boy by Luke Hemmings // EP Review

After stepping out in 2021 with his first solo venture outside of his band, 5 Seconds of Summer, Luke Hemmings is back again with a stunning new EP called boy. Much of this seven song EP picks up where his debut album, When Facing The Things We Turn Away From, left off with looking back on his youth trying to process all that he went through, while still looking onward into the man he is becoming. Every song was produced and co-written with Sammy Witte, who Luke also worked with on his debut album. Sonically, they also build upon the foundation of that album throughout boy. Now that he's in his late 20's and entering a new stage of his life with his wife, Sierra Deaton, it seems that this is the perfect time to try to move through some of the heavy emotions and experiences he has gone through in the past decade. Sierra is also such a talented songwriter and vocalist who collaborated with him on a few of these songs too. I have loved hearing the music they've made together over the past few years. 

Luke is very upfront about his struggles with mental health and doesn't hold any emotions back in describing what he's been going through. It is almost as if all of the thoughts and fears he has been trying to hold in for so long are coming to the surface and he's finally open to processing them. "Boy comes up a few times on a couple of songs. It's existential, childlike wonder. It has that feeling to it of trying to understand the world around you and why I am the way I am," Luke said in an interview with Rolling Stone "A lot of it is questioning, why do I feel like this? Why do I interact with the world like this and see it this way? I think there's a certain point where you have to decide whether you're going to face life or just stay in the place you are. Boy is a really lovely way to simplify that."

The opening song on the EP, "I'm Still Your Boy", really sets the tone for the story he is telling throughout the rest of this project. He is battling with the part of himself that wishes he could change the past, while still trying to accept that it isn't possible and all he can do now is move forward. A line that always sticks out to me is "I wish I was younger, so I knew the end" - I feel that it captures the thesis of boy so articulately. 

"This song really encompasses the ache I wanted to get across and the growing pains it took to become a fully realized adult version of myself," Luke said in an interview with Apple Music. "It's only until I started thinking of having children of my own that I began reflecting on the struggles I had myself as a teenager who grew up in the public eye. This song is about understanding my youth that was marred with trauma amidst beauty, whilst trying to become a good man. 'I'm Still Your Boy' walks on the high wire between boyhood and adulthood, looking both ways." Those heavy emotions and heartache are felt so deeply while he repeatedly sings, "I want it so bad", over and over for the final verse. That is such a simple lyric, but the emotion behind his voice when he says those words really capture how badly he wishes he were able to go back and do some things differently. The flow of this song is so interesting and unexpected - the production starts to build, but just as it is about to reach its peak, it is stripped back down to sounding like it's just him singing alone in a room.

Luke has said that much of this EP was written alone in hotel rooms and long plane rides when he was traveling around the world on tour with the band last year. These often lonely times in unfamiliar places between shows opened up a window of introspection and experimentation that he hasn't explored before with his music. 

The first song he released off of this EP is called "Shakes", which brings much of those feelings to the forefront. It really captures the unique feeling of being surrounded by people, but still feeling alone in a crowded, bustling city. The lyric, "the city tends to move on all the same" always stands out to me when I listen to it. He has talked about writing this song in New York City between long periods of travel and the setting of which he wrote it in really translates into the music. "'Shakes' was a song where I was putting myself in different perspectives. And now, I just see myself in the song now," Luke said in an interview with LADYGUNN Magazine. "It puts me in a hotel room and aching to be home. So even when I'm trying to branch out and write from different perspectives, it ends up being about me. Whatever lens I see the world through seems to come through in the song. It is sort of that point you get to emotionally where you're just not really thinking or seeing clearly. Just talking and acting out of emotion. I can be a bit of a pessimist. But that's kind of why I wanted to be dreamy, and verging on a love song as well, because you just want to get back to your safe space." It's absolutely one of the best songs he has done yet as a solo artist, the layered vocals are just so ethereal. It captures all of the overarching themes of boy so beautifully.

One of my favorite songs off of this EP is the third track, "Benny". It is named after his older brother, but is more of a love letter to his entire family and the support they've shown them over the years with letting him pursue music at a young age. "It represents the mornings I wake up in a panic, anxious and worried that today will be the day I get bad news," Luke said in an interview with Apple Music. "News that would make my dreams of making music seem infantile and pointless. I'd do anything for the people I love." He expresses a lot of guilt and this feeling of a "sentimental landslide" for leaving his hometown in Australia and living so far away from them for all these years. 

