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A definitive ranking of every One Direction album in honor of their 10th anniversary

A definitive ranking of every One Direction album in honor of their 10th anniversary

A definitive ranking of every One Direction album in honor of their 10th anniversary
July 23
19:41 2020

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since four British boys and one Irish boy from the X Factor “Stole My Heart” (aha) and lead me to purchase every Union Jack-clad item I could get my hands on. One decade, three concerts, a theatrical movie and countless dollars later, I still have a soft spot for one of the biggest boybands to have ever walked the earth. Though my cardboard cutouts are long gone (or are they…) and all five members — Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne — have solo careers, the 10-year anniversary has encouraged me to put my Directioner hat back on and rank the band’s five albums from worst to best, featuring the highs and lows from each.

5.  “Up All Night” (2011)

Honestly, by “worst” album I mean “incredible, but slightly less so than the others.” This album is iconic in its own right — as their first record, it’s what skyrocketed them out of UK fame and into the spotlight on the rest of the planet. Tracks like “What Makes You Beautiful” are some of the most well-known songs of all time, and the stripes and suspenders era will forever be historic. But this album is essentially full of cookie-cutter, teeny-bopper pop songs, and while they’re fun for nostalgia purposes, there aren’t many tracks I’d listen to unironically.

Highs: “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Same Mistakes,” “Moments”

Lows: “Stand Up,” “Up All Night,” “Stole My Heart”

4. “Made in the AM” (2015)

While this album absolutely has some bops, I have to say it — it just isn’t the same without Zayn. Harry did the best he could to fill the gap in the vocals, and being one member down meant Louis and Niall had more time to shine, but many of these songs are just meh. Though it was their final album, it’s less mature than 2014’s “FOUR.” Still, though, “Wolves” and “Infinity” are some of my favorites across their entire discography. The strong songs on this album are really, really strong, and I love the ones that have almost an indie sound, but it’s not consistent enough for it to take the number three spot. And again, no Zayn is no bueno.

Highs: “Wolves,” “If I Could Fly,” “Infinity”

Lows: “What a Feeling,” “Walking in the Wind,” “Never Enough”

3. “Take me Home” (2012)

The band’s second album maintained some of that sugar-pop sound from “Up All Night” but felt more cohesive. There are a few cringe tracks here, too (see the lows list), but all-in-all this is a solid mix of songs. Sonically, songs like “Heart Attack,” “Back for You” and “Kiss You” sound incredible, with some of the catchiest beats and riffs. The guys sound better vocally, too, best displayed in “C’mon, C’mon.” There’s also a more authentic tone to their slower songs here, like in “Little Things,” “Summer Love” and “Over Again.” Additionally, I look back fondly at this era of Zayn’s blonde skunk stripe in his hair (can you tell I was a Zayn girl?)

Highs: “Kiss You,” “Little Things,” “Summer Love”

Lows: “Live While We’re Young,” “They Don’t Know About Us,” “Rock Me”

2. “FOUR” (2014)

This is a VERY close second as it’s nearly impossible to choose between the two remaining albums. “FOUR” is by far their most mature and grounded work. The melodies are stronger, the vocals tighter, the lyrics more authentic. By this point, One Direction had retained their pop nature while shedding much of the bubblegum fluff that accompanied earlier albums. There’s a youthful, innocent tone to the track list (“18,” “Ready to Run”), but it also sports more depth (“Night Changes”). The slow songs are raw (“Fool’s Gold”) but there are still some catchy tunes (“No Control,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “Clouds”). Lastly, this album catapulted Harry Styles into the realm of rising stars and helped myself and others realize his potential as a singer and songwriter. His solo work is by far my favorite. Side note, I’m writing this with my Harry Styles blanket draped across my desk chair.

Highs: “Night Changes,” “Fool’s Gold,” “No Control”

Lows: “Steal My Girl,” “Act My Age,” “Change Your Ticket”

1. Midnight Memories (2013)

I will never forget listening to this entire album at 1 a.m. after it was leaked on Tumblr. For me, this album represented the height of One Direction — or at least it was the era I was most invested in them. “Midnight Memories” and “FOUR” are their best lyrically, and this one’s my favorite sonically. I loved the almost alternative sound heard in the lighter songs, as well as the heavier rock influence in their hard-hitting pop songs. There’s even a folk undertone to “Through the Dark.” This was the first album that saw almost every member in their 20s, and it shows — there’s more complexity to both the lyrics and song composition and almost a coming-of-age undertone with songs that sound more serious and genuine “Strong,” “Happily,” “Something Great,” “Story of My Life” and “Half a Heart.” “You and I” was the love song of the year, “Right Now” was a superior display of Zayn’s vocals and “Why Don’t We Go There” is the band’s most underrated song. Then you have the undisputable bangers that are “Midnight Memories” and “Little Black Dress,” as well as one of the most iconic music videos of all time with “Best Song Ever.” On top of that, this album holds the most nostalgia for me.

Highs: “Midnight Memories,” “Through the Dark,” “Half a Heart”

Lows: “Alive,” “Better Than Words,” “Does He Know?”

Featured Image: Courtesy Reuters

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Haley Arnold

Haley Arnold

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