An analysis of the 5sos Rolling Stone magazine article
Okay listen. I understand why everyone is upset. I’m not making excuses for the things that the boys said, I’m just trying to explain how their words were twisted to seem much more malicious than they probably were meant to be. I’m trying to show how this is what talented journalists can do. They take what someone said and they warp the meaning, the context, and the undertones, to turn it into something else. They take an entire interview and only focus on a few things, making those things seem crucial and important when probably they were just offhand comments. In order to sell a story and create a scandal.
I know this is long. I’m not putting it under a cut because I want people to read it. If you need to fill my ask box with anon hate to make yourselves feel better, that’s fine. It really is. I can take it, and if sending it to me means you won’t send it to someone else who can’t take it, then please do. But read this with an open mind, with the knowledge that this article was meant to create a fabrication, a false representation of the boys and who they are and what they said. It doesn’t represent them as they really are.
The article starts by spending an off-putting amount of time going into gritty detail about how hungover the boys are. Is being hungover after a party when you’re 19-21 really such a shocking, terrible thing that the author felt the need to talk about it for three paragraphs? Of course not. Most of us who are over the legal drinking age have been hungover. It’s not a tragedy. He used that relatively innocuous detail to set the stage for the rest of what this article aims to do – which is paint Luke, Michael, Calum, and Ashton as carefree, misogynistic, unprofessional party-boys who don’t give a fuck about their fans, their music, or really much of anything.
A ridiculous amount of time is spent in this article talking about partying. Which, of course the boys party. No one has ever claimed that they don’t. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t. But for a magazine that claims to be about music, to hardly mention the music at all and instead detail that Michael and Luke went to Nick Jonas’ party, and then Justin Bieber’s and then The Weeknds, and Ashton was there too but he left, and oh so was Diddy and his crew, and lol Bieber just played his own music the whole time, and they had a house at the start of the year but haha they didn’t write music they just partied, and they had a birthday party for Michael and oh-mah-stars they got kicked out of a house, what is this?? Who the fuck cares, this isn’t news. Because it isn’t news. It’s the author, again, setting the stage. In this first page of the article, pretty much before any of the boys have even said anything, he’s painted a completely negative picture of them. Now, it barely matters what is said in the rest of the article, because the bad taste of the first page is already in your mouth. Mission accomplished.
Break it down further: look at this sentence. “Capitol paid for 5sos to move into the Bel Air house and write their new album for three months … but the band finished early, ‘So we just had parties all the time’.” That sentence is worded deliberately to make it look like 5sos don’t really care about their music. That they were given a house for three months to make an album, and they just wrote a bunch of half-assed songs in the first two weeks and then just partied bro! We know that’s not what happened. We know how hard 5sos worked on this album, how much they cared about it, how they put their whole heart and soul into it. How they wrote songs about being part of the broken youth, songs about bad childhoods and depression and hard times, and a song right at the end about how things are going to get better. We know they wanted the New Broken Scene to be a uniting revolution, a place where the outsiders could feel like they belong. But that’s not what the author would like you to believe. Do you see how this works?
The next bit is the most important because it’s what people seem to be the most upset about. The parts about the boy-band image, and that they don’t want to be a band ‘for girls’. Listen, I am as much a feminist as the next person. I hate that in the music industry, bands that have mostly female fans aren’t considered real music. I hate that the stuff girls like is mocked and belittled. It’s disgusting. And I understand that it hurts to feel like 5sos is now doing that too. But look closer. That isn’t what they said.
Ashton said “We don’t want to just be for girls. We want to be for everyone.” On the surface I know that looks like he’s saying he doesn’t like their female fans, but that isn’t what he’s saying at all. Think critically, look a little deeper. You have to wait until later in the article to do it, because the author intentionally put distance between that quote, and the related parts where they talk about the deliberate crafting of their pop image. He dropped that quote from Ashton, and then immediately changed the subject to John Feldman, and Michael’s depression, and oh more partying. Just wait, this subject will come back up, just not for long enough in the article that you’ll have forgotten what Ashton said by the time you get there.
[quick side note: the bit about Feldman working with Jess Origliasso, “a friend of Clifford.” Wasn’t it in another Rolling Stone article that it was confirmed Michael “dated” her? I know this is a small detail but it’s important to see things like this, to see the casual inaccuracy that dances its way through most publications such as this one. These articles are sloppily researched, and sensationally written. They aren’t about the truth, they’re about selling stories.]
[additional side note: the thing about looking up hot girls dancing on the internet with Chad Kroeger is gross. Yes, they sat there and watched weird videos with Chad. But read it carefully. Notice how the boys themselves deem the situation “creepy” and “like a dad trying to find porn.” They’re making fun of him. They’re saying it was weird, that they sat there with him because they didn’t know what else to do and laughed about after he was gone.]
The article then moves onto talking about Arzaylea, who I don’t normally discuss because I hate drama about their personal lives, but this was also a very deliberate choice to include stuff about her in this. The author himself acknowledges that she’s caused drama, that the fans don’t like her. So why include her? To create more drama. That’s the only reason. Using idiotic quotes about how she considers herself an “internet influencer” and that she doesn’t need to worry about money because she lives off a trust fund, this is so freaking transparent. He’s just trying to stir shit up, to make people upset, and clearly it worked exactly as he wanted it to. If there’s anything positive to be said about this journalist, it’s that he’s very good at what he does.
