FOUR by One Direction: A Track-by-Track Review

by Adelaide Sandvold ’18

Even though One Direction’s latest album was released in November, it is still very much worth a thorough listen. Here are some details about each track!

“Steal My Girl”—With booming pianos reminiscent of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All,” One Direction begins its best album yet in full force. The anthem picks up with crashing drums and a dynamic melody that soars throughout the track. The charmingly boastful lyrics (complete with some teasing “na na na na”s) could make anyone swoon. Plus, listeners are treated with a famous Zayn Malik high note at the end of the bridge. It’s an opener that says, “We know we’re great. Just let us prove it to you a little more.”

“Ready to Run”—Starting with noodly acoustic guitars, this song reflects a Mumford and Sons-like Brit-folk sound. It’s gentle but it carries a soulful depth as it builds into the chorus. This song isn’t terribly remarkable, but it’s perfectly enjoyable.

“Where Do Broken Hearts Go”—As a modernized 80s power ballad, this song features a driving rhythm perfectly paired with lyrics about a man trying to recover a lost love. This sense of yearning, however, is uplifting, as the melody is hopeful and glowing with energy. It carries the power left over from “Steal My Girl,” providing an excellent continuity of sound.

“18”—This track is simple, honest, and heartbreaking. Co-written by Ed Sheeran, it primarily features acoustic guitar but is later enhanced by rolling percussion. Just like the lyrics, this song isn’t asking for much—it’s more of a confessional expression—but it gets a great response in return.

“Girl Almighty”—Some have joked that this song was actually written by Paul Simon, as its drums are similar to the Brazilian beat in “The Obvious Child” and it’s peppered with guitar riffs reminiscent of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Nonetheless, this is simply a pop hit. A bursting lyrical embodiment of having an overwhelming crush, it spreads joy and praise in the line, “Let’s have another toast for the girl almighty” and shy tentativeness in “I hope you feel what I’m feeling too.”

“Fool’s Gold”—Sparklingly delicate, this song is an honest portrait of the heartbroken but hopeful. It emphasizes the boys’ voices, stretching their ranges and allowing room for some huskiness and voice breaks. This ultimately contributes to the raw and true essence of the song.

“Night Changes”—Here we have one of the best One Direction songs of all time. It is perfect. The production is effortlessly lush. It sways, swells, and falls with tremendous beauty and even though it is impressive, it is balanced by the other stunning aspects. The melody is so emotionally evocative that it’s almost holy. It’s very similar to Bruce Springsteen’s “You’ll Be Coming Down,” which is ironic because this song stresses the importance of keeping things as they are in a high, sacred state. The lyrics are sweet, melancholy, and introspective (“We’re only getting older baby/And I’ve been thinking about you lately”) and they acknowledge the elusive nature of love (“Everything that you’ve ever dreamed of/Disappearing when you wake up”). But they also reassure that even though nights pass and dreams fade, the things that are good and truly real will stay the same. This is a song that could make anyone swoon. It’s fulfilling, yet respects loss and as a whole, it absolutely shines.

“No Control”—On this track, One Direction leaves crushes behind and moves straight into infatuation. Its lyrics proclaim the glory of losing oneself to love and worshiping the littlest things about the girl in question, like “a finger print of lipstick” and “the heat where you lay.” For those in love, it’s a fantastic and relatable song, and for those still looking, it provides a whimsical warning about falling head over heels.

“Fireproof”—This song sounds almost like someone rehearsing a declaration of love before actually sharing it with someone else. The song’s words of adoration and of self-reassurance, paired with serene guitars, rumbling percussion, and frequent falsettos, establish a very fragile tone. Though gentle, this song is by no means dull. It pushes its delicate limits and leaves listeners with a spirited and optimistic feeling, hoping that this tender expression will be reciprocated.

“Spaces”—Similar to “Moments” from the boys’ first album, this is, for the most part, a stadium anthem that doesn’t leave much of an impact. It does have intriguing production values, however. The consistent hollow drum sound reflects the growing distance between the two people in the relationship of this song, as does the twinkling and ethereal humming in the background. The end of the chorus brings a beautiful and painful melody that accompanies the lyric, “Who’s gonna be the first to say goodbye?”

“Stockholm Syndrome”—With punchy interjections, plucky guitars, and pounding drums this song also pays homage to 80s pop, complete with strong flavors of Rick Astley. It has the eager and tense feeling of someone who is trapped but it also bounces along cheerfully as a pleasant pop song.

“Clouds”—Here comes slow stadium anthem number two. Its soaring qualities are fitting in relation to the title, but it’s loud and somewhat exhausting after a while. There is an interlude toward the end with rather random Beatles-esque chord progressions until the lurching chorus picks up again. Almost every listener is bound to find the lyrics familiar to how they’ve felt at some point, which is always a redeeming factor, but this song just doesn’t have enough depth to leave a lasting impression.

“Change Your Ticket”—An example of timeless pop, this song is utterly wonderful. The lyrics about coyly seducing someone into a secret relationship are irresistible and the playful guitar riffs are glorious. The explosive and soulful “Don’t go!” is the perfect boost to each chorus and Zayn works wonders on his solo in the bridge. It’s pure lovey-dovey pop and it’s fantastic.

“Illusion”—The initial tick-tock rhythm of the first verse isn’t terribly captivating but as the song moves into the chorus with the line, “I promise falling for me won’t be a mistake,” listeners can’t help but get hooked. The melody of the chorus is free and bright with a little sense of pleading, insisting that the possible relationship discussed is worth a shot.

“Once in a Lifetime”—This song is very simple, pared down just to vocals and guitars. Its minor tone seems too heavy, but it also makes it sound more like a product of a 90s boy band. It includes rich harmonies and showcases the band’s vocals in their purest state. It isn’t bad by any means; it is just lost in the absolutely radiant gems surrounding it.

“Act My Age”—This song is nothing short of a travesty. It starts off with an Irish folk melody, then is picked up by punky, heavy drums, then transitions into a Randy Newman inspired melody for the verses. The lyrics are abhorrent, declaring, “When I’m fat and old/And my kids think I’m a joke…I won’t act my age.” The second verse is joined by some old time American piano, which quickly fades, never to return, and the bridge includes some odd and short-lived happy-go-lucky whistling. This is a terribly disappointing way to end a radiant album like this, but just as long as this song doesn’t make it into their tour set list, the boys should be okay.

Enjoy the video for “Steal My Girl” (featuring Danny DeVito!) below and be sure to check out the rest of FOUR for yourself on iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube!

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