New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: ‘boy’ is an ethereal recollection of nostalgia

The 5SOS frontman Luke Hemmings released his second solo project as an EP that works through his starstruck past on the stage.
Alisia Houghtaling
Australian singer Luke Hemmings released his second solo project, “Boy,” on April 26, 2024. (Alisia Houghtaling for WSN)

Sometimes I feel as if I grew up with 5 Seconds of Summer. It’s been my favorite band since “Voodoo Doll” in 2014 and I have seen each of the band’s New York tour stops since middle school with my twin sister. I even forced my father to drive to New Jersey in Friday rush hour traffic with a broken hand for the “Meet You There” tour.

For 5 Seconds of Summer frontman Luke Hemmings, growing up in the spotlight is something he’s only just begun to grapple with. On his newest EP “boy,” the 27-year-old perfectly encapsulates the bittersweetness of nostalgia surrounding his youth as a boy who was forced to grow up too fast.

“boy” is the heartbroken reflection of a newly emotionally mature man. Hemmings’ previous solo project, “When Facing the Things We Turn Away From,” held a similar tone of melancholy with “Mum” and “Starting Line.” It was a project that was the culmination of the pandemic, forcing him to slow down and stay in one place for the first time since his youth. Hemmings opens the EP with heartbreaking “I’m Still Your Boy” with isolated guitar chords that call 5SOS’ 2014 hit “Amnesia” to memory. Hemmings’ vocals are carefully layered on the verse “I’m sat in the driveway, but I can’t go in / The green fence is faded and it’s sinking in / I wish I was younger, so I knew the end” and explode on the chorus with bellowing synths that strengthen the guitar strums. Part of Hemmings’ signature sound that is separate from his music in 5SOS is heavy production with elements of rock, indie and shoegaze combined. It’s growing pains, trauma and adulthood wrapped together in a track.

Part of his increasing fame since the age of 16 means Hemmings has spent over a decade away from his family back home in Australia. “Benny,” named after his brother Ben, grips tightly onto the guilt Hemmings feels over his absence in his family’s life. He pleads “I set myself on fire to keep you warm” over the chorus, almost begging the listener to understand the reasoning behind his decisions. It’s a delicate balance he treads through boyhood and adulthood, and beautifully articulated through simplistic yet hard-hitting lyricism.

When asked about the production process for “boy,” Hemmings described an ache, a feeling he gets and consistently comes back to through therapeutic musicality. It reminds me of the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you return home after a semester of college and realize that time has gone on without you. People are changing, there are new inside jokes and you’re now one of the “kids home from college.” It’s an absolutely terrifying realization. On “Close Enough To Feel You,” his voice echoes through psychedelic rock synth, claiming “Now I’m falling apart again / I just wanna be close enough to feel you / But the pain is so familiar.” It’s about being wrecked emotionally by something in such totality that small details of the mundane can create entire cycles of grief and heartbreak. The music slowly gets louder, literally drowning out his vocals as he sings “I can’t make a sound / It’s drowning, it’s drowning me out.” He’s realized that he’s beyond his youth, that it’s passed him by without realizing.

The final track, “Promises,” is a symbolic placement — Hemmings, via Apple Music, said “it’s about a time in my life when I saw the world through grey-coloured glasses. I was a pessimist, struggling with depression and my mental health, who fell in love and started to see colour for the first time.”

Ending the EP on such an optimistic note, to me, is perfectly Hemmings. His fans grew up with him, and most are now starting or in the midst of adulthood. It’s the clear sky at the end of a rainstorm, the light at the end of the tunnel. The drum beat is singular throughout the whole track, grainy and supplemental to the electric guitar riffs. He sings “I wasn’t always a cynic / It’s just I’ve been bought and sold / But you saw the beauty inside it / At twenty-seven years old.” The production is ethereal and overwhelming in the best way, crowding the track as if it were a race for top sound.

As I officially begin the second half of my college career, I can’t help but think back to the 14-year-old who stuck up the 5SOS poster on the back of my bedroom door, and wonder if she would be proud of me. This EP is the perfect journey to cycle through your complicated emotions of nostalgia.

Contact Julia Diorio at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Julia Diorio
Julia Diorio, Music Editor
Julia Diorio is a sophomore studying journalism at CAS. When not reminiscing about 2000s pop-punk music, she can normally be found drinking copious amounts of Dunkin' iced coffee, curating hyper-specific Spotify playlists or struggling with the NYT crossword. Find her variations of all-black outfits and dog pictures on Instagram @juliadiorio_. Send song suggestions to [email protected].
Alisia Houghtaling
Alisia Houghtaling, Illustration Editor
Alisia Houghtaling is a first-year in Applied Psychology in Steinhardt and one of WSN's Illustration Editors. In her freetime, you can find Alisia drawing, painting, reading, eating pasta or autopilot walking around SOHO to window shop or stare into windows and say "I want to live there." You can find her on Instagram @_alisiart_ and send Italian restaurant recommendations or ridiculous real-estate listings in the city.

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