★★★☆☆

 Three Stars

 

It is safe to say that One Direction has never been a cool or edgy band to like. The disdain and scepticism I have been met with when admitting to liking the band is, quite frankly, tiring, and the arrival of their new album, Made in the A.M., only proves that everyone is being a bit silly. The album is well written, well-produced and the perfect thing to leave fans with as they go on a nearly two-year long break. I would sit up, take notice and give it a serious listen.

Made in the A.M. is a formidable work. ‘A.M.’, the somewhat-eponymous track, plays on the theme established in previous hit singles ‘Up All Night’ and ‘Midnight Memories’, of partying through the night. The change in direction (pun intended) of the band, however, can be seen even here: ‘A.M.’, despite playing off previously established themes, is much more mellow and laidback compared to rocky ‘Midnight Memories’, and poppy, energetic ‘Up All Night’. Other tracks on the new album fit into this theme, with ‘Never Enough’ and ‘Temporary Fix’ echoing previous tracks like ‘No Control’ with a playful sound, but even this is more measured and mature. The more upbeat tracks contrast nicely with ‘Infinity’ and ‘If I Could Fly’, both of which have rather long build-ups , which create a rather mature emotional narrative. Overall, then, a strong set of tracks that deserves to be taken seriously.

The band, in its progression onto newer and better things, is starting to be taken seriously, evidenced by their performance on the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge this week. Creatively, the departure of Zayn Malik hasn’t created a large hole in the group. Does this suggest that the band is merely the product of a well-oiled publicity machine? Or are the boys just capable of moving on and creating a decent sound without his often-unbelievable vocal range?

And what of their upcoming break? Many were shocked, some anguished, at the announcement that One Direction would be taking a break from now until March 2017. The album seems to be a way for the band to wave farewell: the fan contribution to the chorus of ‘History’ seems to be a final thanks, while ‘I Want to Write You a Song’ says a definite goodbye. There does, however, seem to be hope for the future: lines like “we could make some more [music]” are future-facing, giving us grieving fans a light at the end of the tunnel that this is hiatus. Ultimately, though, this album only goes to prove my point that we need to sit up and take notice of One Direction, but not as an insignificant, manufactured band. They have established themselves as talented and sound performers, with self-propelled creative direction. No one is above listening to One Direction.