Release Date: Nov 17, 2014
Record label: Sony Music
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Pop Idol, Teen Pop, Contemporary Pop/Rock
One Direction have now been the biggest pop band in the world for three full years. Such longevity doesn't exactly make them the Allman Brothers – but it's pretty impressive for a bunch of singing-contest runners-up joined together in Simon Cowell's laboratory. If any of these guys harbor secret dreams of going solo or becoming an actor or a fashion exec, they've stayed secret.
1D’s last album, Midnight Memories, was a bit more grown-up than their previous efforts, letting a little lustful electric guitar into their Boden catalogue stadium pop. Four ups the chords a smidgen further. The band are writing more songs now, alongside various McFlys and some safe pop hands; old pal Ed Sheeran is on board again (the strummy ballad 18 is his).
They’re at the peak of their beauty, fame and power. So why, on One Direction’s new album, do the guys spend so much time looking back with longing? In a song titled “18,” the fivesome pines to “love you like you made me feel when we were 18.” It’s hardly the only instance on “Four” when the pip-squeak stars — with Louis Tomlinson the oldest, at 22 — fret over time racing by. In “Night Changes,” they nervously sing, “We’re getting older baby/and I’ve been thinking about it lately,” while in “Girl Almighty,” their worry makes them turn to God.
One Direction had to grow up sometime. On their fourth album, the five teen heart-throbs take another skinny-jeaned step from peach fuzz and bubble-gum pop to day-after stubble and soft rock. In fairness, they’ve always swung more towards powerpop and rock than R&B. Surely someone at Simon Cowell’s Syco, the label behind both One Direction and The X Factor, saw an opportunity to develop the group into an outfit like Mumford & Sons back when Harry Styles and co were still flashing cheeky grins and breaking into the US with the 2012 album Take Me Home.
One Direction has long refused to adhere to the traditional tropes of boy bands: No matching outfits, coordinated dance moves, or squeaky-clean personas (Zayn even smokes cigarettes!). On their fourth album, Four, they continue to resist teen-pop trends and eschew the tempting specter of EDM in favor of the stadium-sized handclaps and over-earnest bombast of the 1980s. Dabbling in everything from Duran Duran-style new wave (“No Control”) to ornately orchestrated ballads reminiscent of Phil Collins (“Ready to Run”), Four positions One Direction as a unique throwback act, using the classic boy-band format as a means to inject new life into an even more antiquated subgenre.
It's an indication of how quickly life moves for the lads of One Direction that their idea of ancient history appears to be 2012. That's when Harry Styles — the youngest (and arguably dreamiest) member of this British boy band — was 18, an age he and his mates recall on their new album as though the memory were nearly lost to the mists of time. This is a modal window.
It took four years and as many albums for One Direction to finally shed its skin as a cutesy boy band. “Four,” the English quintet’s new studio album, is the first one that doesn’t immediately summon memories of “The X Factor,” the British TV singing competition that launched the band’s star in 2010. Let’s not overstate it: “Four” does not break or even bend any rules in pop music, and it certainly doesn’t aim to be cutting edge.
If it's November and you're a One Directioner it can only mean one thing...time for another album. Four is the band's fourth album in four years, each released just in time for optimal holiday-season gift-giving. It's their fourth well-crafted, packed-with-great-pop-songs album in a row. Despite rumors flying about possible collaborations with everyone from John Legend to Pharrell to Good Charlotte, the band mostly worked with the same production team from Midnight Memories (Julian Bunetta and John Ryan) to craft an album that sounds perfectly up to date, but also just different enough from the usual chart-fodder to sound distinctive.
The early-’00s rivalry between Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync was ostensibly ridiculous frivolity, even if it continues to have a prickly side rooted in actual sour feelings. Still, the perceived competition had the effect of pushing each group to step up its pop game, whether with juggernaut radio singles (Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”) or boundary-pushing music (’N Sync’s edgier Celebrity). When One Direction arrived on the pop scene in 2011, it appeared to have a similar foil in fellow English-Irish boy band The Wanted.
A long public back story shouldn’t eclipse the pleasures of Azealia Banks’s debut album, “Broke With Expensive Taste,” which she released suddenly online on Nov. 6. Yes, she has been announcing the album since 2012. Yes, she has been signed to and dropped from a major label, Interscope ….
opinion byDERRICK ROSSIGNOL As pumpkin spice season comes to a close, so approaches the holiday shopping season. Black Friday speculation and advertisements have begun their infestation, and even Christmas commercials and music are emerging from hibernation. What this also means is that it’s time for another One Direction album. Every November since 2011, the English-Irish five-piece have come out with another record because commercially, it makes perfect sense.