Heading in the Right Direction

Courtesy of Cosmopolitan UK

In a matter of two years, worldwide boy band sensation, One Direction, went from being five awkward teenagers on the “X-Factor” to chart-topping heartthrobs. Only eight months after One Direction’s debut album, “Up All Night” was released in the United States, the boys dropped their second album, “Take Me Home.”

Naturally, 1D remained true to their pop hits with upbeat songs such as “C’mon C’mon” and “Heart Attack” that are sure to stick in anyone’s head after listening to them once or twice. A majority of the tracks on the album carry an infectious “x-factor” which easily creates earworms of repetitive magic to which you can spend your days singing along. However, some of the tracks seem a little too repeated, particularly with tiresome “girl, I can love you better” themes.

Though their first single “Live While Were Young” now regularly plays on mainstream radio stations, the hits to come out of “Take Me Home” are far different than dubstep-dominated hits on the radio. Unlike most of the auto-tuned-infused pop music on the air, the album amplifies their varying vocal ranges and astounding ability to stay in resonance with amazing intonation.

Since their first auditions on “X-Factor,” the boys have grown significantly as vocalists — and have turned into men. From the start, it was pretty clear that Liam Payne and Harry Styles were singled out as the boy band’s lead singers, with their boyish good looks and stellar vocal abilities obviously being a selling point of a UK band breaking into the market here in the States. With their sophomore album, however, the band is taking their vocals in a new direction.

The vocals on “Take Me Home” are more evenly distributed between all five boys, and it is clear that time and fame has served their musicality well. With the ability to work with some of the best songwriters in the business, namely Irish singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, the boys have been able to mold the songs to their individual strengths, constructing a solid album that hits all of the notes.

This time around, the boys are able to not only bring the spotlight to themselves, but do it in a way that makes them all shine brighter. It seems as if their producers finally figured out what to do with their voices. Though Liam and Harry remain as solid vocal leaders in “Take Me Home,” Zayn Malik covers more choruses and leads more songs while Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan also got more solo time, making this album a better representation of their talents. It’s the subtle verses throughout the album by heartthrob Louis Tomlinson’s first-tenor high notes, reminiscent of American pop-rock, that melt your heart.  Likewise, the album features Zayn Malik’s sultry solos and long winded notes in songs like “Change My Mind” that can land a fangirl in cardiac arrest and leave a casual listener thoroughly impressed.

However, “Take Me Home” is not only an indicator of 1D’s vocal maturity; the album also shows growth in terms of song themes. Unlike “Up All Night,” their sophomore album is loaded with more ballads and acoustic-infused love songs.  Some of the tracks on this album, such as the ballad “They Don’t Know About Us,” are  throwbacks to the past, with sounds similar to artists like ’N Sync, giving them more of a ’90s boy band feel.  While other songs such as their second single “Little Things” and  bonus track “Truly Madly Deeply” give way to their raw acoustic vocals with an emphasis on thoughtful lyrics. Overall, the album is a fairer spread between dance-y pop songs and boy band ballads in comparison to their previous album.

The band is also able to highlight their sexier side in this sophomore album, showing their transition from boys to men. Songs like “Rock Me” foster more adult themes and shamelessly include innuendoes within the context of their songs such as “Kiss You” and “She’s Not Afraid.” Evidently, One Direction isn’t afraid either; they know we know that the “rock” in “Rock Me” is really just a substitute for another familiar four-letter word.

Some songs on the album, however, leave a little bit more to be desired — which the boys will likely develop in their future albums. Songs like “Summer Love” and bonus track “Magic” are easy to cast off as mediocre and repetitive. Admittedly, these songs, as well as tracks such as “Back For You” and “Loved You First,” need more work in terms of setting themselves apart from the rest of the simple pop songs on the top 40.

We can truly see a loving, adult side to One Direction in “Take Me Home.” However, some songs hit the nail on the head a little more than others. Though the album could do without some of the remedial pop songs, the boys definitely took a step in the right direction.

Final Rating: 4/5