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The ten best One Direction songs (according to me)

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Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik. Photo courtesy of Columbia Records, Syco Music and Sony Music.

The passing of another November means that it has officially been one year since my inaugural One Direction post, and the time for another is upon us. Rather than inflict another 1,000-word review of “Four” on the world (we all know I’d do it), I have decided to use my expertise and wisdom to compile a list of the all-time best One Direction songs. I have effectively ranked every single one of them (what did you do with your day?), but here I will share only my top ten:

  1. “Fireproof”

Released as a free download this September in anticipation of “Four,” “Fireproof” is a chill guitar-driven love song that gave me high hopes for the rest of the record. Unfortunately, it also turned out to be the best song on the record. Louis Tomlinson’s usually reedy voice lends itself extremely well to this song, and his verse is the best part: “I think I’m gonna win this time, / I roll and I roll ‘till I change my luck.” “Fireproof” is mature and romantic — a strong collaboration between Louis, Liam Payne and longtime songwriting partners Jamie Scott, John Ryan and Julian Bunetta.

  1. “Strong”

One of the most musically unconventional and experimental One Direction songs. The lyrics are simple, passionate and vulnerable with solid songwriting contributions (again) from Louis. Love the soft, understated rhythm of the verses — particularly the first two, which utilize Zayn Malik and Liam’s vocal talents well. Is that so wrong? Is it so wrong that you make me strong?

  1. “Teenage Dirtbag”

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    I can’t take a picture to save my life. If you squint: Niall at the Rose Bowl in September. SCREAMfmLondon

This is a cover, and One Direction never actually recorded a studio version, so it probably doesn’t belong on the list. But it’s just so damn superb. It’s worth it to sift through the numerous live versions of this Wheatus cover to find one you can hear over the screaming crowds. There are so many things to love: Liam’s falsetto, Zayn’s immense high notes, Harry Styles’ attitude and Niall Horan’s playfully roguish verse and guitar work. One Direction takes this pop-punk jam to the next level of mischievous teenage rebelliousness, and it’s awesome.

  1. “Heart Attack”

Just a generally fun, upbeat track from 2012’s “Take Me Home.” Nothing too complex about this one: the highlights are Niall’s punctuating “OW!”s that kick off every chorus. “Heart Attack” is a well-executed pop track that’ll get you pumped up and on the dance floor despite your broken heart.

  1. “Best Song Ever”

It is a good one. It’s at least the best nonsensical pop song on “Midnight Memories.” The best part is Harry’s verse: “Said her name was Georgia Rose, / And her daddy was a dentist. / Said I had a dirty mouth, / But she kissed me like she meant it.” And the accompanying music video is a work of art with Zayn in drag and the closest One Direction has ever come to a choreographed dance routine.

  1. “Tell Me a Lie”

No one was expecting “Tell Me a Lie” to crack the top five, right? I might be alone in my zealous love for this song, but it’s really great. The track was wise beyond its years when One Direction recorded it for their debut album, “Up All Night.” It comes across as emotional, earnest and experienced, which is unusual for a One Direction song. Kelly Clarkson is actually one of the songwriters, and that resoundingly sad-yet-upbeat chorus really gets to you: “If he’s the reason that you’re leaving me tonight, / Spare me what you think, and / Tell me a lie.”

  1. “What Makes You Beautiful”

Iconic. Where would we be without “What Makes You Beautiful”? It’s One Direction’s 2011 breakout hit, and it still holds up today. I hate the message, but this song sucks you in. What a jam. If you have a room full of people younger than 30, “What Makes You Beautiful” will never fail to get the party started.

  1. “She’s Not Afraid”

    Louis, Zayn and Liam at the Rose Bowl in September. SCREAMfmLondon

    Louis, Zayn and Liam at the Rose Bowl in September. SCREAMfmLondon

An underrated bonus track from the deluxe edition of “Take Me Home.” “She’s Not Afraid” is a slick pop track with an edgier twist, describing the girl who “sneaks out in the middle of the night, / tight dress with the top cut low. / She’s addicted to the feeling of letting go,” but she won’t commit to a relationship (or even being seen in public with you). It’s one of One Direction’s sexiest songs, and it’s very good.

  1. “Kiss You”

This is One Direction at the pinnacle of their boybandom: it is cutesy modern pop perfected. Flawless sound production, immensely catchy verses and an incredibly endearing music video. It’s just irresistibly charming. This is what they were chosen to do, and they do it impeccably on “Kiss You.”

