Album Review: Made in the A.M.
Long gone are the sugary-sweet pop anthems and generic melodies of One Direction’s first album. On their new record, their fifth one to date, the record-breaking quartet prove themselves to be mature and talented singers and songwriters.
Made in the A.M., out now since November 13th, is a carefully crafted pop-folk collection of 13 songs (17 on the deluxe edition), and it’s obvious by listening to it that the band has come a long way from the one-dimensional songs of their debut, Up All Night, released nearly four years ago.
This album could either make or break them. The band announced an extended break in the next year, months after the departure of former member Zayn Malik in March earlier this year. Speculation has been going around that Made in the A.M. might as well be the last One Direction album we’ll ever get to hear. If that turns out to be true, though, the band’s leaving on a high.
The songs incorporate a wide variety of distinct influences, ranging from the likes of Coldplay and U2 in the powerful opening track “Hey Angel” to the groovy melodies of Lionel Richie in “What a Feeling,” amongst others. We can hear The Beatles in “Olivia,” and Kings of Leon in “Temporary Fix.” Overall, the result is rich in tones, and not only so, but it’s also well-executed. Despite their distinct differences, the songs aren’t all over the place, but fit with one another perfectly, creating an easy-flowing, sonically cohesive ensemble.
The song writing is another great feature of the album. Band members Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne are the main writers—just like they’ve been on the two previous ones, FOUR and Midnight Memories—and together, they have penned some of the highlights of this album. “End of the Day” amongst others, distinguishes itself from the lot by alternating between quick-paced verses and a slowed down, foot-stomping chorus, all the while detailing what seems to be the ups and downs of a young love affair.
Other members Harry Styles and Niall Horan are, however, responsible of what can arguably be the greatest songs on the album. The piano-driven ballad “If I Could Fly”, penned by Styles, is a clear testimony of the young singer’s talent with words. You see this not with how intricate the lines are, but with how much emotion they carry. On the other hand, Horan is actually the one who’s behind what’s definitely the most interesting track of the album. The intriguingly outlandish and catchy “Never Enough,” that features doo-wops, brass instruments and percussions that give the song an edgy character that, surprisingly, isn’t off-putting.
Fan favourites are sure to include the exciting upbeat track “Drag Me Down” (which caused quite a surprise amongst fans upon its release due to the different sound it has as opposed to their earlier material) along with “A.M.” and “History,” which hold a personal quality in their lyrics that is something that wasn’t quite heard of One Direction before. While “A.M.” recounts tales of late conversations with old friends and is hauntingly nostalgic in its sound, “History” is a more upbeat, catchy sing-along tune that’s dedicated to the fans. Featuring gang vocals and a simple acoustic soundtrack, the song lets the band sing about their relationship with their fans in a way that lets them know that the band is here to stay; as Tomlinson sings, “this is not the end / we can make it / you know it, you know.”
Overall, the record is a great surprise. Neither of the two singles, “Drag Me Down” nor the power pop song “Perfect,” could have prepared us for the well-rounded record that is Made in the A.M. Here’s to hoping that this isn’t the last we’ll hear of One Direction—then again, it wouldn’t be such a bad place to stop, either.
Written By: Sarah Boumedda
Originally Published: December 2015