Before the English-Irish boy band One Direction goes on an indefinite hiatus next year, they are leaving fans with their fifth studio album—Made in the A.M. This album marks the five-year streak of the biggest boy band in the world and it is the first one to feature the group without the estranged Zayn Malik.
Critics have nonetheless received the album with phrases albeit some remarks. In the review of Neil McCormick of The Telegraph for example, he said the lyrics of the songs carry a “slight tone of weariness” but the music remains “anthemic, up-tempo, superior pop, with elegant song structure, ear worm hooks, and radio busting choruses.”
It is worth mentioning that Made in the A.M. also marks the growing maturity of One Direction. McCormick said the group together with pop star Justin Bieber have geared away from puppy love innocence to rebellious sexual swagger. This particular album is an attempt to illustrate the transition from bubblegum favourites to serious artists. It seems as if the lads were also challenging the image earlier established and perpetuated by their record executives and managers.
But the boy band has been doing this transition through their previous albums. Editor Rob Sheffield of the Rolling Stone described the current sound as reminiscent of the rock vibe of Midnight Memories and Four.
He described the track “Hey Angel” as a Brit-pop loop and a dead ringer for the “Bittersweet Symphony” of the English rock band The Verve. The track “What a Feeling” seems to borrow hooks from a least six different songs from British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac.
Kenneth Partridge of the Billboard magazine nonetheless believed that One Direction has better demonstrated their maturity than their previous ballad-heavy Four album. He surmised the lads might have borrowed inspiration once again from 80s music. He described “What a Feeling” as a Journey-style power-schlock and a soulful soft-rocker.
The 80s reference is agreeable. Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly said the lads have indeed a knack for creating hooky tributes to musical eras that are more familiar to the parents of their fans.
Though no matter what the lads references, Partridge argued they still wind up sounding as if this 21st-century prefabricated pop machine. He further said the team of producers and writers involved in the album still create songs that rarely feel personal or beyond the bubblegum image of One Direction.
Greenblatt however believed One Direction still tried to appeal to their established fanbase whose “idea of romance is a Disney prince—dashing, devoted, and safely two-dimensional.” She said unlike Justin Bieber and his new album Purpose, the group seems as if not ready to explore their own more adult voices. Perhaps, they are saving this for their solo records.
Tshepo Mokoena of The Guardian nonetheless said Made in the A.M. is a playful album. One Direction experimented with ballads, jazz-fusion, indie music, and synthpop. Through playfulness, the songs are somehow reflective. She generally described the songs as “slick-sounding pop” perfect for “sentimental GCSE results-day montages and other occasions involving both teens and tears.”
Further details of the review of McCormick are in the article “Justin Bieber and One Direction’s new albums: biting the hand that feeds them” published in 2015 in The Telegraph. Further details of the review of Sheffield are in the article “Made in the A.M.” published in 2015 by the Rolling Stone. More details of the review of Partridge are in the article “One Direction Points the Way Forward on Swan Song” published in 2015 in the Billboard. The review of Greenblatt is in the article “From Boys to Men: EW Reviews Justin Bieber and One Direction’s New Album” published in 2015 in Entertainment Weekly. Details of the review of Mokoena are in the article “One Direction: Made in the AM review” published in 2015 in The Guardian.