FOUR is the aptly named fourth studio album released by One Direction, clearly drawing from music of the 80’s to give it an older sound. In terms of cohesiveness and maturity, it is better but still has room for improvement which can hopefully be seen in their next album. The gradual change in their sound from bubblegum pop has been beneficial to the X Factor alumni, possibly showing the different direction the band could go in the future. Zayn Malik and Liam Payne are still the powerhouse singers of the group while Harry Styles’ voice seems to be in its comfort zone with this album. Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson who’ve previously been, for the most part, background vocalists with snippets of stanzas to sing have improved remarkably.
The first single off of the album, Steal My Girl, actually happens to be the least appealing track on the album with its ABBA inspired sound unfortunately draped under a thick veil of auto tune. Night Changes has been announced as the second single, a better choice compared to the previous one considering how it’s a well-harmonized ballad that truly showcases how strong the vocals of the group are.
Fireproof was the first song One Direction granted the public as a free download and upon hearing it, I was pleased to see the difference in their previous songs, with its laid back and relaxing vibe. Ready to Run employs the same chord progression as Story of My Life, sounding like a perfect song for an animated Disney movie ( I mean this in a nice way). Somehow it reminds me of Tarzan, when he and Jane are swinging around exploring the jungle, but that’s just me.
No Control is the group’s most lyrically provocative, singing about ‘loaded guns’ and what not but sadly it’s a sugary-rock coating to a song dripping with sexual innuendos. The highlight is hearing Tomlinson vocally drive the song.
Among the slow songs are Fool’s Gold and Spaces, where Horan shines. FOUR features another song from Ed Sheeran. The Brit singer penning a song for One Direction has proven to be a fool-proof combination as was proved by Moments, Little Things and Over Again. This time the song is called 18, surpassing the other songs to be one of the best on the album.
On the antipodal end, the catchy, upbeat tunes are Girl Almighty, Clouds, Stockholm Syndrome and Where Do Broken Hearts Go, the latter two being written by Styles which is commendable. Stockholm Syndrome is according to him “about a nympho” and the actual syndrome itself i.e developing an emotional connection to your captor or kidnapper. It’s as dark as they’ve ever gone albeit only the surface. Where Do Broken Hearts Go isn’t the sappy ballad it sounds like but has a rock tone to it. Girl Almighty, I feel, might be underrated when it comes to the whole but should not be underestimated. Finally, Clouds makes a nice end to the album, leaving on a positive note.
On the deluxe album, there are four bonus tracks called Illusion, Change Your Ticket, Once in a Lifetime and Act My Age. I have always found that the bonus songs are sometimes better than the tracks that made it onto the actual album when it comes to One Direction and FOUR once again proves me right in this line of thinking. Once in a Lifetime and Illusion may be a bit sappy but are still good songs. However, they pale in comparison to the rather bombastic Act My Age which sounds like a cocktail of Irish folk rock and a pirate theme song that you could sing along in a pub in an intoxicated state. Change Your Ticket is one of my favourite tracks and I firmly believe it should have taken Steal My Girl’s place on the album, especially because of its resemblance to The 1975’s sound (particularly the guitar).
Overall, I feel that this album is miles ahead of the previous ones and is one step further in One Direction bright career ahead.