Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Made in the A.M. | One Direction

As Liam Payne tells us in "Love You Goodbye," a track on One Direction's latest album, "It's inevitable everything that's good comes to an end." In the music industry, those good things are often boy bands and girl groups. *NSYNC, the Jackson 5, Destiny's Child, TLC, the Jonas Brothers... even Beatlemania had to end sometime. So, we're onto One Direction; we know what a "hiatus" may lead to. At least time around, we've been given a fair warning and a respectable parting gift in the form of Made in the A.M., the final installment of the band's annual album releases.

It may bear a title inspired by the late nights and early mornings the boys worked through to write (let's use the term "write" very loosely here; a whole mess of songwriters had their hands in this project) and record new music, but Made in the A.M. feels like business as usual. But after spending the majority of the past five years on global concert tours and producing albums like well-oiled promotion machines, perhaps those long work hours have simply become the norm for Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson. With this in mind, all the pre-requisites for a One Direction album are checked off the list: mushy, lovey lyrics, some vocal descants, and a balance between digestible pop-rock tunes and sentimental power ballads.

Actually, this record is home to what could arguably be One Direction's best ballad: "If I Could Fly." It may be a simple piano-led song, but when the quartet join together by the second chorus repetition, a vocal compatibility prevails that reminds listeners exactly why they were grouped together as a band to begin with. And on more upbeat notes, "Hey Angel" emulates Mylo Xyloto-era Coldplay in the best way possible (plus, the post chorus "ooh" is a spot-on Chris Martin impersonation), "Never Enough" is a "Stockholm Syndrome" level anthem, and "What a Feeling" is a sultry highlight that will be perfect for summertime drives. We also mustn't forget "Drag Me Down," an infectious pop-rock radio pleaser, and "Perfect," another standout that recycles the chorus melody line of Taylor Swift's "Style."

The boys didn't pull any tricks on their last hurrah of an album. The benefit of that? We get an album that is no more or no less enjoyable than the last, supplying a fair share of golden moments ("What a Feeling," "Never Enough," "Love You Goodbye") and a few duds ("End of the Day," "Infinity," and the band's attempt at a swan song titled "History"). The drawback, though, is that the material here, like on the last four albums, makes the band sound good, but not exceptional. The album may not be the ringing testament to One Direction's legacy that we expected, but perhaps it's best that the boys are signing off by simply continuing to do what they do best.

P.S. – Zayn, you couldn't have just stuck it out for this one last album, buddy? We miss you. See you in a few weeks for your Timberlake-style solo break-out.

Made in the A.M. is available now under Syco Music and Columbia Records. Exclusive covers and deluxe pressings can be found at Walmart and Target department stores.

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