  1. “Happily”

Such an impressive song. “Happily” so amazingly captures the passion and desperation of young love. It makes me wish I was 16, running away from home to be with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks against all odds. With a raw, folksy rhythm to back up an emotional chorus (“I don’t care what people say when we’re together!”), “Happily” is hands-down one of One Direction’s strongest songs.

I played 1Dreamboy (so you don’t have to)

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I didn’t expect to be quite so incensed upon my completion of this virtual game, but here I go with it anyway. The night I spent working my way through the 1Dreamboy universe is going to haunt me forever; I’m going to be deeply regretting the hours wasted on that bullshit game while I’m on my deathbed, wondering where my youth went, probably.

An eroge (“erotic game,” as it were) is a type of video game centered on sexual content. Gameplay is often in the style of a dating sim (“dating simulator” — that’s just how we’re talking now), where you move through the story making occasional “choose your own adventure”-type choices in the hopes of attaining a relationship with one (or many?) of the characters. Sometimes the characters are pigeons. Sometimes they’re aliens. Sometimes they’re Harry Styles. Japan is a creative place.

1Dreamboy is kind of like that: it’s a romance-driven online game, and the player’s objective is to marry boyband One Direction within 60 days. Natch.

I lasted about two minutes in the realm of 1Dreamboy version 1.0. They expected me to sit through full audio clips ripped from YouTube of the boys’ original “X Factor” auditions, and Simon Cowell kept yelling at me to go away. Nope. Not even for true love. I decided to peace out and try the updated version with slightly better graphics, which was released in May 2014.

The story starts off on the first day of school: my teacher announces that Harry, Louis and Niall will be joining our class for the semester, while Zayn and Liam hold down the fort at “1D Headquarters,” which already makes no sense at all, but whatever.

Niall is the only one who appears to actually attend school; Harry and Louis stand in the hallway and are exceptionally rude. Harry says “Who the hell are you?” every time I try to initiate conversation, while Louis seems to respond best to me acting completely unhinged. When I select “LOUIS! MARRY ME!” as an opening line from the provided chat options, his response is, “You’re crazy, but I like it!”

Yeah, alright, let’s go with that.

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The first step of the game is to get to know the characters a little better. Zayn takes me to “the karaoke,” where I have to actually enable my computer’s microphone and sing along with a sped-up, Muzak rendition of “Best Song Ever.” Harry makes me play the piano while he rehearses “Little Things” (this is not only a difficult task to execute using my keyboard, but I had to mute my speakers through it as well because that song is god-awful).

Then, shit gets weird. At one point, Niall leaves me alone with Justin Bieber, who has appeared solely to participate in this scene. Bieber suggests that we split up and search the town for Niall as if he’s a lost puppy. When I finally find him, I discover that he’s been kidnapped by the cast of “Mean Girls” for some reason, and I have to engage in fisticuffs with Regina George. Now that’s romance.

The next day, Taylor Swift shows up to confront me about my relationship with Harry. I really don’t have one — as I said, he’s mostly rebuffed my advances. But she also wants to fight. And she also kicks my ass. Afterwards, Harry shows up and confesses his love for me, which is really the only reasonable reaction to this kind of situation.

Little did I know, this would cause some tension between Louis and Harry. Back in their hallway at school, Harry accuses Louis of playing me. Louis — ever the ladies’ man — tells Harry off, so Harry takes a swing at him. After the fight, they both demote me back to “just friends” status and delete their numbers from my cell phone. Rude as hell, but probably for the best.

I decide to pursue Zayn instead. Once I’ve formed a rapport with him by asking “Vas happenin,” I can ask him on a date, at which point the game becomes incredibly boring. He asks me to describe myself, and I lose points for giving him the “wrong” answers to questions like “What’s your favorite color?” Well, alright, Zayn. Maybe I’m just a little distracted by the disproportionate head-to-torso ratio this game’s animators have given you.

I suddenly realize that I’m running out of time, but Niall won’t accept any of my marriage proposals, so I find myself at an impasse. Once my 60 days are up, the boys determine that I don’t love them enough, so they decide to skip town. It’s the most frustrating conclusion imaginable. I don’t love you enough?! I just spent the better part of my night completing word searches and buying bouquets of flowers for you!

Once I come up for air, it’s 11 p.m., and I have missed messages on my phone from real, actual people who are out doing things in the physical world while I’ve been immersed in the 1Dreamboy universe. I can’t believe these are the life choices I’ve made.

Album review: One Direction, ‘Midnight Memories’

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Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles and Niall Horan. Photo courtesy of Columbia Records, Syco Music and Sony Music.

