Since day one, One Direction has tried to break the typical “boy band” stereotype. It has made efforts to avoid choreographed dances and matching outfits, and while its music in the beginning resembled the sound of bands like NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, the foursome’s fifth album, “Made in the A.M.,” has certainly strayed from its previous teen-pop sound.
For the past five years, One Direction has released an album on an annual basis, continuing the trend with this album. This is the band’s first album since member Zayn Malik left the group in March, and the last before the band goes on its extended hiatus.
The group released its first single of the album, “Drag Me Down,” in August, and right away fans got a sense that the boys were actively moving away from their “What Makes You Beautiful” days into a more rock-inspired genre. The song is certainly different from its past singles with its strong guitar and drum presence. As different as it is, it is still as catchy as One Direction singles usually are.
“Hey Angel” is the first song on the album, and right away you can tell that this album will be different. The song features lyrics such as “Hey angel, tell me do you ever cry / When we waste away our lives,” signalling a more mature lyrical approach than that of past albums.
The second single, “Perfect,” is next on the album. The song made headlines in October after fans speculated it was about Taylor Swift, one of Harry Styles’ ex-girlfriends. The line “And if you’re looking for someone / To write your breakup songs about / Baby I’m perfect,” threw Directioners and the press into a frenzy. However, Styles has repeatedly dodged questions about the subject of the song.
The album also includes lots of slow songs, which is uncharacteristic of the usually-upbeat band. “If I Could Fly,” “Love You Goodbye” and “Never Enough” are the three big love-song ballads on the album. Each song focuses on the struggles the members of the band face with heartbreak and fame. It’s clear in these songs that the boys’ songwriting skills have developed over the past few albums and that their own personal experiences have really begun to inform their music. In the past, the group has faced criticism for unoriginal and impersonal lyrics. This does not prove true in these heartfelt, emotional songs.
“Temporary Fix” and “What a Feeling” are standout songs on the album. “Temporary Fix” clearly demonstrates that the lads are no longer the young boys put together on the United Kingdom’s “The X Factor.” It features a lot of guitar and has a pretty rock-inspired sound.
Last March, One Direction announced it would take a break in 2016. This sent fans into a panic, fearing that Malik’s departure would destroy the group altogether. However, the songs “History” and “Walking in the Wind” are the boys’ promises to the fans that they will return to the stage as a group, at least some day.
For those who have looked down on One Direction as just a pop boy band or a product of the corporate machine, I encourage you to listen to this album. You will find more than simple teen-pop filler with a catchy beat; many of the tracks are songs that you can connect with, and ones that give insight into what it’s like to be in the biggest boy band on Earth.
“Made in the A.M.” isn’t meant to change the world, but it definitely puts to shame any critic who says the boys’ music has not matured in the past five years.