One Direction: ‘Four’

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Today One Direction released their fourth studio album – aptly titled ‘Four’- and it is in my opinion the best album they’ve made to date. As a more recent fan, I am most likely biased in favour of their more recent releases, but I stand by the opinion that this is the first album that properly showcases the full range of their talents, both vocally and lyrically. Which is not to say there’s no merit to their earlier work; I love Midnight Memories, and the mere play-count on my iTunes proves that I really enjoy listening to their early works (how weird is it that you can say early works about a band that’s been around for 4 years?) But ‘Four’ caters to my interests in a way none of the others have managed, at least not as cohesively.

I read a review that said ‘Four’ was reminiscent of a mix of Bon Jovie’s 90s rock sound with the lyricism of Ed Sheeran, which I agree with. I also think that tracks such as ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ have a 80s rock feel to them, and ‘No Control’ reminds me vaguely of The Killers. The important thing for me is that regardless of what immediate associations the songs give me, I think ‘Four’ has a very cohesive sound throughout, despite the fact that not everyone contributed on all the tracks. It’s also worth noting that only two tracks (not counting the deluxe tracks), ’18’ and ‘Girl Almighty’, were written without input from the band themselves, which speaks both to how far they’ve come as writers, but also to how much this album is representative of their own sound. It’s simpler, it’s more rocky, and it’s thematically more mature and reflective, all of which I enjoy a lot.

I’m going to go through the album song by song, because it’s the only way I know to give this post any semblance of structure.

Steal My Girl

This song is fun, but it is by far the weakest song on the album, and it frustrates me that it was released as the first single. However, I understand that they wanted a transitional song, tying together their old sound with the new, sort of like Best Song Ever did for ‘Midnight Memories’. I really like the rhythm of the verses and how they’re speak-singing, but the chorus is a bit bland, it’s very overproduced and I find the lyrics a bit questionable overall. That said, it has been growing on me recently.

Ready to Run

Going from Steal My Girl to Ready to Run is like going from 10 to 100, because I love this song. The first time I listened to it I loved it even before the vocals kicked in. The acoustic guitar sound immediately appeals to me. I love the lyrics that are very obviously written by Louis and Liam, and it’s incredibly catchy. It’s been pointed out that the song is similar to Story of My Life, which I’d agree with.

Where Do Broken Hearts Go

This one is really reminiscent of the 80s sound. It’s a big song, no doubt one of the songs I’m most excited about hearing them sing live in a stadium next summer. Harry has yet to write a song I don’t like so I am even more biased here, but I really love it. It’s incredibly catchy; it would have been great as the first single (much like Happily…I’m never letting that one go). It fits thematically with most of the other songs written by Harry, telling a story about a relationship that ended badly with a hopeful edge. It’s just really good.

18

This is so obviously an Ed Sheeran song. The melody, the lyrics, and the way it builds and changes up in the chorus. It took me a bit longer to come around to this song, if I’m being honest. I don’t think a song needs to be written by the performing artist in order to carry meaning (just look at Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ for example), but on an album where 10/12 songs are written by the band themselves, this felt like the least important one. It was written by Ed Sheeran and Passenger after Simon Cowell approached Ed about it. It is very pretty, much like any Ed Sheeran song. Zayn and Harry in particular sound fantastic on it.

Girl Almighty

This song was written by Julian Bunetta, who has written both for and with One Direction on several occasions before. It’s incredibly catchy. When my sister and I first listened to it we immediately started bopping along to it, and decided that it’s going to be one of those songs we play a lot because it’s just so happy and joyful. Who doesn’t love a song about girl power?

Fool’s Gold

This is such a great love song about false love! Jamie Scott, who co-wrote it, said this about the song: “It’s someone saying I know that what I’m getting from you isn’t complete love, but I’m happy with what I’m getting and I’m just going to carry on because this is making me feel better than not being loved by someone and I know that it’s fool’s gold”. All the boys contributed on this song, but to me it thematically screams Harry (it’s very reminiscent of the song he wrote for Ariana Grande). Regardless of whose creative input lit the spark for this song, it is really beautiful, and all their vocals are perfect. As I’m writing this it is probably my favourite track.

