Never trust an album’s first single. When “Steal My Girl” dropped a few weeks ago as Four’s first single, I wasn’t too stoked on it. It was another pop-rock song with a heartfelt message that quickly slithered into the hearts of millions, but it wasn’t the “new” One Direction sound that the boys had been advertising since the beginning of the year.
One thing I will applaud them for is their involvement on this record – they wrote ten of the twelve songs which is the most writing they have done on any album. Most of the songs were composed by members Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson, as well as other song writers, but it has become apparent over the years that those two are the songwriting ringleaders for the British boy band.
However, I can’t say that this album’s style is too far off from their last album, Midnight Memories. There is a mix of slow ballads and high energy pop-rock songs that will suck your soul and cause you to wonder why you don’t have a pillowcase with their faces on it, but it’s not anything we haven’t heard before. There are elements of 80’s rock and soulful boy band stylings that will cause mass hysteria worldwide (as if the screams have died down at all since 2010), but this album could be mistaken for just a batch of Midnight Memories b-sides.
I will say that there are a few songs on Four that are their most mature yet – “Ready To Run” being the first. As a song that was released just a few days ago, the rather stripped down tune of the verses don’t have that poppy boy band feel that a lot of their other songs have. It relatively folky and doesn’t have that massive pop production we are used to hearing – I was hoping that there would be more of this style and arrangement on Four. However, that didn’t end up happening.
One of Four’s strongest songs has to be “Stockholm Syndrome”. It’s already a fan favorite and has more of a heavy 80’s rock influence than any of their other songs have showcased. It will get stuck in your head and the vocal stylings of heartthrob Harry Styles in the opening verse and choruses are powerful, mesmerizing and some of his best yet. Though it is not the next single to come from Four, I do predict that this one will have a music video, as well as radio play in the near future.
“Where Do Broken Hearts Go” was a track that was receiving buzz before anyone had even heard the album. As another fan favorite frontrunner, this is a standard One Direction song – it has strong lyrics that cater to their starry eyed fan base, a powerful boy band pop influence and of course, vocals from Zayn Malik that have been causing heart attacks and screams of “I can’t” since the beginning of time. With a huge incorporation of instruments and vocal melodies that will be wonderful to see live, it’s easily one of Four’s biggest songs production wise. Though it does sound like a track that could have been on Take Me Home, the boys’ second album, this is a track that will instantly become a One Direction classic.
Ed Sheeran played a role in this album as well, writing the track “18” and adding another incredibly written and detailed acoustic song to the band’s repertoire. Just like “Little Things”, another track written by Sheeran, this song has enough emotion to cause any girl to fall in love with the band. It just has that “boy band quality” – talking about kissing, touching and everything in between, you can’t go wrong with an Ed Sheeran and One Direction collaboration. It’s a match made in heaven, really.
For Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson, Four displays their greatest vocals yet. As the members that are normally overshadowed by the powerhouses Payne, Styles and Malik – Horan and Tomlinson received more solos on this album than on any other release and guess what? They did a damn good job. Four allowed for a refreshing balance of vocals to be shared throughout each song, something that has never happened in One Direction history. Although I could sit and listen to Zayn Malik belt power ballads until the end of time, Horan and Tomlinson finally got the recognition and singing time we have all been waiting for since 1D formed on The X Factor. Ultimately, the balance of vocal involvement on Four has shown that One Direction has five ridiculously talented boys that can all hold their own parts in the songs they put out.
So while I was a tad disappointed, as I am sure some of you were, that this “new” sound that had been promised throughout the entire year didn’t really shine through on Four, this fifth album by One Direction is another great one for the books. The writing and vocals are stronger than ever, something they have consistently displayed throughout the years.
I am sure I will be rocking out to Four alongside you right up until their next release in November 2015. For now, it will be said with the smallest amount of bias that One Direction just might have one of the biggest albums of 2014 with this one. We will have to wait and see.