of drama. The vocal styles used are probably the most innovative facet of the song’s composition. Still, there is so much of what makes pop music work here that it is difficult to parse all the elements that make the song work. At any rate, in its totality, the tone of “Youngblood” is youthful, the music is up-to-the-minute, and the elements of the song captivate listeners.

“Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer: sound and style

The song begins much the same as any number of pop songs. Lead singer Luke Hemmings intones in a husky tenor over a sparse synthesizer soundscape. But almost immediately after, the song picks up. There is a finger snapping element that punctuates the background. The backing vocals sing a simple “ooh,” at various intervals.

The guitar motifs and drums give the song that hollow, modern sound that isn’t everyone’s taste, which is fine, because it is the singing and the lyrics that steal the show.

While Hemmings sounds as if he has committed to singing the song in a traditional way, his delivery sounds more like a rapper, and I don’t know how he accomplishes this. The sound is what I describe as hollow, but it might involve throat-singing mixed with chest-singing or something. At any rate, the vocal style becomes more like the stylings of an impassioned rapper. Yet, it still sounds as if Hemmings is singing. He moves between this style and traditional, tenor-range singing.

The lyrics themselves are a sort of contemporary poetry. If there was an award category for the best use of the phrase “dead man walking tonight” then “Youngblood” would win it. The speed of the phrasing also adds to what makes the song work. There is a lot going on in barely three and-a-half minutes of song.

The song is about a pair of lovers who have a friction-filled relationship. There sounds as if there is a great deal of breaking up and missing each other, or at least on the narrator’s end, and the lyrics capture the drama inherent to such situations.

It is not a stretch of the imagination to hear in one’s mind how “Youngblood” will sound at pool parties of the future.

The group performed the song on a recent episode of “The Voice.” So far, reaction to the song has been positive. If 5 Seconds of Summer have re-cast the future of pop music, greater audiences will clamor to hear more.

 

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