For all the young girls screaming about the new One Direction album, get ready to start crying because this is likely to be their VERY LAST ALBUM (until the reunion in 2020). Luckily for everyone, this one may be their best one to date!
Since their early days on the X Factor, it was hard to see what kind of sound Harry, Liam, Zayn, Niall, and Louis would adopt considering none of them play instruments exceptionally well. They were 5 very adorable young men but the age of boy bands were long gone since the Jonas Brothers called it quits. Then "What Makes You Beautiful" came out and shut me right up. The high octane pop route certainly suits them well.
With each album since, the boys have really struggled with balancing their newfound wisdom and maturity with the boyish charm from their early singles. And frankly, that last Midnight Memories album was horrible, no matter what you children yell at me. I had pretty much given up on the lot (Neon Jungle was a safe alternative) until the first single came out.
"Steal My Girl" is a nuanced yet immense pop anthem that finally made me realize how amazing One Direction can be if they just focus and stop fucking around. Essentially, the song is a Take That song mixed with something youthful and clearly you shouldn't mess with the lads' girl. It did its job by reintroducing the band as young adults telling worthwhile stories versus teenagers trying to make you feel all fluttery inside and telling you that you're not ugly.
FOUR continues that upward trend by essentially showing 1D's ability at crafting stadium-sized pop rock music. There are influences of The Album We Shall Not Speak Of with an acoustic guitar on songs like "Ready To Run," "18", and "Fool's Gold" but they rush into breathtaking choruses that transform the songs into timeless classics. The timelessness continues with themes of young love, endless love, and even more LOVE, which will surely make you feel nostalgic at any age.
What's most surprising is that the majority of the album is exquisite balladry. "Spaces" is just as candid and introspective as it is massive. And second single "Night Changes" sounds like a modern day single off a 80's movie soundtrack. It goes without saying that it's the best song below 120 bpm the boys have done and the video could make any man, woman and child swoon. I dare you to look into those gorgeous eyes and not feel like the luckiest girl (or boy) in the world.
Perhaps being their fourth album in a relatively short amount of time, FOUR shows what they will sound like when they are all in their late 30's. There are definitely signs of Take That and The Beach Boys on "Fireproof", but it all has a nice 2010's feel to it, never feeling outdated at any point.
There are moments when the light and shade of the production could have been better executed, especially on "Girl Almighty" which is just an old racket but what can you do. They are the closest thing to rock stars we have today without veering into Foo Fighters territory. The guitars on "Stockholm Syndrome" and "Clouds" rival fellow boy band 5 Seconds of Summer in terms of energy and amazement. However, that may just be that rambunctiousness that made them so fun to begin with. In fact, the songs on FOUR represent each one of the members better than any of there prior albums had. Instead of the Harry and Zayn show, we get Louis's rather lovely tenor displaying some great emotional delivery, solidifying his role as the Nicola Roberts of the group. Liam's role in songwriting has not gone unnoticed and Niall can actually hold his own on verses. Who knew?!?!
Unfortunately for the world, the Directioners won't even hear the small details as they will just want to fawn over the boys' faces. The jauntiness of "Change Your Ticket" and the breeziness of "Illusion" will go right over their heads. But that nuance displays something special that many artists can't come close to obtaining. FOUR's foray into credible "adult" pop songs will surely bring them a new audience of fans that will hopefully teach these younger THOTs what music really is. The album is very boy band, it is very 2014, and it is very One Direction.
Which is why their inevitable hiatus and/or split in 2015 makes it very sad that this was their crowning achievement. Well, from 3rd place on the X Factor, to world's biggest boy band, and ending with hopefully 5 very successful solo careers isn't the worst track record, is it?
Best Listened To: On a late night car ride along the shore with your high school sweetheart
Stand Out Songs: "Steal My Girl" "Night Changes" "Fireproof" "Clouds"
NSOTP Rating: 8/10