Most memorable lyric(s): ‘I’m like a crow on a wire, You’re the shining distraction that makes me fly home’ but also just the entire chorus: ‘And, yeah I’ve let you use me from the day that we first met, But I’m not done yet, Falling for your fool’s gold, And I knew that you turn it on for everyone you met, But I don’t regret, Falling for your fool’s gold’

Night Changes

I had to listen to this a couple of times before I really started to appreciate it. I like that it has a narrative. It’s different from their usual singles, and people who will only listen to their radio singles will probably not be able to immediately associate this with One Direction , but at the same time it is so them.

No Control

I read the lyrics to this song before I heard it, and yeah, this song is all about sex and it is way more mature than anything they’ve done before. Or at least less veiled in its maturity. Aside from that, it’s a very poppy and upbeat song. This is also one that I needed to listen to a couple of times to really appreciate. I prefer the verses; the bass guitar rhythm appeals to me more than the chorus, but it works as a complete song too. And Zayn sounds fantastic as ever.

Fireproof

I wrote about this song when it was first released as a free download, so you can check that out here if you want. It’s still one of my favourites.

Spaces

Spaces is, for me, one of the weaker songs on the record. It’s about the difficulties of having a long distance relationship, which I think is a story it tells pretty well. I’ve heard theories about how it might also be interpreted as a song about the band, thus more as contemplation about their future together. I don’t think that’s what it actually is, but as a big supporter of applying your own meaning to songs, I think it’s a nice (yet sad) thing to think about. And this is definitely one of Zayn’s strongest songs on this album. He’s so good!

Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome is also a big contender for best song on the album. I LOVE the rhythm and beat in this song so much. It’s incredibly addictive. It’s electronic in the right way, and it’s a really different sound from what Harry’s ever done before. It’s become the topic of a lot of discussion because of the title, but it’s as far as I know a love song. I’ve been unable to decide if I think the “love story” in the song is positive, negative or somewhere in between. Knowing Harry’s style (pun not intended) I’d say a mix is the safe bet. Then again, in a recent interview Harry joked that it was about a nympho, so make of that what you will.

Clouds

I really hope they do it live. It’s a big song, and I love both the rhythm of the verses and the build up to the guitar riffs in the chorus. I think the song is about a break up, and about friendship, but I honestly think sound trumps lyrical content here for me. It’s just really fun and a good end to the album (if you exclude the deluxe tracks).

Most memorable lyric: ‘I know you said, That you don’t like it complicated, That we should try to keep it simple, But love is never ever simple’

Speaking of said deluxe tracks…

Change Your Ticket

My first thought when this came on was that this is one of the songs they supposedly wrote with The 1975. According to Wikipedia, it’s not. However, the overall sound of it is very reminiscent of their style. Change Your Ticket is actually quite nice. I’ve only listened to it twice but I enjoyed it both times. It’s catchy, and it’s about wanting to spend more time with someone (in bed), so it seems to go pretty well with the rest of the album.

Illusion

So far I think this is a bit forgettable. From what I’ve read it’s written about Liam and his girlfriend, but that’s all I know. I don’t want to write anything more, because I have not properly made up my mind about it. It’s not bad, just not memorable.

Once In A Lifetime

This is a very pretty song. It reminds me of something, but I can’t put my finger on what. I really like how their voices sound on it, and how they harmonize on the chorus.

Act My Age

This song is so so stupid, but also really enjoyable. The first time I listened to it I was a bit baffled by how ridiculous it is, but you can hear how much fun they’re having, which for me is very infectious. That being said, I do prefer songs where you can hear individual voices more than these “let’s all of us sing together” types of arrangements. It’s reminiscent of the party on the third deck in Titanic, and even if the lyrics are really ridiculous, I kind of like the whole idea of just not caring what other people think about you and having fun.

So what you’ve probably gathered from this incredibly long post is that I really love what they’ve done with this album. It showcases some of the best song writing they’ve done to date and it has outstanding vocal performances from everyone. I would say Louis is by far the most improved, Zayn has some outstanding moments on several tracks, and Harry’s voice (which I’ve always preferred over everyone else’s) is really suited for this type of music. I’ve read a lot of posts saying how it would be a shame if people let their bias against boybands keep them from checking out this album, because I think it has the potential to really appeal to people outside of One Direction’s previous demographic in a way none of the other albums have had so far. So if you have managed to read to the end of this post, please encourage former naysayers to have a listen. And then tell me what you think!

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