Were any of these kids even born during BSB’s heyday?
Jonathan Bogart: Good heavens those are some adorable moppets.
Brad Shoup: Aw, our narrator is super insecure and just needs a nudge of confidence to find that love he deserves. If only someone would write a song for that! Look, I don’t care if they release the same fake-clapping, triggered-strum song ’til the Rio Olympics. This is clearly the métier of everyone involved, and for Britain, ceasing to become a net importer of music videos with frolicsome lads on beaches is at least as important an economic step as ending expansionary austerity.
Edward Okulicz: Let’s imagine Cheiron/Maratone Studios was a band who had rotating singers rather than being a factory of high-impact pop for the highest bidders. This might be a new single off their hypothetical greatest hits, celebrating the growth and success the members found backing up artists as diverse as Backstreet Boys, Backstreet Boys and Kelly Clarkson, and here they are returning to their strength of high-impact, bouncy pop with cute young things in front of them. Turns out they’ve still got it: this song weighs nothing but packs an impressive amount of force.
John Seroff: Oh, that uncomfortable feeling when you hear a disposable boy band pop song that you don’t like (say, “One Thing”) and totally mistake it for another generation’s disposable boy band pop song that you never liked (say, Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it That Way”). It’s the music aficionado’s equivalent of finding a grey hair; next thing you know I’ll be rhapsodizing about Aphex Twin to young dubsteppers and grumpily lamenting the lost potential of Fine Young Cannibals.
Alfred Soto: “I can’t ever be brave/Cuz you make my heart raise,” say these very white boys over a Lou Reed chord sequence played on something that might be a guitar and a rhyme awkward enough to wonder about their devotion to home schooling. Maroon 5 would sacrifice Adam Levine for the skill with which One Direction revel in homoerotic antics in the video.
Jer Fairall: How to rate a well crafted version of something that is of no personal use to me whatsoever? The song’s sense of dynamics are impeccably paced, taking wise advantage of “Since U Been Gone”‘s notion that the loud-soft-loud pattern of Nirvana works just as well when applied to straight up pop. The production shows impressive variety within an intentionally limited palette, moving from muted guitar strums to sampled crowd noise to a subtle wash of synth on the bridge that’s easily missed without headphones. The vocals are hardly better than competent, but strong and clear and mercifully free of Backstreet Boys-style sap. The chorus is bright and punchy. But there is no way that I can claim that I’ll ever want to play this again, or that I appreciate very much about it beyond the fact that, having subjected myself to it, it doesn’t suck. This isn’t a matter of being unable to justify a guilty pleasure, nor one of anti-teen pop elitism or self-conscious ass-covering. This simply means nothing to me.
Josh Langhoff: The one thing I need is energetic young men singing in octaves over major seventh chords and efficient beats. The verses are utter crap — a moratorium, please, on kryptonite/Superman metaphors — so it’s no “I Want It That Way”, but then only a churl would dismiss Mission: Impossible III for failing to attain the heights of Sneakers.
Katherine St Asaph: 1999: Max Martin produces “I Want It That Way.” (Did you know it’s not “ain’t nothing but a party”? I AM SHOCKED AND AMAZED!) 2012: Max Martin might as well have produced “One Thing,” and he’s probably still seething that he forgot to skip a beat in the chorus like these puffballs. If we put up with “you are my fire/the one desire,” we can damn well put up with “kryptonite.”
Iain Mew: A decent enough repetition of the “What Makes You Beautiful” template, with a less dubious lyrical message. Except… that feeble stadium rock bit in the middle, with handclaps and “woah”s, what the fuck is that? There’s not even any attempt to make it fit with the rest of the song! It’s like someone decided that they needed a big communal singing moment for their live shows, and needed it to be on a single, but couldn’t be bothered to write a song around it. Embarrassing.
Alex Ostroff: Apparently my revulsion for neutered pop twinks can be overcome by a strings-ectomy and the addition of a genuinely thrilling chorus. The verses are placeholders at best — the one thing holding the track back — but at the very least the contrast between the exuberance of the chorus and the muted and gradual build in power with each verse displays a better sense of how to construct this sort of pop than their earlier efforts. Their ballads can’t match BSB, and they can’t match *NSYNC for dance bangers, but they’re certainly a tier or three above 98 Degrees.
Michaela Drapes: The slightly creepy tone and awkward scan of the lyrics, along with the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer arrangement are all pretty much completely forgiven thanks to the adorableness of member Zayn Malik. Please don’t tell anyone I said that.