ETA: This was originally posted on another blog almost a year ago. When I gave this blog a makeover a few months ago I completely forgot about the other blog and thought I’d lost this entire post. Turns out I hadn’t, so here it is. A bit outdated, but still pretty representative of how I feel about this album.
Here is a fact about me: a few years back I used to be one of those teens who thought not liking pop music was cooler than loving it. I have since grown up.
Here is another, more relevant fact about me: back in 2013 I irreversibly found myself falling head first into the One Direction mania. As such, it is hard to write about Made in the AM in any unbiased way; everything will ultimately be coloured by my experience of the band through fandom, both for better and for worse.
Here is a last fact about me: I sometimes ramble. A lot. Especially about things I love. I have been working on this post for a couple of weeks. The delay is partially due the fact that my initial draft for this post was 3000 words long and did in large part involve me rambling. I have now edited it down (somewhat), and much like a stereotypical super villain I will now explain how this review will be structured. After a short summary of my thoughts on the album as a whole I have decided to not address all the songs chronologically, but rather group them into three categories: the ‘musically fun’, the ‘lyrically interesting’ and the ones that fit both that I’ve chosen to simply call ‘my favourites’ which will be discussed slightly more in depth.
As far as One Direction albums go, Made in the AM is the one that feels the most different. I chalk it up to the band’s own claim that this is the first album where they had time to sit down and work out what they wanted to create, as well as the fact that it’s the first album that didn’t have to be fit for a stadium tour. Personally I really like Made in the AM. I can’t say if it’s the best they’ve done, because I measure these things by how I experience them, not so much by quality of music. Midnight Memories came out right as I started listening and is closely tied to a lot of my early memories of the band. Four came out when I was deep into fandom and really catered to my overall musical tastes. Made in the AM does so as well, but is also coloured by the band going on break for an indefinite amount of time.
I have seen a lot of talk about how this, like any One Direction album, is a bit all over the place in terms of style. I’m not disagreeing, there are certainly different influences at play on this album, but I think that the common thread is that all of it is strongly influenced by other eras of musical styles spanning from the 60s to the 90s, giving the album an overall theme of nostalgia that is mirrored by its lyrical content. A good number of the songs are about endings, longing and reassurances that things are not over. In many ways it comes across very bittersweet. Coincidentally, that is my favourite kind of music.
Time to discuss the songs individually!
Hey Angel is a really good album opener. It’s reminiscent of Dear Prudence, Bittersweet Symphony and Millennium, to name a few. I especially like when the song transitions into more talk-y singing towards the end, but find that I do skip this track a lot when I put the album on shuffle. This goes for Wolves as well. I have no clue what it is about but it’s a fun song. I particularly like the pre-chorus bit that Niall sings on the second chorus.
Never Enough and Temporary Fix are fun and a nice up tempo break from the overall chill sound of the album. Never Enough was a bit of a shock to the system when I first listened to it. The ‘ahoa‘s and the ‘c’mon‘s took a bit getting used to, but by the end of my first listening to it I had the chorus stuck in my head. As for Temporary Fix, I especially enjoy Harry’s ‘rock scream’ towards the end of the bridge. It’s not lyrically deep, but who doesn’t like a good pop tune about a one night stand? Fun fact, whenever they sing ‘And we can roam in the darkness, let me touch you where your heart is‘ I keep hearing ‘moan’ and ‘you’re hardest/hottest’ rather than ‘roam‘ and ‘your heart is‘, which if intentional is really clever, and if not is a fun coincidence.
I’ll start off with End of the Day because it doesn’t perfectly fit into either category. It made me feel confused when I listened to it the first time, and nothing has changed in that respect really. I know people say that the melodic change between verse and chorus makes it more interesting but I can’t decide if I think it’s clever or just a bit too strange. I do however love the first verse a lot both melodically and lyrically.
Perfect does not fit perfectly (pun not intended) into this category either, but while I don’t love the composition of the verses, I enjoy that it is about one night stands but sung in a style that is usually used in more traditional love songs. And while everyone is all up in arms trying to find out if the bridge is referring to Taylor Swift, I’m more interested in whether or not the bridge is intentionally there to add ambiguity to how we feel about said casual relationship. Because while the verses suggest fun flings, the bride does add a more sober tone a la ‘this is all I can offer’, which in my opinion makes it a lot more interesting.
Infinity is somehow really hard to write about, but I definitely enjoy how it uses time and space metaphors in order to tell a story. It’s quite cleverly written, and melodically pretty, but also not the most exciting thing to come off the album for me personally. I love the line ‘eyes can’t shine, unless there’s something burning bright behind, since you went away there’s nothing left in mine’.
Long Way Down reminds me of Spaces (off FOUR). It walks the line of being a bit too heavy handed on the imagery for me, but some of the phrasings are really pretty. I love the chorus a lot, especially how it builds and falls to mirror the lyrics ‘we built it up so high and now we’re falling, it’s a long way down‘. I appreciate the sentiment of it, that feeling of having wasted time, of having not quite managed achieve what you wanted and how it reflects fame and the fear or losing the momentum they have right now as they’re going on a break. It is also commonly seen as ‘the song about Zayn’, as far as I understand.
