One Direction fails to break new ground on ‘Midnight Memories’

By Patrick Hoff

After two studio albums, two world tours and two movies, One Direction should be burnt out and ready for a break. However, with its third release, “Midnight Memories,” the boy band tries to quell the naysayers and show the world that it is as strong as ever.

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On first listen, the guys might convince you. “Midnight Memories” is a catchy album with some good beats to boost your spirits and keep you distracted from the monotony of life. Upon further introspection, however, it becomes clear that you’ve heard these rhythms and beats before – on both of One Direction’s previous albums. All of the patterns in their music since “Up All Night” are still present throughout the disc.

The band does, however, branch out a bit and borrow from other artists. By opening the album with a song similar to The Who’s “Who Are You,” One Direction is trying to expand beyond its boy band image, at least slightly. The boys even borrow from Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” in “Does He Know?” changing the lyrics, but not the meaning of the song. There’s even a hint of Mumford & Sons in “Story of My Life.”

For those who have been listening to boy bands since the days of the Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC, none of these songs will sound groundbreaking. Even when borrowing from artists outside of its genre, 1D never drastically changes its sound. Not that they need to: the band’s well-established fan base wants and expects mind-numbing bubblegum pop. To change their sound in the middle of their run could spell tragedy.

Sticking to their time-tested formula does not mean that the boys haven’t grown in their music. As with each album, their looks have changed slightly – more tattoos, edgier clothing. “Midnight Memories” is definitely a darker, rougher addition to One Direction’s repertoire. “Up All Night” was five teenagers having fun, partying and meeting girls. “Take Me Home” was the story of a relationship and the realization that there is a soul mate for each of them. With “Midnight Memories,” the soul mates have left and the boy band is desperate to win them back.

The edgier moments are not consistent, though: at one point, the album jumps from a catchy pop song sure to appease a group of twelve-year-olds to a meaningful ballad that is thought-provoking, if not a little predictable. When the transition between the two styles is not smooth, the drastic jump back and forth can be confusing. At times, “Midnight Memories” sounds like two different albums mixed haphazardly in a desperate attempt to put together one complete album.

While it shows definitive growth for the band, “Midnight Memories” is nothing more than another release from a boy band that will be replaced five years from now. One Direction has yet to leave its mark on the music industry, apart from being just another boy band on the endless list of pop sensations that have come and gone.

Not everyone can be the Backstreet Boys, mind you, but if One Direction wants to be remembered, its next two albums need to find them moving away from the classic “boy band pop” genre and taking on an even more mature style.

Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected]