One Direction released their debut album Up All Night only a year ago, but such is the rabid demand for their cheeky, smiley, airbrushed Brit boy-band wares that they've had to churn out a second album already. Twelve months isn't really long enough to come up with 17 outstanding new tracks, even with an army of producers and songwriters working for you, so perhaps it's only fair to expect that more than half the songs on this album feel like they could've been written by a computer algorithm. They're so drenched in programming and auto-tune and so devoid of personality, they've become entirely indistinguishable from each other. And lyrically, 1D are often simply repeating the same ideas they had on the first album - these five youngsters (or their producers and songwriters) seem to have spent two years reading Girlfriend magazines and copying headlines and quotes.
"Never felt like this before, are we friends or are we more?" and "lately I've been going crazy so I'm coming back for you". It's a small sample, but you get the idea - they're pretty keen to be the dream guys for many a tweenage girl.
I Would actually sounds like an anthem for clean-cut good boys everywhere - "I can't compete with your boyfriend, cos he's got 27 tattoos ... Would he hold you when you're feeling low? Well you should know that I would."
It's not all fresh-faced innocence though - there's the occasional burst of teenage testosterone that makes them more like the characters on Skins. They're pretty determined to "get some" on first single Live While We're Young and on Last First Kiss (which actually stands out for its impassioned delivery ) they slip their less Prince-like intentions in behind a romantic request: "Baby let me be your last first kiss, I wanna be first to take it all the way like this."
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Still, as X-Factor/Simon Cowell products go, they're more palatable than many, and admirably deliver the songs without pandering to any trends (there's no dubstep, no RnB, no vocoders) - it's pure candy pop, manufactured by a total of 32 writers and producers (including fellow rising star Ed Sheeran) who know how to maintain a certain effervescence, while occasionally hitting a classic pop hook or two.
Sure, all the tracks where they sing syrupy rhymes about girls who have broken their hearts (really?) can make one wish to blast Taylor Swift's We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together in response; and Rock Me and C'Mon C'Mon might be two of the more banal pop songs ever written, but they seem to know what teenage girls want to hear. Their romantic pledges, and dopey sentiments and exclamations of how much fun it is being young have made them one of the most successful musical acts of the past two years, so in some respects it's entirely understandable they're not about to change their tune.
Verdict: Pandering to their fans
Click here to buy a copy of Take Me Home by One Direction.