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Anxious times at Syco Entertainment, Simon Cowell’s HQ. Minions cower, the white cat leaps off Cowell’s lap with a hiss, the Blofeld of pop bangs his desk in a rage. One Direction want to write their own songs!
A chill runs down the Cowell spine. Remember The Monkees? One moment a nice bunch of factory hands churning out wholesome teen-pop – the next dropping acid and making freaky sounds on Head. A minion nervously cues Midnight Memories. The room steels itself for 1D’s new dubstep direction.
“Best Song Ever” blasts out, its intro a homage to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”, the rest a brisk piece of pop-rock in which the boys sing about dancing all night with a firecracker who won’t go home with them. The mood at Syco lightens. A bit of classic-rock for the dads, some lively but chaste flirtation for the daughters. Good demographics!
The rest continues in the same assured fashion. Acoustic guitars and kick drum shift “Story of My Life” into Mumfords territory, though without the terrible faux-whiskeriness, while the title track finds Harry Styles et al unleashing their inner Sunset Strip rocker to daftly enjoyable effect. A bit of raunch on “Better Than Words” shows the boys are grown-ups now, but there are no awkward Miley Cyrus-style sexcapades. The songwriting credits reveal a smattering of pros alongside the boys’ names: the 1D meltdown must wait for another day. Sighs of relief at Syco. The white cat returns to the boss’s lap. Back to business.