If you think differently, you're wrong.
For four years, an old college editor of mine tried to convince me to listen to 5 Seconds of Summer.
It was 2014, and the band's debut was conquering the radio. "A new One Direction with a punk rock twist" is how they were being billed to non-believers like me. The only issue is that I despised One Direction: still do. "What Makes You Beautiful" was a poisonous earworm and "Story of My Life" was just a hollow Mumford & Sons wannabe. Needless to say, 5SOS's 1D comparisons and attempted revitalization of early 2000's pop-punk was not for me. Then, the band got my attention when they started to realize that it wasn't for them, either. "It's taken four years for any media outlet to come to us and say, 'Hey I'd like to talk about some real shit, instead of who our favorite Disney princesses are,'" they told The Guardian in 2015. Their pining for artistic legitimacy, rather than celebrity status, made me rethink my toxic relationship with a young band I actually knew nothing about.
I heard "Youngblood" for the first time at the gym—a deeply melodic and layered pop-rock track that was devoid of any pop-punk flavor. "5SOS really didn't need to go this route," wrote Stereogum of the band's third album. "Juvenile pop-punk bands have generally aged more gracefully–or at least more successfully–than acts from most youth-oriented genres." The group revealed that they had a Maroon 5-like pop sensibility and made a creative move that could have decimated the band's career if the result hadn't been so damn tasty. Youngblood's galavanting choruses and tight guitar riffs were impossible to ignore.
Yet, even with my growing interest in the album, something about me continued to resist caving into the obsession. Then came "Easier," the group's latest single, as well as their most "youth-oriented." If "youthful" implies near-perfect pop songs with charming and infectious sensibilities, then I don't want to grow old. Even for the fans who were able to lie to themselves and say they didn't enjoy Youngblood, it is impossible to disregard the fun of "Easier" unless your favorite band is Papa Roach. The melody's vibrant persona and charismatic vocals, that scrumptious little guitar riff, the autotuned breakdown at the bridge—all of it equates a delicious meal of a pop song that will nourish your brain whether you want it to or not. Just take these fans reactions into account. None of them are overreacting:
When we discuss bands "selling out," the connotation of the term is often negative. It pertains to an artist changing their sound, with a "sell out" becoming particularly unforgivable when the resulting sound is catchy: the catchier the song, the harder the band "sold out." But why has enjoying catchy music been labeled as taboo? Moby is an example of a literal sell out, considering every song on his most successful album was sold for use in commercials. Adam Levine is an example of a spiritual sell out, because, as shown by Red Blue Pill's Snapchat-inspired cover art and the band's shallow half-time performance at Super Bowl LIII, Levine chose to curate Maroon 5 to chase dated trends, rather than authenticity.
"Easier" is proof that a song's catchiness doesn't devoid it of maturity and vivacity. Unlike Diplo's clumsy shift into country music for the sake of popularity, 5SOS's shift into synth-pop has felt incredibly natural since the beginning. "Constrained by [the venue's] small stage, there's room only for four band members," writes The Guardian of a 2018 5SOS performance. "There they stand, amiably rocking out and occasionally hitting the sweet spot that suggests crossover appeal might yet be theirs." "Easier's" ability to be infectious without being annoying is proof that this is where the band was meant to be all along. The track's thematic material and corresponding NIN-inspired music video are genuine pleas to be taken seriously, and while the shift was jarring, it's impossible to dismiss "Easier's" charm. Whether you like it or not, Luke Hemmings is a snack, and everyone should give in to the power that is 5SOS 2019.
The quarterback said "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." And then he tried to apologize. And only made it worse.
Drew Brees, a man who makes literally millions of dollars for throwing a ball, has come under fire for insensitive comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said in the interview with Yahoo Finance. He clarified that this was in part because he envisioned his grandfathers, who fought in World War II, during the National Anthem. He continued, saying, "And is everything right with our country right now? No. It's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution."
