I'm a part of the One Direction fandom. Sure, I'm an adult, and I'm not spending my life savings on floor seats, but I do enjoy their music. And they're pretty friggen cute to boot.
I appreciate that they don't embody the cheesiness from my boy band era: the matching outfits, the dancing, the themes for every album cover and music video. If you've been to a 1D concert, the boys frolic around on stage, make conversation with the fans and generally try not to accidentally set themselves on fire with pyrotechnics. Since most of them aren't playing instruments, the only way this could be halfway amusing is to have the vocal chops, catchy music and sparkling personalities to go along with it. And they do.
The boys have spent the past three albums experimenting with their sound. Up All Night included monster hits "What Makes You Beautiful" and "One Thing"; their sophomore album included equally major "Kiss You." Midnight Memories, their 2013 release, ventured into more of a folksy realm of music. I like all of their music, but if you're an outsider, you would have been extremely confused by the third album. Was it a compilation of covers? ("Does She Know" could easily have been mistaken for "Jesse's Girl," and "Midnight Memories" was the "Pour Some Sugar On Me" of the bunch. "Best Song Ever" was scrutinized for sounding too similar to "Baba O'Reilly.") Are they going into indie pop? ("Story of My Life" and "Through The Dark" lend themselves to the genre with a Lumineer-like sound.) It was a mashup of different sounds that didn't have a bond, making the overall album less cohesive. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, but critically speaking, it was a bit random.
I appreciated that they lead the album with "Story of My Life" as the first single, if only because when performed live, people thought, "this is One Direction? I actually like this song!" And they sounded beautiful. But, in my humble opinion, they missed an opportunity by not releasing "Little White Lies" as a follow-up single. It's the one song of the album that sounds different from the rest, and was dub-step influenced, which was huge at the time of the album release. It was radio-friendly and would have had longevity. I'm still scratching my head about that one.
If we're laying it all out on the table, I am surprised they opened this fourth album with "Steal My Girl" as a single. Having listened to the rest of the album, it's not the strongest song on the record. And I was also surprised they went with a ballad for the second single, since "Story of My Life" had a slower tempo and "Midnight Memories" never took off on radio as a single. Right now, the world (or those who aren't massive One Direction fans) only know them by either "What Makes You Beautiful" and "Kiss You" — bubblegum pop at its finest — or "Story of my Life," a simpler, slower tune that doesn't sound unique to their band.
So, what are my thoughts on FOUR? Instead of a normal review, I'm going to highlight a few songs as recommended listens.
Where Do Broken Hearts Go
Co-written by Harry Styles
I love this song. When it was "leaked" on Tumblr (I use "leaked" loosely because the sound quality was equivalent to that of a Razr phone), I replayed it for an hour on the treadmill. Replaying songs on Tumblr on your phone takes determination, due to the poor playback options available on the mobile app. This should say something.
It's upbeat, radio-friendly and has a beat reminiscent of an 1980's John Hughes film. What seals the deal for me is the electric guitar — Niall better be shredding this song on tour and during live performances. Speaking of Niall, I love that he takes the first verse of this one. His voice has gotten stronger and dare I say it? Sexy! 3/5 of the boys say it's their favorite from the album. Management, make it a single!
Change Your Ticket
All boys co-wrote
Easily my favorite. I want to dance around my bedroom and blast this song in my car with the windows down. Maybe I love it so much because it's very, very similar to "Girls" from The 1975. I would love if they made this a single, though. The Afterhrs & Julian Bunetta-produced track has been trending on Twitter for several hours since the album release, so who knows? Maybe the label will see how well everyone is responding to it and put it on the radio. It is a bonus track, however, so it might not have a fighting chance.
I think it would be a great move, especially since this pop track doesn't sound like a cover of an 80's hit, like some of their past 80's-inspired singles have. (Although it is so similar to "Girls.")
And whoever decided Harry should sing, "Watching you get dressed messes with my head... come get back in bed," was using their thinking cap. Kudos.
Co-written by Ed Sheeran
This is a mid-tempo ballad that shows off the boys' voices perfectly. Granted, they were eighteen like, two years ago in some cases (Harry), so really, why are they reminiscing about young love? Wait until you're 27, boys, before you start kicking yourself for past relationships gone awry! In all seriousness though, I could see this song on a soundtrack. Ed Sheeran wrote it, so perhaps that's why I've gravitated towards it.
Co-Written by Harry Styles
Now this is what I'm talking about, boys! Top notch vocals, great beat, catchy lyrics. Yes, the song is about being captivated as a captive (heh) in a relationship. It's
All boys co-wrote
Originally, I was a bit hacked off that this was the second single. Initially, I felt it deserved to be on the prom episode of an after-school special, but it's really grown on me. The vocals and harmonies are spot-on, and the story of how the song got hijacked from writer Julian Bunetta is interesting.
I like the message, although, I do have to wonder why they are lamenting about how they're getting older when, really, they're in the prime of their life. Perhaps to cater to an older demographic? Regardless, the music video follows each boy on a date, meaning it looks as if the viewer is going on a date with each of the boys. Bravo to whoever came up with the creative on this one (Ben Winston) because you get it.
Co-written by Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne
"Fireproof" was the free track released prior to "Steal My Girl." I took this as their peace offering: please don't leak the album, here's a free song! It sounds like if Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' For You" and Fleetwood Mac's "Gypsy" had a baby. Which means, clearly, I love it.
Co-written by Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne
There's nothing subtle about this song, and I think that's why it's one of my top favorites. I like hearing the vocal range in all the boys. Harry, known for his deep, raspy voice it belting it out at the top of the track and during the chorus. It's the track with the most rock influence — it has a similar sound to some of Blink-182's tracks or Trapt.
Co-written by Louis Tomlinson
No Control instantly reminded me of The Killer's "Mr. Brightside." I imagine listening to this on a pier by the beach in the summer and driving with the top down. Louis had his hand in writing almost every song on the album... I'm proud of my fellow Capricorn.
It's not a song, but the behind-the-scenes video was cute. I especially loved the bouncy-ball tactic in order to get the boys to look in the same direction. They're like kittens. (:47 mark)