Love You Goodbye has some stand out lines that I really like, such as ‘it’s impossible to know if after this we could still be friends‘ and ‘unforgettable together held the whole world in our hands, it’s unexplainable the love that only we could understand, I know there’s nothing I can do to change it, but is there something that can be negotiated‘ because for me they capture that aspect of break ups that is losing a friend as well as a lover, and that dual feeling of knowing it’s over while still wishing it could all be worked out.
I Want to Write You a Song is fun because of how meta it is about song writing, like the line ‘with just a hint of pain for the feeling that I get when you are gone‘, for example. And the phrasing ‘I want to build you a boat, one as beautiful as you are free, so anytime you think that your heart is gonna sink you know it won’t‘ is pretty nice. I appreciate how all their voices sound a bit rawer here than they’re usually allowed to sound, especially Louis on the chorus. The imperfections work for the emotion of the song.
For some inexplicable reason, History reminds me of watching the Parent Trap, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s one of the songs that I feel most resonates as a song about the band and the fact that they’re going away for a bit. Regardless of its many possible interpretations, it works perfectly as what One Direction themselves have said it is; a song to and about the fans.
I think the timing of Drag Me Down, the way it dropped without warning, and how it was just a little different from anything they had done before made it work really well as the first thing to come out of the post-Zayn era. Whether it’s about family, fans, whoever or whatever else, it punched home that One Direction still wanted to keep going. This post will be long enough without discussing music videos as well, but I really enjoyed how it made use of some really typical 90s boyband music video tropes such as standing in formation in front of an airplane in a hangar a la Backstreet Boys. Whether intentionally or not, it gave the impression of saying that no, we’re not that style of boyband for the most part, but we know and embrace our history.
Olivia is one of my favourites for a few reasons. It’s a bit quirky, to the point where I wasn’t sure how to feel at first. I’m still not quite sure what the lyrics are trying to tell me. It’s got a distinct sense of sadness to it despite how the choruses lyrically, and the song overall melodically, are really uplifting and catchy. I like when lyrics and melody in a song evoke contrasting sentiments in that way. There is also a shift from second to third person narration in the second verse that I wonder whether is intentional or not. I love the alliteration in the chorus, the tongue twisty progression of ‘I love you I love you I love I love I love Olivia‘, and the way it goes into melodies reminiscent of Pure Imagination as the bridge addresses how Olivia lives in their imagination. The song comes across as both catchy and clever.
What a Feeling is definitely one of the ones I unexpectedly fell in love with. I really love the harmonies and the way it’s reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. Lyrically I’m not sure I’ve been able to wrap my head around what it’s telling me, but it has that element of both sadness and joy that Olivia has. I love the line in the chorus that goes ‘you’ve got stars in your eyes, and I’ve got something missing tonight, what a feeling to be a king beside you somehow, I wish I could be there now‘. I also appreciate the throwback to Long Way Down in the line ‘with no way out and a long way down, everybody needs someone around’.
If I Could Fly was the song everyone and their mother was raving about before I had listened to anything from AM, which meant I had really high expectations. As a result, the first time I listened to it I thought it was just fine, but I’ve since come to appreciate it a lot more. Lyrically it’s pretty much tailored to my interests. Call me sappy or cheesy, but I love a good song about tragic love and obstacles and wanting to overcome them. Melodically it felt a bit too simple the first time, but it makes up for that on almost every listen because I keep discovering new things in the harmonies towards the end. I especially love how the bit in the last chorus has been split four ways rather than just one or two of them singing it.
I think AM was an excellent song to pull the album title from considering how the sentiment of the song is that the best memories and best conversations happen in the am when everything is a mix of deep meaningful conversations and just ‘talking out of our asses‘. It’s a good way to end the album with a promise of ‘you know I’m always coming back to this place‘. I love the pre-chorus line that goes ‘you and me were raised in the same part of town, got these scars on the same ground, remember how we used to stick around just wasting time‘. It doesn’t necessarily outright fit the band, but it’s still such a relatable feeling of belonging somewhere where it doesn’t matter if you leave for a while, you’re still going to come back to it. Also, because I’m eternally in love with the song writing process, I love that it was written in a cab driving around London.
Saving the best for last, Walking in the Wind is my favourite song off the album. At first I liked it as a bittersweet love song, then I liked it as a song about the band ending and going their separate ways, and then I loved it as a song about losing someone. I have since heard talk about it supposedly being written about Harry’s grandmother who passed away, but I think the beauty of the song lies in the fact that it works either way. The song opens with ‘A week ago you said to me do you believe I’ll never be too far‘, introducing the phrase as spoken by a separate person from the one who is writing the song. The clever thing about this is that with no quotation marks you can interpret yourself whether the rest of the song is also from the perspective of the ‘you’ in the song, or if it’s just that one line. The line ‘the fact that we can sit right here and say goodbye means we’ve already won‘ is my favourite in every interpretation of the song, as a relationship that’s ending but not completely severing the tie between two people, as the band being able to sit down and decide to press pause on their own terms, or as a reference to being able to say goodbye to someone who is dying. I could probably write about this song forever, but I’ll end by saying that I love that in the second verse when Louis sings ‘yesterday I went out to celebrate the birthday of a friend‘ it sounds as if a syllable is missing at the start, and as it is followed by the line ‘and as we raised our glasses up I realised you were missing‘ it makes it feel as if the missing syllable is there to represent that feeling of missing someone. But that might just be me reading into it too much.