Along with their boy band counterparts/friends/pseudo-rivals The Wanted, U.K. group One Direction has helped revive a left-for-dead genre of pop music by capturing the fancy of their native country in an incredibly short time. After finishing third on the British version of "The X Factor," Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson inked a deal with Syco Records, released their debut album, "Up All Night," in the U.K. last November, racked up over 100 million YouTube views for the music videos for the album's first three singles, and defeated artists like Adele, Jessie J, and Ed Sheeran at the 2012 BRIT Awards when "What Makes You Beautiful" was named Best British Single.
One Direction's popularity is growing, and with the March 13 U.S. release of "Up All Night," the boys have set their sights on the States. One question remains: is the music any good?
Let's get this right out of the way: first single "What Makes You Beautiful" is the real deal. The song may not have earned its win over Adele's "Someone Like You" at the BRIT Awards, but One Direction's smash hit is as endlessly playable as "Bye Bye Bye" or "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," and as unstoppable as its 65 million Vevo views suggest. As the first song on "Up All Night," "What Makes You Beautiful" leads a front-loaded effort -- its first three songs have doubled as its first three singles in the U.K. -- that can make the debut album feel a bit top-heavy. Themes of innocent romance are constant throughout "Up All Night," but tracks like "Gotta Be You" and "More Than This" hit a mark more smoothly than songs like "Everything About You" and "Taken."
Even on its weakest tracks, however, "Up All Night" demonstrates an originality in sound that was necessary for the revitalization of the boy band movement. The electro-pop currently dominating Top 40 radio is seamlessly weaved into the pop harmonies made standards by 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees -- for instance, the title track sounds like a hybrid of BSB's "Larger Than Life" and an LMFAO song, and even includes a Katy Perry name-check. "Up All Night" has its ups and downs, but One Direction complete two important tasks on their debut album: the boy band notches a long-lasting hit with "What Makes You Beautiful," and they look forward instead of back. Get ready to hear a lot more One Direction.
What are the best songs on "Up All Night"? Check out Billboard.com's track-by-track review of the album before its official U.S. release next week, and tell us what you think of the songs in the comments section below.
1. "What Makes You Beautiful" - Easy to hear why this single has stuck. Like 'N Sync's most durable hits, with a cheeky electro-pop twist.
2. "Gotta Be You" - Lush strings welcome lines like "I'm the foolish you anointed with your heart/I tore it apart." Inventive elements at play here, like the unexpected falsetto in the chorus that leads to full-blown group crooning.
3. "One Thing" - Perfectly executed pop-rock, with generic lyrics justified by the spirited delivery of the 1D boys. This one could own radio for months.
4. "More Than This" - One Direction's own "All I Have To Give," replete with the standout line, "When he lays you down, I might just die inside." Bouncing synthesizers add some gravitas to the chorus.
5. "Up All Night" - Title track acts as stomping party anthem; "Katy Perry's on replay," for goodness sake! Vocal refrain should be intoxicating, but feels a bit too safe.
6. "I Wish" - Another mid-tempo ode to jealousy in the face of "the other man." Reminiscent in lyrical tone to Robyn's "Dancing On My Own," but even more forlorn.
7. "Tell Me A Lie" - Guitar strums bump up against pulsating synths as One Direction declares that ignorance is bliss (when it comes to failing romances, anyway).
8. "Taken" - The flip side of "Tell Me A Lie": now the narrator is fending off a bewitching girl trying to break up his current relationship. You can envision the triple-finger-snap as the boys sing, "Who do you think you are?"
9 . "I Want" - Much-needed change-up, with a jaunty piano line during the verses and a (relatively) sinister, "Tainted Love" vibe on the chorus. It even has a cool breakdown!
10. "Everything About You" - More soaring romance, but the bubblegum verses offer more personality than the standard harmonic hook.
11. "Same Mistakes" - The production strengthens this sweeping ballad, with a gorgeous array of piano, synthesizer and percussion outshining the solid vocal performances.
12. "Save You Tonight" - Drake isn't the only popular music figure who wants to "save" women from their humdrum existences! Enjoyably retro in sound and arrangement.
13. "Stole My Heart" - A synth hook that resembles Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" crossed with Cobra Starship's "You Make Me Feel…," and one more anthem dedicated to The Perfect Girl. Fist-pumping optional but encouraged.