5 Seconds of Summer's 10 Greatest Songs: Critic's Picks
The Australian pop-rock quartet's third album is finally here; we toast it with a salute to the hits and fan favorites.
One of the best things about music is how the same band can be loved in so many ways by so many people. How cool is it that two fans can be connected by a shared love for a band, and yet have completely unique views on which songs or albums are their best work? Given the same material, you can form the same bond but in a new way.
I discovered 5 Seconds of Summer back in 2013 on the Take Me Home tour when my friend and I had front row tickets to see One Direction, and even though Harry Styles literally winked at me -- the closest thing I’ve ever had to a spiritual experience -- I left talking about four dorky Australians that stole my heart.
I appreciate each of their releases for different reasons, but I’ll always feel the strongest emotional connection to the songs I heard at those first shows. Without them, I might not have been paying attention to hear the increasingly impressive tunes that were to follow. “Youngblood,” the second single and title track from their brand new album, ranks very high on my list. “Lost Boy” deserves to be heard again live, and whoever decided they should cover “Teenage Dream” all throughout 2014 deserves a raise. With all of this in mind, I attempted to choose my top 10 favorite 5SOS songs and trust me… it’s harder than it looks.
10. “End Up Here” [5 Seconds of Summer, 2014]
Sometimes you just need a good power pop song in your life, and “End Up Here” is definitely that song. Of course it's pure catharsis when Bon Jovi sings about living on a prayer, but it’s truly incredible how four Australian kids singing about loving "the song about living on a prayer" gives the same reaction. We put so much pressure on bands to always be creating music that means something deep, but sometimes you just that blissful rush of fandom. Play this song on summer road trips and let it soundtrack the ride away.
9. "Beside You" [Somewhere New EP, 2012]
If you really want to experience this track, find a live acoustic version. You don’t get the full effect of the group’s harmonies unless you’re hearing it in its raw form, which reminds you how rare it is to find a non-boyband band where each of the members is equally talented vocally. “Beside You” was released on both the Somewhere New EP and their self-titled debut album, but I’ll never hear it enough for my heart to not break upon hearing, “My heart wants to come home…”
8. "Long Way Home" [5 Seconds of Summer, 2014]
I have a soft spot for any song that belongs in the end credits of a typical teen movie. “Long Way Home” fits the “this summer is the last time we’ll all be in the same place, so let’s make the most of it” vibe perfectly, without being cheesy. The acoustic guitar is just prominent enough to give the song a nostalgic feel, but it still feels fresh and fun. Roll the credits.
7. “She Looks So Perfect” [5 Seconds of Summer, 2014]
Were you really a 5SOS fan in 2014 if you didn’t have at least one family member ask about the band that sings about American Apparel underwear? This song kicked off the band’s meteoric rise from being known within internet circles to heavy rotation on top 40 radio and 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. It also helped bring pop-punk back to the mainstream, allowing 5SOS to promote other acts on a scale that otherwise may not have been possible. This song deserves a place on this list not just for the moment in time it represents, but because it has one of 21st century rock's best choruses.
6. “Outer Space/Carry On” [Sounds Good Feels Good, 2015]
There aren’t enough words to accurately sum up this song. Each half is a work of art all its own, coming together to close out the band's sophomore album on a hopeful note. The “Outer Space” half is heartbreaking, painting a picture of a relationship that can’t work unless it’s away from the struggles of life on earth. For a second in the bridge, you start to think their love can survive because they’re in outer space, or a place all their own where nothing else can affect them. But then those last few lines come around and kick you when you’re down. “Love me like you did, I’ll give you anything.” My heart hurts and we’re not even done yet.
“Carry On” comes in and ends things on a better note, reflecting on how time will pass and things will get better. It kind of feels like a premonition for their new album, getting to a place where they can create what they want and regain some energy after years of non-stop touring.
5. “Disconnected” [She Looks So Perfect EP, 2014]
An early favorite, “Disconnected” reminds us of the power in being with people without the distraction of technology. But in a lovely twist, it doesn’t do it in a condescending way that belittles those that genuinely enjoy social media. This song was written with help from Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low, which explains why this song felt so familiar from first listen to many pop-punk fans. When these bands grow up and leave their deadbeat towns, it's on them to assist them to pass the torch to the next generation.
4. “Girls Talk Boys” [Ghostbusters official soundtrack, 2016]
Reviews for the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot were mixed, but feedback on “Girls Talk Boys” was positive across the board. This track was the tipping point where the band started gravitating away from pop-punk and towards their new, 2018-ready pop sound. Though leagues away from their early racket, you can still feel the same energy shining through; it’s genuine growth, not a forced directional shift. Whether you prefer their rambunctious roots or their new, streamlined sound, let’s celebrate the one track between album cycles that opened the floodgates for a new era of 5SOS.
3. “Try Hard” [5 Seconds of Summer, 2014]
I will spend my life championing this song and advocating for it to rejoin the band's setlist, despite reminders that they haven’t played it in four years. “Try Hard” is a true masterpiece, giving us an alternate version of the story told in Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” 16 years ago. The story of two people who were just so different and then yadda yadda yadda, he ended up on stage with her in the crowd at his show. When I hear Luke referencing the girl in the front row, it takes me back to 2009, when I fully believed a Jonas brother would see me at their world tour and whisk me away to a new life where I’d be serenaded with “Hello Beautiful” every morning.
2. “Youngblood” [Youngblood, 2017]
The band’s newest era kicked off with “Want You Back”, which was only a taste of what was to follow. “Youngblood” takes us into a whole new age of 5SOS, less focused on being pop punk and more focused on going wherever the music takes them. Genre is much less defined in 2018; everything is a streaming era amalgamation of so many influences and ideas. This song is the perfect example of what can happen when you jump out of the box you put yourself inside of and see what’s happening outside -- in this case, swaggering tight-grooved pop with EDM inflections.
1. “Jet Black Heart” [Sounds Good Feels Good, 2015]
I don’t want to sound dramatic, but I would literally die for “Jet Black Heart,” a expert-level emo-pop power ballad for anyone still holding on to Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge-level angst. Michael takes center stage and shines on lead vocals, giving the track the storm cloud-romantic edge it needed to reach its full potential. If you ever find yourself trying to introduce 5SOS to a skeptical audience, this might be the song to break through the tough exterior to the hurricane underneath it.