FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ONE DIRECTION’S MADE IN THE A.M.
ALY: I still have not listened to Made in the A.M. I am afraid to listen to it, honestly, because I am so sad about everything. I am going to listen to it alone, I think, which is interesting to me that that’s what I want to do because One Direction has always been for me a thing of togetherness, of experiencing a thing with other people. And I eventually want to experience MITAM with other people, and I will, but I am not ready for that yet, that rawness. But I think that that’s not what this album is about, like, the necessity of being alone in the midst of other people, the kind of blinking brightness of coming out of a darkened room into the middle of the afternoon. How did we get here? We watched the Live Lounge performance yesterday and it left me feeling strange and hollow and empty because, like, the passage of time! There is no clearer indication of how much everything has changed than revisiting the past, in superimposing it upon the present and looking at the way the edges don’t match up. “Torn” is actually about One Direction, is what I’m saying, and that realization left a sunny, windblown space inside me. Illusion never changed into something real; I’m wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn. You can’t ever get anything back; you can sing the same song but there are only four boys on stage now and they look sad and scared. Their cover of “FourFiveSeconds” was almost as hurtful; just tryna make it back home. That’s all I want. It has been five years and no matter what happens I love these boys, I love them with a clear pure fire that will never go out no matter how it sputters, but they are different now and so am I, and so are we all. I haven’t listened to Made in the A.M. but still in my soul I know what it’s about, which is this: It will never change me and you is a fiction that only growing up reveals to you. I’ll still feel the same about you is impossible just by the nature of being alive, of being a person that is also a chrysalis that is also a constantly mutable thing. Growing up is about realizing that it’s okay to feel differently, to say goodbye, to feel love and know that it is different from the love you felt before even as you feel it for the same people. Swearing that your emotions will never change is a lie and we tell it to ourselves and to everyone else and Made in the A.M., actually One Direction itself as it is now, honestly, is about opening your hand and letting that lie blow away into the hot bright empty space inside you. I don’t know if they’ll come back but even if they do it’s not like everything will be the same because it already isn’t, and I am trying to be okay with that, and I think they are too. It will never change me and you isn’t that your emotions will never change, never wax and wane and mutate, but that the idea of me and you will never change. We will always be tied to each other by something. We will aways be a “we.”
ASHLEY: One Direction has loved for years to compare themselves to lads at “uni.” If this is true, Made in the A.M. is their post-graduate album. It’s regretful, world-weary. We had it all, yeah and we walked away… The much publicized and debated departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction in March 2015 is not obvious in the seamless vocal recording — full, textured and layered, perhaps now more than ever as they even managed to record several tracks with a 24-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios — but Zayn’s absence is unquestionably evident in the melancholy and poignant lyrical content of Made in the A.M. Zayn’s departure has given them the vocabulary necessary to express rage, remorse… to reminisce. The album has been dedicated time and time again to the fans. The unspoken dedication is to the boy who left center stage in March. I try to forgive you, but I’m struggling cause I don’t know how… It’s beautiful, albeit complicated, to listen to Niall, Harry, Liam and Louis grapple with the reality of their success and the physical (and emotional) loss on the road of their best friend. The isolation of fame on “Perfect” (if you like causing trouble up in hotel rooms), the confusion of losing the only comforting reality they’ve known on “Olivia” (and time is irrelevant when I’ve not been seeing ya), and the constant thrum of attention on “History” (all of the rumors, all of the fights / But we always find a way to make it out alive). One Direction does not hide the pain, anguish, and promise of the last year in their voices.
