The new album from One Direction is a lot like the British boy band members’ hair: Nothing is out of place. “Midnight Memories,” the wildly popular quintet’s third studio album, is buffered to a flawless shine, but along the way they’ve bleached the music of nuance and texture. Several songs, including the first singles, “Best Song Ever” and “Story of My Life,” blast off to promising starts before buckling under ’80s-inspired bombast. They get close to arena-ready rock on the title track, with rather obvious homage to Def Leppard’s stomp and swagger, but they’re too timid to pack a real punch. It’s astonishing how much the album is out of step with other Top 40 pop acts; it’s devoid of anything resembling soul or hip-hop or electronic pop or any other flourish that could give these songs some needed tension. Instead, “Midnight Memories” exists in an airless bubble where choruses sound like they’ve been written in boardrooms and the melodies just dropped off a conveyor belt. No wonder these guys are so popular: They play it terribly safe. (Out Monday)
ESSENTIAL “Best Song Ever”James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.