One Direction – Four
They’ve honed their schtick, and hooky and charming and deserving of replay it turns out to be. Last time out they went for gonzo Def Leppard choruses fit for soccer stadiums from Buenos Aires to Mexico City. This time the riffs are brawnier and the songs go boom pow. With hand claps and a Strokes guitar line “No Control” rocks harder than any band has in 2014; if it weren’t for a blah Zayn middle eight it’d be perfect, but satisfying every market is the goal of global pop. “Girl Almighty” splices “Hey Ya” and Marshall Crenshaw for the sake of a girl who deserves the experiment. On “Change Your Ticket” they show U2 how to imitate All That You Can’t Leave Behind – and they even mix the drums right! Please note too that every one of these songs is an album track, every one superior to the singles by a factor of five. Occasionally a little voice inside their heads didn’t say don’t look back. “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” is doubly cursed: titled after one of Whitney Houston’s worst singles, as blustery as Winger playing in a ballroom. “Still a trace of innocence on the pillow case” is gross and no one talked them out of it. I’m not moved by their ballads. I can’t tell them apart without a lyric sheet. But Four is their second consecutive album with no terrible material — no couplets to crunch on, but no solo-in-name moves by Harry Styles either. I can’t say that about N Sync, Backstreet Boys, NKOTB, let alone The Wanted. While the rest of pop goes electronic they go glam. Even Ryan Tedder gets told what to do. And One Direction deserve the credit.