One Direction’s fourth studio album, Four, is out worldwide today (Nov. 17), and fans are already rushing to declare their favorite tracks from the deluxe edition’s 16-song track list. The follow-up to last year’s Midnight Memories finds the U.K. quintet gobbling up more rock influences, this time spreading out their sound to include wisps of punk, indie and Brit-pop to complement the classic-rock moves of previous hits like “Best Song Ever” and “Midnight Memories.” For 1D — a boy band that remains just as relevant on its fourth full-length as it was on its first and second — Four represents a sprawling pop-rock pastiche, and while the 57-minute album deserves to be experienced in full, we at Billboard.com have provided listeners a CliffNotes version of the album to help some dive in to the strongest tracks.
Check out our picks for the five most essential songs on One Direction’s new album, and sound off on our choices in the comments section below.
5. “Change Your Ticket“
The influence of the 1975 is pretty easy to locate on “Change Your Ticket,” which props its pleads for a girl to stay in city (and in bed) over a shiny coil of guitar straight out of “Chocolate.” Still, the lyrical concept here is inventive and heartfelt, and “Change Your Ticket” will likely be a blast to experience live.
Just like “Little Things,” “18” was co-written by Ed Sheeran, and like “Little Things” on 2012’s Take Me Home, “18” is the standout ballad on its respective album. A story of high school romance turned adult adoration, “18” contains a final chorus designed up to choke up the listener, where Louis Tomlinson quietly declares, “I have love you since we were 18/Long before we both thought the same thing” over pensive strums.
3. “No Control“
The strongest aspect of “No Control” is clearly its production, which swivels between handclaps, perky rhythm guitar, sirens and crisp cymbal taps with such precision that the balancing act appears effortless. The vocal melodies are also arranged beautifully, with the verses painstakingly pronounced before the boys can no longer stay patient and blurt out the euphoric chorus.
2. “Steal My Girl“
The first single from Four is one of the album’s most complete statements, a multistory classic-rock suite with piano stabs, rip-cord bass and Warrant-approved lyrics like “Every jaw drops when she’s in those jeans.” The boys sound downright giddy delivering this chorus, and their joy is contagious.
1. “Girl Almighty”
A One Direction rock song is typically a combination of a handful of classic, capitalized ideas, and while “Girl Almighty” doesn’t attempt innovation, its grab bag of influences produces the most delirious three-and-a-half minutes on the album. The clipped guitar riffs, the string-like synthesizers filling in the gaps before the verses and anvil-heavy drums peppered throughout the chorus all recall different rock reference points, and while there are plenty of songs that equate bodacious women with religious purity, One Direction goes for the gusto with couplets like “Let’s have another toast to the girl almighty/Let’s pray we stay young, stay made out of lightning.” It’s patently ridiculously, and wholly mesmerizing.