In November we begin musing about mmm-inducing Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas shopping and … the arrival of a new One Direction album.
For three years in a row, this fivesome from Britain and Ireland has reliably regaled the world with a new November release. And each of those efforts has reliably relayed 1D’s signature blend of puppy-dog-eyes twitterpation tunes right along with some lustier offerings.
These days (in 2014), Harry, Liam, Louis, Niall and Zayn look more and more like a slightly shaggier man band than a fresh-faced boy band. So what’s behind the facial hair? Sensually romantic love songs? Or are they romantically sensual?
On ” Steal My Girl,” a guy warns anyone who thinks they’ve got a shot with his squeeze, “Find another one ’cause she belongs to me.” Hey, at least she knows he’s faithful (“I’ve never let her down before”), and the song suggests he’s practically family already. Long-term commitment is alluded to on “Ready to Run” (“‘Cause I wanna be yours, don’t you wanna be mine?/ … Wherever you are is the place I belong/ … I’d give everything that I got for your love”). And a struggling man finds courage and purpose with his beloved at his side (“Without you, I’ll never make it out alive/But I know, yes, I know, we’ll be alright”). “18” promises, “I got a heart/And I got a soul/Believe me, I will use them both.”
Lustful leering muddles the romantic moment on “Steal My Girl” (“Kisses like cream/Her walk is so mean/And every jaw drop/When she’s in those jeans”). “Where do Broken Hearts Go” also recalls a smoldering kiss (“Yeah, the taste of your lips on the tip of my tongue/Is at the top of the list of the things I want”). But there’s already fear that the one who gave that kiss might be sharing someone else’s bed (“Are you sleeping, baby, by yourself?/Or are you giving it to someone else?”).
Similarly, “18” begs, “Kiss me where I lay down/My hands press to your cheeks/A long way from the playground.” Then it equates alcohol and enlightenment (“So pour me a drink, oh love/Let’s split the night wide open and we’ll see everything”).
“Night Changes” tells the story of a defiant young woman heading out for (apparently) a carnal rendezvous (“Going out tonight/Changes into something red/Her mother doesn’t like that kind of dress/Everything she never had, she’s showing off/ … He’s waiting, hides behind a cigarette/Heart beating loud, and she doesn’t want it to stop/Moving too fast/Moon is lighting up her skin/She’s falling, doesn’t even know it yet/Having no regrets is all that she really wants”). Later we hear about the mother again, this time as she recalls how her daughter’s dress “reminds her of a missing piece of innocence she lost.”
“No Control” describes something like sex addiction (“Waking up/Beside you I’m a loaded gun/I can’t contain this anymore/I just can’t get enough of you/This pedal’s down, my eyes are closed/No control/Taste on my tongue/I don’t want to wash away the night before/In the heat where you lay/I could stay right here and burn in it all day”). “Stockholm Syndrome” metaphorically and suggestively frames a love affair as a relationship between a kidnapper and her quite-willing captive.
A guy doesn’t seem bothered much by the woman he’s falling for not really being who she seems (on “Fool’s Gold”). Deluxe Edition bonus track “Change Your Ticket” hints at a secretive ‘n’ steamy encounter in a hotel room (“Watching you get dressed/Messes with my head/ … Come, get back in bed/We still got time left/This doesn’t have to be over/ … It’s hard to keep a secret/Girl, don’t leave me all alone/In this hotel”).
“Girl Almighty” views a pretty woman in salvific, religious terms. The guys sing, “Let’s have another toast to the girl almighty/Let’s pray to stay young/Stay made of lightning/Am I the only believer?/There’s something happening here.” And they blurt out, “I get down, I get down, I get down/On my knees for ya.”
There were moments early on while listening to Four when I thought perhaps One Direction was pushing in a more mature direction, crooning earnestly about love, commitment and faithfulness. But those first impressions imploded as I moved down the track list.
It’s not long before we hear of a rebellious adolescent heading out for a midnight coupling with her cigarette-smoking beau, a clandestine hotel coupling of two people who very much seem to be cheating, and a guy who just can’t seem to get enough sex.
So as the last song faded, it was clear that November had gifted us once again with the chilly suggestion that the continuum between love and lust is as harmless as it is seamless. And that’s something none of us should be thankful for.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.