Say what you want about One Direction, but you can’t deny their effectiveness. With their good looks, British charm, and catchy pop tunes, the band has made history as the first group ever to debut at number one on the US Billboard charts with their first four consecutive albums. Take Me Home (2012) hit number one in 37 countries, Midnight Memories (2013) garnered the top position in 26, and their latest release FOUR reached the number one spot in 146 countries. Most people can’t even name 146 countries. That’s three-fourths of the world.
Additionally, the summer 2014 Where We Are Tour brought in $290 million in ticket sales for the five boys (who now collectively hold the top spot on the richest British celebrities under 30, knocking Daniel Radcliffe off his previous number one position).3.4 million tickets were sold for the 69 sold-out stadium shows. To put that in perspective, 3.4 million is over double the population of San Diego.
One Direction’s FOUR is a far cry from the sugary pop of Up All Night (2011). While the first single “Steal My Girl” is like a relaxed version of “Best Song Ever” (complete with “na na na”s and plenty of “alright”s), most of the album is significantly more mature than their old ones – a big step up from Midnight Memories just a year ago.
Along with more meaningful lyrics and less studio effects than previous albums, FOUR highlights the huge difference of real instruments. While there have always been plenty of guitars and drums in the One Direction sound, the new songs have a distinctly more organic quality.
Tracks like “18” and “Once in a Lifetime” are ballads that emphasize a more stripped down, chill vibe. “18” was written by Ed Sheeran, who has also written “Over Again” and “Little Things” on One Direction’s Take Me Home album. Before, these tracks were refreshing breaks between almost obnoxiously catchy pop.
Now, though, the other songs can stand on their own just as well. Four years after being put together, in their fourth album and fourth world tour, I think 1D is trying to break out of their pop star bubble and grow up alongside their fans. They’re not 16 anymore, and their music echoes that.
Yes, there is the element of teeny bopper bubblegum pop that comes naturally with a band like One Direction, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended), but upbeat riffs and simple melodies are great for belting along to the radio. So maybe it’s about time people stop pretending that they don’t know the words to “What Makes You Beautiful” and start accepting the truth: One Direction has taken over the world.