2015 has been a year of change for One Direction with the departure of founding member Zayn Malik earlier in the year. Despite one of the group’s best singers deciding to leave, the former X Factor contestants decided to press on as a four piece and to be honest the absence of Zayn doesn’t seem to have hurt their popularity. Made in the A.M. will be bittersweet for many fans as the album comes prior to a ‘break’ in 2016 so the individual members can pursue their own projects and enjoy some time off. It’s a story we’ve heard before from groups such as the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud and we all know how that turned out. Regardless Made in the A.M. has a lot riding on it so does it deliver?
Made in the A.M. is off to a stronger start than last record Four with lead single Drag Me Down topping the UK charts. Follow-up single Perfect has so far peaked at number 2 and both singles have charted in the Top 10 in the US. You could argue that the departure of Zayn has given the group a resurgence in popularity. In it’s first week of release Made in the A.M. landed at the top of the UK album chart selling almost 100,000 copies and in the US it arrived at number 2 with impressive sales of over 400,000.
Despite 5 becoming 4, it’s very much business as usual on Made in the A.M. The group members have contributed to a handful of songs across the record but for the most part they’ve teamed up with their usual songwriters including Jamie Scott, Ed Drewett, Julian Bunetta and John Ryan. The end result is a collection of chart-friendly pop songs exploring the familiar themes of romance, break-ups and inspirational pop. There’s no doubt that the album is calculated to appeal to teenage girls across the world and in that sense it easily fulfils its duty.
Many moments on the record recall other songs the band have recorded including the heavy beats of Never Enough, the stadium sing-a-long of End of the Day, and the soaring anthem feel of Infinity. The familiarity of the material isn’t necessarily a band thing as it means it will instantly connect with the group’s demographic and be played to death.
If I Could Fly, co-written by Harry Styles, is one of the songs that pushes the band out of their comfort zone. It’s a bare piano ballad that actually lets you hear their voices. It proves to be a bold move especially as the absence of Zayn leaves them without arguably their best vocalist. Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan get more to do on the song, and across the record, and even though their voices aren’t as powerful as their former bandmate, they do bring a different sound to the group.
Elsewhere on the album the group borrows from Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams on the rhythmic What a Feeling, reminds us of the Girls Aloud classic Whole Lotta History on the acoustic-led History, and keeps things simple on album closer A.M., which is one of the best tracks on the record.
Made in the A.M. shows that One Direction still have legs even without one of their founding members. It remains to be seen if this ‘break’ is really a break or a soft breakup that allows the band to get back together in the future if their solo endeavours don’t come to anything. Either way Made in the A.M. is a solid effort from the boys and should add a few more million sales to their already impressive tally.