Having officially stolen the teen idol crown from the soon-to-be irrelevant Justin Bieber, British boy band One Direction have become so ubiquitous you might forget they’re actually just a bunch of losers. Formed after the individual members were deemed not talented enough to win The X Factor on their own, the lads finished third in the competition, but defied the odds and took over the world anyway.
Their sophomore disc, Take Me Home, is a slightly more swaggerific take on their debut, with bigger, bouncier hooks, bathetic ballads, and a bit of negging misogyny (“You’ve never loved your stomach or your thighs,” they croon lovingly on the Ed Sheeran–penned sap-fest “Little Things.”).
Although Take Me Home was very much constructed by committee—it took seven songwriting gurus to write three-minute stadium-rocker “Kiss You”—Harry & the Hairstyles sound unlike any other act on the pop landscape, and there’s a secret to their effortless rise: they rock harder than any boy band in history.
One Direction’s towering tunes are built upon guitar, bass, and drums—a solid foundation that’s been largely abandoned by current groups—and though it’s all compressed and AutoTuned to Frankensteinian proportions, there’s something about an absence of bass drops that sounds refreshing again.
At the end of the day, it’s only rock ’n’ roll. But you’ll like it.
Playlist picks “Live While We’re Young,” “Back for You,” “I Would,” “Kiss You”