The third album by British pop superpowers One Direction, 2013’s Midnight Memories, closed with “Better Than Words” — a tribute to about 15 of the greatest love songs ever, with verses that consisted only of those classics’ titles (“How deep is your love? / God only knows, baby”). It was a fun way for the group to build their own sort of pop canon — one that goes as far back as Elvis and as contemporary as Drake — while implicitly making their own bid for inclusion therein.
Apparently, the group had such a good time reliving Top 40’s best moments that they’ve decided to do it with almost their entire catalog since. Last year’s Four was led by “Steal My Girl,” whose thunderous piano riff was a deadringer for that of Journey’s classic ’80s power ballad “Faithfully.” The rest of the album ran through pastiches of Paul Simon (“Girl Almighty”), Fleetwood Mac (“Fireproof”), and Tears for Fears (“Stockholm Syndrome”), among subtler lifts that could drive music nerds crazy trying to identify.
Even so, Four was little preparation for Made in the A.M., the group’s fifth album, out today. While 1D dipped their toes — all right, maybe a whole foot — into pop’s past on their fourth album, with their fifth, they dive in headfirst. Every song on Made in the A.M. (13 tracks on the standard edition, 17 on the deluxe) has a hook, a melody, a rhythm or a tone that evokes some radio hit of years past — though sometimes just one or two years past. Read on if you don’t believe us, but don’t judge the boys too harshly for their semi-thievery: One Direction simply treat pop history like the playground it is, and you’d have to be a pretty unapologetic grump to scowl at them for swinging gleefully from the monkey bars.
1. “HEY ANGEL”
Song Swiped? The drums and general sweep of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.”
Does It Work? Uncannily so — the heart grows three sizes upon hearing the beat kick in for the first time.
Lawsuit Pending? Well, the Verve know as well as anyone you can’t be too careful with these things. Any funds they’d recoup by taking such measures would probably have to be funneled straight to the Rolling Stones, though.
2. “DRAG ME DOWN”
Song Swiped? Chorus elements to Robert DeLong’s “Long Way Down,” the nasal vocal pinch of any number of Adam Levine-sung compositions.
Does It Work? Kinda, though this is clearly one of the group’s lighter lifts. Liam Payne really does sound like he’s auditioning to be Levine’s Voice-season replacement as Maroon 5 frontman on that chorus, though.
Lawsuit Pending? Nah.
Song Swiped? The chorus melody and cadence to “Style,” by none other than noted Harry Styles ex, Taylor Swift.
Does It Work? At being one of the year’s best pop subliminals (“If you’re looking for someone to write your breakup songs about / Baby, I’m perfect”), sure.
Lawsuit Pending? Could be, though you can almost picture Taylor picking up the phone to call her lawyer, but stopping herself before the first ring. (“No, that’s what he WANTS you to do…”)
Song Swiped? The verse melody and cadence to Neon Trees’ “Animal.”
Does It Work? Not especially — the song’s verses are among the album’s weakest.
Lawsuit Pending? It’s probably just different enough that direct legal action would be ill-advised. Not a world removed from Miguel and the Smashing Pumpkins, however.
5. “END OF THE DAY”
Song Swiped? The tone and tempo switch-ups of fun.’s “We Are Young.”
Does It Work? Nah, it’s mostly awkward and disruptive. Though to be fair, it’s kinda shocking that it even worked as well as it did for fun.
Lawsuit Pending? Not sure fun. could necessarily claim to be the inventors of fast-slow-epic — or if you can trademark a song structure — but if they could, 1D would be in trouble.
6. “IF I COULD FLY”
Song Swiped? The beginning of the chorus to Phillip Phillips’ “Gone, Gone, Gone”
Does It Work? Yeah, it certainly sells the refrain.
Lawsuit Pending? Unlikely. It’s a classic-sounding-enough melody that they both probably ripped if it off from somewhere else anyway.
7. “LONG WAY DOWN”
Songs Swiped? The verse melody of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” and the general sway of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.”
Do They Work? It’s a surprisingly potent combination, actually. The combined MOR wattage might just be too overwhelming to resist.
Lawsuit Pending? No, but it would be a fascinatingly lame trial.
8. “NEVER ENOUGH”
Songs Swiped? The casual strut of HAIM’s “The Wire” and the “COME ON!!” shrieks of Muse’s “Uprising.” Probably some more Graceland-era Paul Simon in there too.
Do They Work? Hell yes.
Lawsuit Pending? Muse would probably have the best case, if one two-word exhortation is enough to get a copyright on.
