Yesterday was the official release date for Midnight Memories, One Direction’s third studio album. Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Yessss!! No? Am I talking to the right demographic? It doesn’t matter. I’m here to talk to you about the important stuff, which is the music.
The music: holy smokes.
Our boys are still the same boys, even if they're now boys-verging-on-men, and they even helped write almost all the tracks on the new album. Let that sink in: it’s their very own words coming from their very own souls into my very own earphones.
Let's do this: track-by-track, first-but-not-final impressions.
(And if anyone can correctly list them in order of slow-burners—1D albums are nothing but a test of the power of the slow-burn—oh, how I have economized that debut album—I will buy them a "Teenage Dirtbag" sweatshirt.)
Track 1: “Best Song Ever” (writing credits: Niall, Zayn)
This is the perfect song to begin the album, and it's smart as their first single release, too. The music video is inspired. I still cannot get over this line:
I said, “Can you give it back to me?”
She said, “Never in your wildest dreams.”
With this, 1D gives the chance for their fans to scream this “never in your wildest dreams” line back at them, when, really, they know WE WOULD ALWAYS SAY YES. My heart was going like mad and yes I said yes and I will yes.
Track 2: “Story of My Life” (writing credits: all the members)
Everyone helped to write this song, guys! Story of whose life? Find out by watching the music video.
So you might say Taylor Swift has already basically done this in “Mine,” but, as fans have noted, “Story of My Life” is not about a girl or a boy, but about FAMILY. I mean, it might still be. One could read it that way. A girl. Me. Whoever. (SIDEBAR: I also have this theory that Taylor Swift videos really understand narrative whereas 1D videos really get media and that’s why you get a bit more winking in the 1D stuff. Take, for example, the meta introduction to “Story of My Life.” They are developing photographs of themselves in a darkroom which then come to life and move through different phases of their lives. Sweet Jesus.)
A+, cried at 3:25 when Louis’s grandparents dissolve out of the photo, even though he is eating from a dish of carrots and champagne (??), would watch again.
Track 3: “Diana” (Louis; Liam)
Is Liam singing the opening lines because he wrote them? I need to know because they are:
The front pages are your pictures,
They make you look so small,
How could someone not miss you at all?
There is basically a double negative in that final line, guys. AND IT’S A RHETORICAL QUESTION. Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa whoa. That is a really complex way of beginning a song! I must know that Liam wrote that line.
“Diana” has one of the best hooks on the album, and it’s really asymmetrical:
Let me be the one to light a fire inside those eyes
You’ve been lonely, you don’t even know me,
But I can feel you crying
I love when 1D syncopates.
Track 4: “Midnight Memories” (Louis; Liam)
The title track screams we are 1D and we understand rock music. It sounds like they’re channeling Def Leppard? But cute. It’s still really very cute, which I am all for—"same old shh but a different day” is exactly how I want them to stay, for now.
Track 5: “You And I”
First, this doesn’t sound anything like Lady Gaga.
No 1D member contributed to writing this song, and hey! it really does stand out like a lyrical throwback—to maybe circa-“Little Things.”
Silence and sound
Did they ever hold each other tight
Did they ever fight
This song does that thing where you’re no longer sure what the referencing subject is, because if you try to read it grammatically, it’s kind of confusing? It could be a track out of the Backstreet Boys’ 1999 classic Millennium.
Favorite part is when Coldplay-reminiscent guitars kick in at 2:42.
Track 6: “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” (writing credit: Niall)
Liam (a.k.a. Best Singer In Band) is basically sharing song intros with Harry at this point. When did Liam shoot up the rankings?? It happened so quickly! Remember this?
this can't be right http://t.co/dkpiJBjzfB don't think I've ever won one of these polls before in this band thanks entertainmentwise readers
— Liam Payne (@Real_Liam_Payne) October 23, 2013
(If we were judging on Twitter accounts, Liam wins. He can have my heart. He can just have it.)
