Monday 24 October 2016

How does One Direction's new album Made in the AM hold up outside their teenage fandom?

Published 14/11/2015 | 10:17

Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and LouisTomlinson of One Direction
Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and LouisTomlinson of One Direction

It was an uncanny experience, reviewing One Direction's recent farewell show at Dublin's 3Arena. As a grumpy middle-aged father of three I admittedly did not fall into the departing boyband's core demographic. But it was nonetheless striking just how generic and indistinguishable all  the group's "hits" sounded – apart from the one that borrowed the riff from Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar On Me (even as it obliterated all traces of what made the original charming).

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The point is that, for all their ubiquity in other spheres, 1D's musical footprint is minimal. This is in contrast with their teen-totty forbears. Scoff all you want at New Kids on the Block, Boyzone, Take That – even Louis Walsh's Satan-spawn Westlife. But off the top of your head you could probably hum one or two of these outfits' smashes. One Direction, in contrast, exist in a time when a band's Snapchat activity trumps their facility for memorable tunes.

Whether they in fact reunite after their alleged one-year sabbatical remains moderately doubtful at best. So there is every possibility that 1D's fifth album will be their swan-song – that is, their final opportunity to create a musical rather than pop cultural – legacy.

By those standards, Made In the AM must be judged a soggy letdown. Among many transgressions, its cardinal sin is to whinge about the cost of fame – a cliche any smartly advised pop troupe would do well to side-step. "Mini-bars, expensive cars, hotel rooms, some new tattoos," complain the quartet on History. "Good champagne and private planes — they don’t mean anything."

One Direction Made in the AM
One Direction Made in the AM

This sets the tone for an album that often resembles a protracted teenage mewl. The toothless Coldplay pastiche of If I Could Fly segues ploddingly into the comfortably numb Long Way Down, while synth-pop excursion Perfect appears to lose interest halfway through and descend into blubbering preteen sing-along One Direction won't be forgotten –  not for the immediate future at any rate. But outside their fanbase, will they be missed? This turgid affair suggests not.

One Direction, Made in the AM, Sony

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