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The English-Irish pop group One Direction, known for their 2011 chart-smashing single “What Makes You Beautiful,” continues to woo teen girls with their latest album, “Take Me Home.”
Sadly, the major problem plaguing the group’s effort hurts many pop acts — a functionally sound handful of songs that fail to distinguish themselves by sound, vocal resonance and especially topical choice.
One Direction has acquired many comparisons to the Beatles, but the comparisons are superficial for the most part. Other than the group’s British origin, catchy pop sensibilities, enrapturing appeal to young girls and lyrical fixation on love at first sight, no stylistic agenda connects the two groups.
The five young members, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Harry Styles, certainly have good voices to compliment their dapper dressing, but none of them significantly impress or emotionally compel listeners.
Together, they perform in clean major tones with slight R&B embellishments. Other than the decadent hooks on “Summer Love,” however, the group rarely develops a harmony on the album that shows a need for more than three guys.
Since their voices are fairly similar, it would seem that one or two of them simply act as visual fodder for the easily wooable.
Yet enjoying One Direction’s peachy harmonies may depend on the listener. It is clear that the lyrics yank at female heartstrings like the Hunchback of Notre Dame ringing the bell for Sunday mass.
The sonic arrows of love only sink deeper due to the safe, cookie-cutter production of each song.
No matter what angle the group takes the subject, whether it be losing the girl on “Heart Attack” or being a girl’s first and last kiss on “First Last Kiss,” their words ride a similar four-chord soft-rock arrangement or synth line that barrels the highs and lows of puppy love in under four minutes.
One Direction does not have much fault in this situation, however. The album features over ten writers, including the singers, and nearly the same amount of producers.
Common sense would suggest that having this many hands in a project can result in a rich and varied listening experience, but some of these men even eschewed the slightest hint of artistic ambition.
Supposedly it was better to let the lyric “Baby I’ll take you there, take you there” be sung twice rather than letting the singer actually tell this girl where they would go, or where he would find the money and time.
Producer Jake Gosling’s tenderly plucked acoustic on “Little Things” and “Over Again” do lend those songs a refreshing coffee house vibe, but only in contrast to the blaring production on the other 11 songs. As the album is composed of radio singles perfectly ready to ride the airwaves, this only brings malaise for everyone but their core demographic.
Most people do not want to hear nine-minute experimental rock operas while they drive, they simply want tasteful songs with relatable lyrics that possibly adhere to their cultural leanings. One Direction’s brand of pop follows its formula too religiously.
“Take Me Home” brings new songs to the table, but One Direction merely brings tired pop tropes to eager listeners.