REVIEW: One Direction – ‘Four’

When One Direction invaded the U.S. in 2010, it was easy to write them off. Their sugar-sweet hooks, melodies and clean-cut looks painted them as the next hot boy band. Sometimes, these acts stand the test of time (*NSYNC, Backstreet Boys). Others? Well, others just cannot make it last. Do you remember O-Town? Perhaps you recall B2K?

1D broke the curse with another smash album, 2012’s Take Me Home. While it was still a very poppy, safe “boy band” record, it showed some growth. Subsequently, 2013’s Midnight Memories solidified that One Direction were breaking out of the mold. The album was a more mature, experimental One Direction, and critics praised their newfound creativity and ability to experiment.

Once again, the boys have proven themselves as more than any cookie-cutter fad act. Four allows for even more new approaches, sounds and opportunities to showcase song-writing capabilities.

This is by far the most involved members of the outfit have been in any project. Each member has co-writing credits on at least one track each. Their growing involvement and honed skill shows in the album’s versatility and varying styles.

While they are not exactly playing Swedish Death Metal, the lads have plenty of different sounds to offer on the pop and rock spectrum for fans. The opener “Steal My Girl” sets the tone as lush piano creates a fun, but mature, ballad.

On the other hand, energetic cuts like “Illusion” and “No Control” carry the fast-paced, pleasing mood previous albums have instated. Soft spoken tracks (“Fireproof,”  “18”) also provide maturity, while “Change Your Ticket (a bonus track off the ultimate edition)” offers slick beats and a nice indie vibe a la The 1975.

As always with One Direction, the vocal melodies and choruses (especially in “Ready To Run”) are gigantic and built for radios and stadiums alike. There will no doubt be plenty of sing-along material for forthcoming tours across the world.

If you have decided One Direction are not worth your time, or if pop music in general is not your favorite, give Four a spin. You just may change your mind, or at least get tracks stuck in your head at the drop of a hat. These U.K. heartthrobs are more than just pretty faces, and their musicianship grows more impressive with each release.