“I don’t know how else to sum it up/’Cause words ain’t good enough,” sing the members of One Direction on closer “Better Than Words”, the perfect way to describe their fandom. From sold out concerts to social media, the Directioners go all out to support their boys. So, here it is that the guys are delivering their third album, Midnight Memories, due to be released on November 25. Like their previous two albums, this packs some major pop goodies, but also delivers when it comes to their growth both lyrically and musically. 11 of the 14 tracks on this effort have at least one member co-writing, which is a major jump from 2012’s Take Me Home, and with new producers on hand like Ryan Bunetta and even Jacknife Lee, the results are effortless and the right Direction for the five lads to take their sound.
From start to finish, this is a really solid album, beginning with the two singles: the light and fun “Best Song Ever” and the more serious and folk-driven “Story Of My Life”, their current hit. “Story”, particularly, seems to be doing a good job of converting those unsure of the band’s future into believers again, with a great lyric (led by Jamie Scott of Graffiti6 at the helm) and a pretty arrangement. From there is the electro-pop influenced “Diana”, in which the boys go after a pretty Miss who seems to have trouble in love (“I never would mistreat you/I’m not a criminal”) and needs someone by her side. Then, it’s back to the partying with the anthemic title track, a melodic ode to Def Leppard‘s “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, which rocks out hard and brings the fun. It could possibly be the “Rock Me” of this particular era.
Track five, the softer ballad “You And I”, shines with a lyric about being so faithful to your significant other that “not even the Gods above/Could separate the two of us.” Yes, maybe it’s a little cliché, but for the time being, it works. Following that is “Don’t Forget Where You Belong”, which appears to be a fan favorite at the moment, at least from what I’ve read around. It’s another lighter composition, an anthem about hometown pride and not feeling lonely when you’re far from home. The mood picks up from there with the solid “Strong”, which ironically enough reminds me a bit “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson, especially in those small guitar bits. “Happily” also, well, happily chugs along, with a folk-influenced pop sound and an explosive chorus that ranks among my favorites on the album.
One of the missteps on this album is “Right Now”, a Ryan Tedder co-write, which sounds like a sloppy leftover from Maroon 5‘s Overexposed. It doesn’t sound out-of-place, but it’s not great. The tide immediately turns with “Little Black Dress”, a guitar-infested little number which brings the heat in these boys and their object of desire with calls of “I wanna see the way you move for me.” Highlight “Through The Dark”, track 11, goes back to the folk but does it well, probably the best out of those genre tracks on here. This, again, finds itself a safe lyrical place about being there for someone: “When the night is coming down on you/We will find a way/Through the dark.” The next song over, “Something Great”, another folk track co-written by Gary Lightbody of the band Snow Patrol, pales in comparison to it.
Ending it off are “Little White Lies”, a catchy pop song that verges into dubstep territory for an edgier feeling and the aforementioned “Better Than Words”, another pop-oriented track that hits all the right notes. Out of the four bonus songs on the deluxe edition, the best by far is “Why Don’t We Go There?”, an energetic pop/rock thumper with a suggestive lyric that also keeps it on the clean side. This should’ve been on the standard set, replacing one the slower songs. “Does He Know?” is a nod to early 80’s Rick Springfield, while “Alive” also sticks out as another track straight out of the hair metal era. It’s not as natural as some of the other stadium rockers on the standard edition, but still manages to go hard. “Half A Heart”, the final track here, is one of the weaker ballads of the bunch; it was rightly demoted.
Should there have been a few more uptempo records rather than a few of the clunkier songs on the album and Midnight Memories would’ve been my favorite album from the band; alas, I think Up All Night still does it for me best, but this can take second place on the list. The major 80’s influence is a big draw on this one; as carbon copy as some of these songs may be, you can’t help but like them and dance along. I don’t know if that necessarily gives them a free pass with the rest of the world, but hey, let’s celebrate this achievement for the moment. Look for #1 placement around the globe during the next few weeks as this one is going to be a winner with the kids for the holidays. Get the wrapping paper and bows ready. In short, One Direction is here to stay and those good Memories will keep on coming in 2014.
Listen to Midnight Memories on SoundCloud/Tumblr. (It’s all over there.) / Pre-order Midnight Memories on iTunes.