On One Direction’s latest album Made In The A.M. we hear the band mature musically and vocally as they sound much tighter than they have previously, particularly now that they are a quartet, as ex-member Zayn Malik left the group in March. After going from teen bubblegum pop in 2011 on their debut Up All Night to a 70’s and 80’s rock band on their current material, it’s been an interesting five years watching music’s biggest boy band evolve and see what their next step is when defying the formula of past vocal groups.
On Made In The A.M. we hear the group experimenting with more ballads and adult pop numbers that feel like a step in the right direction, as they prepare themselves for an eighteen month break after half a decade of nonstop touring. The record opens with “Hey Angel” and while it’s a great opening song, the aspect of the track that becomes noticeable quickly is how the member’s vocals have improved and developed. Harry Styles, still the most well known member, unleashes his powerful voice, while letting his band mates Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and Niall Horan, take their turns with solos.
A.M’s lead single “Drag Me Down” was the first introduction that fans had to the album, and out of all of the bands lead singles “Drag Me Down” is by far the strongest and oldest sounding single the group has released to date. Geared more towards One Direction’s adult fans, each vocalist sounds like a grown man, sounding ready to tackle more serious music once they return. While their songwriting skills have certainly improved (the band wrote nine out of the thirteen tracks on this record), it would be nice to hear One Direction ditch their co-writers and collaborate solely with their band, who perform on both their records and live shows, as all eight musicians have strong musical skills, giving them the ability to write a record entirely on their own without any aid.
While the first two tracks ventured into more upbeat territory, “If I Could Fly” is a ballad that is One Direction’s best. Harmonizing beautifully, the tune demonstrates the bands obvious talent, and when you take away the image of previous boy bands, the strength of One Direction’s vocal abilities is not only what matters most, but what will sell.
Tracks such as “Never Enough” illustrates why fans gravitate towards One Direction in the first place, but also what has made them such a fun band to watch and listen to. Including horns and a punchy drum beat that brings some funkiness to Made In The A.M., “Never Enough” explores uncharted territory for the band which fits surprisingly well, while proving their versatility when experimenting with new sounds.
“Love You Goodbye”, another ballad featuring strings, is another standout track that could be a hit if the group’s management decides to take a risk with any future singles, instead of playing it safe like they usually do. On this track, each member sounds fantastic, with Louis Tomlinson making huge progress in his vocals, singing a high note like fans have never heard before.
To close out the record, the band sings a track called “History”, which sounds similar to “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” from the film Toy Story. Slow handclaps, gang vocals, and a carefree guitar part makes the tune memorable, along with the bands promise to their fans that they aren’t going anywhere. While the group prepare to spend some much deserved time off, it’s safe that they have gone out on a high note with a release that feels more like a “see you later” then a “goodbye.”
Take a listen to “Drag Me Down” below.