Everything is Perfect But I’m Still Torn

For those of you who may not have seen my gratuitous status on Facebook last night, I leave it here again for your viewing pleasure:

One Direction FB post


Completely and utterly so. Is that even a question you should be asking me?

One Direction released their fifth album (in five years) yesterday, November 13, 2015, and the quality of music on Made in the A.M. is genuinely making me sad that the band is going on hiatus in 2016 and for the indefinite future. (When Harry Styles makes Siri say “hiatus” about five times in a live radio interview regarding this matter, you can bet your special edition Target covers that I’m in the hiatus camp as well.)

But consumer capitalism hype around One Direction’s new album aside, this fifth album is the foursome’s best album to date.

I agree, a lot of the songs on the album do sound like they were trying quite hard to emulate other bands and their sounds. I’m not a music aficionado, but even I can hear a vague Beatles-esque tone in some songs (“Olivia”).

While this could be seen in some ways to be “less impressive” than writing completely original songs, I say this: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and frankly, I would be (and am) far more appreciative of and impressed with this “borrowed,” new sound than I would be of a far more stereotypical boy band sound.

Five years after they formally signed on to being a band at Syco, the boys these men (Old habits die hard?) Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson have finally shown huge growth in their abilities as vocalists, musicians, and band members.

Photo Courtesy of...One Direction?
Photo Courtesy of…One Direction?

Every time I purchase their new album, I actually take the time to read through all of the album credits. They began with Up All Night, a 15-track album of which they worked on none of the songs. With Made in the A.M., anywhere from one to all four of the members worked on 15 of these 17 tracks.

The group has not only become more sonically adventurous, but it has also finally become more varied in its song construction. You’d think that with five members, originally, it would be easy to diversify the structures of their songs. Unfortunately not.

The band often liked to rely on Payne, Styles, and occasionally but increasingly Zayn Malik to start off the songs. Why? In the first couple years, they were the most consistent and reliable vocalists. Having them set a solid start to any live performance would establish a far better foundation for the then-inconsistent singers Tomlinson and Horan.

While on The X Factor, October 2010
Actual children while on The X Factor, October 2010

On this album, all four members (Horan, Payne, Styles, and Tomlinson) have equal opening, harmonizing, and just about everything else time. It’s not only wonderful for me, a fan five years in the making, to hear the new variety, but it’s also a clear indicator of the group’s collective growth.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to sound like a relatively indifferent commentator, but let’s be honest — I’m not. I’m really not.

I still remember the precise moment I first saw Harry Styles’ face float across my Tumblr dashboard in August 2011, and I can still remember thinking, “Oh no, I’m done with boy bands now” as I scrolled past since that was when I’d finally ended my Jonas Brothers phase. A few weeks later, I remember thinking, “I can’t remember all their names when there are five of them,” and I remember that horrifying moment I spotted one of them in a photo by the back of their head. (In my defense, that is actually, apparently, a skill I have and often use now on the massive UC Berkeley campus to find my friends.)

Harry Styles, “What Makes You Beautiful,” August 2011

I’ve grown up “in” a lot of different fandoms — Harry Potter and the Jonas Brothers to name a couple — but the One Direction experience takes the cake.

I can never be sure why it’s so evocative for me, particularly when I see the fandom collectively drive itself insane over rumors that lack supporting evidence written in proper MLA format.

But then I realize that I watched them grow up, and I have (save the first 11 months of their conception on The X Factor UK which does not stream in the US unless you’re clever) genuinely supported them from day 1. I’m proud of all the things they’ve accomplished, and I truly enjoy the music they create together.

It’s impossible to tell where the future will take them, but I’m certain with these four boys, it can be nothing but the best. And you can bet your 2055 reunion tour, first row tickets that I’ll be there to see it.

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