Having never jumped on the boy band bandwagon before, I know that I’m out of One Direction‘s target audience. Yet, they’re still intriguing because, while they’re a singing group, they’re also celebrities who cater to teenage fans just like the boy bands of a decade ago, and the decade before that.
Like boy bands of years gone, One Direction will one day serve as a form of nostalgia for today’s youth who will listen back to these songs and longingly say their era of teen pop was the best. Admittedly I can now say a decade and a half later that some hits by the Backstreet Boys are some of my 90s guilty pleasures. So while I’m not the intended audience for 1D, I was once part of an age group for similar acts.
An article on Billboard does a comparison of One Direction’s third record to other thirds by boy bands of the past and it seems to fit – almost to a tee.
Like Black & Blue and ‘N Sync‘s No Strings Attached, for example, all of the members of 1D have writing credits on Midnight Memories and most of the tracks have input by at least one of the guys. And like those two aforementioned classic boy-band pop albums, 1D are moving away from simply singing about cutesy feel-good crushes to providing more firsthand and sometimes daring and mature lyrics.
The third album of a boy-band is what separates them from each other and it’s probably what differentiates One Direction from their predecessors the most.
The album is a touring record. It was written on tour, sometimes about being on tour (Don’t Forget Where You Belong) and the songs are meant to be performed in big arenas.
While BSB and ‘N Sync went for BIG in their songs, they aimed for futuristic bigness. One Direction goes the other way with the big sounds of 80s hair-metal arena-rock. The title track, Midnight Memories, takes a page from Pour Some Sugar On Me with a huge wall-to-wall chorus. Little White Lies fuses 80s guitar-distortion with a hint of dubstep, and Best Song Ever opens like a Survivor song.
They aim for bigness in other sounds too. Happily is the little brother of Phillip Phillips‘ anthemic folk-rock Gone Gone Gone while Story Of My Life, the only song on the album with songwriting contributed by all five members, has a heart-stopping chorus that easily surpasses any of ballads from the last generation of boy-bands.
They focus on pop of today too. Something Great is produced by Jacknife Lee, who has worked with U2, R.E.M. and a lot of Snow Patrol. The sound is more grown up that likens them closer to that of OneRepublic.
Speaking of, Ryan Tedder co-wrote and produced Right Now, the most modern-day American-sounding track on the album. With its Wrecking Ball-like intro, the song is likely a contender to complete their crossover to North American pop radio, which, so far, has mostly eluded them. Even though they’re household names in North America, they’ve only had one Top 10 hit on Pop radio with What Makes You Beautiful.
Midnight Memories places One Direction in guilty pleasure territory, meaning they’re on par with Backstreet Boys nostalgia and ahead of Justin Bieber. It doesn’t have any surprises but it points to what could be if 1D ever wanted to break away from the boy-band mold even further.
1. Best Song Ever
2. Story Of My Life
4. Midnight Memories
5. You And I
6. Don’t Forget Where You Belong
9. Right Now
10. Little Black Dress
11. Through The Dark
12. Something Great
13. Little White Lies
14. Better Than Words
15. Why We Don’t Go There*
16. Does He Know*
18. Half A Heart*