Review: CALM fails to stand out

5 Seconds of Summer’s newest album does make me feel calm, but only because it makes me feel nothing.

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Photo A. Deluca

The album art for CALM, 5 Seconds of Summer’s most recent album.

Amelia Foster, A&E Editor, Multimedia Editor

The fact that my initial reaction to “Easier,” the lead single from CALM by 5 Seconds of Summer, was that it sounded like everything they’ve done before should have been an omen. CALM, released March 27, is the kind of album where I try to trick myself into liking it. To be fair, it didn’t create any negative emotions in me, but that’s just because it didn’t elicit any feelings at all.

CALM is, quite clearly, a faux pas at being an experimental album for them. The songs range from electronic happy love songs, to electronic depressing love songs, to electronic dark love songs. They sound nice, but every song gave me the feeling that I had already listened to it. To describe it best, I’ll borrow lyrics from CALM, which is that it’s “Nothing new to me / Nothing new to you.”

“Red Desert,” the intro song, started with just vocals with barely any instrumental. When I first listened to it, I liked how it was different from what they’ve done in the past. Then, I listened to the rest of the album and realized that “Old Me,” “Wildflower” and “Not in the Same Way” all start the same way. “Not in the Same Way” sounds like 5 Seconds of Summer needed another song for the album, so they decided to smash “Wildflower” and “Easier” together to save them the time of writing a unique song.

5 Seconds of Summer’s last album Youngblood was so successful that it blocked Beyoncé and Jay-Z from going number one, and I think they tried to emulate their success with CALM. Despite the obvious similarities in the albums, what with the more pop sound and darker themes, there’s a clear distinction: one of them is good, and it’s not CALM. The entire time I listened to this album to review it, I could only think about how much I wish I was listening to Youngblood. 

Not all of the songs on CALM sound exactly like their past albums; instead, some of them sound exactly like songs by every other male artist on the planet. Ed Sheeran, Niall Horan, Justin Bieber, Lewis Capaldi. If they can put a pen to paper, they’ve probably written a song like “Best Years” or “Lonely Heart.”

To avoid this review completely trashing the album, there were two that managed to stand out enough for me to remember the title. “Teeth” was their second single from the album, and was a tasteful venture into EDM. Although dark love songs can get tiring, the added vocal effects, base drops and the gruesome imagery of the bridge made the song enjoyable. I never thought I’d earnestly use the word groovy to describe a song released in 2020, but “Thin White Lies” deserves the title. The way the main singer’s voice rises and drops fits the plucking chords in the background perfectly, and the actual emotion in his voice as he sings “I don’t think I like me anymore” hit close to home. I wish the lyrics were a little less cookie-cutter, but I’ll take what I can get.

I wish I could cut out every song from CALM until it’s just the good ones, but I can’t. If plain oatmeal and the color beige and every neutral thing in the world could be transformed into an album, that album would be CALM.