Four Shows Maturity for Pop Five

Rachel Jin, Staff Writer

Four, the newest album from British pop band One Direction, has been number 1 on the iTunes pre-order chart ever since it became accessible, while fans have done everything short of breaking into the boys’ tour bus demanding an early release. The pre-released tracks have been incredibly well received, with leaked song “18” maintaining the number one spot on the UK chart for over 3 days.

Since the exploding popularity of their hit single What Makes You Beautiful back in 2011, the boy band has caught the hearts, and sometimes thrown cell phones, of millions of die-hard “Directioners” worldwide.

Much of the new album’s mystery was in the name rather than the songs.

Why Four?

Is it because it’s their fourth album? Is it because Harry Styles will soon be departing for a solo career, and there will only be four members left?

Listeners familiar only with the band’s hits would expect peppy, bubbly pop songs. The cover of the album features all 5 members, similar to previous album covers from the group.

However, while One Direction’s album art remains consistent, their music varies as much as their hair styles.

The band’s preppy, Bieber-esque haircuts back in ’11 perfectly suited the boy-next-door (or possibly kid-on-a-sugar-high) sound and sense of the band’s first two albums, where even sad songs rang with happy  vocals.

Later in 2013, the boys traded in their bangs and fringes for buzz cuts, polished quiffs, and whatever Zayn did, which paralleled Midnight Memories‘s more sophisticated, understated, electronic tunes.

2014 appears to be the year the boys embrace the nature loving, indie-rock sound of The Fray, Jack Johnson, and John Mayer. Four‘s album cover features the boys with shaggy, untamed hair and beards, a wood paneled backdrop, a fedora, and denim pieces that aren’t quite pants.

Trading out its usually high, spunky bass line for a light country undertone, One Direction has matured.

“Fireproof,” the band’s first leaked single, is a bit of an overcorrection of their usual enthusiastic heartbreak songs, becoming a repetitive, melancholy tune trying to convey words of true love and strength. Directed towards a certain girl (or boy, no exclusions here), heartwarmingly-crafted lyrics praise him or her for the strength and love. The plus of this song is that, instead of an auto-tuned medley of all 5 boys’ voices singing the exact same pitches, they are able to harmonize the chorus nicely, giving the song a choral quality. Despite the cheesiness of the track, it’s definitely a tear jerker, be it tears caused by daydreams of someone serenading you with this sweet, lovely ballad by the fire, or tears of boredom because the tune literally does not change for 3 minutes straight.

The band’s first officially released track, Steal My Girl”, is, at its core, a boast about how beautiful, charming, and desirable the band member’s girlfriends are. This doesn’t exactly line up with the fact that almost all of them are single, but it’s a detail that can be overlooked.

The name of “18” may strike listeners of this genre as familiar, as it has been recently used by pop-rock band 5 Seconds of Summer for a mediocre song about a whipped, underage teen breaking statutory laws for a much older woman; go cougars. However, 1D’s version consists of a reminiscence of teenage love.

Finally, “Night Changes” reiterates the themes of “no regrets” and “never changing.”

Though I still can’t call myself a fan, I find 1D’s Four a fresh, new experience. Hate them if you will, but there’s no denying that the British singers have provided one of the biggest impacts upon pop music in a decade. First prize would have to be the transformation of Canadian sweetheart Robin Sparkles into her dark, Paul Schaffer-obsessed counterpart, but for the sake of our Northern neighbors, we can forget that ever happened.