One Direction: ‘Midnight Memories’

There is something undeniably endearing about One Direction. Is it the perfectly styled hairdos? The beautiful lilt of their accents? The way the boys tend to resemble a group of excited puppies when put in a room together? There’s no one reason to explain the allure of this band, but it’s obviously been quite effective: the boys of One Direction have released two chart-topping albums, headlined a world tour, and performed at the freakin’ Olympics, all before their third anniversary as a band.

Courtesy of Syco Records

Courtesy of Syco Records

So far, the boys have maintained a wholesome, sugary sweet sound, sticking to radio-friendly pop anthems and ballads. Their first album, “Up All Night,” came fresh off their run on the X-Factor UK, and made for a stellar first release. Less than a year later, they released “Take Me Home,” another classic pop album that was completely cohesive with their blazers-and-button-ups motif.

With their new album, “Midnight Memories,” we meet the new One Direction. Gone are the days of matching suspenders and repetitive dance pop; now, the boys rock vintage Rolling Stones tees and deliver an album that could compete with almost any other modern pop album dropping this year. They manage to incorporate every subgenre that’s been present in the top 40s while staying true to the angelic harmonies that made us fall in love in the first place. Mainstream music is fluid and ever changing, and the boys of One Direction use this to their advantage in “Midnight Memories.”

If you’ve turned on the radio in the past year, you’ll have noticed how rapidly Mumford and Sons infection has spread through the airwaves. Banjos and tambourines are used without abandon, and the same is true on “Midnight Memories.” Songs like “Story of My Life” and “Through the Dark” would easily find home on a Phillip Phillips record. “Happily,” a true gem of a track, has a booming chorus that just begs to be shouted along to.

We also find a splash of pseudo-EDM, the part of the album that is most reminiscent of “Up All Night.” “Little White Lies” has the boys getting a little feisty (“You say you’re a good girl/ But I know you would, girl”) and features a dubstep drop, a la Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.”

Perhaps the most surprising aspect, however, is the throwback the boys give to ’80s rock in songs like “Diana.” The melody of “Midnight Memories” is eerily similar to that of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” an unexpected and irresistible development. I think it goes to show that the boys are really trying to expand their listening audience, to find fans in teenage girls as well as the parents who are stuck listening along anyways.

For the first time, the members try their hand at songwriting, and almost every song on the album has Tomlinson, Styles, Horan, Malik or Payne credited in the liner notes. This is evident in the themes of homesickness and long distance love that run rampant on songs like “Right Now” and “Don’t Forget Where You Belong.”

Overall, the boys have matured, shedding their preppy duds while still maintaining their relevance. By paying vigilant attention to the rise-and-fall of the music industry and staying true to their audience, One Direction has set themselves up for at least a few more years in the spotlight.

 

RECOMMENDED: There’s a bit of something for everyone on “Midnight Memories.”