Music groups don’t come with much less street cred than this: After failing individually in auditions for the U.K.’s X Factor in 2010, five teen crooners were slapped together by judge Simon Cowell into an insta-band that made it to the show’s finals with wobbly-cute renditions of well-trod classics like ”Your Song” and ”Forever Young.” (They got third place.) But One Direction have something else: They’re the first viable next-gen boy band for a tween demographic that knows Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC only as golden oldies. (Just ask British teens, who have already sent Up All Night up the charts overseas.) Those acts are clear touchstones, from OD’s style — think Nick Carter’s scarf-wearing foreign-exchange-student cousins — to their music, which melds five-part harmonies and prefab production. Still, Up All Night marches to a new, postmillennial tiger beat: The irresistibly bouncy ”One Thing,” the Kelly Clarkson-co-penned ”Tell Me a Lie,” and the party-till-Mom-comes-home title track are all charmingly gimmick-free slices of white-bread wonder. And insofar as a group of five near-strangers can have a personality, OD’s is likably low-key: They’re just a band of impeccably coiffed blokes who want nothing more than to ”be your life, your voice, your reason to be,” but don’t want to make a ”mess upon your innocence.” (Yuck.) Lyrics like that — and forgettable tracks like the hormone-marinated ballad ”Save You Tonight” — won’t help the group earn much respect in music circles. But if a tween-pop empire is what these boys are after, they’re definitely headed in the right direction. B+
THE RIGHT DIRECTION The teen boy band might hail from the UK, but their bubblegum tunes will no doubt find their place stateside (Chris Lopez)
Genre: Pop; Lead Performer: One Direction
Posted March 20 2012 — 12:00 AM EDT
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