one direction

There’s A Love and It Grows: One Direction’s “Walking in the Wind” and Zayn’s “Golden”

One Direction recently celebrated their six year anniversary. As new solo contracts get signed during this hiatus and the first summer without a tour passes, now is the perfect time to reflect on One Direction’s creation. A cultural phenomenon I’m happy to have witnessed myself, One Direction has helped create our modern conception of pop-rock music – through their own music, launching the career of 5 Seconds of Summer, and inspiring subsequent copycats.

It was written about endlessly for the last year that Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction would see him creating a new sound space for himself as a musician. It is true that ZAYN’s solo album relied heavily on R&B, a sound that was not heard in One Direction’s tracks. However, the slick production value of Mind of Mine was no surprise. ZAYN’s release is among the biggest records of 2016 behind Kanye West, Drake, and Beyoncé. Critics acted shocked by his performance on the charts as if ZAYN was not a veteran pop performer with five years of industry experience and a rampant following. His rise to the top of the charts was no accident. “PILLOWTALK” and “LIKE I WOULD” do not forget his pop sensibilities, but build upon them with solid engineering from top producers.

As I wrote about One Direction’s fifth album Made in the A.M. in November on witchsong:

The much publicized and debated departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction in March 2015 is not obvious in the seamless vocal recording—full, textured and layered, perhaps now more than ever as they even managed to record several tracks with a 24-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios—but Zayn’s absence is unquestionably evident in the melancholy and poignant lyrical content of Made in the A.M.  Zayn’s departure has given them the vocabulary necessary to express rage, remorse… to reminisce. The album has been dedicated time and time again to the fans. The unspoken dedication is to the boy who left center stage in March.

This is clearest in One Direction’s deluxe edition bonus track, “Walking in the Wind.” The track, which to me is reminiscent of Paul Simon’s Graceland, cannot be extracted from the narrative of Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction on March 25, 2015. The song was written by Julian Bunetta, John Ryan, J.S. Baylin, and, most importantly in this case, Harry Styles. The track ruminates on a sudden departure.

The fact that we can sit right here and say goodbye
Means we’ve already won
A necessity for apologies between you and me
Baby, there is none…

Made in the A.M. is an album written in the early morning haze of tour life. It’s also an album written in the aftermath of a departure of a beloved “brother”, best friend, and colleague. The era of Take Me Home bops has ended, darkening with age and the complications of fame. Made in the A.M. carries the weight of worldwide scandals, ended love affairs, and Zayn’s exit. There’s a real maturity to the sentiment we’ve already won. One Direction did win. Well, not the competition. But what they won was more important. They won over each other’s hearts, and in turn ours. We’ve already won holds onto the burden and pressure of goodbye. It allows the memories of the past to maintain their joy, sentimentality. There’s an acceptance of the current state of affairs, and an understanding that what is currently the status quo will one day change. There is an earned ease to Harry’s lyrics.

“Walking in the Wind” meanders; it’s reflective and aimless. It’s looking, searching for a landing.

We had some good times, didn’t we?
We had some good tricks up our sleeve
Goodbyes are bitter-sweet
But it’s not the end, I’ll see your face again…

Zayn’s departure is intrinsically a part of One Direction’s follow-up album. It is a part of the album’s narrative, but also of One Direction’s – just look at the promotional press surrounding the release. There was not a single interview that did not discuss Zayn’s sudden exit. The boys handled the questions well, but there were fractures. Days where the endless litany of the same questions seems to crack their veneer. Harry making fun of Zayn’s ying-yang tattoo or Louis admitting to The Sunday Times Style that their friendship was altered by the exit.  We had some good times, didn’t we might as well be accompanied by a reel of This Is Us clips. I’ll see your face again everywhere, in the flurry of paparazzi flashes that will constantly follow the five of them, no matter if they reside in London, Los Angeles or Bradford. Goodbyes are bittersweet and that was never more clear than in the months following the Facebook post on One Direction’s official account confirming Zayn’s exit. Vomiting in the middle of the night after Zayn spoke to The Sun about his departure, I didn’t think my mouth would ever stop tasting sour.

