"Four," One Direction #MusicMonday

Monday, November 17, 2014

One Direction Four review new music album Fool's Gold Stockholm Syndrome Night Changes Fireproof

I don't know when pop artists started dictating how the U.S. music industry operates, but I've noticed in the past year or two that pop stars will just drop their albums willy nilly on Mondays instead of the usual Tuesdays (here in the U.S.). Taylor Swift dropped "1989" on a Monday last month, and today, One Direction released their fourth album, "Four." (My guess is it's because these are international superstars who just want to release their album on the same day worldwide. And they can, thanks to social media. There is no need for a huge international media blitz when everyone can just watch the promo on YouTube later.)

Also: how ridiculous is it that One Direction's already releasing their fourth studio album? They are working these young guys to the bone. The group only formed four years ago and they already have four albums under their belt. Artists also seem to only promote two to three singles per record instead of the four or five of yesteryear. I guess singles don't bring in any money and the more new records, the more excuses for a new tour. Things have changed.

I remember when I was a teen and the Backstreet Boys would come back with a new album and talk about how their new album was a reflection of their maturation in the two years since they'd last released an album. What's One Direction got to say about that? How much maturation can really be had when you're recording a new album every 9 months, while still on tour? There is not much life lived, poor kids. Just raking in of the money and fossilization of the heart. Or something like that.

Whether or not One Direction is really maturing as fast as its music claims, the music is actually palatable now. If you don't already know, I followed them through their time on The X Factor UK, where they were formed, but I was NOT a fan of their early material. I listened to their first album maybe three times. The second album, maybe 10. Their previous album "Midnight Memories" was actually a huge step in the "right" direction, and successfully absorbed some elements of folk and rock music. It helped the group gain a tiny bit of acceptance among the older crowd.

The subject matter of the songs on "Four" is not so much that of an overly energetic, shouty, and downright annoying little brother like that of the first two albums. Neither is it particularly anthemy and lad-dy like "Midnight Memories." This album is apologetic and oddly submissive. A large majority of the songs bow down to the powers of the female (though the song "Girl Almighty" itself is one of two shouty and raucous songs). The guys have gone soft. And slightly risqué.

I still think that "Midnight Memories" overall is a better album than "Four," but "Four" is more cohesive and more mature. The songs that I like from "Four" I love, and they've been on repeat for days. The others are good, too, and not nearly skip-worthy. Even the leading single isn't irritating, like most first singles can be (I'm looking particularly at you, Taylor Swift). Yes, One Direction is heading in the direction that most boy bands seem to end up -- mid-tempos which, further down the line, turn into Adult Contemporary-approved ballads. With an accelerated career, I can't say I'm surprised. But do I think One Direction is gonna turn into the Backstreet Boys in the next three years? Absolutely not. I think they'd sooner break up.



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