Review Summary: Lovely singing voices can't save this album from mild mediocrity.
So, I find myself in a bit of an odd position when it comes to voicing my opinion of One Direction's debut album, Up All Night. On the one hand, at this point Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, and Zayn Malik are, without argument, guys with wonderful voices. There's not once on the album where I could say that they did not sound lovely. On the other hand, it's an immensely uninspired series of songs that they happen to be singing.
One can suppose the reason for this: since this is their first album since forming out of The X-Factor in 2010, the producers and managers/handlers wanted them to create something that was easily accessible for many. That would explain the "sampler plate" quality of Up All Night. It's as though it's an assortment of bits and pieces of other songs or artists. Sometimes, this quality leads to interesting things.
The Beatles-esque anthem "I Want" works as the strongest song on the album, with what seems to be a full band and a melody that nearly bounces around from side to side. It would be a wonder if that song didn't conjure up an on-tempo clap from the audience. The song "Taken" could be considered one I enjoy, if not for the fact that the instrumentation behind the vocals seems to think It's playing Tom Petty's "Free Falling." It leaves me to wonder, how much of One Direction is actually on One Direction's debut album? There seems to be this preoccupation with aping other styles (no pun intended), and perhaps this sort of thing got by the youth this was targeted towards. It's as though they were afraid to let the group display more of themselves, and to note, the actual members only have writing credits on two songs ( "Everything About You" "Same Mistakes").
It's all kind of a shame. These are five guys with fantastic voices who are given music that seems to want to continue in the tradition of the Boy Bands of past glories (your N'SYNC's or your Backstreet Boys) but lacks some of the personality. In fact, I can't tell you why there are even five members of this group. Not once on the album do they warrant that as so many of their voices are so similar that they became nearly indistinguishable. The one truly good thing about this album is that the producers and songwriters were able to craft some rather catchy melodies that have yet to leave me.