“Walking in the Wind” feels like a confirmation from 1D that it’s ok to wrestle with the past, present and future of the band.

You will find me, yeah you will find me
In places that we’ve never been
For reasons we don’t understand…

There will be reminders of One Direction for years to come, even if their current hiatus extends from two years to permanent. A postgraduate album of sorts, Made in the A.M. is a reflection of the fluctuating dynamics of band mates/friends/significant others as allegiances and priorities change.  Zayn Malik’s CV will always start with The X Factor, Simon Cowell, “Torn” and four other boys. Their skin is inked with tattoos that speak to the bonds forged during late nights on Bus 1 and on Madison Square Garden’s stage. The memories of #1 hits and bong hits. There’s been a manipulation of the past in interviews and cover stories, but we were all there. We’ll never forget the history that was made.

It’s fitting that Louis, Zayn’s best friend and partner in crime, gets the last verse of “Walking in the Wind”:

Yesterday I went out
To celebrate the birthday of a friend
But as we raised our glasses up to make a toast
I realised you were missing…

There are afternoons where I’m listening to Made in the A.M. stuck on the subway, and my body jolts as I wait for a voice that will never come. Last year, it seemed like Louis was taking Zayn’s departure just as hard as I was. No one seems to have captured that emotional journey more completely than Louis – the immense sense of loss, the melancholy.

A man of few words while in One Direction, Zayn didn’t let Made in the A.M. get the last word. ZAYN’s solo debut (released on the one-year anniversary of his departure from One Direction, a level of management shade that Shakespeare is jealous he did not write) Mind of Mine allows us unrivaled access to his current headspace, which is filled mostly with romance, weed, sex and goodbyes. It’s a young artist trying to find his own identity after years of contributing little outside vocal runs. Here ZAYN had the final say in all creative decisions, at least according to his label.

In “Golden,” a Mind of Mine bonus track, fans get what feels like a direct response to “Walking in the Wind.” The first verse begins It goes and it’s golden like sands of time / I hope and I hope you’ll still be fine… The piano-driven track continues:

The choices we make change the path that we take
But I know
That somewhere out there there’s a path that we chose
There’s a life that we share, there’s a love and it grows…

The life that they share is in the pop charts, in their continued success as musicians, and in the lingering memories of One Direction fans. There’s a love and it grows… While this might have felt like proper fan fiction in the summer of 2015, there seem to be glimpses of their mended friendships. Or at least, Liam and Zayn’s continued bond according to interviews with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe and FADER.

I hope and I hope you’ll still be fine
I know that it’s bright
Look through the light and see it’s meant to be…

ZAYN wishes them the best in their future endeavors. He knows that the future is “bright” for all of them. These boys are a “jigsaw piece” that I am happy we got to watch, catapult to international acclaim for five years making exceptional pop-rock tracks. Like ZAYN, I too, after months of agony and indecision, think it was “meant to be.” The future is bright. I can’t wait to stand inside the light and see.

We Found Love: Goldy Moldavsky’s ‘Kill The Boy Band’

I was wary of reading the young adult novel Kill The Boy Band. Don’t get me wrong, the title hooked me right away. Goldy Moldavsky and the publisher knew what they were doing when they titled the book and put the script in highlighter pink (the ads on my Tumblr didn’t hurt as far as promotion is concerned either). My interest was piqued. However, I was troubled by an interview I’d seen in the Observer, which made it sound like the book was a judgment call being passed on “fangirls.” As a fangirl—as a girl invested in a boy band herself—I was wary of what this book would have to say about me.

[image from Scholastic’s blog]
Already from the About The Book on Scholastic’s website, I grew concerned. The narrator says, “We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that’s what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.” The phrasing here seems to beg for laughs from readers.