I really appreciate the vulnerability and honesty in baring all of his deepest thoughts and fears in this music. This solo journey has really opened up a new side of Luke that I have loved getting to hear more of. I think many will be able to see a piece of themselves in the music he creates. Throughout this EP, Luke tries to deal with the inevitable passage of time and these waves of fear about the death of his youth. On the fourth track, "Close My Eyes", Luke repeatedly asks the question, "Where is the time I lost?" These are feelings that I think everyone at this age can relate to and I don't often hear that expressed in music like this. Although I am a few years younger than Luke, it is something that I can absolutely relate to myself. "Close My Eyes" is written as if he is seeing a supercut of his entire life every time he tries to sleep, the good, the bad, and everything in between. He puts it more poetically in his interview with Apple Music, saying it's about "...everything that could have been and everything that was". To quote the name of his tour - it is also about having "nostalgia for a time that never existed". It's so easy to get caught in that cycle of yearning for the past. So much of this music serves as an important reminder to not get caught up on all that you could have done differently in your life to the point you forget to live in the present.

"Garden Life" really personifies that message too, along with an appreciation of the simplest moments in life becoming the most important. This song is such a sweet and simple way of describing that feeling. Sonically, it feels reminiscent of a track from his debut album called "A Beautiful Dream", which also seems to be referenced here too with the lyric, "on and on we dream". "It's really just an existential love song to my happiest and safest place," Luke said in an interview with Apple Music. "The older I've gotten, the more I've realized that sometimes the most beautiful and visceral memories in life are not the most grand and obvious ones, they can be simple and powerful. It’s not always the fireworks on New Year's Eve. Sometimes it's a Friday night sitting on the couch listening to your favorite person laugh."

All of the emotions that are explored throughout boy start to come to a climax on the sixth track, "Close Enough To Feel You". It is such a stunning song, I get goosebumps every time I listen to it. It is written so vividly and paired with gorgeous, lush instrumentation. A lyric that I am always struck by in this song is, "'Honey, this is a good life, do you see it?', I can see it in your еyes, do you mean it? Now I'm running underwatеr, I can't make a sound, it's drowning, it's drowning me out". The reminder that there is so much beauty around you even in the darkest moments is so important. The production at that point starts to sound washed out, almost like you're drowning too while listening to it. The production overall is so incredible throughout this entire EP, but "Close Enough To Feel You" is absolutely a highlight for me. Every song truly has such an ethereal quality to it. The guitars especially at the final part of this song sound amazing too, along with Sierra's backing vocals adding so much more depth to the story being told. Their voices complement each other's so well. This song is so beautifully healing and among the best of his solo career thus far.

His repetition of "I want it so bad" over and over in "I'm Still Your Boy" at the beginning of the album is mirrored toward the end with the line "Now I'm falling apart again" in "Close Enough To Feel You". Those two songs feel like they are linked together in such a beautiful, yet subtle, way. 

The EP ends with the emotionally poignant "Promises", which is about Luke finding the light at the end of the tunnel he has been in and the power of love he found with his wife, Sierra. She is also featured on backing vocals of this song, which brings all of these emotions to new heights. It is such a beautiful and uplifting way to end this collection of songs. He sings, "I wasn't always a cynic, it's just I've been bought and sold, but you saw the beauty inside it at twenty-seven years old". In an interview with Apple Music he talked about the inspiration behind this song, which shaped what ultimately became the rest of boy, "'Promises' was the song written for the EP that finally made me feel like I was really onto something. It started with merely a drum beat, which I find ironic as I’m not a drummer," he said. "But I think maybe it's that naivete that led to this song being created. It’s about a time in my life when I saw the world through grey-colored glasses. I was a pessimist, struggling with depression and my mental health, who fell in love and started to see color for the first time." 

This song is about embracing the unknown in life and stepping out of your comfort zone to explore uncharted emotional depths. That best sums up the entire EP as well, which mainly focuses on themes of vulnerability, the complexities of relationships, and the power of love. It is a powerful reflection of his life thus far, especially as someone who has grown up in the public eye since he was a teenager and some of the darkness that I'm sure came with that. Now that he is older and has had time to look back on those experiences, he was able to make something really beautiful out of the hardships he faced. 

On boy, Luke really opens up a side of himself that isn't often shown in a lot of the music he makes with 5 Seconds of Summer. I have been such a huge fan of the band from the very beginning and have loved getting to hear both Luke and the rest of his bandmates experiment with solo projects alongside the music they still make collectively. Luke has always been one of my all-time favorite vocalists and performers, so I am always eagerly awaiting new music from him. He is so incredibly talented; this EP is such a beautiful and reflective portrait of this stage in his life. 

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of boy by Luke Hemmings*, I would really appreciate if you would do so through my affiliate link here*. I have a really special copy of both this EP and his debut on vinyl that I absolutely love - I'm sure it would make a great addition to your collection too! Shop more music from Luke Hemmings here*

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! I would love for you to check out more of my reviews of Luke's music, as well as 5 Seconds of Summer linked here and below! Many more are coming soon! 

-Melissa ♡

Photo Credit: Luke Hemmings, Sony Music, Arista Records

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