When One Direction revealed that their next creation was going to have increased rock influences and wield a more mature sound, I chuckled to myself when I heard their sugary pop/rock smash hit Best Song Ever.
Their claims started to become a little more believable when they released the second single off the album, Story of My life. Dedicated to their closest friends and family, the music video presents the theme of nostalgia with the band members reliving their old family photographs in the present. Let’s just say the boys stretched as far as their boyband collar would allow them.
With the release of their third album Midnight Memories including the 18 track ultimate edition disk, came the eager reactions of Directioners all over the globe (despite the album leak 1 week before), debuting at number 1 in several countries.
It’s quite clear that the boys and their team of writers (including OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Jamie Scott and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody) exerted a fondness for 80’s rock style. The title single Midnight Memories has been compared to the likes of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and sounds a bit like the classic “I Love Rock n’ Roll”. Tracks like “Little Black Dress” and “Why Don’t We Go There” sound like the boys just walked out of an 80s teen movie and “Alive” brings to mind Harry Styles, Zayn Malik or any of the band members in biker jackets and bandanas with cigarettes hanging out their mouths.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the album has any “indie” influences (*coughs Wikipedia*), but there’s definitely a hint of folk and Mumford & Sons-esque sounds. Tracks like “Story of my Life” and “Through The Dark” present folk acoustic guitar riffs while the track “Happily” portrays a more upbeat folk with the vibrant guitar plucking and the beat.
Of course the baby chicks can’t stray too far from the chicken pen, and having to maintain the balance between not outgrowing their fan base and expressing their own raging hormones, I’d say they packaged it pretty well. One of the lead single’s “Diana” is pretty much the epitomy of sugar-coated boyband pop with lines like “Let me be the one to lift your heart up and save your life/ I don’t think you even realise, baby you’d be saving mine”, created to melt the heart of every teenage girl out there fangirling. “Better Than Words”, “Something Great”, “You and I” and “Strong” are other similar tracks that emanate the boyband pop formula they’ve been following for the past 2 years.
Each of the band numbers have writing credits on about 15 of the 18 tracks which is an impressive upgrade from their previous album Take Me Home (which they only had 2 or 3). It gives the album more of a personal touch and defies the basis of the criticism that One Direction are just a manufactured product who have no freedom for their own artistic expression.
The blending of genres to create a crisp and fairly “unique” version of boyband pop with perfect harmonies and anthem-like choruses makes this album prime for their upcoming Where We Are stadium world tour in 2014. It’s a pity a lot of the influences from an explosive rock era and other genres are somewhat wasted on the mass target audience of the musically uneducated. The hype surrounding the boy band downplays the role of the actual quality of the album in terms of its success. After all, they could have released a 18 track album of them yodelling and making bird calls and it still would have debuted at No.1 on the album charts.