Boybands, by their manufactured nature, tend to be pretty predictable in their career arc, and One Direction is really flirting with their sell-by date with Four. The same thing happened to countless boybands in the past, from New Kids on the Block to Backstreet Boys, that I wonder whether their puppet masters have some kind of time limit stamped on the backs of these lads’ heads. You know, five albums and done, with each album crammed with increasingly boring tunes under the pretense of “showing musical maturity”. For One Direction, their one album a year work order means that they are heading to the finish line faster than usual.
Four is a problematic effort because it’s boring. There are no instantly catchy tunes here, to the point that it is easy to confuse this one with a Westlife comeback album. Instead of fun bouncy tunes and catchy ballads, the lads here channel the more boring echoes of the likes of Chicago and Toto, with even a country-like ballad Night Changes thrown in like they are serenading members of the neighborhood seniors’ bingo club on nostalgia night. Considering how they were accused of ripping off The Clash and Def Leppard before, it’s a regression to see them now channeling Peter Cetera and Air Supply. We already have Westlife and Ronan Keating, why do we need five borderline hideous kids to reinforce the dire state of MOR adult contemporary music? Even 18, their version of the obligatory “looking back those days” anthem pop acts do when they want to pass themselves off as adults, is a clichéd kind of geriatric staleness that make these guys sound like they are slipping into a coma or something.
Filled to the brim with songs that echo every dire MOR adult contemporary cliché in existence, Four just reinforces the notion that growing up can be stiflingly dull when boybands are handed D-grade materials to sing. Maybe their overlords have a younger and improved boyband in the wings and they are saving the better songs for that particular boyband? I don’t know, but I do find myself missing the unapologetic youth and energy of their previous efforts.