When: Sat., July 11 2015
R5 | SATURDAY, JULY 11
MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM, RALEIGH—I first heard of the Los Angeles quintet R5 while watching MTV Hits, Viacom's pop-focused digital cable outlet. Like sister stations MTV Jams and mtvU, MTV Hits still shows videos all day, its loop of clips serving as an ever-updated feed for pop experiments, successful or not. Despite the occasional "Trap Queen" or Kendrick Lamar nod, its definition of hit leans toward pop-rock—post-Disney mononyms like Demi and Miley, chart debutantes like the bass-loving Meghan Trainor, up-and-comers like the quasi-inspirational Rachel Platten. Despite the channel's name, its wares span inescapable megahits and promoted-yet-ignored curiosities. It's not yet clear on which side R5 will fall.
Four siblings and one family pal, R5 have aspirations toward becoming big stars. Their second album, the forthcoming Sometime Last Night, is meant as an artistic statement. Its 11 songs stem from full-band writing sessions, not outside contributors. "I Know You Got Away" showcases their charm best by splitting the difference between musical-theater pageantry and Dr. Luke stomp. Its winks at power-pop harmonies and sha-la-las provide little thrills, too. The flinty "Dark Side" and the crunchy "Feel Good" are white-bread pop songs with sops to current trends and just enough motion to let you know that the Lynch siblings enjoyed "Stayin' Alive" when it came on oldies radio. The only real misstep arrives when the group's lone woman, Rydel, takes over for "Lightning Strikes"; the producers decided that "anonymous band performing at a CW drama's nightclub" was still a good look.
Really, 2015 is a strange time for any band to double down on straight-up pop. The Hot 100's addition of audio and video streams to its charts has rewarded gimmickry, from Taylor Swift's famous-friend-filled "Bad Blood" video to novelties like OMI's island breeze "Cheerleader." The paradox of this era, then, is that bands like R5—with solid tracks, some charm and a sibling-cooperation backstory, to boot—exist on the periphery of pop while making music squarely meant for its middle. Hits? We'll see. Jacob Whitesides and Ryland open. 7 p.m., $27.77–$42.29, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, 919-996-8700, www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com. —Maura Johnston