December 18, 2015


5 Seconds of Summer's "Jet Black Heart" Video: Democratizing The Fan Experience

5 Seconds of Summer are in an interesting place: Once in the shadow of a One Direction-sized monolith, in the last two years they've become their own entity. They've carved their own space in the great music landscape--one teetering on the line of rock and pop, and one that is  distinctly their own. We've told you this one before: Their careers might ring similar to that of, say, buds Good Charlotte and All Time Low, but few bands have ever reached this level of success. They're easily the biggest new rock band out there right now, and now, they're looking to maintain that status.

Their story isn't a totally new one. They worked their butts off, they've established a loyal and ever-growing fanbase, they landed high profile co-signs; simply put, they've earned it. Perhaps what's most interesting is how they're doing it now. They're a band that constantly talks about their fans, perhaps with more explicit devotion than any other male act out there, and do so in an incredible empathetic way, where being a fan of 5 Seconds of Summer feels more like being a friend of 5 Seconds of Summer.

It's the reason they've thrown a massive fan convention in November of this year and last, and it's the reason they'll probably throw one again in 2016. Even with the insane success they've been able to enjoy, they make it a point to give back--to meet with and listen to their fans whenever they can. 

Their video for "Jet Black Heart," which was released on Thursday (Dec. 17), takes that message and expresses it in real time. The song is one of the best tracks on Sounds Good Feels Good and a fan favorite, recalling the group's earlier work in "Wrapped Around Your Finger." Guitarist Michael Clifford carries the tune--he's got the edgiest voice in the quartet--and drives melancholic messages like the song's chorus: "Cause I’ve got a jet black heart / And there’s a hurricane underneath it / Trying to keep us apart / I write with a poison pen / But these chemicals moving between us / Are the reason to start again." It's notably darker than recent singles "She's Kinda Hot" or "Hey Everybody!", and intentionally so.


The song remains hopeful, but the painful imagery reflects the same sort of dark mood that takes over the back half of their new album: Here, the guys deal with anxiety and depression head on--both in their lives and in the lives of their fans--in a way that comes across as remarkably genuine. "Jet Black Heart" operates in that space, and the video furthers it. 

Instead of highlighting the boys' goofier sides, the clip is primarily made up of shots of them staring directly into the camera (like "Amnesia," without the comic relief of a pool party) sliced between shots of fans doing the same. Real fans. Some have watery eyes. Near the end of the clip, so does Clifford. 

It's an incredibly powerful visual, the kind that is almost infuriatingly simple: Why hasn't someone done this before? Perhaps it's because few bands treat their fans with the same sort of love and compassion as these four Aussie dudes do. The reason the video evokes a real reaction is not just because it highlights young kids from all walks of life (truly all shapes, sizes and races: There's a woman wearing a hijab in one scene which feels especially inclusive considering the culture of Islamophobia that permeates much of society). It's not because you get to see their eyes glisten with intentional tears. It's because they are singing the words. They are creating ownership over 5SOS, in the same way that 5SOS claims ownership over their songs and their message.

Even beyond that: The fans play the same role the band does in the video. The message is that these kids are the same as 5SOS, and 5SOS are the same as these kids. There's no pedestal, only fandom being expressed by both parties. The playing field is even and open to all. Let's hope the band continues in this tradition, while other artists recognize and adopt it. For 5SOS, it doesn't look like we have much to worry about.