One Direction‘s sophomore LP, Take Me Home, hit retailers on Tuesday — in case you couldn’t tell from the deafening choirs of millions of teenage girls screaming for the last two days — and while we responded fairly positively to the album in our review, did the rest of the critics agree? Mostly — sort of. The consensus was that the album was impeccably crafted but also pretty cynical, with an element of pandering that pushed buttons for some critics — even while the music was hyper-listenable.
Head after the jump to see what all the reviewers thought.
:: Rolling Stone complimented the album, even when complaining that it felt occasionally, um, douchey: “Their second album rivals the best of Backstreet and ‘N Sync when the material pumps (power-pop sure shots like ‘Kiss You,’ ‘Back for You’ and the Clash-biting ‘Live While We’re Young,’ written by masters like Shellback and Rami Yacoub). But when it doesn’t (i.e., most of the ballads), a certain amount of douchiness creeps in: ‘You still have to squeeze into your jeans, but you’re perfect to me,’ one of them sings on ‘Little Things.’ Hey, buddy, you’re a millionaire: Buy her some loose jeans.”
:: Entertainment Weekly noted that the album didn’t evolve much since their debut, and the album suffered for it: “True to their name, 1D haven’t veered an inch off course since their debut — catchy new tracks ‘Kiss You’ and ‘Heart Attack’ would’ve fit right in on March’s Up All Night. But the rush shows: Most of Take Me Home is filler with barely enough zip to keep the kids up past dinner.”
:: HitFix offered a savvy analysis of the album’s basic lyrical bent: “Regardless of the author, they all follow the same basic road map: The songs are sexy and slightly suggestive, but won’t send the younger set scurrying to their parents to ask for explanation. The boys are confident with just enough quivering vulnerability to appear completely unthreatening, like a pretty pony. Love is shiny and clean and never, ever messy with each potential dilemma neatly tied up within the confines of a 3-minute pop song. And, not to be overlooked, no matter what the situation, the girl is always in control and she has the final say.”
:: The Guardian agreed that the album felt cynical but was ultimately more effective than one might suspect: “It’s hard to know what’s more galling: the degree of brass-balls cynicism on display, or the fact that the result is actually quite good. It introduces Take Me Home‘s signature style: a peppy, synth-bolstered take on early-80s new-wave pop, heavy on clipped rhythms and chugging guitars, which is at least an improvement on the ersatz R&B that was once the grim lot of the boyband.”
:: BBC Music felt that the predictability didn’t detract from how enjoyable a listen Take Me Home proves to be: They know their fanbase, and they’re giving them what they want: every song prescribes a generous dose of the warm ‘n’ fuzzies, each lyric is precision-crafted to tell each fan that it’s intended for them and them alone. Even the song titles – ‘Summer Love,’ ‘Live While We’re Young,’ ‘Last First Kiss’ – read like the names of Sweet Valley High novels. But it works. Despite Take Me Home’s boardroom-defined objectives, the music itself is of a notable quality. Polished and dependable, despite its safety there are some show-stopping pop anthems present, with the instantaneous chorus of ‘C’Mon C’Mon’ perhaps the best thing 1D have put their name to.
:: The Washington Post, hilariously, called them the first “socialist boy band,” noting that there seems to be no standout star in the group, at least as revealed by Take Me Home: “It’s a contagious singalong, with no one voice leading the charge, no frontman, no star. They harmonize like the world’s first socialist boy band. Something else that sets One Direction apart from ’N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and generations of chart-topping heartthrobs before them: They appear immune to outside contemporary influences. There’s no tip-toeing toward R&B radio, no whiplashing dubstep breakdowns, no compromises. Instead, these uptempo love songs bounce around in their own dreamy, vacuum-sealed universe, quietly snatching spare parts from rock hits that might be too old for their young fans to recognize.”
:: The Huffington Post didn’t deny how well-crafted it was, either: “The album feels relentless in rhythm, sometimes even during the ballads, with a homogenous sound and message – like a teenage boy who says all the right words in a rush to get what he wants. But this time they’re only singing the right words to get to your wallets and adoration. And they’re most likely going to get it.”