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Monday, November 12, 2012

Track-by-Track: One Direction - Take Me Home

I write this review knowing that I'm not in One Direction's target market, but I've been a supporter of them since their days on X-Factor and loved the debut album. With Take Me Home, the band have truly entered their "imperial phase," that elusive world-dominating period that happens to the luckiest of pop stars, and usually with the second album. I'm thinking Katy Perry's Teenage Dream, Lady Gaga's Fame Monster, Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad, Nsync's No Strings Attached, etc. With any luck, the right singles choices will place this album amongst those successes. There will be many self-important, "credible" music lovers who will say that this type of transparently bubblegum pop has no merit, but I will continue to push back. I like fun music--music that makes you feel energized. And this is certainly an ample dose of it. You won't find many low scores here. The album's even more consistent than their debut.

1. Live While We're Young - Kicking off the album, I feel like this is actually kind of a misstep as the first single. Not because it's a bad track, but because it's one of the weakest uptempos on the album. 8/10

2. Kiss You - This is a step up, and follows the template of their breakthrough What Makes You Beautiful. It's got that punchy, guitar-assisted power pop feel that makes One Direction such an exciting prospect as a pop band. 9/10

3. Little Things - Probably the most stripped-back song they've recorded yet. Co-written by Ed Sheeran, and it certainly sounds like it. It's the second UK single, and is definitely an interesting choice. 10/10

4. C'mon C'mon - The most electronic track on the record, this has a great 80's vibe to it. I particularly love the middle eight, which really propels the song to that final, anthemic chorus. 10/10

5. Last First Kiss - Despite the overall cheesiness of the lyrics, I just can't get the melody of this out of my head. The chorus is so ridiculously catchy. The sound is midtempo, but the production is so huge that it doesn't sound at all like a ballad. 9/10

6. Heart Attack - Like Live While We're Young, this is one of the weaker uptempos on the album. It sounds slightly too American for my tastes--like something Maroon 5 would record. 8/10

7. Rock Me - Oh, that chorus! At first, I thought that it would be too repetitive, but it just works. The production really shines. 10/10

8. Change My Mind - Many have pointed out that this is too schmaltzy, but I'm not sure that's really an option with a band like One Direction. As a midtempo, it's a great way to break up the big dance tracks and the second half of the lovelorn chorus is particularly striking. These guys' vocals have improved so much since X-factor. 9/10

9. I Would - This track was written by the guys of Mcfly, and if this is any indication, they should write the entirety of One Direction's next album. This is flawless power-pop. Really fun and huge and catchy. I can't rave enough. 10/10

10. Over Again - The second Ed Sheeran written track, and it sounds even more like one of his own songs. Despite some cringeworthy lyrics, it's really a strong ballad with some excellent vocals. 9/10

11. Back For You - Out of everything on the album, this feels the most like filler to me. It's the track I always forget. That's not saying it's bad, but it's just not very memorable. 8/10

12. They Don't Know About Us - This is the complete opposite of unmemorable. If this isn't a single, I'll be really angry. This track is everything that was great about the late-90's teen pop boon crammed into one song. In fact, it sounds a lot like the Backstreet Boys in their imperial phase. The production on this is just flawless. Probably the best track on the album. 10/10

13. Summer Love - A more straightforward, soft-rock type of track and, from the production notes, it seems that this is the song the boys had the biggest hand in creating. If so, then that bodes well for their future, because this is a very effective, very enjoyable closer to the album. 10/10

14. She's Not Afraid - Back to the 80's-inspired power pop for the first of the deluxe edition bonus tracks. This is better than some of the uptempos on the actual album. Nothing revelatory, but a lot of fun. 9/10

15. Loved You First - This is a gargantuan 80's pastiche, all chugging guitars and explosive, synth-drenched chorus. I would have loved to see this on the actual album, because it's incredibly strong. 10/10

16. Nobody Compares - Another strong uptempo with great production and a real earworm melody. Fans of old-school power pop should really give this group a chance, because that's exactly what this is. 9/10

17. Still The One - Just a little too frantic for me to give it one of the higher scores. That said, this would still be a highlight on most pop releases this year. 8/10

Album Grade: 9.2/10

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