Eight months. To the day.
That’s how much time elapsed between album releases from boy band One Direction. In an age when artists typically take two or three years between releases, this group of five guys from England and Ireland has torn a page from The Beatles’ playbook, following up their March 2012 album Up All Night with this one, Take Me Home, in November of the same year.
Like The Beatles, One Direction seems intent upon maximizing their mushrooming popularity by giving eager young fans another heaping dose of scream-inducing saccharine pop.
Unlike those early recordings from The Beatles, the One Direction guys have a lot more in mind than simply holding a girl’s hand.
Within the context of a couple struggling with criticism that they’re too young to truly be in love, “They Don’t Know About Us” is one of very few songs on the album that frames love in terms of a heart connection instead of just a physical one. We hear, “They don’t know how special you are/They don’t know what you’ve done to my heart.”
“Little Things” includes innocent reflections about why a guy loves a particular girl: “Your hand fits in mine/Like it’s made just for me/ … I’m in love with you/And all these little things.” He also lets her know that he completely accepts her just the way she is: “You never want to know how much you weigh/You still have to squeeze into your jeans/But you’re perfect to me.” Never mind that she might not like him singing about her size, or …
… that this young couple is sleeping together and that he’s far too familiar with far too much of her skin: “You’ve never loved/Your stomach or your thighs/The dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine/But I’ll love them endlessly.”
“Kiss You” begs, “Oh, tell me, tell me, tell me how to turn your love on/ … And if you, you want me too/Let’s make a move.” Soon there’s talk of touching and going home together: “Touch/You get this kind of rush/ … If you don’t wanna take it slow/And you just wanna take me home/Baby, say yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” Then we hear these objectifying, leering pickup lines: “Oh baby, baby, don’t you know you got what I need/Looking so good from your head to your feet/ … Baby, be mine tonight, mine tonight.”
“Last First Kiss” implies that a guy wants to claim his girl’s virginity with, “I wanna be the first, yeah/Wanna be the first to take it all the way like this.” Likewise, “Change My Mind” finds a young man hoping that a “friend with potential” will invite him to spend the night. “Are we friends or are we more?” he asks. “As I’m walking toward the door/I’m not sure/But … baby, if you want me to stay, stay for the night/I’ll change my mind.”
“Over Again” states, “Running over thoughts that make my feet hurt/Bodies intertwined with her lips.” “Back for You” follows up with, “I’ve never been so into somebody before/And every time we both touch, I only want more.” “Summer Song” suggests, “If we could find someplace to hide/Make the last time just like the first time.”
Youthful living is defined in terms of casual sex on “Live While We’re Young,” where we hear, “Let’s go crazy, crazy, crazy till we see the sun/I know we only met, but let’s pretend it’s love/And never, never, never stop for anyone/Tonight let’s get some and live while we’re young/ … Hey girl, it’s now or never, it’s now or never/Don’t overthink, just let it go/And if we get together, yeah, get together/Don’t let the pictures leave your phone.” The track also invites a girl who’s still living with her parents to sneak out for night of driving around: “Hey girl, I’m waiting on ya, I’m waiting on ya/Come on and let me sneak you out/And have a celebration, a celebration/The music up, the windows down.”
Note that the Deluxe Yearbook Addition of Take Me Home includes still more sneaking out: “Sneaks out in the middle of the night/Tight dress with the top cut low/She’s addicted to the feeling of letting go, letting go.”
In 1966, The Beach Boys—another band that knows something about crafting catchy love songs—had a Top 10 hit about looking forward to getting married. On “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” Brian Wilson and Co. chastely chaffed under the cultural expectation that a boy and girl should go their separate ways at the end of a date. At the same time, the song imagined how wonderful unfettered togetherness would be after tying the knot: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?/Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long,” they sang. “Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true/Baby then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do/We could be married/And then we’d be happy.”
Now, I know that 1966 was a long time ago and that the last shreds of such sexual restraint died shortly thereafter, culturally speaking. But it’s still breathtaking, even in 2012, that a band targeting a high school audience—after all, who else needs to sneak out of their house at night to go partying?—so breezily, brazenly and cheerily sings about taking girls home for the night, claiming their virginity and maybe even filming the whole thing on their cellphones.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that wasn’t the direction One Direction was going?
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.