Album Review: One Direction – Made In The A.M.

It’s been eight months since Zayn upped sticks and abandoned the other four members of One Direction, mid-way through the tour for their prophetically-titled album ‘Four’. What followed was textbook boyband, well, kind of; a social media reaction of apocalyptic scale, petty twitter spats between the current and former members, and er, one member’s unexpected foray into parenthood. Inevitably, the band announced their split shortly afterwards, new album Made In The AM touted as their last offering for the foreseeable future. And it’s everything their outro should be; excessively cheesy and formulaic but still undeniably catchy, displaying more maturity than their older albums and a competency that suggests that whoever wrote their songs knows their corner of the market inside out.

However it’s important to notice that the boys only co-wrote a handful of songs on the album – that job has been entrusted to those who know exactly how to write a hit. But don’t get me wrong, the music is still pop Join-the-dots. You can almost see the straight lines behind the songs; Starting at dot 1 – a memorable repetitive hook, you can follow the line to dot 2 – lyrics shoe-horned in to fit the end-rhyme (who could forget the disappointed/anointed disaster of ‘Gotta Be You’ four years ago?). Dot three, repeat the same three chords. Dot four, add in the classic boyband ‘oohs’ and ‘yeahs’. And etcetera, until the final picture is revealed, in this case highly-polished teen pop for the masses. If you ignore this lack of creative process and originality, the songs are a lot of fun. They’re positively engineered to please. Layered with tier upon tier of post-production, the songs are so heavily enhanced by various instruments, harmonies, beats and hooks it’s like fireworks going off in your ears. It’s an enjoyable, if not original musical experience.

“Layered with tier upon tier of post-production, the songs are like fireworks going off in your ears”

Speaking of which, listening to the album is accompanied by a pervading sense of déjà vu. The chorus of ‘Temporary Fix’ sounds exactly like their own cover of Blondie’s ‘One Way or Another’, the hook of ‘Walking in the Wind’ is stolen straight from ‘Oh What a Night’. The alternating key strokes beginning ‘Infinity’ is identical to Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’. Echoes of Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’ are heard through ‘End of the Day’. And, believe it or not, the bridge of ‘Olivia’ bursts into ‘Pure Imagination’ from Willy Wonka. Tapping into a wealth of pop hits like this guarantees the success of the tracks and does makes sure there is variety of styles and genres across the album, even if these samples are layered over with One Direction’s trademark pop sound.

Notable tracks include ‘Drag Me Down’ which you’ve definitely heard from its constant airplay. Like everyone else you’ve likely been swept up in the fast-tempo clap-along transitions between the slower verse and chorus. You’ve probably sung the only bit you really remember (‘nobody, nobody!’), along with it, and attempted the part where Harry makes the word ‘down’ last for 14 syllables. It’s inevitable, it’s the most catchy song you’ll hear this year. Also noteworthy is ‘Love You Goodbye’, a sentimental power ballad one-third written by Louis Tomlinson that captures the bitter-sweet end-of-a-relationship feeling. Poignant, but with the lyrics ‘Won’t you give it to me one last time?/ Baby let me love you goodbye’, the song is basically a romantic way of asking for post break-up sex. Next, placed halfway through the album, ‘What A Feeling’ is another prominent song of the album. Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, it has a distinctly 70s feeling, the layering slightly stripped back to the steady beat and echoing group-vocals and harmonies. The relaxed warmth of the track and step away from bubblegum pop makes it probably the best of the album, but it’s also a pity they didn’t experiment and extend the style to one more song.

“That’s not to say every song is a hit; there’s still the bog-standard songs to wade through”

That’s not to say every song is a hit; there’s still the bog-standard songs to wade through to be able to find the ones worth listening to. And ‘Never Enough’ jars against the trademark sound, but not in a good, ground-breaking way. Imagine a computerized sound like the ‘wimbowehs’ of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ repeated over and over. Intersperse numerous sumo-wrestling ‘Huh!’ noises and the boys exclaiming ‘Come ownnn!’ at the highest note they can reach. Then delete from your consciousness immediately.

But the bottom line is, One Direction largely know how to make pleasing pop music. To go in expecting lyrical or musical genius would be to misunderstand their audience and purpose; It’s radio-friendly, catchy music for the masses. They’ve spent the past four years perfecting their musical style to get to where they are, and it shows in their steady stream of decent tunes to bop along to. And for those of you who still aren’t convinced that One Direction’s hiatus is a loss to pop music, just remember that the end of One Direction means more airplay for Five Seconds of Summer. Better the devil you know, right?

Freya Richards

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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