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One Direction - FOUR (Review)

One Direction, FOUR

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SO, here it is… potentially the biggest album release of the year by the biggest boy band on the planet right now. And the verdict? It’s actually OK.

For sure, the power pop/soft rock melodies remain intact, as do the cheesy sentiments about love and/or heartbreak that are designed to make young girls swoon. There’s even the emotionally manipulative ballads. But there’s also a greater maturity at times that makes the package somehow more endearing.

Harry Styles and company clearly know where their strengths now lie and don’t deviate from the plan. FOUR, their aptly (or lazily) named fourth LP, doesn’t redesign things. Rather, it offers up deeper emotions and tighter rock hooks.

It’s at its best when keeping things light and cheeky, as opposed to heavy-hearted and sappy.

Hence, album opener and former single Steal My Girl is one of those records that underlines their ability to deliver a catchy chart-pleaser that gets into your head no matter how hard you try to deny its advances. There’s a piano intro (its weakest point), followed by towering beats and a polished chorus that declares: “Everybody wants to steal my girl, everybody wants to take her heart away.”

This is on top of lines like “she’s been my queen since we were 16… we share the same dreams” etc. You can well imagine the track setting teenage hearts aflutter, as well as engaging them in a heartfelt rendition of woah-ohing when played live. It’s designed for maximum crowd-please effect and it slickly achieves it in a pop manner.

And so do tracks like Ready To Run, with its country-pop inflictions and tight melodies; 18, with its impossibly sweet chorus of “I have loved you since we were 18… all I can do is say that these arms were meant for holding you”, or the cheekily brash pop of Girl Almighty, which again woah-ohs its way along amid handclap beats and headrush melodies that play with a religious element. It’s fun and breezy and impossible to dislike (especially with a chorus that declares “let’s have another toast to the girl almighty”). Here, again, they dip their toe into waters occupied by American singer-songwriters such as early Springsteen or latter day Joshua Radin.

No Control, on the other hand, drops in some of the cutest guitar licks with more handclap beats and a quasi ’80s pop sound that could almost hark back to The Cars, albeit with that brash, big, boy-band style chorus waiting in the wings. It’s anthemic in a cheesily pop kind of way but – again – somehow toe-tappingly likeable.

The obligatory ballads are similarly polished but much less gender-spanning. Rather, their tracks for the girls… with moments like Fool’s Gold and Spaces layering on the emotions to maximum effect. Somehow, it’s during these moments that the boys seem less sincere and more like the Simon Cowell package that they started out being.

But it’s good to see that on FOUR they have dabbled with some of the songwriting themselves to leave more of a signature on proceedings.

The result is predictably catchy, yet unexpectedly good in places.

Download picks: Steal My Girl, Ready To Run, Girl Almighty, 18, No Control

Track listing:

  1. Steal My Girl
  2. Ready to Run
  3. Where Do Broken Hearts Go
  4. 18
  5. Girl Almighty
  6. Fool’s Gold
  7. Night Changes
  8. No Control
  9. Fireproof
  10. Spaces
  11. Stockholm Syndrome
  12. Clouds