Tween favourites 1D are back with their fourth studio album, imaginatively titled Four. Their past three albums have had extraordinary commercial success, all of them going double (or triple) platinum, and reaching the top five in the UK albums charts. With the boys being teen icons, there’s no doubt that Four will follow suit commercially and sell thousands, if not millions, of copies; but unfortunately the record just isn’t as good as the ones that came before it.
With a host of celeb songwriting partners, I actually had high hopes for this record. Kodaline, members of McFly, The 1975 and Good Charlotte were all reported to have collaborated with members of One Direction to write songs. The list of high profile collaborators also included Ed Sheeran – who penned the group’s UK number one ‘Little Things’ – however, as exciting as these partnerships are, it unfortunately didn’t translate into the music.
My main issue with the album is that it sounds too forced. The band are clearly trying to take a step away from the bubble-gum tweenage pop that made them the household names they are today, but it hasn’t worked. Tracks like ‘Steal My Girl’ show real promise – with a brilliant 80s inspired introduction, but then the rest of the album just falls flat. These new elements seem like they’ve been forced in, and make the music seem unnatural.
One Direction (and their team of brilliant songwriters) have produced some absolute pop gems. ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, ‘Best Song Ever’ and ‘Story of My Life’ are all excellently written tracks; however, Four doesn’t have any stand-out songs like these. The record has the tendency to blur into one, and honestly, if I’m not paying attention, I can’t tell where one song ends and the next begins.
That being said, there were a few tracks that made my ears prick up and listen. ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ is a bouncy piece of electronic pop with a galloping drum beat and ‘Clouds’ is a pop nugget with an anthemic, sing-along chorus – these two tracks show that One Direction have still got it, it’s just a shame the rest of the album didn’t follow suit.
1D either need to take a leap of faith in the new direction they want to go in, or stay firmly where they are, but this album is halfway there and it just doesn’t work.
Four is out now via Syco/Columbia Records.