One Direction NEW TRACK

One Direction gave their former band mate Zayn Malik little over 24 hours to celebrate his new solo record deal before they stole his thunder with a surprise new single. They say timing is crucial for the failure or success of music, and this one was certainly a considered approach. Over their previous four albums, the boyband have gradually resisted the chewy pop some of their predecessors pushed out, instead opting for tracks with subtle guitar riffs (‘Night Changes’), amped-up pop-rock (‘Midnight Memories’) and tongue-in-cheek humour (‘Best Song Ever’).

But here with ‘Drag Me Down’, there’s a notable shift back in the direction they have come. They don’t return to the teen-pop beginning of ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ by any means, but this is certainly up there as one of their most pop-centric releases to date. If anything, they have reversed down to Midnight Memories and swerved forward on a different road with slick bass, funky guitar riffs, and a nodding reggae groove. The track is moody but defiant, and neatly sums up the kind of sentiment a pop group would be feeling following a recent departure.

However, there is an underlying niggle that Zayn would have taken this track up a notch. Harry Styles does well to adapt his vocal inflection towards the end to compensate for the smooth runs and ad-libs Zayn would usually master, but by doing so his intimately gruff tone is missing on some of the more quiet moments where it is sorely needed. It means Louis Tomlinson steps up for a more prominent role in the verses, but his slightly thin vocals don’t pack the soulful power a Police-inspired jam requires. Again, we know Liam Payne is a capable vocalist, but his low register on the pre-chorus puts him at a disadvantage.

That said, ‘Drag Me Down’ is enough to pull One Direction up out of a post-departure slump, and certainly signals a new glossier output for the forthcoming album. It’s packaged perfectly for radio (especially with its addictive refrain and colossal build-up), appealing to both their ageing teen fan base and a pop-aware demographic who are slightly older. They may have taken a hit with the exit of Zayn, but One Direction are far from down and out.

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