What is the Most Influential One Direction Album?

What is the Most Influential One Direction Album?

Michaela Boyd

The year 2010 gave hair feathers, Sarah Palin’s reality TV show, and the “Jersey Shore” franchise. 2010 also gave us one of the best gifts of all, One Direction. The band recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary on July 23, with new pictures on the social media platforms and the interactive website that fans managed to crash within hours of the site´s launching. According to TheVerge, One Direction had a career spanning 329 live shows, and five studio albums were released over the course of four years. Upon consultation with fellow staff members and my One Direction obsessed friends, I have come to the conclusion that there is not a single most influential album to date. Each individual album has its own sound and meaning, and it would be unfair to make comparisons to determine the “best” album.

We were graced with the “Up All Night” album two years after the initial forming of the band on the seventh season of X-Factor. Although the group did not make it to the final round, Simon Cowell saw the potential within the boys and signed them to a record label anyways. When the group, consisting of Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson, released their debut album, it made One Direction the first group from the United Kingdom to debut number one in the United States. 4.5 million copies of the album were sold worldwide, and more than 2.5 million of them were sold in the United States. This number does not account for streaming on various platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music, because those services simply weren’t as popular during that time. “What Makes You Beautiful” is easily one of the most instantly recognizable One Direction songs, and it can be argued that without “UAN,” One Direction would not be where they are today. But, “UAN” sounds like a very stereotypical boy band, and that can drive away listeners that might not find that genre appealing. 

After the success of “UAN”, “Take Me Home” and “Take Me Home: Yearbook Edition” and various re-releases were given to the masses. “TMH” included songs like “Live While We’re Young,” “Kiss You,” and “I Would,” among other hit songs that dominated the charts. The first release reached number one in 35 countries, and over 4 million copies were sold worldwide, again not counting streaming numbers. “TMH: Yearbook Edition” was released shortly after, and included four bonus tracks not originally on the album. The iTunes version had extra videos that were not available anywhere else, and then the Target exclusive brought three new songs to the table, and the final release of the Japanese version included all of the songs previously listed on various re-releases. From “UAN” to “TMH,” you could tell the content of their songs had evolved in the short span of time with the boys, most prominently marked by the song “Rock Me.” It can be argued that these are the more known One Direction hits, but the number of re-releases is simply too confusing to remember. 

In late 2013, their third studio album “Midnight Memories” was released to much anticipation from fans. This album marked the official transition from boy band to pop group with songs such as “Best Song Ever,” “Story of My Life,” “Diana,” and the title track “Midnight Memories.” “MM” reached number one in over 90 countries worldwide and by the end of the release date, all 18 tracks on the album were in the iTunes Top 100 chart and sold 4 million copies in only five weeks. In addition to the standard album, a deluxe version was also released, including four extra songs, and the One Direction documentary, “This Is Us,” had been released just a few months prior to “Midnight Memories.” Although the transition of sound was momentous and there were four number-one singles on just one album, the most of any One Direction album, “MM” is often left out of the group. I have met very few people who say “Midnight Memories” is their favorite album.

After “Midnight Memories” came the aptly named fourth studio album, “Four.” In addition to selling 3.2 million copies worldwide and reaching number one in 67 countries, not including streaming numbers, “Four” was the last album that included all five members and to have a tour. “Four” brought us two singles, “Steal My Girl” and “Night Changes,” and a deluxe edition with four extra songs. Choosing a favorite One Direction song is like choosing a favorite child, it shouldn’t be done, but “Four” includes two of my top favorite songs, “Illusion” and “Night Changes.” I argue that “Four” is the last traditional One Direction album and it has the absolute last trace of the boy band image, thus launching the “beginning of the end.” It feels bittersweet in retrospect because we did not know during the launch and touring of the album that Zayn would leave or that there would be only one more album. 

The end of an era was marked with “Made in the A.M,” the first album as a group of four. 2.4 million copies were sold worldwide, and according to Liam and Niall, this album sounded similar to the works of Ed Sheeran, Oasis, and Fleetwood Mac. Songwriter Julian Brunetta noted the changes in an interview, stating that “there were songs about love, and some were more sexually charged, and it was all over the place.” There were 13 songs on the standard release, four more on the deluxe edition, and four remixes on the “Perfect EP.” “Made in the A.M.” gave us “Perfect,” “History,” and “Drag Me Down” as singles, and I was surprised the title song was not released as a single. There was not a tour for this album, which was new for the band, and exactly one month after the release of “Made in the A.M.,” the group performed on X-Factor for the last time. E! announced in August 2015 that One Direction would be taking a hiatus beginning in March of 2016. We, the fans, were told by Louis Tomlinson himself that the break would last 18 months, but at the time of writing, it has been about 56 months. 

Starting with “Up All Night” and ending with “Made in the A.M., it feels almost as if the story came full circle. When you compare the title tracks of both albums, “UAN” feels like the upbeat and naive beginning of the story, and “MITAM” is sophisticated and mature. Although the boys are a lot older than I am, I truly felt like I grew up with them. I was in third grade when “UAN” was released, and sixth grade when “MITAM” was finished, and their music was like a crutch. No matter what happened in the world, One Direction was always a constant. 10 years after the release, my love for One Direction has yet to subside. In conclusion, I do not believe there is a most influential album, but rather the band itself revolutionized the modern boy band and created a life-long fanbase.

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the band’s forming, my friends and I held a party where we dressed up, watched “This Is Us,” ate One Direction themed food, and had a bracket of all of the One Direction songs ever made.