It’s a sad fact that boy bands, no matter how talented they are, generally have a shelf life only slightly longer than a carton of milk.
Yes, One Direction’s chart-topping “Up All Night” came out less than eight months ago, but the group is striking while the curling iron is hot by releasing a new album on Nov. 13. Can there be any doubt that the album will arrive at No. 1, carried to the high perch aloft the hearts of screaming fangirls?
The 13 songs that make up “Take Me Home” create a hermetically-sealed bubble that is only big enough for a tween/teenage girl, her favorite 1D member, and their all-encompassing love.
The tunes, tailor-made for the 2013 arena tour the quintet has already sold out, are slightly more sophisticated than the tracks on “Up All Night,” but to the band’s credit, they in no way attempt to leave behind the audience that made them so popular.
There’s a song factory working overtime that churns this stuff out and the overlords have names like Dr. Luke, Shellback and Ed Sheeran: in other words, 1D has the top pop crafters in the land coming up with these tunes. Regardless of the author, they all follow the same basic road map: The songs are sexy and slightly suggestive, but won’t send the younger set scurrying to their parents to ask for explanation. The boys are confident with just enough quivering vulnerability to appear completely unthreatening, like a pretty pony. Love is shiny and clean and never, ever messy with each potential dilemma neatly tied up within the confines of a 3-minute pop song. And, not to be overlooked, no matter what the situation, the girl is always in control and she has the final say.
There’s nothing original about any of the songs here, but they are so exceedingly well crafted and produced that they ovecome the mind-numbing similarity of the songs’ themes about love, love, love.
So adoring are their fans (as I write this, some of them have been camped out since Friday for One Direction’s Tuesday appearance on “Today”), that One Direction wisely sends a love letter directly to them with “Back For You.” Yes, they see YOU out in the audience, and even though they are leaving every night, know they are returning just for YOU.
It’s these kinds of canny moves that keep Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson, all of whom trade off on vocals, first and foremost in their fans’ hearts. The CD booklet even devotes a page to a dreamy close up of each of the individual members so fans can have a mini-poster of their favorite band member.
The album opens with first single “Live While We’re Young,” which starts with a Clash-like “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” type riff. It signals that our fellas are growing up. Like many of the songs on “Take Me Home,” the lyrics are open to naughty interpretation, such as taking photos that had better not be shared (get it?).
That segues into “Kiss You,” a bouncy, electronic infectious ditty that opens with “Oh, I just want to take you any way that you like...” But before things get too scary, we’re clearly reminded that it’s ok to stop at kissing.
There nothing a teen girl likes more than a slow song that promises undying love and One Direction’s five members are nothing if not attuned to their girls’ needs. On second single, “Little Things,” each member spins what he loves about his girl and how perfect she is, even if she still has to squeeze into her jeans or likes the sound of her own voice. While it’s meant to be a song to ensure that he loves her just the way she is, even if she can’t love herself, it comes across like a catalog of every fault a woman likes to wish her man never notices. But the band (well, the songwriters) deserves points for pushing the idea that her perceived imperfections are what make her so lovable.
Every song here feels like it could have been recorded by someone else: “C’mon, C’mon” features a Neon Trees’-like kick drum propulsion. Mid-tempo “Last First Kiss” feels like a Panic At The Disco outtake when it bursts into the chorus, although the message of “I want to be the first to take it all the way like this” is the stuff that makes girls hug their pillows a little tighter at night. Mid-tempo ballad “Over Again, co-written by Sheeran, has a Ryan Tedder/OneRepublic-like yearning to it.
The best tracks on “Take Me Home” include the militant drum stomp of uptempo “Heart Attack,” which features a fun, spirited vocal delivery by the boys, as well as the irrepressibly jaunty “I Would” (musically, it’s similar to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”), which is bolstered by spritely whistles and hand claps. “Rock Me” opens similarly to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and stays with a mid-tempo, nearly hypnotic anthemic beat that will become a live staple, even with the unwieldy “R-O-C-K Me Again” part.
Teen girls love their secrets and 1D conspiratorially joins in with “They Don’t Know About Us,” a rhythmic ballad about young love that the older folks just don’t understand. “They don’t know about the things we do/they don’t know about the I love yous/ but i bet you if they only knew/ they would just be jealous of us.” No, they’d probably lock up their daughter, but the thought of an all-consuming love that no one else can penetrate is what One Direction promises better than Bieber, better than The Wanted, better than anyone out there right now.
The album ends with “Summer Love, ” a frankly gorgeous acoustic guitar-based ballad. The end of summer fills in metaphorically for our time with 1D coming to a close. It’s slow, luscious, and sweeping as it swells with strings, but never goes too far over the top. I’m so far out of the One Dimension demographic, I practically need a GPS to find it, but this one had me swooning.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, but don’t worry. As they promise on “Back For You,” they’re coming back.