One Direction have been busy on the interview circuit as they promote their album Made in the A.M and as the first phase of their musical career draws to a close.
Made in the A.M. was released on November 13 and is a lighter, quirkier, and folkier affair than the soulful, Fleetwood Mac-inflected Four.
Made in the A.M sees the band turning to another iconic British four-piece — the Beatles — for inspiration. “Hey Angel” is a wistful opener that sounds better after a few listens, when the subtleties of the vocal performances — like the grit and power in Harry’s voice in the second verse (“Do you ever try to come to the other side?”), which is sung over the barest musical backing and followed by an elegant syncopated transition to the next line (“Hey Angel!”) as the curly-haired crooner recovers from his majestic feat — start to hit you. It’s also fun to hear Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne (who have very different types of voices) harmonizing when the song picks up for a faster “hook”/outro segment (the one that begins “I see you in the bar” and ends with “It’s a beautiful sound/It’s a beautiful noise”).
— One Direction (@onedirection) November 17, 2015
The song is lyrically elusive — meanings come together, solidify, and then dissolve again, ethereal as the form of the eponymous Angel. The “Angel” of the title does not seem to be a flesh-and-blood woman or girl but a mistier entity: a literal angel, or perhaps a creative muse.
Do you know the reasons why
we look up to the sky?
Do you look at us and laugh when we hold on to the past?
Oh I wish I could be more like you
Do you wish you could be more like me?”
Lyricist Julian Bunetta appears to be playing with New Age notions that the physical body is a temporary state bestowed on earthly beings who have not yet achieved the level of wisdom required to “ascend” (the songwriter also adds a wistful twist the concept — Bunetta’s angel wishes she could enjoy the pleasures of the body with the 1D boys, drinking in that bar with Liam and incarnating as Harold for long enough to ensure that he doesn’t “waste away [his life]”). Perhaps the long-haired 1D songwriter, who has more than a dash of “guru” in his look, has been reading up on such spiritual teachings or listening to the likes of Teal Swan.
Aptly for a record-breaking band with worldwide appeal, the lyrics on Made in the A.M. are full of epic images: huge drops, magnificent climbs, a roll off the edge of the earth in a speeding car (in the verse of “Never Enough”) and, indeed, “Infinity” (that song also contains a reference to “going faster than a million miles an hour”).
Visually, the globe-conquering boy-banders also went for big gestures: a “Perfect” video with a panoramic New York skyline backdrop and a video for “Drag Me Down” that was filmed at NASA and ends with the foursome shooting into space in a rocket ship. Are the boys — who were plucked from obscurity, foisted into worldwide superstardom, ordered to tour and release albums on a yearly basis, and hounded relentlessly by passionate fans and a nosy press — feeling a bit of vertigo (a bit like they have been going “a million miles an hour”)?
— 1D Updates (@1D_FanUpdates) November 17, 2015
Even relationships end with a spectacular bang. Breakup sex ballad “Love You Goodbye” is the most straight-up beautiful song on the album, with a wistful, singing guitar closing out the chorus, a high note by Louis Tomlinson, lyrics that are just dangerous enough to add interest (there is a moment where sex becomes transactional: “is there something that can be negotiated?” sings Niall Horan in the second verse, recalling the cool sexual calculation of a modern pickup artist, and identifying the song’s love interest perilously with a “lady of the night,” or prostitute).
Outlets, including the Inquisitr, have speculated about who the Louis Tomlinson-penned track refers to. A further clue may be found in the lines “Unforgettable together, held the whole world in our hands/Indescribable, a love that only we could understand.” Who else could Louis be thinking of but lover-of-four-years Eleanor Calder, whose runway model-stunning looks and pristine self-presentation made her truly unforgettable alongside the handsome Louis, inspiring innumerable, adoring pictorial tributes to the pair, including one by J14. Louis, who admitted in an interview in his younger years that he can be “vain” (he actually declared that only pouty, brooding Zayn Malik outdoes him in the vanity stakes), surely enjoyed his four-year sojourn alongside the impeccable Eleanor, whose heartbreak upon hearing of the Briana Jungwirth pregnancy was surely only matched by the dizzy bliss of her years as one-half of the world’s most beautiful couple.
“Never Enough” is spiced up with some vocally distorted ad libs, a zany “come on!” in the bridge and an outro segment with a positively manic vocal spazz-out (sounds like it might be Liam Payne) that closes off the lively ode to freedom, risk-taking, and intense crushes. “Olivia” is so Beatles that Niall Horan actually sounds exactly like Paul McCartney at one point (during the “…your creation” interlude when the music drops out).
“What a Feeling” is pure class — dreamy and understated. “Olivia” and “I Want To Write You A Song” are simple in the Beatles sense, with an endearing vividness and quirkiness — there is a purity to them, in that they are stripped of zany effects and production gimmicks and draw their power from strong melodies and memorable lyrics. “Long Way Down” and “History” are pleasant but a touch forgettable.
At one point on Made in the A.M. (the album’s only flat moment, the dreary “Infinity”), One Direction co-opt the sound of Coldplay, a band that possesses possibly the most generic and bland sound in recent pop music — the Independent compared Coldplay’s sound to “wilted spinach” — and whom the talented boy-banders (One Direction are prime targets for the “bland, generic” tag simply by virtue of the fact that they are in a boy band that sprung from a reality television program) should stay away from in the event that they regroup.
Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson will work until the end of the year and then begin their much-scrutinised and commented-on hiatus. The foursome should be pleased with this closer to their first phase as a band. While possibly not quite the equal of the excellent Four, Made in the A.M. is as adventurous, winsome, and charming as the guys themselves, and sees them demonstrating sound songwriting promise.
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[Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images]