REVIEW: One Direction – ‘Made In The A.M.’


Artist: One Direction
Album: Made In The A.M
Genre: Pop

If the impending hiatus rumors turn out to indeed be true, there is a good chance Made In The A.M. will be the last new material we receive from One Direction for the foreseeable future. To claim that knowledge of that fact doesn’t impact how one experiences the record would be a lie, as everyone wants any goodbye to be one that ends on a high note, and fortunately for Directioners worldwide their beloved group has not let them down.

Starting with “Hey Angel,” which packs a perfect mix of live instrumentation and digital production, the first half of Made In The A.M. is dedicated to the kind of larger-than-life pop tracks that helped One Direction build their empire. The hook works, but aside from the interesting production there isn’t much worth remembering. Thankfully, the mega-hit “Drag Me Down” arrives to remind you why you still defend 1D to others who claim their time has passed. The song has a massive sound and an incredibly infectious melody that leaves you singing along for hours, even days, after your initial exposure. Add to this the alleged Taylor Swift “Bad Blood” response, “Perfect,” and the power ballad “Infinity,” and you have more than enough surefire top 40 contenders to keep One Direction in headlines for the next eighteen months. If not, “End Of The Day” is sure to find a devoted base of enthusiasts who view its celebration of individualism too catchy to deny.

Where Made In The A.M. stumbles is in its midsection. “If I Could Fly” is a piano-driven ballad that seems to last an eternity despite not cracking the four-minute mark. I’m sure it would play well in a room filled with cell phones being used like lighters to illuminate a venue, but nestled amongst a versatile set of true radio contenders the song feels unnecessarily melodramatic. Likewise, “Long Way Down” seems to have a chorus longer than most its verses, and the hook is the least interesting portion of the song. There is a lot of strong imagery in the verses, and it’s clear the song could be something powerful, but it loses steam somewhere in the middle and unfortunately never recovers. “Never Enough” arrives just in time to pick up the tempo, but I’m unsure if the 80s style production will hit Directioners the same way it will assuredly work for those over the age of twenty-five. It’s a unique pop gem that saves the record’s slow descent, but all its hard work is quickly undone when the bland, Beatles-inspired “Olivia” hits. It’s just not good.

The back portion of Made In The A.M. is perhaps the finest collection of material the group has ever released. “What A Feeling” kicks things off with a late night in the city vibe that is incredibly mature for the group. There is just enough 90s pop influence to call it a throwback, but the melody is so good I wouldn’t be surprised if the track saw a proper promotional push in early 2016. The same probably can’t be said for “Love You Goodbye,” which is by far the most thinly veiled ode to sex in the group’s catalog, but it’s one of the catchiest songs on the record. If there were lingering any doubt the young men who released the early One Direction records had matured into proper adults it will be erased with this track, and it’s high time that happened. These men have a lot more to offer the world than songs that can compete with whatever pop artists are currently topping the charts, and they’re using every opportunity possible on Made In The A.M. to convey that fact to their listeners. They won’t forget where they came from, and they make that clear with “History,” but they have to grow just like their fans. But don’t worry, because as the song says, “This is not the end.”

It has been apparent since Midnight Memories that One Direction were transitioning away from digital production and relying more on real instrumentation to back their stadium-ready anthems of youth, love and heartache. Four pushed this sound to the forefront of the record, and the trend continues with Made In The A.M.. Aside from the big bass hits that drive several mid-tempo hooks, the album relies just as heavily on the musicians bringing the songs to life as it does the four members of One Direction everyone knows. In the end, its this unique take on the “boy band” aesthetic that will forever set the group apart from the other handsome young men in their genre’s high-gloss history. Not every track works, but nothing falls completely flat either. I’m curious where the group would go from here if they were to enter the studio again, but I’m unsure if that will happen. If this is the end, then at least One Direction have left us with a collection of largely incredible songs that will spark good times and sing-a-longs for years to come.

SCORE: 8/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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