The third album by British pop superpowers One Direction, 2013’s Midnight Memories, closed with “Better Than Words” — a tribute to about 15 of the greatest love songs ever, with verses that consisted only of those classics’ titles (“How deep is your love? / God only knows, baby”). It was a fun way for the group to build their own sort of pop canon — one that goes as far back as Elvis and as contemporary as Drake — while implicitly making their own bid for inclusion therein.
Apparently, the group had such a good time reliving Top 40’s best moments that they’ve decided to do it with almost their entire catalog since. Last year’s Four was led by “Steal My Girl,” whose thunderous piano riff was a deadringer for that of Journey’s classic ’80s power ballad “Faithfully.” The rest of the album ran through pastiches of Paul Simon (“Girl Almighty”), Fleetwood Mac (“Fireproof”), and Tears for Fears (“Stockholm Syndrome”), among subtler lifts that could drive music nerds crazy trying to identify.
Even so, Four was little preparation for Made in the A.M., the group’s fifth album, out today. While 1D dipped their toes — all right, maybe a whole foot — into pop’s past on their fourth album, with their fifth, they dive in headfirst. Every song on Made in the A.M. (13 tracks on the standard edition, 17 on the deluxe) has a hook, a melody, a rhythm or a tone that evokes some radio hit of years past — though sometimes just one or two years past. Read on if you don’t believe us, but don’t judge the boys too harshly for their semi-thievery: One Direction simply treat pop history like the playground it is, and you’d have to be a pretty unapologetic grump to scowl at them for swinging gleefully from the monkey bars.
1. “HEY ANGEL”
Song Swiped? The drums and general sweep of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.”
Does It Work? Uncannily so — the heart grows three sizes upon hearing the beat kick in for the first time.
Lawsuit Pending? Well, the Verve know as well as anyone you can’t be too careful with these things. Any funds they’d recoup by taking such measures would probably have to be funneled straight to the Rolling Stones, though.
2. “DRAG ME DOWN”
Song Swiped? Chorus elements to Robert DeLong’s “Long Way Down,” the nasal vocal pinch of any number of Adam Levine-sung compositions.
Does It Work? Kinda, though this is clearly one of the group’s lighter lifts. Liam Payne really does sound like he’s auditioning to be Levine’s Voice-season replacement as Maroon 5 frontman on that chorus, though.
Lawsuit Pending? Nah.
Song Swiped? The chorus melody and cadence to “Style,” by none other than noted Harry Styles ex, Taylor Swift.
Does It Work? At being one of the year’s best pop subliminals (“If you’re looking for someone to write your breakup songs about / Baby, I’m perfect”), sure.
Lawsuit Pending? Could be, though you can almost picture Taylor picking up the phone to call her lawyer, but stopping herself before the first ring. (“No, that’s what he WANTS you to do…”)
Song Swiped? The verse melody and cadence to Neon Trees’ “Animal.”
Does It Work? Not especially — the song’s verses are among the album’s weakest.
5. “END OF THE DAY”
Song Swiped? The tone and tempo switch-ups of fun.’s “We Are Young.”
Does It Work? Nah, it’s mostly awkward and disruptive. Though to be fair, it’s kinda shocking that it even worked as well as it did for fun.
Lawsuit Pending? Not sure fun. could necessarily claim to be the inventors of fast-slow-epic — or if you can trademark a song structure — but if they could, 1D would be in trouble.
6. “IF I COULD FLY”
Song Swiped? The beginning of the chorus to Phillip Phillips’ “Gone, Gone, Gone”
Does It Work? Yeah, it certainly sells the refrain.
Lawsuit Pending? Unlikely. It’s a classic-sounding-enough melody that they both probably ripped if it off from somewhere else anyway.
7. “LONG WAY DOWN”
Do They Work? It’s a surprisingly potent combination, actually. The combined MOR wattage might just be too overwhelming to resist.
Lawsuit Pending? No, but it would be a fascinatingly lame trial.
8. “NEVER ENOUGH”
Do They Work? Hell yes.
Lawsuit Pending? Muse would probably have the best case, if one two-word exhortation is enough to get a copyright on.
Songs Swiped? The climactic orchestral saunter of the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” and the vocal cadence of the a capella parts of the verses to HAIM’s “The Wire” (again).
Do They Work? Undoubtedly. As New Kids on the Block proved back in the early ’90s, grown-up boy bands going psych-era Beatles in their later work is always a good call.
Lawsuit Pending? Nope.
10. “WHAT A FEELING”
Song Swiped? The general bass pattern, sighing backing vocals, and damp production of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and “Gypsy.” Oh, and the song also begins “Through the wire, through the wire,” making it the third straight track on the album to steal something from HAIM’s “The Wire.” Somehow, this all must be another shot at Taylor Swift.
Lawsuit Pending? If 1D was able to skate on it the first time they jacked Mick and Stevie, they’ll probably be safe this time out too.
11. “LOVE YOU GOODBYE”
Song Swiped? The verse melody and production style of the verses to the original version of OneRepublic’s “Apologize.”
Does It Work? Sorta, but the verses of “Apologize” don’t really work without the chorus for contrast, and the “Love You Goodbye” hook is a pretty big letdown.
Lawsuit Pending? Would say no, except that 1D actually end the song’s first verse with Liam singing, “The way you look I know you didn’t come to apologize.” Seems like enough of a thumb-bite in Ryan Tedder’s direction that he might lawyer up just on principle.
12. “I WANT TO WRITE YOU A SONG”
Song Swiped? The finger-picking and some of the chord structure of Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah.”
Does It Work? One “Hey There Delilah” is really quite sufficient.
Lawsuit Pending? No, but a Twitter rant of some degree isn’t out of the question.
Song Swiped? The triplet scheme of the chorus lead-in from Toto’s “Hold the Line.”
Does It Work? Sure. Everyone loves vocal triplets.
Lawsuit Pending? It’s not even one of the more memorable parts of the song, so probably not.
14. “TEMPORARY FIX”
Song Swiped? The vocal rhythm and sly sneer of the verses to Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks.”
Does It Work? A little, but not sure it’s worth earning Made in the A.M. the dubious distinction of being the first LP in music history to rip off two separate Neon Trees songs.
Lawsuit Pending? Maybe if Neon Trees can go two for the price of one.
15. “WALKING IN THE WIND”
Does It Work? You kinda forget what a great song “December 1963” is when you go too long without hearing it at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, don’t you?
Lawsuit Pending? Frankie Valli’s probably still too busy signing checks for his Jersey Boys residuals to go through the bother.
Does It Work? It’s a fun drum beat, no doubt.
Lawsuit Pending? No, it’s only a faint similarity, and Yeezy’s original beat was basically purloined from Gary Glitter to begin with.
Song Swiped? The verse melody to Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.”
Does It Work? The song’s certainly not as sensual as “Dreams,” but the lift does help it achieve the same kind of golden-hour sheen to it, appropriately enough.
Lawsuit Pending? Deep breath, Taylor. Don’t give him the satisfaction.