5 Seconds Of Summer And The Science Of Music


5 Seconds Of Summer And The Science Of Music

I don’t like NBC’s TODAY show, but much to my chagrin, it’s the morning news show of record and always on my cable box when I wake up (I fall asleep watching Fallon).

So, it’s not uncommon that I watch the TODAY show, if only a few minutes.

On the morning of Oct. 28, me and my cup of coffee sat down and turned on the television.  Needless to say, the TODAY show was on.

My timing couldn’t have been better (or worse).  The Australian heartthrobs, 5 Seconds of Summer, were just about to perform their single, “She’s Kinda Hot.” 

When I heard the title of their song I snickered and almost spilled my cup of Joe.

“She’s Kinda Hot”
“She’s Kinda Hot,” the lead single from their sophomore effort Sounds Good Feels Good, is a title I find quite stultifying.  I rank the epithet with such vapid designations as “Call Me Maybe” “Cailfornia Gurls,” and "All About That Bass.”

Curious, one might say morbidly curious, I put down the remote control and watched.  I wanted to hear if the song was as bad as its title. 

I also felt a diabolical urge to chuckle at hordes of swooning teenage girls who were cutting class and being chaperoned by their mothers.

Guitarist Michael Clifford began playing the song’s opening riff over a cacophony of lovesick squeals and the rattle of Savannah Guthrie’s teeth.  He was soon joined by his bandmates: Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood, and Ashton Irwin.   

Then something strange happened.  It was as strange as Matt Lauer asking a pertinent question.  I found myself tapping my feet and singing along. 

Damn!  Those kids write one heck of a catchy song. 

Actually, the song was written by Michael Clifford, Ashton Irwin, Benji Madden, Joel Madden (both of Good Charlotte) and producer John Feldmann.

As it turns out, the song isn’t vapid at all.  It’s quite deep. 

It’s an anthem of sorts.  As Calum explained in a radio interview, the song is “a revolution for outcasts.”

They say we’re losers and we’re alright with that
We are the leaders of the not-coming-back’s

Rock Snob
Okay, the lyrics are interesting and meaningful.  Still, how can someone like me enjoy any song by 5 Seconds of Summer?

One, there’s my age.  I’m old enough that if I was caught visiting 5 Seconds of Summer’s web site I’d be put on a list. 

Furthermore, I own a Velvet Underground t-shirt.  I’ve seen The National in concert (twice).  And I own a reel-to-reel player.  A REEL-TO-REEL PLAYER FOLKS!

I shouldn’t like any music 5SOS plays.  I shouldn’t like any music 5SOS likes.

My attraction to “She’s Kinda Hot” is preposterous.

Or is it?

5 Seconds Of Science
After a little research, I learned that my appreciation for their ditty is not necessarily a crack in my personality, or even a fault in my taste for music.  No, my affinity for “She’s Kinda Hot” is all about science.

Music affects a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. That’s the same part of the noodle that releases dopamine.  Dopamine is also known as the “pleasure chemical.”

You know what other activities affect the nucleus accumbens?  Yes, that’s right, the activities of sex, eating food, and taking drugs. 

Basically, the nucleus accumbens is the part of the brain that’s triggered by sex, drugs, and rock and roll!

Music also affects another part of the noggin called the amygdala.  The amygdala processes emotions and helps in abstract decision making.

In other words, music affects the most advanced and most primitive areas of the brain. 

Intellectual Conquest
Here’s how my gray matter worked on that fateful October morn:

My brain processed “She’s Kinda Hot” and realized it sounded familiar.  “She’s Kinda Hot” sounded similar to other songs I’ve heard.  My brain had recognized patterns.

Yet, “She’s Kinda Hot” was just different enough to force my brain to predict what was coming next.  My brain predicted the future (so to speak).

As neuroscientist Valorie Salimpoor puts it, I made an “intellectual conquest.”

My brain rewarded my “intellectual conquest” by releasing dopamine.  My brain does this to ensure that I’ll do it again—that I’ll listen to music again. 

In many ways, music is a safe “drug.” 

Cultural & Personal Experiences
Also at play, are cultural and personal experiences.  I grew up listening to classic rock and classic alternative.  Therefore, the pop-punk sensibilities of 5 Seconds of Summer are familiar to me.

If I had grown up listening to the Ragas of India, there would have been no way for me to make an “intellectual conquest” of 5 Seconds’ music.

It was important that I was ignorant of “She’s Kinda Hot.”  When scientists conducted experiments to prove the above, they did so by using songs their test subjects had never heard before.

That is important since previously heard songs may come with emotional baggage.  The song was playing during one’s first kiss or during a painful breakup or by Three Doors Down.

Remember when I wrote that sex and eating release dopamine?  That makes sense since sex and eating are necessary for survival.  Music is not.

Scientists believe that music releases dopamine because it encourages humans to recognize patterns and imagine (predict the future).  While those two things don’t perpetuate the species they are certainly crucial to human beings dominating the planet.


Even though I’m a rock snob, I can’t fight evolution.   So you can go ahead and tweet it to Five Seconds of Summer, my brain likes their songs.

5SOS Live
With heir dopamine-releasing music, their boyish good looks, and their Aussie charm it’s no wonder millions of people are preparing to flock to Five Seconds of Summer concerts next summer.

Five Seconds of Summer kick off the North American leg of their “Sounds Live Feels Live Tour” on July 1 in Uncasville, Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Highlights of their tour include July 9 in Boston, July 15 in New York City (at Madison Square Garden), and Sept. 7 in Los Angeles.

On July 22, Five Seconds of Summer visit Birmingham, Alabama and the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre.

The boys will remain in North America through the middle of September.  Their final date is Sept. 18 in Houston. 

Also look for the band in Asia, Europe, Ireland, and the UK.