Ladies and gentlemen, your first contender for song of summer is here! The source: an Australian, appropriately-named boy band, 5 Seconds of Summer. The acronym: 5SOS. The song: “She Looks So Perfect.”
Summer songs have a vital role to play in our pop music ecosystem. They’re a sonic magic trick that turns sound into sensation; just listening to a summer song should make you feel like you’re getting warmer, tipsier, sandier. The inescapably catchy lyrics must feel great to shout but barely hold up to close inspection (“MmmBop,” summer ’97; “Call Me Maybe,” summer 2011) and in fact crumble under the weight of academic analysis (last year’s maybe-rapey “Blurred Lines”). It should be impossible to not dance when the song comes on. (“Umbrella,” summer 2007; “Promiscuous,” summer 2006). Call and response chants are always a plus. (“Hot in Herre,” summer 2002; “Hollaback Girl,” summer 2005) And, when in doubt, Beyonce. (“Crazy in Love” with Jay Z, summer 2003).
In the service of pure, unfettered fun, it’s the rare summer song that manages to squeak in a message that is both coherent and positive, one that doesn’t make you wince when you think about what you’re saying as you’re singing along. But the video for “She Looks So Perfect” might just nail it: without employing the insufferable “Listen to me being such an accepting person” tactics of other pop stars—Selena Gomez’s “Who Says,” Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Bruno Mars’s “Just The Way You Are“—the 5SOS confection is as accepting as a pride parade, as exuberant as a kid out after curfew.
Brace yourself for three minutes and thirty-eight seconds of sunshiney earmworm-y glory from Calum, Michael, Ashton and Luke (or as they call themselves: “Cal, Mikey, Ash and Luke.” Is that not exactly what you would name the members of a fictional boy band?)
This brings me to a new feature we like to call: Reactions in Real Time.
0:01 Fade in: an elaborately staged, Instgram-lit alley. Flashes of the mundane world of suburbia. It’s all very Virgin Suicides meets Lorde’s “Royals” video. Some sad moms at supermarkets. Nothing out of the usual here, move right along—
0:34 Wait, what? Why are we in a jailyard? Out of nowhere we get this shot of prisoners, just hanging around, perhaps repenting or just whiling away in the sun on this sweltering day. Maybe it’s just an advertisement for/answer to the new season of Orange is the New Black.
0:45 Usually I believe you have to embrace a song of summer in spite of, not because of, its lyrics. But “she looks so perfect standing there” is such an improvement on that One Direction model of “You don’t know you’re beautiful / that’s what makes you beautiful.” Literally the first line of that One Direction song is “You’re insecure,” which I get is supposed to warm the hearts of insecure seventh graders everywhere but ends up just sounding like “I’m only attracted to girls with low-self-esteem.”
0:49 “You look so perfect standing there / in my American apparel underwear” must be 2014’s answer to “I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch / I’d take her if I had one wish”. Does this portend poorly for the American Apparel brand, given that A&F has fallen on out of favor with all the hip youths? (I also recommend revisiting that LFO classic. “New Kids On The Block had a bunch a hits / Chinese food makes me sick / And I think it’s fly when girls stop by for the summer…” Some of the great poetry of our time right there.)
1:40 So, everyone is stripping. (Sorry, too late to tell you but this is sort of NSFW.) Look at all these different body types just jumping up and down and throwing topless, pantless dance parties. This is the greatest, best, body-positive shindig I’ve ever seen in my life. I love this.
2:10 This is what all the Dove Real Beauty ads wish they could be.
2:51 Another thing: no one is wearing a matching bra and underwear. This dedication to authenticity is stunning. Is this underwear normcore?
3:24 Just before these 5SOS lads decide to join the nearly naked party, we fade to black. Well, well, well. Somebody watched The Sopranos.