“Purpose” v. “Made In The A.M.”
Purpose v. Made In The A.M.
by Kat Chapman
On November 13, 2015, two of the biggest artists with two of the biggest fan bases in the world (and maybe music history thus far) both dropped a new album. Each of these albums was really important to each artist and their careers due to the timing. Justin Bieber released Purpose, his fourth record after a 3-year hiatus, in which he got into some pretty nasty shenanigans. One Direction released Made In The A.M., their fifth record, the first without Zayn Malik who left the band back in March. So, whose album reigns supreme?
Well, I wish it was that simple. Although both of these albums are pop, they have two completely different sounds. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. I’ve been listening to both albums for the past 96 hours and it’s been a whole lot of I-didn’t-expect-this-sound-from-this-artist. Let me elaborate, I’ll break it down for you:
Justin’s first two albums (My World and My World 2.0) were extremely bubblegum pop and served the purpose of creating catchy tunes to excel him into fame. Which they did and respectively they’re really good pop albums but they’re not much more than that (recall singles like ‘One Time’, ‘Baby’, ‘Never Say Never’ and ‘U Smile’). His third album, Believe, really started to show his growth as an artist. There were several slow jams on that album as well as some more electronic songs. It boasted great radio singles like ‘Boyfriend’, ‘As Long As You Love Me’ ft. Big Sean and ‘Beauty And A Beat’ ft. Nicki Minaj. Believe was a phenomenal pop album, personally one of my favorites ever, but it was still appealing to mostly his fans, which are typically teenage girls.
After the Believe era died, the tour was over and the singles stopped getting as much radio play, Justin took a break. He started making headlines for doing some really stupid and disrespectful things, he was even arrested. A lot of people hated him. And then he dropped ‘Where Are Ü Now’ with Skrillex, Diplo and Jack Ü. Total electronic track but it blew up on the mainstream. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it, whether you were in the grocery store or the club. And a lot of people who never thought twice about Justin Bieber were enthusiastically singing along. Fast forward and he drops ‘What Do You Mean’, another extremely electronic track but catchy nonetheless. It also blows up and people start to pay attention to his comeback. He drops two more tracks from the album (‘Sorry’ and ‘I’ll Show You’) before its release date, and they both do well. All four of these songs have similar sounds, so it draws in a different crowd, a male crowd that Justin hasn’t had the opportunity to entertain yet.
The remainder of the album, in my opinion, is split three ways: electronic, slow jam and ballad. Along with the four songs I previously mentioned, ‘Mark My Words’, ‘The Feeling’ ft. Halsey, ‘Children’, ‘Been You’ and ‘Get Used To It’ are all heavily electronic tracks. All the electronic ones are very upbeat and very happy, super great to dance to. The slow jams are ‘No Pressure’ ft. Big Sean, ‘No Sense’ ft. Travis Scott, ‘We Are’ ft. Nas, ‘Trust’ and ‘All In It’. A lot of these songs remind me of Drake. He sings/ speaks off the beat but it still flows nicely. Now, the ballads are my favorite songs on the album. ‘Purpose’ is a nod to the fans, a thank you for doing what they do and still being there. ‘Life Is Worth Living’ chronicles his thoughts when he was doing the stupid and illegal things and how he got out of that. ‘Love Yourself’ is basically a f*ck you to an ex (we all know who but I’ll let you fill in that blank) but it’s so gentle that it’s kind of surprising. Ed Sheeran helped pen that one and sings backing vocals on it.
Overall, it’s a very new and mature sound. I’m not surprised in the slightest that it’s gaining him fans out of people who never liked him. This is a great comeback album.
Now, on to One Direction. Similar to Justin, their first two albums (Up All Night and Take Me Home) were very bubblegum pop meant to produce catchy singles and push them into fame, which of course it did (recall singles ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, ‘One Thing’, ‘Kiss You’ and ‘Little Things’). Their third album, Midnight Memories, incorporated instruments a lot more heavily and they played around with a more rock sound; it produced singles ‘Best Song Ever’, ‘Story Of My Life’, ‘Midnight Memories’ and ‘You & I’. The fourth album, Four, kept up with the incorporation of instruments (rather than the support of just their voices or synthesized sound). It has more of a, I would call it, songwriter feel to it. It produced singles ‘Steal My Girl’ and ‘Night Changes’.
Each of their albums was released year after year so in the five years that they’ve been a band, they’ve released five albums. And each album has had a tour. Four’s tour was called On The Road Again and it began in February of 2015. All five members started on the tour, however; we all know that Zayn Malik left the band on March 25, 2015. There were way too many dates left to cancel the tour so they finished it as a four piece.
The band later formally announced that One Direction would continue on as a four piece. They surprise dropped ‘Drag Me Down,’ and everyone freaked out because it was the first song without Zayn. It was a very different sound for them (kind of electronic and rock mixed together) and Harry Styles easily took over the soaring vocals Zayn would’ve sang, so it didn’t sound like anything was missing. They also dropped ‘Infinity’, ‘Perfect’, ‘History’, ‘End Of The Day’ and ‘Love You Goodbye’ before the album came out. Each one got good reviews from their fans, but the general consensus was just that they were doing fine without Zayn, not exactly gaining momentum for the album’s release.
The remainder of the album again can be split into: golden oldies, pop tunes and ballads. ‘Hey Angel’, ‘Never Enough’, ‘What A Feeling’, ‘Temporary Fix’ and ‘Walking In The Wind’ all remind me of some older songs. I think this small portion of the album may appeal to fans’ parents and that may open a new demographic to the band who normally only ever addressed said parents while live in concert. ‘Olivia’, ‘Wolves’ and almost all the singles they released are all just really good pop songs. They’re fun and catchy and happy and as much as I and the rest of their fans love them, I think these songs are the ones that hold them back slightly. The ballads on this album are also my favorites, there’s quite a few. ‘If I Could Fly’ reminds me of ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles and it’s just a really good, harmonious song. ‘Long Way Down’, ‘Love You Goodbye’, ‘I Want To Write You A Song’ and ‘A.M.’ all seem really personal and references to the relationship the band has with their fans.
This whole album highlights their voices like never before with each guy having to step up his game with the loss of one member, and they don’t disappoint. Niall Horan has more solos than ever before and Louis Tomlinson is almost featured on four songs with a target high note we’ve never heard from him.
The hint of golden oldies helps remind us how old all these boys are and what kind of music they were raised on. It’s a step up for them and it shows their maturity as artists but I don’t think it’s going to pull in new fans. With so many songs easily being about the fans and the band, the whole album is like a thank you to the fans for staying after Zayn left. It’s also something to hold the fans over since One Direction are going on a break until 2017. None of the singles have been big radio hits and that’s ok, that’s not what they were aiming to do.
So, again, whose album reigns supreme?
Music taste is subjective and this answer is going to vary depending on who you ask. I’m a huge fan of both artists so I can’t choose. Success-wise, I’m gonna go with Justin. The kind of music he’s made is exactly the kind of stuff that’s popular in the mainstream and so he’s gaining new fans. These new fans then may listen to his ballads where he explains himself and you feel for him and gain a new respect for him. Lasting-power, I’m gonna go with 1D. The kind of music they’ve made is almost an homage to classic songs and sounds which are classics for a reason. Plus, this album will keep millions of fans satisfied for over a year, the longest One Direction fans have ever gone without new music.
Before I listened to either album, my friend Jordan Castillo said “Made In The A.M. makes me happy and Purpose makes me want to drive around and think.” With that in mind, after the first few listens of either album, I completely agree. They’re two different sounds with two different goals for two different fan bases. Both albums are fantastic.