Released on the 13th November, Made in the A.M. is the popular boyband’s fifth studio album since they placed third in UK’s X Factor. Although I haven’t really paid much attention to their music before, I’ve decided to have a bit of a listen (since it could possibly be their last hurrah after they announced a year-long hiatus to pursue solo careers beginning in March of 2016), and to be perfectly honest I was a bit surprised. It never occurred to me that as there are four members their musical tastes are actually quite diverse, which makes listening to the album quite interesting and reviewing it quite challenging.
First thing’s first, I’ll give you the track listings:
- Hey Angel
- Drag Me Down
- End of the Day
- If I Could Fly
- Long Way Down
- Never Enough
- What a Feeling
- Love You Goodbye
- I Want to Write You a Song
- Temporary Fix (deluxe album only)
- Walking in the Wind (deluxe album only)
- Wolves (deluxe album only)
- A.M. (deluxe album only)
For me, there were some real stand-outs on the album, but also some fairly average songs too. Hey Angel almost has a cold play feel, and to my relief the inclusion of the strings section was not a waste of time like in so many other pop songs where all the classically trained professionals do is play one note per bar. Instead, this track actually had them play some beautiful sweeping scale passages. Apart from wanting to beef up the bass a little more just before the last chorus, the track was a solid beginning to the album.
Drag Me Down had a really groovy chorus but Perfect and Infinity didn’t really catch my attention. However, I enjoyed Liam’s interesting tone in the latter. End of the Day was a surprise because the chorus changed rhythms quite suddenly, unfortunately it was not a good surprise. The rhythmic feel of both the verses and the choruses were a little too different to really mesh with each other in one song. What could have made the transition more smooth was more correlation between the instrumentation of both sections.
By far my favourite track on this album was If I Could Fly. This could be because of my preconditioned love for mid-to-low range piano chords, but it wasn’t just this that caught my attention. Cowritten by Styles himself, the melody in the phrase ‘for your eyes only’ at the end of each chorus used third and fifth scale degrees that always work well with piano chords. A great compositional choice from the boyband and their writing team.
Long Way Down, Never Enough and Olivia where completely different from one another, which is where my observation about diverse musical tastes comes into play. The first has a distinct country-pop feel, with Never Enough taking cues from a cappella techniques (this songs also credits Horan as a cowriter). The latter song really surprised me with an upbeat Mika feel. Clearly these guys are more diverse than people are led to believe.
What a Feeling and Walking in the Wind didn’t really interest me at all, I felt they were very average radio pop songs which will probably be forgotten easily. Love You Goodbye, I Want to Write You A Song and History were well-produced songs with snippets of groovy melodies and rhythms. Temporary Fix had some cheeky lyrics and was fun to listen to once, but after that the music became uninteresting and struggled to hold my attention.
Styles’ track Walking in the Wind could give some valuable insight into what sort of territory he would steer his solo career to, with a very indie-pop feel. Wolves would have been a much greater song if there was more of the R&B feel that was employed in the introduction. Lastly, A.M. was a fitting end to the album with all four members taking writing credits.
Overall, the album was well-produced and I couldn’t fault any of the band members vocal approaches. Most of my criticisms are with the musical composition. For this reason I’m giving the album 7/10.