I’m not saying I haven’t at my worst moments expressed that same type of gleeful judgment, trepidation, and shock at fan behavior that I felt had crossed a line. A girl fainted next to me in Detroit when 5 Seconds of Summer took the stage prior to One Direction’s concert, and I froze in panic and then broke into laughter when I looked at my best friend. (Yes, I made sure this girl was ok; I also inwardly thought, “I’m glad we express our adoration differently.”) I just couldn’t find that type of fervor for Ashton Irwin.

So in a world intent on telling girls how to dress, act, and talk, I was a little nervous to start Kill The Boy Band. I feel so protective of the real world fandom us girls have all created–the men’s bathrooms at venues converted into women’s bathroom, meet-ups before concerts with people we’ve only met on the Internet, but who are soon to be IRL friends. The hushed silence that descends on an auditorium when the boys you’ve reblogged on Tumblr transform from pixels to flesh. Teen girls don’t need to be told to love in moderation. Society is already telling them to eat smaller portions, to take up less space. Girls are not allowed anything in excess, and that extends to the way they must love pop culture.

Kill The Boy Band is a fast read. I should start there. I devoured the book. Goldy Moldavsky creates a world rich with today’s social media platforms. This book cannot be separated from our current landscape. The Ruperts, the boy band of the title, are a conglomeration of 90’s acts (*NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys) and today’s rock acts (One Direction). As much as this book is fiction, there are moments when it reads like non-fiction. If you’re a “fangirl,” the shorthand on fanfic and investigation into lives of beloved boy band members is familiar territory. Goldy pushes the envelope in order to ask thought-provoking questions about what fandom can eventually look like.

The book opens promisingly: “Fangirls get a bad rap all the time. They say we’re weird, hysterical, obsessed, certifiable. But those people don’t understand. Just because I love something a lot doesn’t mean I’m crazy.” Sixty pages in, when a dude confronts the narrator about her feelings on boy bands, I cheered as her internal monologue stated, “When you find something that makes you happy and giddy and excited every day, us fangirls know a truth that everyone else seems to have forgotten: You hold on to that joy tenaciously.” Goldy, here, correctly understands the mindset of what it means to be in a fandom, but later I felt let down by the idea that kept appearing throughout about growing up and out of fandom culture: that these girls have wasted time, energy, friendships on boys who don’t deserve them.

Maybe it’s due to my Cancer horoscope, my weak inner constitution, and my deep-rooted hatred of criticism, but I can’t help but be angry that Goldy ultimately ridicules the adoration teen girls feel for boy bands. I hope no one who picks up Kill The Boy Band reflects on their time loving a boy band with self-hatred. I hope they can remember how it feels to love something larger than yourself – something that you helped create. The Ruperts of Kill The Boy Band only exist because of these teen girls (Erin, Isabel, Apple, and the unnamed narrator). There is a power in that.

Yes, their loyalties might change. We can all be fickle. We can all move on. However, we shouldn’t judge our former selves for what we needed in order to survive day to day. The GIFs, Snapchats, Instagrams, and memes are fleeting but what they give us is not. The laughs we shared with Internet friends a whole continent away, our fangirl kin that understood exactly what we meant when we used emojis to describe the latest shirtless selfie of our fav.

Kill The Boy Band succeeds in being readable, knowledgeable entertainment, but I worry about the passages where the book seems to say: One Direction is sure to let you down the same way The Ruperts have let down these girls. I’m uncomfortable with that assertion. I don’t think we have to be embarrassed by the pop culture we use as shorthand. I think there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Yes, it’s good to look deeper at the allegiances girls have to boy bands. But to paraphrase one of the pivotal characters, I don’t think we should be telling girls that their passion and power can be better utilized. I don’t see men being taught that they need to set down their remote controls in order to wield their brainpower in other mediums.

I urge witchsong readers to pick up their own copy from a local library, independent bookstore or Barnes & Noble, and let me know what they thought. In the meantime, I’ll be blasting One Direction’s “Change Your Ticket.”

splinter: playlist

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splinter. a fracture. a break. the sound of silence.

playlist.

