Four. Four years. Four albums. Millions of screaming fans. Who else could we be talking about but One Direction? Last week the group that emerged from the UK’s X Factor debuted their newest album, FOUR, named specifically to designate their fourth album. In only four short years, that is a true feat for any band.
The album opens with single, “Steal My Girl,” which has already captivated the world. It’s got a crooning beat, romantic lyrics, and that killer falsetto from Zayn, making it an instant 1D classic.
“Ready to Run” was one of the previewed songs fans received if they pre-ordered the album. It eases you in, with a soothing acoustic guitar that builds into a drum beat that carries you right along until you’re dancing along with the chorus. It is also a great song showing off the varied talents of each member of the band. There is something special when each has his moment in the sun, and “Ready to Run” is only the first of many on this album to do so. The message of being free and looking to the future is also signature One Direction, and it’s nice that they have continued this theme, but can present it in a new way each time.
“Where Do Broken Hearts Go” has a harsher, rock core that immediately sticks with you. The lyrical content is slightly reminiscent of the Jonas Brothers’ “What Did I Do To Your Heart,” and both songs are catchy, though One Direction certainly does not have that Southern twang the JoBros tested out. “WDBHG” has a heart wrenching element that pulls you in, and you can definitely see it being an anthem that fans will scream along to live.
Another pre-order song, “18,” is by far the most heartfelt song on the album. There’s no doubt why—it was penned by the master himself, Ed Sheeran. With that said, there is not much more that needs to be spelled out about this ballad. The lyrics are tear-jerker sweet, and the musical delivery is incredibly authentic. It’s as if Sheeran asked the boys to sing in their accents, making the song as genuine and natural as possible. “18” is a matured “Little Things” that shows how much One Direction has grown, and yet still holds them true to their roots.
“Girl Almighty” is a little bit of a lapse. It is fun and you can’t help but like it, but it does not quite do One Direction justice. The lyrics are pretty simple, but the strumming guitar keeps you engaged, and again it’s good to hear all the different voices come together.
“Fool’s Gold” was another preview, and the opening poetics are a heart stealer. Overall the song is not the biggest standout, but the verses deserve endless praise. Again, they are a more mature 1D, and even if you’re not an all out fan of the boy band, you will recognize they are indeed more than what the image of screaming tween girls paints them as.
The band’s newest single, “Night Changes,” comes next, creating a temporarily slower rhythm to the album. The music video also recently premiered for this song, promoting its romanticism, but adding a comic twist that keeps the song light and somehow makes it more relatable and less sappy. It is an enjoyable song, with Zayn and Harry clearly stealing the spotlight.
“No Control” has elements similar to “Girl Almighty,” but I can’t help but like a song that highlights the unique voices of Niall and Louis. Louis takes the reins on this one, providing the energy to make the perfect party song. In this respect, the lyrics don’t really matter, you are just happy to be caught moving along to the music.
“Fireproof” was another early song that held Directioners over and got us all excited for the new album. It was an excellent choice, too. “Fireproof” is fun and light, and is a success in another way—as a friend recently pointed out—because it is a gender neutral song, something surprisingly hard to come by, and definitely commendable.
“Spaces” is another ballad, but does not stand out as much as other 1D classics. The lyrics are deep enough, discussing heartbreak and who will be the first to leave, yet the emotional connection is not all there. It may just be one of those songs you have to be in the right mood for, however.
First seeing the title of the next song will have anyone instantly intrigued. “Stockholm Syndrome” lives up to this anticipation, with a striking staccato beat and hypnotic sound that puts you at the mercy of One Direction. It is the “Happily” of this album in that you can’t help but feel good the instant this song comes on.
“Clouds” was another song that flew under the radar…at first. Being later in the album’s lineup, it was easy for this song to get lost. Its beat is familiar and not particularly unique, but I found that it kept cropping up in the background, its chanting chorus seeping into my subconscious. It’s almost subliminal how this song crept up on me, and it is another good party jam.
“Change Your Ticket” is the first of the deluxe songs and is another instant favorite. With a musical base similar to that of The 1975, One Direction cannot go wrong. There is a flow that is jazzy and smooth, with a punctuated rhythm that will have you moving right along. The words are simple and make you feel just like the mystery girl in the “Night Changes” video who gets all the access to the 1D boys.
“Illusion” carries the momentum from “Change Your Ticket” perfectly. The musicality is just as strong and the lyrics are even stronger. The praised range of each member is also evident, capitalizing on a musical trifecta.
“Once In A Lifetime” slows it down again. For the most part this song is another gem, with a ghostly familiarity to ‘80s and ‘90s ballads, the most prominent being Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose.”
“Act My Age” is the final track of the new album, opening with what can only be called an ode to Niall. The obvious Irish elements are unique and fun, and it’s nice to see the band branching out so openly. Lyrically the song is a bit silly, but it’s a great closer for the album, with its jovial use of instruments and the group chorus that will surely transfer excitement through a roaring crowd.
FOUR is a must listen for any Directioner, but I highly recommend the album to all pop rock fans. It is different from past One Direction albums, not quite following the pattern their first three albums seemed to take on as the products of the boy band genre. There are more unique songs on this album, and overall the effect is not so formulaic, making listening to FOUR an interesting experience. In some respects the album as a whole may not be as successful as the past albums, specifically Midnight Memories. Yet this new album is a testament to the growing One Direction, something that is welcome in the music industry, especially in such a challenging and stereotyped genre.
“Change Your Ticket”