One Direction released its debut, Up All Night, in 2011 and followed it up with Take Me Home last year. Now, the five-piece is prepping its third release just a few months after the release of the last, with the release date rumored to be around Christmas. One D seem to be on the same track as Rihanna, who has released seven albums in just seven years.
For its first two records, One Direction rarely veered from the standard pop sound, with occasional bursts of pop-rock led by noticeable guitars and catchy choruses. While there’s not necessarily any reason to believe the boys would mess with this formula — it’s earned them multi-platinum albums on both accounts – one has to wonder if the status quo might get stale after awhile, even for the group’s legions of fans.
So in the spirit of last week’s Frank Ocean feature, it’s back to the drawing board to find the next big sound for the world’s current reigning boy band. Rather than just take a mere one direction, here are five directions we’d like to see the lads take on their upcoming third album.
The Ed Sheeran/Believe Acoustic Phase
Though it didn’t have such a huge presence in the States, “Little Things” (the second single from Take Me Home) joined “What Makes You Beautiful” as a No. 1 hit in the band’s native United Kingdom. If you thought the song just sounded a lot like Ed Sheeran on first listen, it’s because Sheeran co-wrote the mid-tempo acoustic ballad. While the song’s subject matter (pointing out a girl’s flaws amid blanket affection) might have been a bit iffy for the group’s fanbase, the musical direction the song took wouldn’t be too hateful, be it all slower folk tunes à la Sheeran or fully acoustic numbers akin to what Justin Bieber has done on his Believe Acoustic album. If done correctly, such a phase could give way to stronger songwriting.
The “Larger Than Life” Phase
OK, remember when Backstreet Boys dropped “Larger Than Life,” the second single off Millennium, and it was the BEST THING EVER? Amped-up rock guitars, one of the biggest, heaviest choruses in boy AND girl group history, and a big budget video. Could it get any better? Not in this writer’s biased opinion! One Direction’s already a little on the way there with the inclusion of the occasional guitar riff that is actually noticeable in the song. These guys don’t seem interested in making glitzy, dance-y stuff like Bieber or even their contemporaries, The Wanted, so let’s go arena rock!
The Dance Phase
Continuing on from the last point: even though 1D doesn’t seem to be the kind of group one would see raving it up on the dance floor, maybe an electronic-infused record would be a nice sidestep. Given the band’s global prominence, it probably wouldn’t be hard to obtain David Guetta or Calvin Harris for the project; hell, let’s throw Skrillex in there, because that could either go really right or really, really wrong. Doesn’t have to be sophisticated club music, just a good ol’ bass-dropping time.
The “We’re Individuals!” Phase
Not so much of a musical direction as an expression of individuality. Sure, One Direction is a cohesive group first and foremost, not so much five individual pieces that make a whole. Could that change? Well, each member certainly has his own personality, but the distinctive voices and predilections for certain musical styles aren’t there like they were with, say, Backstreet Boys and ‘N SYNC. Almost every 1D tune follows a similar format of “everybody solo!” An album that gives more attention to each member’s specific influences and strengths might turn out alright. Doesn’t have to be a conglomeration of solo material, but if both Harry and Liam REALLY like Rod Stewart, for instance, let them take the lead parts on a Stewart-inspired song with the others singing backup. This is also known as the phase where the band just starts to loathe each other. It’s inevitable, come on.
The Mumford & Sons/Folk Phase
Originally this wasn’t that serious; I just wanted to see Harry Styles in a trucker hat playing banjo (mostly because I want to see him try to fit all that hair under it). But if 1D can do Ed Sheeran without breaking a sweat, maybe the band will consider going further off the beaten path and down that Holland Road. Slap on some faux country accents, put Niall on acoustic guitar duty forever, and let them do their thing. Maybe Marcus Mumford will work in the studio with them, though probably not. It wouldn’t be unlike a Simon Cowell-signed act to capitalize on current trends. Bonus points if each member takes up a relevant instrument and learns “Wagon Wheel,” since that’s apparently a thing these days.
-Kevin Rutherford, Radio.com