Made in the A.M. confronts the reality of what they’ve lost (and gained) in artfully crafted melodies. Made in the A.M. is a natural progression for One Direction from the harmonies and rock influence of FOUR. This album created by men who have been crowned “king(s)” because of us is ambitious, lush, and complete. “Never Enough”, “Wolves” and “Temporary Fix” are three of the strongest pop-rock tracks they’ve ever released. Eccentric, original, catchy. “What A Feeling” is a great homage to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” “If I Could Fly” might be the most intimate and sincere ballad One Direction has ever released. Edges soft, tones hushed. There’s resolve. Yes, there are still lovers as there must be on One Direction albums — I’m not trying to downplay the very real role of break ups and conceptions in the legacy of their music — but the disappearance of Zayn — I believe — has given them the language necessary to articulate twist the knife and break and, most importantly, for all of us still here, forever. “Long Way Down” laments, We had it all yeah / And we walked away… One Direction does not hide; rather they confront the last year track by track, and thank us for staying. “Walking in the Wind,” influenced by Paul Simon, directly addresses Zayn’s absence. We had some good times, didn’t we? / We had some good tricks up our sleeve… Made in the A.M. doesn’t ask for the soaring, far-reaching vocals of Midnight Memories; they’ve crash-landed. This has been a year of assessment. At the “End of the Day,” they’re still here and we’re still here. I don’t know who is more grateful. We can live forever…
CARSON: What is a first impression if it’s not really a first impression? Because it was so easy to get my hands on this album before its “official” release date. Too easy. Browsing through 8tracks and casually finding the entire album easy. Not to mention that, what, eight of the 17 tracks on the album have already been released on Spotify? So basically, sorry not sorry that my first impression is sort of hollow, but who cares? The temporarily-fixed last album is out!!! Immediate favorites: “Never Enough.” The other one, “Walking In the Wind,” I think, is the one that Harry said was based off that Paul Simon song. Right? But “Never Enough” is a Paul Simon song! A poppy, silly one at that. It’s “You Can Call Me Al” and, for good measure, Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling.” “Olivia.” This opinion is a little biased — and it now makes two songs named after close friends — but this one is just as cute as Olivia is. One part sentimentality, the other a giant reference to The Beatles. I’d say this is their most Beatles song, which is saying something — also, Willy Wonka vibes? Finally, “History” and “Temporary Fix.” More Niall songs! Well, not “History,” but to be honest “History” should just be a Niall song. As we’ve all decided in that unspoken agreement, Niall is the band’s historian. But Niall shines on this album. And all albums, giving us “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” and “Act My Age,” but particularly in this one, with some genuine bangers. I want to yell all of Niall’s songs so loudly, it hurts. Niall, or my projection of Niall, represents the best parts of this band — lads being lads, people with maybe a little bit of darkness mostly obscured by light and genuine fun-loving. It’s all Niall. Maybe this album is the band’s tribute — not to Zayn (though of course there are so many Zayn songs on here) — but to the unobtrusive glue that keeps it held together. And I couldn’t ask for a better way for them to (maybe) end.
CORBIN: The thesis of FOUR is that change will not happen once you prove that something has been happening long enough: she been my queen since we were sixteen is also I have loved you since we were eighteen is also even when the night changes, it will never change me and you is also I won’t act my age, I’ll still be the same and you will too. The thesis of Made in the A.M. is that change must happen, but whatever will happen does not invalidate what has happened. “Love You Goodbye” begins by saying it’s inevitable everything that’s good comes to an end, so the leaving can happen with grace despite the sorrow of loss. It hurts to know that you cannot rise and rise and rise forever — we built it up so high and now I’m falling, it’s a long way down — but doesn’t have to be we had a spaceship but we couldn’t land it. It can be we can sit right here and say goodbye because we’ve already won. Maturity is not about attaining fixity, but about learning to handle flux, becoming a person who can grow and learn and leave and become a self, over and over, in new ways. You follow your heart even though it’ll break sometimes. Ending is not erasing, and ending does not eliminate the possibility of future beginning — you will find me in places we’ve never been, for reasons we don’t understand. One Direction will leave us, is leaving us, has left us, but left with the promise that any time I’ve gone / you can listen to my voice and sing along, and in that sense, the words of “History” have become true: this is not the end, this is not the end, we can live forever.
KENZIE: Everything about this album is nostalgic, in a way. The sound of it is clearly inspired by Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac, they’ve even said as much; the lyrics are about looking back, about goodbyes, about endings. It’s a gift to get us across a span of time that could be a year, could be two, could continue indefinitely. But it is a gift — it’s happy, it is about accepting that things end and that it doesn’t invalidate what happened before, it doesn’t make that less important. And to be clear, I love this gift. I love it and will cherish it and I pre-ordered it and I’m probably going to buy it on vinyl on payday and I’m going to choose to believe that “I Want to Write You A Song,” a song about them writing us a song to sing along to when they are gone and we are sad, was written for me personally. It isn’t Take Me Home or FOUR, Zayn is missing, life is changing for them and the absence of One Direction is looming on their horizon and ours. For some people, that absence is going to sting too much. Sometimes people can’t let go; we’ve got albums about holding onto things and preserving, given to us by One Direction, so I know. They know. It hurts to need to let things go and to accept that good things end. And that is fair. But that doesn’t mean the good things weren’t good. It doesn’t mean they can’t still be good for you. For me, the nostalgia feels sweet and gentle, and the bops in between the nostalgia are just so goddamn much fun. “Never Enough” is full of grunting, “Temporary Fix” is fun and filthy and talks about the things you can do in the dark. This isn’t just some ballads for looking out into the sunset and taking that first step forward, it’s also fun, it is happy, it is going to be okay. We have this to tell us that. One Direction are going on hiatus. It is indefinite, who knows when they’ll come back, if they’ll come back. But we have this. We can sing their songs. The things they built, the things we built, they still exist. And that is a gift.