It’s an odd-sounding word that has the odd ability to strike fear into the hearts of music fans when they hear it said about the bands they love. Because in many cases, it’s a thinly veiled euphemism for a more painful word: breakup.
The four remaining members of One Direction (in the wake of Zayn Malik’s high-profile departure earlier in 2015) have announced that the group’s fifth album in four years will be their last for a while, because they’re going on, yep, a hiatus. They'll get some R&R, they say. They'll pursue some solo projects, they say.
And whether or not they ever truly reunite for another 1D album, well, only time will tell.
In the meantime, the swan song (er, I mean, so-long-for-now song) that Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson leave behind for their flock of feverish fans sounds ... exactly like what we’ve come to expect from this British-Irish boy band: a pop-rock confection of sappy, sentimental and sensual songs.
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“Drag Me Down” sings the praises of a woman whose faithful love helps her man stay standing. “If I didn’t have you, there would be nothing left/ … With your love, nobody can drag me down.” “End of the Day” tells a special lady, “If there’s something I’ve learned from a million mistakes/You’re the one that I want at the end of the day.” “If I Could Fly” soars over similarly saccharine stuff, proclaiming, “I’m missing half of me when we’re apart” and saying of romance’s anesthetizing attributes, “I’ve got scars, even though they can’t always be seen/And pain gets hard, but now you’re here, and I don’t feel a thing.” “I Want to Write You a Song” says sweetly, “Everything I need I get from you/Givin’ back is all I wanna do.”
“Infinity” is a sad yet instructive breakup song that asks, “How many nights does it take to count the stars?/That’s the time it would take to fix my heart.” “Olivia” begs a woman with that name, “Don’t let me go!/ … Oh, I love you, I love you!”
“Angel” ponders the questions that those celestial beings might have as they regard humans’ foibles (“Hey, angel/Do you look at us and laugh/When we hold on to the past?/ … Do you wish you could be more like me?/Oh, I wish I could be more like you/ … Tell me, do you ever cry/When we waste away our lives?”).
Despite those pseudo-eternal inquiries on “Angel,” the song ultimately grounds itself in the more fleshly present ("Yeah, I see you at the bar, at the edge of my bed/Backseat of my car, in the back of my head/I come alive when I hear your voice”).
“Perfect” not only sounds like Taylor Swift’s “Style” (which is allegedly about her relationship with Harry Styles), it reportedly returns the favor and takes a few jabs back at Ms. Swift. The end result isn’t a good one as the focus swings toward commitment-free sex and rebellious behavior. “I might not be the one who brings you flowers,” we hear, “But I can be the one, be the one tonight.” Later, the guys add, “If you like causing trouble up in hotel rooms/And if you like having secret little rendezvous/If you like to do the things you know that we shouldn’t do/Baby, I’m perfect/Baby, I’m perfect for you.” This lothario clearly isn’t interested in relationships, just hook-ups: “I might never be the hand you put your heart in/ … But that don’t mean that we can’t live here in the moment/‘Cause I can be the one you love from time to time.”
“Never Enough” indulges an all-night soiree (“Wanna pull an all-nighter/And get into something we’ll never forget”) that concludes with sharing a bed (“Wanna wake up with you/And say, baby, let’s do it all over again/Lips so good I forget my name/ … It’s never, it’s never, never enough”). “Olivia” also alludes to sharing sleeping space (“She’s lying in bed with my T-shirt on”). “Love You Goodbye” asks for one more wild night before lovers part ways for good (“If tomorrow you won’t be mine/Won’t you give it to me one last time?/ … One more taste of your lips just to bring me back/To the places we’ve been and the nights we’ve had/Because if this is it, then at least we could end it right”). And “Infinity” hints at couples sleeping together when it asks, “How many nights have you wished someone would stay/Lie awake only hoping they’re OK?”
“History” glorifies the hedonistic lifestyle that the band has apparently had plenty of opportunities to indulge (“Mini bars, expensive cars, hotel rooms and new tattoos/And the good champagne, and private planes”), then laments that without (apparently) Zayn’s presence, “they don’t mean anything.”
Four of the five members of One Direction are on the verge of going all sorts of different directions. And the fifth already has. But after four years and five albums, I can’t say I’m going to shed any tears.
Sure, these lads have at times scraped together a bit of maturity and self-awareness. There’s evidence of that on Made in the A.M., and I appreciate the earnest romantic moments that turn up on quite a few songs.
But as has been the case throughout this band’s meteoric rise (and fall), you never have to wait long before sweetness gets sullied by reckless sexual choices.