X Factor producers do love a contrived “journey” arc, don’t they? But whatever in-show narrative One Direction could’ve had, it’s post-show where things get interesting.
In less than two years, they’ve gone from the X Factor stage to the pencil cases of the nation to the Guinness World Records. So, amidst their ubiquity, second album Take Me Home almost serves as a reminder that music is their day job.
With Simon Cowell’s beady eye on the lucrative American market, the overall tone marries sun-kissed US skater-pop with British charm. Their now-familiar bouncy, boyish, lad-pop is the starting point of Take Me Home, one foot rooted in what they’re good at while they dip a toe elsewhere: slightly dancier (C’Mon, C’Mon); marginally quirkier (Heart Attack); vaguely rockier (Rock Me, obviously).
But in pursuit of the flavour of the moment/credibility/dollar signs (perhaps all three?), One Direction all but hand their identity over to Ed Sheeran wholesale on his two offerings as songwriter (Little Things and Over Again), his distinctiveness on an entirely separate plane to the rest of Take Me Home. Perhaps surprisingly, the 1D machine would chug along perfectly well without his input.
They know their fanbase, and they’re giving them what they want: every song prescribes a generous dose of the warm ‘n’ fuzzies, each lyric is precision-crafted to tell each fan that it’s intended for them and them alone. Even the song titles – Summer Love, Live While We’re Young, Last First Kiss – read like the names of Sweet Valley High novels.
But it works. Despite Take Me Home’s boardroom-defined objectives, the music itself is of a notable quality. Polished and dependable, despite its safety there are some show-stopping pop anthems present, with the instantaneous chorus of C’Mon C’Mon perhaps the best thing 1D have put their name to.
Whether they could sculpt another record from the same blueprints is unlikely, at least not without leaping feet-first into pure parody. But 1D have a strong platform from which to develop – perhaps the intention, as inevitably the “mature” third album will follow.
For now, Take Me Home takes the One Direction brand, reinforces it nicely, and as far as their fans’ needs are concerned, ticks every single box.