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Album Review | ‘Midnight Memories’ shows maturity with infectious rock

Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 02:12

Just last week, tweens across the world rejoiced at the release of One Direction’s third studio album, “Midnight Memories.” For those who don’t know, the band made it big after its stint on the hit U.K. show “The X-Factor” (2004-present) and because of this, many have prematurely dismissed One Direction and its songs as fodder for hormonal adolescent girls or soulless music used more for merchandising than for artistic expression. However, those people are dead wrong.

Thus far, One Direction has done everything right. Delivering their trademark easy-listening pop tunes about puppy love to an extremely loyal following, the boys are too innocent and sensitive to hate. Even those who would rather die than compare One Direction to The Beatles — which some were eager to do when the band burst on the scene in 2010 — cannot deny the similarities between both groups. Although it would be hard to say that Harry Styles and Liam Payne will have the same musical legacy as John Lennon and Paul McCartney, on “Midnight Memories” the boys display incredible growth and impeccable production.

Now, it’s clear that those five boyish faces have little to do with the creation of music on the record. Indeed, in the grand tradition of boy bands, there is a massive network of behind-the-scenes figures — producers and songwriters — who generate the bulk of the music on the album. From the Backstreet Boys to the Jonas Brothers, boy bands have been a part of the modern musical zeitgeist for some time now, and it is hard to deny their appeal. The boys of One Direction, for example, dress well, say charming and goofy things in interviews and seem to have a true passion for music.

“Midnight Memories,” as an album, takes form by combining diverse musical influences and samples into simple songs geared toward youngsters. This album is everything you ever wanted the “Kidz Bop” (2000-present) compilations to be. The opening track, “Best Song Ever” employs a heavy reference to the song “Baba O’Riley” (1971) by The Who. Some may take offense, but this sample represents a kind of homage to the famous Brits who paved the way for bands like One Direction. The song is infectious and culminates in a raucous celebration, much like the song it references.

“Story of My Life,” the second song and most recently released single from the album, is an even more interesting iteration of diverse musical incorporation. The song begins with delicate guitar-picking, reminiscent of the iconic sounds of Mumford & Sons. With these musical allusions, One Direction unabashedly pays tribute to contemporaries while simultaneously establishing its own musical worth.

As the album continues, the force of the tracks grows exponentially. Songs like “Midnight Memories” and “Little Black Dress” have shiny guitar and pounding percussion, reminiscent of hair bands from the 80s like Van Halen and Poison. And, of course, there are the more ballad-y acoustic jams that invariably include lyrics about a boy and a girl falling in love, falling out of love or falling apart. However, these numbers, which could easily have been throwaway derivative tracks, end up being the most delightful on the album. Songs like “Through the Dark” and “Strong” are both meaningful and addictive.

For those of you who have been scoffing since the headline, you will probably never be convinced of the merits of One Direction. However, take this challenge: open your mind and give the band a shot. It is easy to dismiss a group like One Direction, but, ultimately, it is popular for a reason (and it’s not just because of beautiful faces and incredible hair). Dig deeper — you just might be surprised at what you hear.

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