Midnight Memories, the band's third album in four years was just leaked a few days ago and I've finally gotten the chance to be able to sink into it, and also perhaps gotten a respectable review on it. Though, will this new album prove doubters wrong that One Direction aren't just a typical boy band trying to imitate the likes of past legends such as the Backstreet Boys or even 'N Sync? Also, can they pull ahead of the race alongside tough competitors The Wanted?
First and foremost, I am no big fan of One Direction nor hated on them throughout their successful career so far, with a universal fan-base and even a documentary movie on the boys. Still, I've yet to forget their first major hit that brought them to stardom (What Makes You Beautiful), before going on successful runs with One Thing, Live While We're Young and now, the album's first two singles, Best Song Ever and Story Of My Life. To say that One Direction has an edge over other pop artists such as Katy Perry, Lady Gaga or even Miley Cyrus, of which all of their albums sold well under the 300,000 units mark in the States, could see One Direction hopefully taking fourth spot right behind Drake's big opening with Nothing Was The Same competing on first week sales. That's not to say of anything though, but the bias context of which I'm expressing is all thrown out the window.
So the first two singles did sink in after awhile, with Story Of My Life coming out on top of Best Song Ever. The second single did make more of an impact for me, while Best Song Ever did see the band get sipped off of creativity, with the single not their best but mediocre. And so, going into the album, I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be pop? They band themselves has had intentions of delving deep into a rock shift, which could turn off some fans or even lead to a disaster record since the first two singles don't really sound all that chunky with electric guitars blaring nor pounding beats slamming into our ears (probably the lead single did). But I did expect a rock tone and I got it. The problem is, not all was impressive and some of the tracks are very disappointing.
Midnight Memories does have a real concept and a very good attitude of direction, striving to connect the pop melodies with the rock resemblance and lunge it together with great songwriters in the form of OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol. The good thing that they really achieved was the instrumentals and the production, which was a hit and miss at the same time, but was probably the one that boosted some of the tracks which the vocals had left behind. However that is never enough. We all know while each member does have the strengths and is integral to a specific part of the song such as Harry usually taking the lead, non of the members are really, extremely powerful singers and does fall flat just before they reach the peak of a specific note. I am certainly not nitpicking, but it does damage and disrupt the album. That's when the production kicks in, helping with some EDM cores or some bass-lines, or perhaps even just some guitar chords to set them on their way without having to rely excessively on their tones, even though it's their strength at the same time. While some people could see it as not really a bad thing, you'll notice it on certain songs on the album.
So the album does have great opening tracks with the first two singles leading the way. Best Song Ever was a great starter, though it's melody doesn't really become memorable and Story Of My Life does help to heighten the emotional scale of the album. It's probably my favourite song off the album, but so is Diana, the next song which Justin Bieber himself has claimed great. It accompanies the title track Midnight Memories, which has a hook similar to Deff Leppard's Pour Some Sugar On Me. When I say similar, I say really really clear that it is almost the same thing. Diana does have a very well-written structure and does provide one of the best chorus on the album and Midnight Memories also evokes the rock vibe which the band has stated the album to have, and so hard it rocks that impresses with each listen. However, that's when the album starts to go downhill very quickly.
I know that boy bands aren't considered notable songwriters, nor even potent ones to craft very well, organised and suitable songs that prove to help the album rather than force repetitive choruses and non-interesting lines down our throats. It's not just hurtful, but rather annoying and at times do come to a point where such effects wane and they become irrelevant. I'm not saying One Direction members can't write, despite each member did contribute to most of the songs on the album, the songs individually lyrically don't even lack frontal approach, nor even come close good. That's when the tracks feel very shallow, lacking and at times sapped of creativity that counts on the production and the vocals to help it up. Though this problem has persisted in most boy bands in the past few decades, it's still essential to point it out when a new generation has come into the view.
That problem quickly takes on the form of the rest of the songs, or majority of them. You And I is a perfect example. The song is unique, but very disparate from the first four songs as well. It doesn't carry the vibe of a rock record from the previous track Midnight Memories, and it's essence wanes away far too easily. This can also be said for Don't Forget Where You Belong, Right Now, Something Great, Through The Dark and Happily. The tracks are spontaneous to change, but the weight it carries and the effort that it takes to force it through can't really be noticed, and most of it just feels out of place and consistent only on the choruses, and that is the only thing that shines. Lyricism is at a low, and the production, even on ballads, contains a pounding drum that feels almost like Queen's We Will Rock You. To add on, most of the track's memorable quality is at it's worse, and that's very important for a boy band that thrives on immediate capture rather than a second-shot (take a look at One Thing). However, this may be a positive, but what it lacks for in the catchy category doesn't all that make up for it in it's lyrical expertise and production-wise, also feels lacking. I know it feels hinged that this problems feels packed, but the whole album suffers from it and there's not much to control this weakness and ground it down.
Obviously apart from the first four songs, other tracks that are decent and also packs that punch would be Little Black Dress, Little White Lies and Better Than Words. Strong is a contender, though apart from the chorus, nothing else seems to fit perfectly. The other three are different. Little White Lies feels like a One Direction song with an upbeat, high-tempo groove that really showcases diversity. Little Black Dress is also a great song, almost in the same veins with Midnight Memories and does have that edge in production that pushes the song forward. Better Than Words is also one of my favourites off of the album, and showcases the band's vocal talent in ways never seen before. It does feel like Best Song Ever's reincarnation, but probably a tier-lower.
5.5/10: Midnight Memories doesn't address the issues which have been camped in the band's catalog for years. While they are certainly no doubt going to outsell their female peers, the band should also take note that the direction they are going aren't all that exceptional as well. To call an album 'rock', while only four out of fourteen tracks do have that grittier edge, is really incomprehensible. With that said, it is a decent album but suffers altogether lyrically. It's not their best album to date, though it does contain some of the best tracks the band has made, that's for sure. In a nutshell, Midnight Memories by One Direction is pleasantly mediocre, and you wouldn't be missing out much if you bought the first four songs and the last two songs on the album. Because, well, the album's really not that great.
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.