The best thing about “Midnight Memories” is, in fact, that it doesn’t entirely sound like a fully-realized album. It sounds like a transitional stage with evidence of boys becoming men splashed over every track. On the album’s title track, Niall Horan sings, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m finding my way,” and that is exactly what comes across. The album is good, but what makes it interesting is the potential for greatness as One Direction continues to develop as a band.

The most notable difference between “Midnight Memories” and One Direction’s previous two albums is that each of the five members contributed to the songwriting, and only three tracks were written without the band’s collaboration. One of these is the album’s excellent lead single, “Best Song Ever,” which is catchy, straightforward pop that would easily fit in on last year’s “Take Me Home.”

The rest of the album, however, is quite a bit different: largely guitar-driven pop-rock showcasing the personal growth, complex ideas and unique personalities of each member.

Louis Tomlinson leads the group in songwriting, having helped pen 12 of the 18 tracks. Arguably One Direction’s weakest singer, Tomlinson demonstrates on “Midnight Memories” the impressive writing and production talent he has long since been cultivating. Alongside Liam Payne (who co-wrote nine “Midnight Memories” songs with Tomlinson), he has pursued a (yet rather inactive) role as director for One Mode Productions Limited, and is also largely responsible for plucking Australian pop-rock group 5 Seconds of Summer from obscurity and bringing them along as the opening act on One Direction’s Take Me Home Tour.

Tomlinson’s talent truly shines on the superb “Strong.” The song features mature, understated verses contrasted against a sweeping, fast-paced chorus. The musical accompaniment is rhythmic and interesting, solidifying “Strong” as one of the album’s best tracks.

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Photo courtesy of Columbia Records, Syco Music and Sony Music.

Other standouts include “Happily,” “Little Black Dress,” “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” and “Something Great.” From its tender ballads to harder dance tunes, “Midnight Memories” has a lot to offer as it teases a more adult side to One Direction. There is some implied profanity (“People talk shh– but we don’t listen.”) and suggested sexuality (“You say you’re a good girl, / But I know you would, girl.”).  Scandalous!

One of Payne’s most interesting contributions to the album is “Better Than Words,” the verses of which are comprised only of other song titles. It name-drops everything from Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” to Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” representative of the idea that one’s own words are not enough to capture the essence of love. It’s a really intriguing concept, and the resulting song is equally captivating.

The album’s title track is massive — a throwback to solid ‘70s and ‘80s arena rock with a headbang-able chorus to the tune of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” It was designed to translate effortlessly on One Direction’s forthcoming world stadium tour, and it will.

But the album has its weak points.

There is a disappointing lack of Zayn Malik’s presence on “Midnight Memories.” He has the fewest songwriting credits of all band members, contributing only to the group effort, “Story of My Life.” And, although he is one of the band’s strongest and most consistent singers, he is given few opportunities to demonstrate his vocal talent on this release. Instead, One Direction risks entrusting its weaker singers with carrying the meatier parts of songs like “You & I,” on which Horan unfortunately falls flat, leaving the song floundering.

A good chunk of “Midnight Memories” is clearly influenced by modern indie folk musicians along the lines of the Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, and Mumford & Sons. This works out amazingly well on the consummate and deeply emotional “Story of My Life” and on Harry Styles’ rebellious ode to young love, “Happily,” but less so on others such as “Through the Dark.”

The four bonus tracks are all good — similar in the traditionally over-the-top style of One Direction’s previous albums. “Alive” is particularly entertaining: it seems to be about seeking medical treatment for sex addiction (“My mother told me I should go and get some therapy. / I asked the doctor, ‘Can you find out what is wrong with me? / I don’t know why I wanna be with every girl I meet.’”), then thinking better of it (“Went to a party just after the doctor talked to me. / I met a girl, I took her in up to the balcony. / I whispered something in her ear that I just can’t repeat.”). The moral of the story being that there is really a fine line between nymphomania and youthful exuberance. Or something like that.

On the other end of the spectrum is “Half a Heart,” which also uses some ridiculous lyrics to convey, this time, a more romantic message. The chorus laments, “I’m walking around with just one shoe. / I’m half a heart without you.” The band might not ever top a lyric like “I can make your tears fall down like the showers that are British” from “Over Again,” but it’s certainly not for lack of trying.

Altogether, “Midnight Memories” is a nice third album from One Direction and a tantalizing taste of what the future holds for these five artists. They obviously have what it takes to make a Beatleslike leap from “Please Please Me” to “Abbey Road.” “Midnight Memories” isn’t quite there yet, but the outlook is good.

One Direction

Midnight Memories

Release Date: Nov. 25

Genre: Pop, Rock

Grade: B+