Midnight Memories (Deluxe Edition)

Midnight Memories (Deluxe Edition)

Calling the lead single from your album “Best Song Ever” could be misconstrued as an act of almighty hubris, especially from a boy band constructed by Simon Cowell on a reality TV singing competition. The song is actually a play on words—not that it really matters: By the time One Direction released their third record, Midnight Memories, the group had shaken off their manufactured mantle to become the biggest British group since The Beatles. While the rest of pop was still hypnotized by the euphoric highs of EDM, One Direction swerved left. Their first two albums served up safe and peppy (read: kid-friendly) pop rock along with schmalzy balladry that ensured the faces of band members—Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson—were plastered over teenage bedroom walls the world over. However, by their third album in as many years, One Direction had become so ginormous that their cheeky, youthful sound needed to grow with them. Gone were the foppish haircuts and clean-cut image: This mature version of One Direction were rugged and had designer stubble, their boyish charm replaced with the brawn of young adulthood. And so, the songs on Midnight Memories feel more muscular and beefy. The Def Leppard-esque title track is a perfect example, with its thrashing ’80s hair metal guitars and chant-a-long chorus, but there’s also more sophistication to the songwriting, too. “Diana,” which was co-written by Payne and Tomlinson, contains one of the band’s catchiest choruses and remains among their best songs, while “Little Black Dress” is genuinely sexy, the group singing “I wanna see the way you move for me, baby” over scuzzy and strutting guitars. This Deluxe version also included four bonus tracks: Some, like the pogoing “Why Don’t We Go There” and the slick “Does He Know?,” feel more closely aligned to the band’s softer early material. “Alive” leans heavily into the record’s beer-bottle swigging rock ’n’ roll, albeit with a bright-eyed chorus so sweet you could safely take it home to meet the parents. One Direction were a band unafraid to wear their references boldly and that is especially apparent on Midnight Memories. You’ll find prominent nods to the strumming folk rock of Mumford & Sons (“Happily,” “Something Great,” “Story of My Life,” “Through the Dark”), echoes of The Police (“Diana”), elements of The Who (“Best Song Ever”), and even later-years Take That (“You & I” and “Right Now”). And the boys were clearly still having so much fun, as evidenced on the soaring “Better Than Words,” its lyrics a roll call of instantly recognizable song titles (“Crazy in love/Dancing on the ceiling”). They would maintain that zest for one more album together, the prophetically titled Four, before Malik would exit to pursue a solo career. In the story of their life as a band, though, Midnight Memories stands out as a particularly special moment.

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