This isn't the first time Brees made it clear that he cares more for the idea of a make-believe unified America than he does for actual human lives. In 2016, he criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem, saying it was "disrespectful to the American flag" and "an oxymoron" because the flag gave critics the right to speak out in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of racist police brutality
Of course, the flag's alleged ideals have been proven to only be applicable to wealthy, white men—men like Brees. Sure, his grandfathers did a noble thing when they fought under the US flag during WWII, and no one, including Kaepernick, has ever said that sacrifice isn't worth respecting. Thanks to the sacrifices of many people (including the enslaved Black backs upon which this country was built, including the scores of routinely abused Black soldiers who fought for American lives), America has offered opportunity and peace for many, many people. In particular, Ole' Glory has been very kind to men like Brees: rich, white men who still control the majority of the power and the wealth in the United States.
But what about the rest of us, Drew? What about George Floyd whose neck was crushed by a police officer who kneeled on him so casually that he didn't even take his hand out of his pocket? What about Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot for the crime of being Black and going for a jog? What about Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by police in her home in the middle of the night for a crime that had nothing to do with her? What about Tony McDade, Drew–have you heard his name? Have you heard about the 38-year-old Black trans man who was gunned down in Florida last week? Do you understand why these people's family's may harbor just a bit of disrespect for your precious flag?
Is it possible for you to realize, Drew, that your wish for "unity" is not a wish for progress, but a wish to maintain the status quo? When you call for unity under the American flag, you're talking about your flag, the flag that represents a long, sordid history of racial oppression and violence. There is no unity where there is no justice. When you say that "we are all in this together," what you're saying is that we all have roles to play in the version of society that has served you so well. For your part, you'll be a rich, white man, and for Black people's part, they'll continue to be victims of state-sanctioned murders– but hopefully more quietly, hopefully in a manner that doesn't make you uncomfortable?
When you say, "We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution," what you mean to say is that POC and their allies are at fault. Sure, you probably agree that Derek Chauvin took it a bit too far, and you probably feel a little self-conscious that he's brought all this "Black rights" stuff up again. But when you say "all," you place blame on the victims who are dying under a broken system. And what, exactly, do you expect POC to do differently, Drew? Ahmaud Arbery was just out jogging, and still he died. George Floyd was just trying to pay a cashier, and still he died. POC and their allies try to peacefully protest by marching in the streets or taking a knee at a football game, and still white people condemn and criticize. Still the police shoot.
After much criticism, Brees did attempt an apology on Instagram, where he posted a hilariously corny stock photo of a Black and white hand clasped together. His caption, though possibly well-intentioned, made it even clearer that his understanding of the movement for Black lives is thoroughly lacking.
Highlights of the "apology" include his immediate attempt to exonerate himself from culpability, claiming that his words were misconstrued, saying of his previous statement: "Those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Unfortunately, Drew, white people like you are the "enemy," as you put it, because by default you are at the very least part of the problem. No one is accusing you of being an overt racist, Drew; no one thinks you actively and consciously detest Black people. But your lack of empathy, your apathy, and your unwillingness to unlearn your own biases are precisely what has persisted in the hearts and minds of well-meaning white Americans for centuries.
Next, you say, "I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the Black community in this movement." No, Drew. Just no. Black people don't need white people's savior complexes to interfere in their organizing; what they need is for us to shut up and listen. What they need is for us to get our knees off of their necks.
Finally, you say, "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." This, Drew, is suspiciously similar to saying, "But I'm one of the good whites!" The fact of the matter is that feeling the need to prove your allyship is not about helping a movement; it's about feeding your own ego. Not only that, but your emphasis on "ALWAYS" does a pretty good job of making it clear that you don't think you have a racist bone in your body and that you have taken great offense at any accusations to the contrary. I have some news for you, Drew: Every white person is racist. Sure, the levels vary, and while you may not be actively and consciously discriminating against POC, you have been brought up in a racist system, and your implicit biases are as strong as any other white person's. Your job now is to unlearn those biases and confront those subtle prejudices in yourself and in other white people. Maybe the first step in doing so is just shutting your f*cking mouth about kneeling at football games. Maybe you should even consider taking a knee yourself.
For other non-BIPOC trying to be better allies, check out one of these 68+ anti-racism resources.
We're glad they're on our side.
The world is up against a seemingly insurmountable threat, but luckily, we've got a crack team of heroes on the case.
Sure, there's already the girl with super strength, the guy who can fly, and the anthropomorphic, trash-talking animal tailor-made for merchandise. But this is a threat of intergalactic proportions, and we're going to need all the help we can get if we want to survive.
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