Album: “Take Me Home”
Pitchforks: 4 out of 5
Label: Syco Entertainment
Release: Nov. 13
With temperatures peaking at 93 degrees last week, maybe it isn’t too late for that last-minute road trip. And just in time, British quintet One Direction, often credited with sparking a resurgence of the boy band frenzy that marked the late 1990s, has released its road trip-ready sophomore album “Take Me Home.”
The band, drawn from the seventh season of UK’s “X Factor,” brought on a bevy of new producers and songwriters to craft the follow-up to its popular debut “Up All Night.” What has come out of the process actually manages to rival its predecessor.
The first track, “Live While We’re Young” is classic One Direction (or, as classic as it can be after one album). Written by the three songwriters and producers behind the majority of “Up All Night,” this track is clean and catchy but nothing that hasn’t been done by the group before.
“Take Me Home” features greater jumps in genre and style than One Direction has shown before. Plus, everything sounds better now that the guys in the band have grown into their voices. Harry Styles won’t be singing any more songs written for a vocal range that is an octave or two above what he can manage.
What’s more, the two members generally relegated to harmonizing for the majority of the debut album, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson, are being featured much more soundly on “Take Me Home.” It’s refreshing to hear a new dynamic and less formulaic pattern from song to song. Much of “Up All Night” featured Liam Payne at the beginning of each song, with Styles following with the choruses and Zayn Malik pulling off all of the vocal acrobatics. Songs like the sugary-sweet ballad “Little Things” offer much more balance between the members.
In fact, balance seems to be the name of the game this time around. Unlike “Up All Night,” “Take Me Home” isn’t 40 minutes of nearly non-stop, fast-paced pop. Instead, “Back for You” is a rock-influenced track featuring a full band, while “Little Things” is stripped down and acoustic. “Heart Attack” is light-hearted, while “Rock Me” is heavy and loaded. The variety provides some interesting shading in the One Direction repertoire.
There are a few wildcards on this album interspersed between solid tracks, like the abovementioned, “Little Things” and “Last First Kiss.” By the halfway mark, it is clear that new writers were involved. “Rock Me” and “Heart Attack” sound so bizarrely incongruous to the sound listeners have come to know, and it’s disconcerting. The former is a stomp-clap anthem that’s heavy on the guitar and so painfully catchy, it’ll be stuck in listeners’ heads for days. The latter is clean, computer-generated pop. It verges on Maroon 5 in its elasticity, featuring plenty of vocal swoops and cheeky hooks.
In fact, the entire album is structured much like Maroon 5’s recent release, “Overexposed,” which features a range of genres to meet the varied tastes of its listeners.
One Direction’s new release is no musical revolution, but it is certainly well-produced from top to bottom. The songs are well-written, well-mixed and well-suited for the Billboard charts. In fact, the most pertinent question now seems to be: Which one will be released as the new single? There’s no dearth of songs to choose from.
Yes, One Direction can be solidly classified as “Top 40,” but it is good “Top 40,” and “Take Me Home” has proven that.
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