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Track Review

At relatively predictable intervals, boy bands roll and roil like a tsunami over the pop culture coastline. The Beatles, of course, will always be the gold standard when it comes to such cultural tidal waves. Without them, after all, how could anyone be "bigger than The Beatles"?

That shorthand comparison has bobbed to the surface quite a lot over the last couple of decades. New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, Jonas Brothers and, more recently, One Direction have all generated enough screaming mobs of young, female crowds to merit momentary comparisons to the Lads From Liverpool. Sometimes those waves lift artists who stand the test of time (for better or worse), such as 'N Sync's sole survivor, Justin Timberlake. Other times, what initially seems like an unstoppable force soon dries up: Anyone remember The Wanted from just a few years back? Right. I didn't think so.

Which brings us to the Australian pop-rock foursome who've dubbed themselves 5 Seconds of Summer. As is increasingly the case lately, these four guys—Michael Clifford, Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood and Ashton Irwin—began their ascent performing cover tunes on YouTube. They were already making a splash in their native Australia and neighboring New Zealand when they got the lucky bump every band pines for: being "discovered" (in this case by One Direction's Louis Tomlinson). A coveted opening slot on tour with 1D followed, and soon the 5 Seconds wave began to crash on distant shores, first the U.K., and now the U.S.

What kind of sound does that crash make? Well, this high-energy outfit is as close to a full-on rock group as any boy band I'm aware of, sounding as much like the pop-punk act Jimmy Eats World as One Direction. Big guitars and big voices show that these guys are clearly bent on big arena domination.

If only all that up-tempo energy was in the service of an equally upbeat message! Alas, it's not. Instead, the band's latest single, "Good Girl," is full of sarcasm and cynicism as it glorifies deception even as it trash-talks virtue and mocks parents. In a nutshell, the song suggests that all those hard-working, high-achieving high school girls out there who seem to be focused on the right goals are really just lying, rebellious party lasses playing a big ol' joke on their totally duped-'n'-doting parents.

"She's a good girl, she's daddy's favorite," Michael Clifford begins. "She's saved for Harvard, he knows she'll make it/She's good at school, she's never truant/She can speak French, and I think she's fluent."

Cool, right? Wrong. The next lines take a deeply problematic turn, delivered by Calum Hood: "'Cause every night she studies hard in her room/At least that's what her parents assume/But she sneaks out the window to meet with her boyfriend/Here's what she told me the time that I caught 'em."

That leads into the song's "confessional" chorus: "She said to me, 'Forget what you thought/'Cause good girls are bad girls that haven't been caught/So just turn around and forget what you saw/'Cause good girls are bad girls that haven't been caught.'"

As the track progresses, we're treated to yet another portrait of one of these "good" bad girls—someone who pretends to study but is in fact making out (or perhaps doing a whole lot more) with her boyfriend in one of the library's darker corners.

"She's a good girl/A straight-A student/She's really into all that self-improvement/I swear she lives in that library/But if you ask her, she'll say/That's where you'll find me/But if you look then you won't find her/She may be clever but she just acts too square/'Cause in the back of the room, where nobody looks/She'll be with her boyfriend, she's not reading books."

Why? "'Cause good girls are bad girls that haven't been caught." Yeah, we get it now: There aren't any good girls. There are just a whole lot of pretty little liars bamboozling their clueless dads and moms.


"Good Girls" is hardly the most explicit song ever sung—not even by a fresh-faced boy band. But it's easily one of the more cynical takes on calculated teen deception I've heard in a while. Only time will tell, of course, whether the 5 Seconds of Summer wave will swell for 5 seconds … or a whole summer. But with the toxic attitudes toward parents on brazen display here, either timeframe might be too long.

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May 27, 2014

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Adam R. Holz

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