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Design By Humans
Published On: Wed, Nov 25th, 2015

One Direction: Made In the A.M.

made in th amOne Direction
Made In the A.M.

(Columbia)

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Releasing five albums in five years is no small feat—not to mention doing so while going on world tours between each release. Managing to make each album better than the last though is perhaps One Direction’s most impressive accomplishment. In many ways, it wasn’t necessary for the boy band to put much effort into making good albums or evolving their sound drastically over their relatively short career. They could have found a consistent fanbase to follow them through five years of cash-grabbing, rehashed pop albums fairly easily. Instead, the boys—and their fans—demanded more, and pushed themselves to create more interesting, challenging pop music.

On what might possibly (though not likely) be the band’s last album, One Direction build on the sonic explorations of 2014’s Four with an eclectic mix of throwback pop, folk ballads, and contemporary rock. Made in the A.M. is obsessed with rock’s history as it tries its hand in everything from the Brit-pop of The Verve (“Hey Angel”) to the reggae-punk of The Police (“Drag Me Down”) and from late-‘60s chamber pop (“Olivia”) to mid-‘80s Fleetwood Mac (“What a Feeling”). Engaging in classic rock styles is certainly nothing new for One Direction, but Made in the A.M. feels more genuine, resulting in a more cohesive album despite being more omnivorous than their previous efforts.

Lyrically, the boys are more reflective here. They’ve grown through the shallow love-fare of Up All Night and Take Me Home, through the anxious, masculine bravado of Midnight Memories and parts of Four. Instead, they sing about remembering and celebrating the good times. They sing about looking forward optimistically. The songs are cleverly designed to be about relationships while also being easily read as messages directly to their fans, thanking them for their unwavering support through the first chapter of their career. This overflow of sentiment manifests itself in a few more ballads than a pop album should have, though none really stand out as ones you wouldn’t mind being cut. And with their vocals fully coming into their own—even without Zayn Malik, who was often considered the strongest vocalist of the group—Made in the A.M. manages to hold your attention throughout. And on many re-listens as well.

 

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One Direction: Made In the A.M.