Australian quartet, 5 Seconds of Summer, have always oriented themselves to the poppier end of the pop-punk spectrum. Love it or hate it, their particular sound saw them jump straight to the top of the charts around the world with their self-titled début album in 2014. With their third album, Youngblood, 5 Seconds of Summer have all but gone full pop, and it is a decision that could either stall their success or propel them on to the next stage of their career.
The eponymous Youngblood opens the record with its R&B inspired verses and pre-chorus, though the song only truly comes together on the chorus, but not enough to distract from the excessive repetition present in the track. Lead single, Want You Back, features a piano-driven intro but settles into the more familiar guitar and drums sound for most of the song. It is an incredibly polished song, with hints of Maroon 5 in its guitar and beat, but the sense that something is missing holds the song back.
Lie to Me’s vocal harmonies and layerings speak to the group’s strengths as a pop outfit, although the addition of strings to the arrangement is a step too far as neither the lyrics no surrounding musicality calls for such orchestration. Talk Fast is lifted straight from 80’s power-pop while Moving Along hints at the band’s earlier punk inflections. With a dark, synth-driven tonality, More provides a welcome change to the album’s sound and hints at an experimental bent within the band. While showing great promise, More’s sound and execution never manage to quite adhere.
A good beat underlies Empty Wallets, and the bass on the track’s second chorus is surprising in its adroitness, but the song is easily too long by a third, which is a fault shared by many of Youngblood’s thirteen songs. Youngblood demonstrates plenty of promise at times but ultimately ends up bogged down in the usual tropes of contemporary pop music.