In the five years One Direction have been a band, they've done the unthinkable: In 2015 alone they've broken six Guinness World Records. It's quite clear that they'll go down in history as not only one of the biggest boy bands of all time, but one of the best, too. With ample time to soak in their fifth and quite possibly final studio album, Made in the A.M., we look back to their previous releases. With one full-length every year since their creation, there's a lot to dig into!
New to the band? An avid Directioner? However you fancy yourself, we're sure you'll appreciate an in-depth exploration of the band's repertoire, ranked from best to worst. Let's be honest, though—the worst of One Direction is still a lot better than most things.
One Direction was huge commercially by the fall of 2013, but with the release of Midnight Memories, they became gigantic musically. Gone were the bubblegum tendencies of the group's first two albums, replaced by expertly arranged arena-rock and tender folk balladry. “Best Song Ever” and “Story of my Life” were effective singles, but the whole album is easily digestible and deeply likable. When all is said and done, Midnight Memories is 1D’s body of work worth returning to most often. –Jason Lipshutz
One Direction refreshed their formula with Four's lead single, "Steal My Girl." The band was once again embracing huge, swoon-worthy choruses, but there was an undeniable '80s rock-tinge to the record that wasn't felt as prominently as past releases. The embracing of the past was also felt in "Fireproof," the standout that recalled '60s and '70s folk and was released as a free download to kick off Four promotions. The same could be said of "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," which channels grand '80s power ballads. Meanwhile, "No Control" and "Stockholm Syndrome" are some of 1D's tightest songs to date. With a wink to the past, Four saw One Direction make great leaps forward after potentially going as far as they could with the pop-rock sound in Midnight Memories. –Jeff Benjamin
Ah, the album that started it all. Up All Night was One Direction's first No. 1 album, which made them the first U.K. group to send a debut record to the top of the Billboard 200. And it wasn't just based off the success of "What Makes You Beautiful," either. Up All Night is chock-full of pop gems that weren't dependent on trends (a la the Wanted's album), but were irresistible odes to youthful love that dabbled in different genres. The lush "Stole My Heart" was about as dancey as 1D ever got, while "Gotta Be You" was a slow-crooning R&B ballad. "Tell Me a Lie" was their rock-pop refusal to know another dude had their girl. Up All Night might have been the album where they explored to find their sound, but the searching sounded really good. –Jeff Benjamin
One Direction's fifth studio album is its most recent, its first without Zayn Malik, and may be its last. If this truly is the end, they've gone out with a bang: "What A Feeling" has the guys exploring the innermost Fleetwood Mac influence, "Infinity" stings of Coldplay and "Perfect," exists in some, well, perfect medium. The record is probably their most adult, too, with sexual allusion less hidden than it was in the past. Perhaps 1D were finally ready to let us grow up with them. –Maria Sherman
1D’s sophomore effort is only their weakest in relative terms; there are still goodies to be had here, and the opening run of “Live While We’re Young,” “Kiss You” and “Little Things” is pretty bulletproof. In retrospect, however, Take Me Home was a time of transition, as the boys moved away from the charming pop of their debut and began to embrace old-school rock riffs. That new dynamic would fully bloom on Midnight Memories, and although Take Me Home is the sound of growing pains, some of those explorations really stick. –Jason Lipshutz