Songs Swiped? The climactic orchestral saunter of the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” and the vocal cadence of the a capella parts of the verses to HAIM’s “The Wire” (again).
Do They Work? Undoubtedly. As New Kids on the Block proved back in the early ’90s, grown-up boy bands going psych-era Beatles in their later work is always a good call.
Lawsuit Pending? Nope.
10. “WHAT A FEELING”
Song Swiped? The general bass pattern, sighing backing vocals, and damp production of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and “Gypsy.” Oh, and the song also begins “Through the wire, through the wire,” making it the third straight track on the album to steal something from HAIM’s “The Wire.” Somehow, this all must be another shot at Taylor Swift.
Does It Work? Of course it works. Ruining “Dreams” and “Gypsy” is impossible.
Lawsuit Pending? If 1D was able to skate on it the first time they jacked Mick and Stevie, they’ll probably be safe this time out too.
11. “LOVE YOU GOODBYE”
Song Swiped? The verse melody and production style of the verses to the original version of OneRepublic’s “Apologize.”
Does It Work? Sorta, but the verses of “Apologize” don’t really work without the chorus for contrast, and the “Love You Goodbye” hook is a pretty big letdown.
Lawsuit Pending? Would say no, except that 1D actually end the song’s first verse with Liam singing, “The way you look I know you didn’t come to apologize.” Seems like enough of a thumb-bite in Ryan Tedder’s direction that he might lawyer up just on principle.
12. “I WANT TO WRITE YOU A SONG”
Song Swiped? The finger-picking and some of the chord structure of Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah.”
Does It Work? One “Hey There Delilah” is really quite sufficient.
Lawsuit Pending? No, but a Twitter rant of some degree isn’t out of the question.
Song Swiped? The triplet scheme of the chorus lead-in from Toto’s “Hold the Line.”
Does It Work? Sure. Everyone loves vocal triplets.
Lawsuit Pending? It’s not even one of the more memorable parts of the song, so probably not.
14. “TEMPORARY FIX”
Song Swiped? The vocal rhythm and sly sneer of the verses to Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks.”
Does It Work? A little, but not sure it’s worth earning Made in the A.M. the dubious distinction of being the first LP in music history to rip off two separate Neon Trees songs.
Lawsuit Pending? Maybe if Neon Trees can go two for the price of one.
15. “WALKING IN THE WIND”
Song Swiped? The piano riff to the Four Seasons’ “December 1963 (Oh What a Night),” played on guitar here, and a little bit of the vocal phrasing from George Ezra’s “Budapest.”
Does It Work? You kinda forget what a great song “December 1963″ is when you go too long without hearing it at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, don’t you?
Lawsuit Pending? Frankie Valli’s probably still too busy signing checks for his Jersey Boys residuals to go through the bother.
Song Swiped? The bass-and-drum shuffle to Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead.” (Though it might just seem that way because the song is called “Wolves.”)
Does It Work? It’s a fun drum beat, no doubt.
Lawsuit Pending? No, it’s only a faint similarity, and Yeezy’s original beat was basically purloined from Gary Glitter to begin with.
Song Swiped? The verse melody to Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.”
Does It Work? The song’s certainly not as sensual as “Dreams,” but the lift does help it achieve the same kind of golden-hour sheen to it, appropriately enough.
Lawsuit Pending? Deep breath, Taylor. Don’t give him the satisfaction.
Did you really expect the world's biggest boy band to drop the ball on 2013? "Midnight Memories," the third full-length from the "X Factor"-formed quintet (out Nov. 25 via Columbia/Syco), follows up on what worked best on last year's "Take Me Home," and tosses in some proficient new ideas to keep listeners eager for the band's continued evolution.
One Direction Cover Story: Read The 'Midnight Memories' Q&A
For a band comprised of 19- to 21-year-olds, growth is going to be a key theme. In general terms, "Midnight Memories" doesn't sound like much of a departure from its predecessors, but a closer look reveals hints as to what lies ahead. Guitars feature more prominently in the new songs, whether they're loud and electric ("Little Black Dress"), soft and acoustic ("Story of My Life"), or of the fast-strumming, Mumford & Sons variety ("Happily"). One Direction proves once again that there is more Jonas Brothers than *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys in their boy band DNA, and given their increased role in the writing process (the band contributed lyrics to 12 of the 14 songs), perhaps the rock band vibe will be an even greater theme as the band grows up. Lyrically, the boys remain in the PG-rated themes of young love, heartbreak, and staying out late, so parents (and the music industry) can rest assured they're still tween-friendly.
