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Contrary to the band’s name, One Direction has redirected the pop style of its earlier albums in Midnight Memories, out Nov. 25. While still appealing to its formidable teen fan base, the third studio album veers toward an edgier, guitar-driven sound as bandmembers seek to affirm their burgeoning maturity within the industry.
One Direction started production of Midnight during its worldwide Take Me Home Tour and has released two successful singles from the album — “Story of My Life” and “Best Song Ever.” The music video for “Best Song Ever” beat out Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” for record views, tallying 12.3 million within 24 hours of its debut, according to Vevo.
Reviews have been mixed, with critics applauding the album’s lyrical development but hesitating in accepting the boy band’s rock detour.
See the critics’ takes below:
“One Direction proves once again that there is more Jonas Brothers than *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys in their boy band DNA,” writes Billboard’s Chris Payne. Commending the group for coming up with lyrics for 12 of the 14 tracks on Midnight Memories, Payne predicts, “Perhaps the rock band vibe will be an even greater theme as the band grows up.” Despite the band’s lyrical progression, however, the lyrics remain “PG.” Good news for parents: One Direction “is still tween friendly.”
The Guardian’s Kitty Empire also notes “signs of maturity on One Direction’s third album,” which “looks certain to cement them as a global phenomenon.” Empire awarded Midnight Memories three out of five stars, casting doubts about the “emotionally charged rather than carnally inclined” tracks. But while the boy band may fail to captivate “some notional American heartland 30 years older than 1D’s fan base,” Empire concludes that the album “does its job, in more ways than one.”
“Midnight uses classic rock as a color the way last year’s Take Me Home used electronic dance music,” says USA Today’s Brian Mansfield. By incorporating “elements of pop power” with “more guitar-based” tracks, One Direction has shown audiences that they’ve got more than boy band charisma to fall back on. Indeed, “the best songs, such as the current single, ‘Story of My Life,’ suggest the group’s finest memories may still lie ahead.”
The Telegraph’s Neil McCormick calls Midnight Memories “cheeky, swaggeringly confident pop rock from the boys who know they’re onto a winner.” With increased songwriting freedom, the band’s evolution manifests to a certain extent, but McCormick almost seems to lament that “frankly, there’s nothing to twerk to.” Midnight “is all a little lustier and tub-thumping than before,” but remains ultimately “generic, it is always going to remind you of something else.”
After their debut on X Factor UK in 2010, One Direction has amassed a wide range of entertainment industry accolades, including record-breaking album sales, prolific merchandising, and a successful box-office run with this summer’s One Direction: This Is Us. With these accomplishments in mind, Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Catucci is confident that Midnight Memories “will sell.”
But that doesn’t mean the album is inherently good. The group members “yearn and vamp yet mainly project self-satisfaction,” Catucci contends. “They avoid angelic harmonies” but fall short of the album’s ambitious, lyrical themes, singing “like dudes with something of a God complex themselves.”
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