I’ve been caught in a cycle of self-doubt lately. The end of the semester kicked my ass, work sucks, and I’m itching to get out of the house. Summer can’t come soon enough. You know the urge you get sometimes to scream-sing in the car at the top of your lungs? That feeling has been constantly pumping through my veins, making me restless.
I, of course, have a specific playlist for this type of feeling, as most Type A, anxiety-ridden Spotify users do. And one of the songs on it has been running through my mind: “No Shame” by 5 Seconds of Summer. Initially released February 5, 2020, “No Shame” was the third single off the band’s 2020 album CALM (named such after each band member’s first initial). The track is now over two years old, but I don’t think it got enough attention at the time. It has everything required for a proper head-banging, bedroom dancing, anxiety-curing bop: emotive vocals, a wicked bass drop, and a screamable chorus.
As drummer Ashton Irwin discussed on an Instagram live on March 27, 2021, one year after the album’s release, the concept of the song is based on the one-dimensionality of celebrity and the evil behind attaining such status. It’s exemplified with the opening line of verse one: “Angel, with the gun in your hand, pointin’ my direction, givin’ me affection.” The irony of this line comes from the power that the general public (the angel) holds over the celebrity. They can either kill them or give them affection.
The simile in the pre-chorus of “go on and light me like a cigarette, even if it might be something you’ll regret” gets at the notion of the effect the celebrity has on the public. It also demonstrates their dehumanization process: they willingly become pawns in order to gain a sense of immortality. This is heard in the chorus with lines like “I only light up when cameras are flashing,” which touches on the fake-it-’til-you-make-it ideal. The following line “never enough and no satisfaction,” is a reference to the Rolling Stones’s “Satisfaction.” The extreme, of course, is fully exemplified with the chorus lines: “Diggin’ my grave to get a reaction. Changin’ my face and callin’ it fashion.” You have to absolutely have no shame to be capable of these things.
With the lyrics “I love the way you’re screaming my name” in the chorus and “I’ll give you my permission, you’ll always be forgiven” in verse two, 5SOS paints the power of the public in creating and building celebrity, while simultaneously demonstrating how they’re never held responsible. And then the darker side comes to light with the lines, “Go on replace me, when you’re cravin’ somethin’ sweeter than the words I left in your mouth. Go on and spit me out.” Irwin noted this as a particularly dark lyric because it illuminates the lifecycle of celebrity: you’ll eventually be replaced.
Stylistically, Irwin discussed how the sound and instrumentation mimics the theme. “The opening guitar riff is very grunge, new metal, and we were definitely influenced by Nine Inch Nails,” he said, describing lead guitarist Michael Clifford’s work as “melodically haunting.” He also mentioned lead singer Luke Hemmings, noting these vocals as some of the best recordings of their career, and bass player Calum Hood’s synth playing which made the track bolder. Each member of the band’s talent helped depict the brutality of the entertainment industry. Irwin concluded the Live by stating that “our ambition as a band is to become genreless.” This song is a long way from “She Looks So Perfect” and “Don’t Stop.” The maturity as a band is apparent through their developed lyricism and ambition to jump genres. Celebrating ten years as a band, this maturity is continually seen on their most recent releases, “Complete Mess” and “Take My Hand.”
I, however, am not a celebrity (despite how often I get interviewed by my bedroom mirror), so I cannot relate to the song in that particular way. To me, this song is a release. It’s a chance to be free of fears and sing and dance and live without judgment. And in rediscovering one of my favorite bands from my teenage years, I’m pleased to say that my YouTube homepage is once again full of 5SOS interviews. I feel like a proper 15-year-old fangirl. Which is much more fun than feeling like a burnt out, 23-year-old corporate employee.
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