by Sophia Weiss
It’s no secret that this has been a tough year for One Direction. The once close knit band of five British boys finding luck with pop anthems and enough hit singles to keep them on the billboard charts almost constantly, is almost beginning to seem like a thing of the past. 2015 saw the departure of band member Zayn Malik mid tour for 2014’s Four as well as scandals for fellow mates Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson as well. Armed with the knowledge that the band was heading in an uncharted direction, One Direction (Now a four man configuration) released single, “Drag Me Down” in late July, a song, which has since risen to be among their most successful of all time. With the release of six more singles over the course of the last few months, “Made in the A.M. “formally came out on November 13th, the last album before the band takes an indefinite “hiatus” in 2016 to pursue individual, solo projects.
Following suit with their precious records, the album is riddled with pop masterpieces, with a new edge of maturity that the boys seem to have acquired with their years in the limelight. “Drag Me Down,” is as good of a song as they’ve ever put out. Riddled with R&B influences layered over a modern spin on synth-pop, the song has dominated the Billboard 200 since its summer release, and it does not appear to be leaving anytime soon. Softer singles like the romantic (and purportedly Taylor Swift inspired) “Perfect” and pop ballad “Infinity” have also done remarkably well given the rushed creation of the album. Alongside more acoustic successes “History” and sweet “A.M,” songs prove that in spite of everything portrayed across the media, these boys, men, are still a band and they can make a damn good song.
And yet, there is a certain level of disconnect in “Made in the A.M.” not previously present in their earlier records. Opening track “Hey Angel” has a sweet country message, but falls flat when shined against the rest of the pop heavy record. Similar tracks like “Long Way Down” and “Walking in the Wind” also fail to blend their heavy acoustic themes with the rest of the album. Though the album is strong on the high energy tracks like “Temporary Fix” and “End of the Day,” there is a general theme of disconnectedness that seems to span the entire record.
The cohesive, boyish energy that made One Direction so infectious just three short years ago with the release of 2012’s Up All Night is gone now. Given the nature of their similar release dates, this record has been compared closely with the parallel release of Justin Bieber’s “Purpose,” an album being heralded as his comeback. “Made in the A.M.,” despite its highly successful singles feels very much like the beginning of the end for One Direction. Whatever fire they still have burning seems likely to burn out slowly as the band begins their break in the coming year. The talent is still there; Styles, Tomlinson, Horan, and Payne seem to have honed their talents in like never before, but in an individual capacity. One Direction is heading in different directions, and it might just be for the best.
Sophia Weiss is a Contributing Writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org