You Said You Liked My Cobain Shirt: 5 Seconds of Summer’s “End Up Here”


She says, we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love
We’ll give it a shot

—Bon Jovi, “Livin’ On A Prayer”

I am twenty-five, but most days I still feel nineteen. On the cusp of something grander, larger than myself. A part of me thinks I just don’t want to accept that Tegan and Sara’s “Nineteen” is no longer about me. I have an affinity for young adult novels and teen rom coms. I still clutch Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever close to my heart. I use a Camp Rock laundry hamper. The sexiest moment in film history to me will always be Alan M clasping Josie’s dress and running his finger up along her spine. I think of myself as a modern day Diane Court, learning to take chances and the depths of my parent’s mistakes. I believe I still feel nineteen because of the way I allow pop culture to speak for me and about me. I want my identity to be a conglomeration of Zadie Smith’s prose, Florence Welch’s hair, and Kesha’s sparkle. It’s wearing a Heart of the Ocean plastic necklace to elementary school so your classmates know your parents were cool enough to let you see an R-rated movie or wearing a Rilo Kiley concert tee into AP European History to let everyone know what you did over the weekend. I understand the shorthand of teens where pop culture is used to discern who is friend or foe. I understand because I am still doing it. I wear my One Direction shirts on the L train in hopes a girl steps on who silently bops to “Change Your Ticket” while she heads into Manhattan like I do, in hopes she’ll see it and smile and we’ll share that, for a moment at least.

I am not embarrassed to admit that the morning 5 Seconds of Summer’s album came out I was at Target at 7:54 am, before work, waiting for the doors to open so I could run in. Blasting the CD on my drive to work, “End Up Here” instantly pulled me in. “End Up Here” has all the essential parts of any relevant (and enduring) teen rom com: insecure boy, radiant (and slightly rebellious) girl, nostalgic soundtrack, and the desire to define a relationship. The first verse is the slow pan of the camera at the beginning where the exposition is set up and we learn the protagonist doesn’t have a shot with the crush of their dreams. You walked in / Everyone was asking for your name / You just smiled and told them “Trouble.” It reminds me of walking out of 4th period knowing I’d pass Ryan Stafford on my way to gym class with his disheveled curls, Chucks, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah shirts, and long legs. The fright and disappointment I felt as we didn’t make eye contact in the hallway. You’re way too cool / And you’re coming this way…

5SOS completely captures the promise inherent in romance in “End Up Here.” The surprise and longing. The electric shock of getting what you’ve wanted. How did we end up talking in the first place? / You said you liked my Cobain shirt. 5SOS often gets criticized for wearing band t-shirts. Peers in the music community like to accuse Calum, Ashton, Luke and Michael of conveniently wearing the garb of prior generations. As if it’s necessary to substantiate their understanding of the knowledge or catalogue of pop punk history to others in order to adorn their body with the decoration of direct influences to their writing and sound. The premise of the detractors is that anyone can go to Hot Topic and buy a Misfits or CBGB shirt. I am over boys and girls needing to justify the clothes they wear. Musically in “End Up Here,” “Trouble” uses 5SOS’s collective Kurt Cobain t-shirt as an opening line to talk to a cute boy. Music is a means to discuss their worldviews, dreams, and longings. It’s also the reason we all meticulously updated our MySpace playlists to incorporate songs that spoke to our sense of self. Cat Power exchanged for the latest single from The Killers. The reason my AIM away message was once Because you’re empty and I’m empty / And you can never quarantine the past. “Trouble” deduces this self-identified insecure boy might just understand her from taking a quick glance at his Cobain shirt. She confides in him about her own musical knowledge, how she just loves that song / about living on a prayer. Here is a teen girl who identifies with the story of a working class couple who struggles to make ends meet. They found love, and therefore they’ll give it a shot. “Trouble” herself asserts—as pop and rock predecessors have taught her—she is here to stay. It doesn’t matter if he is a six and she is a ten. 5SOS has found their leading lady.

I don’t often feel the rush people talk about when they discuss romance, but every time I have it’s because I’ve been talking excitedly to a boy about Mad Men or a band. We’ve all been these people, for better or worse. Like the party where I actually, momentarily, fell for a boy who stumbled up to me and used David Foster Wallace to lure me upstairs to his bedroom to make out against his door handle with his hands up the front of my crop top. I really should’ve known better than to think it would go past two dates, but in the moment I’d been too focused on the way he’d gesticulated when he talked so passionately about The Broom of the System. I was focused on all the possibilities that seemed inherent from our shared love of sacred pop culture tenets. I saw us taking trips to the local art theater and record store. I love “End Up Here” for allowing me to reconnect and indulge the fantasies of my youth (and present). I am now old enough to (maybe) accept that Nicole and Chase didn’t last much past the end credits of Drive Me Crazy, but I’d like to believe they did, for the same reason I was so happy to see Meg Cabot writing about Mia Thermopolis’s wedding to Michael Moscovitz (the real teen dreamboat, sorry Harry Styles). I, an insecure girl who is learning to own her vulnerabilities, want an insecure boy. I want to stay up late at night—sharing a 6 pack in the corner of a packed party in Bushwick—talking about the way St. Vincent lyrics soothe and how The Social Network broke my heart. Come morning I want to be asking, How did we end up here? I’m still just a girl looking for a boy to spend the next forever with. I’m looking, like “Trouble,” for a boy who is here to stay.

Ashley Hull wishes she was a mermaid, but she’s happier she’s managed to find her voice. She currently resides in Brooklyn. If you’re looking for her, she’s likely in front of a mirror applying lip stain while singing Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” under her breath.

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