Boy bands are an interesting bunch: Easily popular, often infectious and commonly manufactured, they are one of the few musical tropes that keep reappearing over and over with each generation, no doubt thanks to the eternal flow of new teenagers to boost their popularity. The second big act of this generation – Arguably started a few years ago by the Jonas Brothers – Comes from the UK by the name of One Direction.
With five integrants who were known internationally for their troublemaking and funny antics before they were known for their music and a horde of fans that often spam social networks with comments about them, One Direction could easily be considered for a study on the use of said networks to bolster the popularity of an entity. Nevertheless, we should at least be thankful the kids at least do something (Music) instead of being famous for being famous (or for being trainwrecks) as seemed to be the norm during the past decade.
Originally rising to popularity after placing third in the seventh series of the X Factor in the UK, One Direction released their debut album late last year in the UK and in March 2012 in the US – Though, as stated before, they’ve been known both in Europe and the US for far longer thanks to the strength of social networks and the insistence of the tween population when they like something.
Titled Up All Night, the album is actually (and unexpectedly) good: Rather than attempting to reinvent a genre that’s been done one too many times, the boys – or their management – have instead gone for an album that tries to tackle on all the reasons why British pop music has been popular in the past decades, throwing it all together on a single, sweet package of songs. Be it because of that or because of there being an unusual amount of talent in the band, Up All Night is an album that does what it wants perfectly: Get out a bunch of easy-listening songs that’ll stick to the ears ridiculously easily.
However, the achievement of the album goes further than that – Thankfully – And it does improve a little, going just a bit beyond being a rehash of the story of British pop so far. The songs and their styles are quite varied, though generally upbeat, and their themes can vary wildly, ranging from the “Let’s just have fun today” style of Up All Night to the strong, deep, borderline depressing tune of Same Mistakes – There’s a bit of everything in this album, and it works perfectly so. It also does help them a lot that, though doubtlessly aiming for the tween population as all boy bands do, their flavor of pop is a rather mature one – Ranging well over bubblegum pop, though not reaching the levels of, let’s say, the likes of James Blunt or going anywhere near adult pop.
Another strong point of the album is, oddly enough, the relative lack of ballads in it, most songs being fun to listen to regardless of what’s being talked about, a very noticeable departure from the boy bands of yesteryear that relied a little too much on bursting out songs meant to make fans cry – With their respective overtly/badly acted performances. Instead most songs, regardless of their theme, are strong enough to keep their audience jumping with many of them having arrangements very obviously thought up to appease the club-going crowd, Everything About You being an excellent example of this.
Besides of the musical production, the group is actually made up with great voices that, generally sound great both together and separately – Doubtlessly there are some voices that sound a lot more than others and some of the members stand out a lot more musically, but the whole package makes sense and harmonizes vocally pretty well, with each voice being easy to notice on its own yet the choruses feeling like a lot more than just five guys singing at the same time.
Perhaps the test of fire for me here regarding this album – Any album actually – is exactly how relevant it is when seen on a wider spectrum: Specifically, whether this adds anything to the current musical landscape or whether it limits itself to imitating what’s already there. That question is, for me, the hardest to answer: There’s very little in Up All Night that I could consider ground breaking or new. Though the band doesn’t tie itself to the all too common tropes of pop bands (Note: I’m speaking music here. I’m not sure if they use Baby and Sporty Directioner as their in-band nicknames), it is also true that they aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel. However, I agree there’s some semblance of relevance in the album: By taking the most successful components of pop music of the last few decades and mixing them up with more recent musical styles (The prevalence of electronic backgrounds taken straight from a club being one of them), Up All Night does deliver something of their own that few, if any pop bands currently do or have done recently – Sort of an old idea under a new guise to keep it relevant and interesting for the crowd it attempts to appease.
So, even when they aren’t creating a new musical style and I don’t expect we’ll be seeing tons of bands like them popping up anytime soon, Up All Night is a bit of an achievement that manages to create pop music in the same way it’s been made for decades while also adding up its own twist to it and – perhaps more interestingly – giving it a style that differentiates it from the other current pop acts: Though a rather traditional pop band, there’s very little if anything that can be used to compare One Direction, in its current musical presentation, to the likes of Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers, to name two examples. Instead, by holding most tried and true pop formulas close to their core, One Direction has actually achieved to create something that doesn’t quite exist in the current pop music landscape, even when their overall act is anything but new. Add to this their taste for keeping the audiences fired up musically and – why not? – their infectious display of personality both when singing and as individuals and you get as a result an album that, though hardly groundbreaking, will do exactly as it says and make you want to stay Up All Night.
Final Review Rating: 4/5
Availability: The album is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
|Buy Physical Album
|Buy Yearbook Edition
|Buy Digital Deluxe