Okay now, finally, we’re back to the part about female fans. Have you mostly forgotten Ashton’s misogynistic-sounding comment? Good, the author was hoping you would, before he goes into a very, very revealing discussion of Adam Wilkinson and his attempts to mold 5sos into the next boyband – in his own words, to “occupy the space between One Direction and McFly. They’re young, attractive, attainable teenagers … while they cannot cross into the realm of pop punk, they can stand on the sidelines and capture the edge of that market.” Understand how important this is. Understand how important it is when he goes on to talk about the ‘roles’ that were crafted for the boys – the quiet one, the rockstar, the creative one, the serious one. From the very beginning, 5sos wanted to be a rock band, and the people around them were trying to turn them into the next cookie-cutter boyband, a product and a brand instead of a band. From the beginning, they had people around them telling them that their dream of being a pop punk band wasn’t realistic because they were too attractive. Instead, they were made ‘more pop’, and marketed to girls, because they were too pretty to appeal to males, and of course the music industry knows girls don’t really care about the music, they just care about cute boys.
This is what Ashton is talking about when he says he doesn’t want them to be a band for girls. It has nothing to do with them hating their female fans. He’s saying he doesn’t want them to be a musical group that is created, crafted, and molded, in a studio, by executives, as a commercial, manufactured product, marketed to teenage girls. He doesn’t want marketing to inform what they do or the kinds of music they make. It’s truly a terrible thing, that in the music industry things that are made for teenage girls are not respected, but that’s the reality. 5sos isn’t capable of changing that. They’re saying they don’t want to be part of it. They don’t want to be a product. They want to be a band. And for years, the people around them have been trying to make them a product. Wouldn’t you be resentful too? I would.
If there is anything 5sos does hate about their female fans, it’s our own doing. It’s that we mob them at airports. It’s that we send them thousands of tweets every day calling them Daddy and begging them to crush our pussies. It’s that we feel like we are entitled to every single inch of their personal lives just because we bought their album. It’s that we shove phones in their faces when they ask us not to. It’s that they can’t go anywhere without being followed by fans, and then called assholes when they lash out. It’s that we hate their girlfriends simply because they’re dating the one we wish we were dating. If I was 5sos, there would be times when I hate us too.
The paragraph in which the author does his very best to make Luke look like the fuckiest of fuckboys is illuminating if you look at it closely. The first sentence. “Hemmings says they took full advantage of the situation”. No, he didn’t say that. That isn’t a quote. If Luke had said those words, it would have been a direct quote. But it isn’t. That is the author of the article summarizing their conversation with his opinion. This is called editorializing. The author is making a summary in one sentence that can’t be called a lie, because he doesn’t technically present it as fact. He doesn’t say Luke said it. But the point gets driven home anyway. We walk away believing that’s what Luke said, even though he didn’t. The parts about how Luke “smirks” and “cracks a devilish grin” are further examples of editorializing. Because we don’t have a video, we have to take the author’s word that Luke is smirking. Maybe he wasn’t. We don’t know. And the author can’t be called on it, because it was just his interpretation of Luke’s facial expression. He isn’t saying it’s a hard fact, he’s saying it’s his opinion. Opinions can’t be called into question. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether or not Luke was smirking. The author said he was, so now we all believe he was.
His answer to the questions about groupie culture and sex are equally twisted by the author. “When you put four young dudes on a tour bus, you’re going to have sex with a lot of girls, I guess.” How is that damning at all? He isn’t admitting to anything. He doesn’t word it particularly confidently. It sounds like the reporter asked Luke a question he wasn’t expecting, he didn’t know how to respond, so he made a joke out of it. Reporters do this. They ask questions like this, because they know that 99% of the time the person isn’t going to refuse to answer it once it’s been asked. Think about all the interviews you’ve seen where someone has been asked a question that surprises them or makes them uncomfortable. How many times do they ever outright refuse to answer it? And even if Luke did refuse to answer? The author would have spun that too. He would have said something like “When I asked Hemmings about whether he’d enjoyed the groupies on their early tour, he smiled coyly and wouldn’t say.” Either way, the message gets across. It’s about framing the questions to get the answers you want. Good interviewers know how to do this.
I’m not suggesting Luke didn’t have sex with groupies. I’m sure they all did. I’m saying, don’t take things like this at face value. Think about them. Think about how the story is being spun, so that you walk away from it believing what the author wanted you to believe. That’s what a journalist can do. They can twist a story into exactly what they want it to be, whether or not the facts support it.
The article ends with a bizarre story about 5sos playing a prank on their managers where they snuck out of a room and pretended to have been … I’m not even sure, kidnapped? Run off? What even is that story? It’s so badly explained and so completely off topic and out of context of anything that’s been discussed in the rest of the article. It rounds off the fiction this author has been creating, though, because it ends the whole story with an anecdote about how Michael’s favorite moment of 2015 had nothing to do with music or fans or releasing their album or living his dream – his favorite moment was the time they tricked their managers for five minutes. Just in case you hadn’t been beaten over the head enough, we’re reminded one last time that these are silly, irresponsible, thoughtless boys who only really care about partying, bitches, drinking, and havin’ a good time.
Frat boys minus the frat. Lads minus the British accents. They aren’t serious musicians! In fact their music is apparently so inconsequential in their lives that this article, published in a music magazine, barely even mentioned it. Don’t worry, faithful Rolling Stone readers, these morons are not here to penetrate your beloved hallowed halls of Real Rock Musicians. They’re just a bunch of idiot teenagers who make shitty music in order to have an excuse to get their dicks wet and party their youth away. As aptly stated in the comments section of the article by someone who calls herself Camille, “This is coming from an interviewer who’s objective is to take the piss out of an up and coming band who doesn’t fit the magazines demographic or image.” She’s absolutely right.