One Direction's first two albums topped the Billboard 200 in their debut weeks of release, making them the first British male group since the Beatles to accomplish the feat. The first two singles from "Midnight Memories," "Best Song Ever" and "Story of My Life," have each enjoyed Top 10 peaks on the Hot 100 chart, so there is every indication that the new album will fare quite well in the 2013 holiday season.
Still want more? According to this week's Billboard cover story, the One Direction team is already eyeing another album for late 2014. For now, though, join Billboard in a track-by-track look at the latest from Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, and Zayn Malik.
1. Best Song Ever
This is the sort of song you just know is going to be a hit the first time you hear it. Of course, One Direction's previous lead singles -- "What Makes You Beautiful" and "Live While We're Young" -- were immediate successes, so it certainly had history on its side. The way "Best Song Ever's" massive chorus bobs along with tight group harmonies makes the song sneakily sound like its two predecessors. When the boys hit the "oh oh oh" and "yeah yeah yeah" parts, you're in bubblegum pop bliss.
2. Story of My Life
If "Best Song Ever" is the new album's "Live While We're Young," this song -- the album's softer, acoustic-based single -- is definitely its "Little Things." Ed Sheeran didn't have a hand in this somber love song, but it sure sounds like it, thanks to writing and lyrical contributions from every member of the band.
On a track like this, one can hear One Direction's sound carefully shifting from straight-up pop to more of a pop-rock feel. This week's One Direction cover story compared it to the Police -- a fitting pick, especially in the verses. Production-wise, its sound is firmly rooted in modern pop, though this is still a song that plenty of parents of One Direction fans should appreciate.
4. Midnight Memories
There's always been rock influence in One Direction's music, but it really comes to the forefront on "Midnight Memories'" title track. It opens with groovy guitar licks, leads into a peppy pre-chorus, and rocks out in the chorus behind a riff reminiscent of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me."
5. You & I
"Not even the gods above can separate the two of us," goes the chorus of this slow jam, which sounds ready to get middle school gyms in a slowdance frenzy.
6. Don't Forget Where You Belong
For five young adults who've been on the road so much the past few years, it's easy to see why a song like "Don't Forget Where You Belong" would appear on the new album. The sentiment is still youthful, though a mid-tempo, soft rock track like this sounds like it could connect One Direction to a more mature audience. That being said, it leaves the listener yearning for a little more of the uptempo energy that dominated the earlier tracks.
This one's a love song in the earnest, mid-tempo vein of previous track "Don't Forget Where You Belong." It's the sort of song plenty of boy bands and well-meaning soft rockers have pulled off before, and though it doesn't exactly disappoint, it's not likely to be one of the tracks lodged in the listener's head after spinning the album the first or second time.
Who's not trying to sound like Mumford & Sons these days? On "Happily," the 1D boys sing and stomp along in unison to a giant chorus about trying to win someone back. Regardless of your opinion on Mumford, the Lumineers, and their influence, there's no denying this is one of the album's catchiest songs.
9. Right Now
This one sounds like it could have been one of Maroon 5's mid-tempo ballads, but One Direction pulls it off as well as Adam Levine ever could have. In fact, it was actually composed with help from another adult contemporary, One Republic's Ryan Tedder. While One Direction are still courting a teenage crowd, a track like breaks the mold, sounding like it could resonate with a much older audience.
10. Little Black Dress
The guitars make their triumphant return to the fold here, asserting themselves in the opening bars with riffs that could have come from late-70s FM radio. This one was recorded entirely in a live setting, and considering the results, it would be interesting to hear 1D explore the approach more on future albums.
11. Through the Dark
Here's another Mumford-sounding jam, driven by fast acoustic strumming and stampeding percussion. It's not as memorable as "Happily," but it's good enough to validate another trip into folk territory.
12. Something Great
For this song, One Direction enlisted the help of Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody, who recently performed live alongside Ed Sheeran and collaborated with Taylor Swift on the "Red" track "The Last Time." And just like on that song, producer Jacknife Lee lends composition help in the studio. There are definite similarities to a Snow Patrol song -- the wistful love themes, piano flourishes, and soothing, hopeful chorus.
13. Little White Lies
An exuberant a cappella opening announces the album's return to bubblegum pop on "Little White Lies." This one isn't afraid to have fun with synthesizer and computerized percussion, tipping its hat to Max Martin's late-90s boyband production.
14. Better Than Words
The standard issue of "Midnight Memories" concludes with this slick-produced pop rocker that exclaims, "I can't explain your love/ It's better than words." The band certainly improved its balladry this time around, though they chose to go out doing what they do best.