By Rachel A.G. Gilman
Just less than a year after “Midnight Memories” dropped, One Direction has released their fourth studio album in three years, fully aware that one of the key factors in remaining a hot boy-band is frequently putting out new music.
In the same vain as last year’s release, “FOUR” continues the guys’ struggle with transitioning from bubblegum pop into a more adult sound. For this record, One Direction continued with the team they’ve been working with, including Graffit6’s Jamie Scott, who’s been dubbed the sixth member of the group. At least one of the five members worked on each track.
The lead single off the album and the opening track, “Steal My Girl,” combines catchy piano chords with a beat that you can’t help but clap along to, especially during the chorus where the guys sing in perfect harmony. It serves as a good transition, having the infectious pop melody and slightly cheeky lyrics that made up most of “Midnight Memories.”
Another more traditional One Direction song can be found in “Girl Almighty,” which is slightly reminiscent of the band’s first album, full of sugary “oos” and semi-cheesy lyrics like, “she floats through the room on a big balloon.”
One that’s sure to be a stadium pleaser is “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” which builds in the similar but more complex way than “One Day” did.
Those songs with a more experimental sound are fairly successful, as well. “Fool’s Gold” has the makings of a great singer-songwriter track in the first verse with its simple guitar strumming, maracas, and Niall Horan’s gentle vocals. Rumors that the group had been influenced by British indie-rockers The 1975 shine through in “Change Your Ticket,” a deluxe edition track, which is essentially The 1975’s song “Girls” with the drug references substituted for an overall happier disposition. Nonetheless, it’s very catchy.
“No Control” is reminiscent of pop-punk, a slightly desperate track about sexual frustration — in case you weren’t aware, 1D are men now. However, the most mature track would be “Night Changes,” the most effective gentle, slow song from the group thus far. It showcases each member’s voice eloquently as they sing about “only getting older.”
The track with just enough experiment and traditional 1D element would be the tune their friend, Ed Sheeran, penned. While Sheeran’s first writing stint for the band, “Little Things,” sounded very much like Sheeran, “18” perfectly balances the acoustic style Sheeran is famed for with One Direction’s ability to build and swell their vocals appropriately with the backing music, neatly framed with the love story of transitioning high school romance into the real world.
Whether or not One Direction has successfully handled their growing pains to be taken more seriously is debatable. Regardless, “FOUR” has quite a few successful tracks, for the most part mixing new sounds with the catchy, quintessential pop One Direction is known for.
Rachel A.G. Gilman is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org