Review Summary: One Direction: Ruiners of Radio and Stealers of songs
Everyone has a guilty pleasure band. We all have that one band that we know we "shouldn't" like but we do. And while I love Bathory and Strapping Young Lad as much as the next guy, sometimes I need a break. And when I need that break, there is one band I turn to. That band is... Maroon 5, not One Direction. Okay, so One Direction isn't my guilty pleasure band or anything, but I've always had a respect for them that no one else I know really seemed to share. Either you loved One Direction or hated them, there never was a middle ground of "I don't like it, but I can appreciate it". They've always seemed to work as a much more coherent unit than even most boy bands "back in the day" we able to. However, that unit is now down one member, as Zayn Malik has left the band. With that hole in their ranks left unfilled, are One Direction able to create yet another album that I can say "it's okay" to?
Musically, One Direction push even further away from the sound that made them huge. They aren't a true rock band yet, but they make yet another move towards a more rockish style. The band doesn't seem 100% comfortable with this sound yet, but also don't sound like they're totally lost. They are new to this style and as such haven't really found their own take on it yet, but as an experienced band they know how to write songs (yes, the band themselves participate in the songwriting) well enough to at least be competent. For their sake, I think they should have stayed with the sound on their last album "Four", and tried to improve on it rather than changing their sound even further. But, like I said, they work competently within the boundaries set for the genre. There is a blend of mid-tempo pop, emotional ballads, and borderline club songs. While most of these songs work well on their own, it helps lend to the idea that the band isn't really confident with this style yet, and makes the album feel like sort of a mess.. They seem to be trying every approach to writing every type of 2000's soft rock song while never settling on one style. However, occasionally the album does have something new to say, mostly on the song "Never Enough" which kind of sounds what would happen if a singer-songwriter got their hands on a drum machine. Overall, the feeling I get from this album is the band isn't really sure what they're doing and that most songs are reminiscent of something other artists have done and have done better. I don't dislike any song here, but I never am really impressed.
Lyrically, this is mostly what you'd expect from One Direction, or slightly better than you'd expect if you're only familiar with their hits. Nothing here makes 1D look like a pop version of Tool, but they do have some good lines here and there. At worst, the lyrics are generic, but almost always passable. The topics however are subject of criticism. The band never even attempts to break the mold here, neither the mold for pop music or the even more limiting mold for themselves. I understand that the band has an audience and that these guys are in their 20's having a good time, I'm not expecting them to start questioning the meaning of existence, but I do wish they'd at least try to not pander to teen girls. While their fans may eat up the band's material regardless of if they try to innovate, I wish they'd understand that their fans aren't idiots. If you present them with something intelligent, most fans aren't going to be scared off by this. Teenagers are smarter than the music industry seems to give them credit for.
However, any positive feeling I had towards this album was killed when it was pointed out to me that "Perfect", the lead single, sounds almost EXACTLY like Taylor Swift's "Style". If "Perfect" sounded similar to a song from an obscure artist, I could buy that it was a mistake, but "Style" is a HUGE hit RIGHT NOW! It's hard to sound exactly like a current chart topping song on accident. Once I knew of this plagiarism, the album became tainted for me. Listening to basically any song here makes me mad. For that reason alone almost, this album becomes insufferable.
In short, this is not the worst album I've listened to all year, but it is far from even approaching good. Plus, the plagiarism makes an already bad album borderline angering. I can't recommend it to anyone for basically any reason unless you're already a fan, and then I'm sure you've already listened to it.