OK, back to the song: “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” acts like a kind of the sequel to “Story of My Life.” It’s the exemplary, “We’re just real guys and even we get sad sometimes.” (A thousand puppies droop their heads.)
Don’t forget where you belong
If you ever fell alone
You were never on your own
Those sweet young angels constantly on tour, away from home—I’m so thankful they have each other.
Track 7: “Strong” (writing credits: Louie)
I AM INTO THIS ONE.
My heart, your heart, sit tight like book ends,
Pages between us, written with no end.
So many words we're not saying.
Don't want to wait till it's gone.
You make me strong.
That dip in the feminine rhyme of the third line of each verse: PERFECTION.
Track 8: “Happily” (writing credits: Harry)
Harry contributed to the most Mumford & Sons-y track on a pretty Mumford & Son-y album. There is a very prominent banjo. There are “hey!”s and claps.
But it’s called “Happily,” you point out. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhokayyou’reright. And it’s about CHEATING. (Actually a lot of this album seems to be about the fantasy of stealing someone else’s boo, but because we’re imagining getting stolen from 1D, stealing becomes somehow morally okay.) 1D is getting FEARLESS.
Track 9: “Right Now” (writing credits: Louis; Harry; Liam)
This kind of sounds like a Coldplay song, but very gentle Coldplay. (Is it the guitars? Do I associate Coldplay with rhythmic electronic guitar?)
It’s about long-distance relationships as well. Directioners, I think the boys are asking for a break.
Track 10: “Little Black Dress” (writing credits: Louis; Liam)
More Def Leppard! Orrrrrr …VAN HALEN??
In any case, Midnight Memories offers up a solid riff on the ‘80s bro anthem, and we are (I am) soooo into it. Teenage dirtbags, the lot of them.
Question: Are we okay that 1D of using “little black dress” as a synechdoche for the female body? They are literally addressing a Little Black Dress throughout this song. I don’t know. Do you own a little black dress? Do I need to buy one now?
Track 11: “Through the Dark” (writing credits: Louis, Liam)
“Through the Dark” is a song where 1D sings about remaining steadfastly alongside their depressed girlfriend as they face adversity together (cf. “we will find a way through the dark”). I think that’s my thesis? Yeah, that’s my thesis. I’m sticking with it.
Track 12: “Something Great” (writing credits: Harry)
This is maybe the most forgettable song on the album. I’m sorry, Gary Lightbody.
Track 13: “Little White Lies” (writing credits: Louis, Liam)
The thing about Midnight Memories is that it has great intros and sort of shoddy outros. There are lots of lame fade-outs. Maybe 1D needs a new producer. Fade-outs feel like giving up, and these guys deserve to go out with a bang.
This song is about mixed messages, and sort of gets the concept of “white lies” wrong, but I guess that is also the point? Little white lies. Whoa.
Yes, it’s about cheating.
Backseat of the cab, we're in the cab now
Lips getting so attached, they're so attached now
You wanna make some rules now
Then we'll watch them break
Track 14: “Better Than Words” (writing credits: Louis, Liam)
That’s it. Louis and Liam are the wordsmiths of this band. Drop your mics, boys. Drop all of them.
This is my favorite song on the album. They know it’s your favorite song on the album; they've made it the final track. It’s basically following the structure of writing a pop song about writing a pop song—and how IMPOSSIBLE it is to say ANYTHING meaningful anymore. (Demi Lovato’s “Without the Love” and Selena Gomez’s “Love You Like A Love Song” do this so, so well.)
The song is just a series of love-song titles strung together with a heavy bass and various 1D members “yeah” and “oohhhh”-ing in the background.
You drive me crazy
Someone like you
Always be my baby
Best I ever had
Hips don't lie
You make me wanna sssssss
One more night
Crazy, we're crazy
If you have not listened to this song yet I am jealous. I always want to be hearing this song for the first time. I would say the same of the album as a whole, in fact.
Previously: Jimmy Stewart Character or Victorian Villain?
Full disclosure: Jane Hu is a fan of One Direction.