Ruminate all you want on celebrity in the Internet age. Today’s boy bands inspire the same garment-rending as last millennium’s moptops, and they do it the old-fashioned way: by gooping up their hair and absorbing the sexual flickerings of young fans into their own flirty chemistry. Social media just amplifies the transaction.
The frisky, winking young men of 1D — who set course on the British X Factor in 2010, have sold 4 million albums in the U.S., and filled theaters with this past summer’s One Direction: This Is Us — lead the Western boy bands. (K-pop covers the rest of the globe.) Midnight Memories, which peaks with the pop-rock winners ”Best Song Ever” and ”Diana,” will sell. And yet the fans, assertive as they are online, won’t see their lives reflected in it — beyond picturing themselves in the embraces teased throughout.
Bizarrely, for an album by guys born in the early ’90s, it’s ’80s hard rock that Midnight celebrates. The title track sounds like Def Leppard’s ”Pour Some Sugar on Me,” criminally de-boogied; pounding sports-arena beats and guitar riffs a centerfold short of raunchy dominate. Harry, Niall, Liam, Zayn, and Louis yearn and vamp yet mainly project self-satisfaction. They avoid angelic harmonies but indulge in lines like ”Not even the gods above can separate the two of us” (from the tap-water ballad ”You & I”). Sung like dudes with something of a God complex themselves. B-