Music Review: Midnight Memories, One Direction

It’s pretty clear that One Direction don’t really need to worry about their album sales.

Their new album Midnight Memories, officially released on the 25th of November, was another in a long line of One Direction material to be leaked, this time making its way online an entire week before it was due to be released. One has to question if this was in fact a clever marketing strategy, as it has become the fastest-selling album in Amazon UK’s history, and is currently number 1 on iTunes in several countries. Maybe 1D have simply beaten the internet.

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The album’s first single, Best Song Ever, from its Baba O’Reilly rip-off opening signalled an album built on fun, huge stadium songs. (Possibly the best thing about the song, however, remains Zayn Malik’s brief yet alluring brush with drag, as secretary Veronica in the song’s video.) By contrast, the second single, Story of My Life, is more of a Mumford and Sons affair, presenting quiet, pensive lyrics and frantic strumming guitars.

The album, however, manages to consistently draw on both these styles, and is not the confusing and dissident mess initially suggested by its singles. Classic homage is strewn throughout the album, with songs reminiscent of The Police (Diana), Joan Jett (Midnight Memories), KISS and Van Halen (Little Black Dress), and Rick Springfield (Does He Know?). Equally, barnyard romps Happily and Through the Dark are the main representations of the band’s newfound flirtation with British folk rock. What results is a weirdly coherent smorgasbord of sounds.

There are some clear standout songs on the album. You and I, the album’s clearest ballad number, is a simple and beautiful number about the power of love to overcome external forces—an overwrought premise on its surface, but made new by nuanced and metaphorical lyrics. I can almost see the blinding light of 50 000 tween iPhones waving back and forth now. Don’t Forget Where You Belong, penned by Niall Horan and boyband of days past McFly, is another standout track, channelling the ambient pop rock sounds of bands such as OneRepublic. The song, an adorable ode about finding a home in your friends while on the road, marks another refreshing change for the band, in that not every song on this album is about wooing/being heartbroken by a girl. In a similar vein, this album features a never-before-heard amount of gender non-specific songs—to the point where there are more instances of vocal acrobatics from Zayn Malik, the band’s own Mercedes Jones, than there specific references to a girl.

Better Than Words, a song composed primarily of the titles of other songs, which according to co-writer Julian Bunetta, was conceived of in the bathroom by band member Liam Payne, has also become a fan favourite. The song is lighthearted, lazily sexy, and a little bit silly, and gives the band another opportunity to exhibit their impressive and vastly matured vocal chops. Other highlights on the album include Something Great (penned by Harry “I’m Finally In A Hipster Band” Styles and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody), Louis Tomlinson’s main offering in Strong, and the powerful Right Now.

Of course, the album is still full of the same laughable and occasionally offensive pop waffle as the previous two, even if the music itself is of a far higher quality. Songs such as deluxe edition track Why Don’t We Go There? feature some Unfortunate Implications—in the song, 1D attempt to coax someone who has voiced a desire “take it slow”, to “give in tonight, and let me set you free”. It’s definitely no Kiss You.

Another candidate for Dumbest Lyrics Ever is the 80s hair band-esque jam Little Black Dress.  Ignoring the blatant objectification entirely, in this song, a black dress floats independently around the room at a party, somewhat ghostlike, and starts turning heads (presumably in terror) with its presence. The boys of One Direction are intrigued by this dress, and naturally wish to know more about it. “Little black dress, did you come here alone?” they ask, obviously confused about how it could have, given it’s a dress without a wearer. “Little black dress, what’s your favourite song?” I’ll bet Lana Del Rey’s Blue Jeans gets it going. It’s entirely possible that One Direction are simply overcome with desire for the dress itself. Maybe Zayn’s drag stint went over better than we know. Let’s just hope this doesn’t result in a One Direction Brand formalwear line.

That all said, this album’s lyrics are a lot less creepy and coercive on the whole. Most importantly, the music comes across as far more real—for the primary reason that, for the most part, these are their own songs, stories, and emotions on display. They resonate, in particular for long time fans of the band, because they resonate with their singers.

It’s second nature to want to split up an album of this kind, and indeed a band of this kind, into fractions and catgeories—25% classic rock, 25% Appalachian folk, 25% intense homoerotic tension and 25% accidental misogyny. However, what makes this offering from the world’s favourite boy band so different is that it is the first One Direction album which has felt like, well, an album. Certainly there are (very, very heavy handed and obvious) influences there, but ultimately the sound we’re hearing is the band themselves.

Whether you’ve already downloaded it or not, I recommend you procure this album legally.

Midnight Memories is out now via Sony Records. 

Rating: 5/5

Charlie @ frangipani princess

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