Boy Bands vs. Growing Up: Review of 1D’s ‘Take Me Home’

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Huffington Post called ‘N Sync’s “No Strings Attached” the best album of the 2000-2009 decade. Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone.

All of us 20-somethings had that phase. You know the one. No matter your favorite—whether they were older: New Kids on the Block, The Jackson 5, Menudo; or huge: ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men; or slightly less popular: Hanson, 98 Degrees, LFO, O-Town—you probably went through that boy band phase. But you grew out of it right? Maybe it was a gradual shift in music taste, or the day you took down all those posters and magazine rip-outs from you walls, or even a conscious decision to “grow up.” Somewhere along the way you discovered Good Charlotte, Brand New, Bright Eyes, or whatever gateway band to a life after knowing Justin Timberlake’s favorite number. This new life has sophisticated music with more mature themes than “baby, I want you back” and a wider vocabulary to boot.

In recent years, the boy band has made a comeback with the Jonas Brothers leading the charge into the late 2000’s. Then Big Time Rush and The Wanted released albums on either sides of the pond in early 2010. And then there was One Direction. Those UK boys from the X Factor sort of snuck up on all of us. For me, it started with them popping up on my Tumblr dashboard, then in news articles, and then I watched them perform on Saturday Night Live. It was okay to love them ironically, blaming “the suspenders one” and “the blonde one” for being so adorable. But the day came when I realized I knew all their names and I was singing about my life to the tune of their songs. That was when I knew: I was a goner; I had fallen back into my boy band ways.

One Direction’s ‘Take Me Home: Yearbook Edition’ was released on Spotify on Nov. 13. Photo courtesy of Syco Records.

Thankfully, I’m not the only 20-something in my circle of friends to have gone through the same thing. Brennin posted on Tumblr about her slow decent back into boy band fandom, Emily contemplated whether she should hate herself for it or not, and Monica dragged her feet a bit. We all thought the “boy band phase” was over; we were all convinced that we had grown out of it and moved onto better music. But that doesn’t stop me from dancing like an idiot and scream-singing “Live While Your Young” or my heart from melting when I listen to “Little Things” (I have a soft spot for acoustic songs!) So while I spiral down into another boy band black hole, this is my review of One Direction’s sophomore album, Take Me Home: Yearbook Edition, that was released last week. You can also check out my live blog of the album to see what I thought about each song individually.

One Direction released their video for “Live While We’re Young” in late September. Photo courtesy of J-14.

The album starts off strong with One Direction’s first hit, “Live While We’re Young,” then another upbeat dance song, “Kiss You,” and their second single, “Little Things.” It would have been a great set up to a high-energy album, but the next group of songs falls a little flat. They’re not complete duds, it’s just that the songs in the middle of this album are low- to mid-tempo so they don’t compare to the opening songs. I think the arrangement of this album has a lot to do with this problem—it’s completely frontloaded. Switching up the tempo or possibly building into “Live While We’re Young” with some more downbeat songs would have set the pacing better for the overall album.

With the Yearbook Edition, there are four songs in addition to the thirteen on the original album. These songs, especially “Nobody Cares” and “Still The One,” do a lot to bring this album back from its spiral into mediocrity. Do I think these songs completely save the album? Maybe not for some people, but for me they do.

One Direction on the set of “Little Things,” their second single off ‘Take Me Home’. Photo courtesy of Popdust.

On the whole, the tracks on this album are what you would expect from a band like One Direction: they play to the band’s strengths and don’t get too adventurous. It sounds like someone figured out what worked best from Up All Night and they churned out 17 tracks using a magic formula with a dash of added maturity. But that isn’t to say they aren’t good in their own right.

One of my favorite tracks from Take Me Home is “I Would” which manages to stand out among the otherwise slightly boring midsection of the album. The lyrics in the beginning sound like a reverse of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” but then the chorus kicks in. It reminds me of Lori Ruso’s song from the opening credits of Teen Witch in a really great way. “I Would” sounds different from the rest of the album, almost retro, and I like it. I’m going to think of it as homage to the boy bands of yore.

I also really loved the songs “Nobody Compares” and “She’s Not Afraid” (both of which are exclusively on the Yearbook Edition) because I related to these tracks the most. This might be due to these songs being relatively more mature than the others on this album. While many other tracks praise the glory of love and the happiness it brings, these songs deal with the less fun stuff like mistakes, misunderstandings, and unrequited feelings. Because of this, it’s easy for me to feel that I have a lot in common with the unnamed girl figure in both these songs. Put together with the music on these tracks, they became some of my favorite songs.

Both “Little Things” and “Over Again” were written by Harry Styles’ friend Ed Sheeran. Photo courtesy of 7tab.

However, there were certain tracks, like “They Don’t Know About Us” and “Rock Me,” that I felt were incredibly immature and simply catered to One Direction’s younger fans. I understand that One Direction are, at the basest level, a boy band, which means they sing about girls and love with lyrics including phrases such as “chinny chin chins,” but I can’t help disliking these songs. If tabloids can be trusted, these guys haven’t had the best luck with relationships, or the worst luck necessarily  but I can’t believe they’ve stayed so unaffectedly naïve since their first album. Of course, this might just be my jaded, grown up way of insinuating One Direction should write songs about broken hearts and put out a pop punk album; it certainly would bring my music taste full circle.

Despite some pacing problems in the middle section, Take Me Home is a good album. Well, I’ve been listening to it on repeat and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet so that’s a good sign. While it’s a lot more refined than their first album, I do think they played it a little too safe. I’m not necessarily saying the next album needs to be pop punk, but I think they should try more new things with their music. Or not and then maybe I can, finally, grow up and move on from my boy band phase pretend to grow up and move on from my boy band phase until the next one comes around. I’m starting to think the whole boy band thing isn’t really something we grow out of.

What did you think of One Direction’s new album? Did you like it better than Up All Night?

2 thoughts on “Boy Bands vs. Growing Up: Review of 1D’s ‘Take Me Home’

  1. Stacy

    I think you should do a mini review om the bonus tracks off the Target deluxe version. “Irresistible” and “Truly, Madly, Deeply” are quite literally the best songs they put out this year.. or at least that’s what I think. Oh and what did you think of “Over Again?”

    • That’s a great idea and I might do just that! (I reviewed the Yearbook Edition because it’s free on Spotify.) I really like “Over Again.” Ed Sheeran is a wonderful writer and the arrangement of that song is beautiful, but I think it gets lost in the other songs on the album.

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