“Made in the A.M” climbs charts sans Malik

By Katherine Carpenter 
Staff Writer

When you think of English-Irish pop sensation One Direction, your first thought may be of their 2012 smash summer hit “What Makes You Beautiful” or their dancey disco-influenced track “Best Song Ever,” released as the lead single off their 2013 album “Midnight Memories.”

Your first thought may not be cohesive lyricism or soaring arena-style anthems. Nevertheless, that is exactly what you get with One Direction’s latest album, “Made in the A.M.”

"Made in the A.M." premiered at No. 2 / Photo courtesy Sony Music Entertainment
“Made in the A.M.” premiered at No. 2 / Photo courtesy Sony Music Entertainment

The album is a slight departure from its predecessor, “Four,” which boasted writing credit from at least one band member on all but four tracks. While “Four” had fingerprints from band members, especially Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne, all over it, “Made in the A.M.” features only six writing credits each for Tomlinson and Payne and even fewer for bandmates Harry Styles and Niall Horan.

Commercially, the album sold quicker than any of its predecessors.

But even though “Made in the A.M.” debuted with 459,000 album sales in its release week, it is the first One Direction studio album not to debut at No. 1, being dethroned by comeback kid Justin Bieber with his return album “Purpose.”

The album contains countless nods, nudges and winks in the direction of many artists before them.

Promotional single “Infinity,”for example, delivers the kind of emotional lyrics and climbing hook that Coldplay pumped out in “The Scientist”and “Fix You.”

“Hey Angel” is an ethereal, synth-pop dream of a song with sparse lyrics and heavy Brit-pop influence that inevitably invokes remembrance of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.”

Still, One Direction stays true to their roots as a boy band with dramatic, sentimental ballads “Love You Goodbye” and “If I Could Fly.”

The whimsical, steady, guitar-driven track “Olivia” features a loud, brash orchestral presence and an upbeat, playful attitude reminiscent of The Beatles’ timeless single “All You Need is Love.”

“Made in the A.M.” is One Direction’s first album without former band member Zayn Malik, the vocal powerhouse of the group’s previous four albums. While no one can achieve the kind of glossy velvet falsetto that seemed to just spill out of Malik’s mouth, the remaining members have admirably acclimated to his absence.

Payne champions harmonies with ease, and Styles has always had a voice suited to the kind of arena-rock anthems he now gets to lead. In fact, it seems the boys, as vocalists, have prospered in Malik’s absence; without his almost overpowering talent, there’s more room for the rest of them to shine.