Taylor Swift – Wildest Dreams [GRAMMY Museum]
You’ll see me in hindsight / Tangled up with you all night…

Diana Krall – A Case of You [Live In Paris]
Oh! You’re in my blood like holy wine / You taste so bitter and you taste so sweet…

Adele – Million Years Ago
Sometimes I just feel it’s only me / Who can’t stand the reflection that they see…

One Direction – Long Way Down
Point of no return and now it’s just too late to turn around / I try to forgive you but I struggle cause I don’t know…

Sufjan Stevens – No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross
Get drunk to get laid / I take one more hit when you depart…

Ryan Adams – How You Get The Girl
Say “I want you for worse or for better / I would wait forever and ever / Broke your heart, I’ll put it back together…”

Hanson – Use Me Up (Acoustic)
So, please, use me up / I just want anyone to use me up…

The 1975 – Somebody Else
I don’t want your body / But I hate to think about you with somebody else…

Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins – Happy
So I could be happy, happy / Oh so happy, happy…

Wet – Body
No one said it would be easy / But I never knew I’d be so lonely…

Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone
We used to dream together / But now I drink alone…

Little Mix – The End
And no one can love you, the way I used to do / But / Love isn’t fair

Jess Glynne – Take Me Home
You say space will make it better / And time will make it heal / I won’t be lost forever…

The Tinder Date Playlist: 7 Songs For Girls Who Go Bump In The Night A Little Too Hard

MONDAY: “All Hands On Deck” by Tinashe

You have asked him three times already if it’s actually his name, because everyone knows “Ralph” is some bullshit you’d call a cat, not a grown-ass person. You slur that line into his ear as you stagger together towards the door at last call and he looks at you with the artless incredulity of an infant encountering “peek-a-boo” for the first time. That makes you the cooing aunt, the crinkled adult face promised to emerge from hiding with a grin each round. Good. He’s laughing, because you’re funny maybe, probably because you’ve let him put his arms around your waist and he doesn’t really have to convince you to duck into the cab he’s already called to Cambridge. You careen on hot, loose legs in the general direction of a parked Uber, “Ralph” in tow. “Ralph” smells like the first floor of a JC Penny. Ralph might be thirty-seven. “Ralph’s” hands feel weightless, like they could be hollow, but you’re quick to credit any upper thigh numbness to the liquid ton of gin you’ve consumed over the last three hours. You wonder what you’d have to stuff his fingers with to make them heavy enough for your skin to respond. Steel? Conversation? Cigarettes? “Ralph” doesn’t smoke, you asked already. He won’t taste the way you want him to. He’s talking to you about the things drunk men talk to potential one-night-stands about: how he misses hiking in Australia, how he’s only in law school so he doesn’t disappoint his dad, how badly he wants to drop out and become a rock-climbing instructor. You reassure him blandly and fiddle with your false lashes and wonder if he could ever grip you tight enough to leave a bruise.

TUESDAY: “Turn It Up” by Kelly Rowland

His apartment might be cute if he didn’t decorate with faux-Buddhist head shop tapestries. Dorm-room remnants, probably. There’s already a host of reasons you should stop having sex with Philosophy graduate students (e.g. rampant condescension, uneven beard growth, clinginess) but the fact that they all seem to live with ex-partners of one form or another features prominently in the top five. This one’s moving out, at least. Boxes of her shit crowd every spare inch of the kitchen he’s stumbling around in service of your cider. You’re too drunk to identify the metaphor. She is (was? is?) also a painter, you learn—a bad one, alarmingly bad, and prolific in the effortless way that seems exclusive to bad painters. You imagine how you’d critique the six-foot collaged city-scape of Boston on his bedroom wall while he tries to navigate the zipper on your miniskirt. You wonder what makes her laugh. Later, when he’s finished availing himself of your least interesting secrets, you ask him how it ended, why she’s leaving. If you are going to get fucked while staring at another woman’s closet, you deserve a little background. He starts to cry, because of course he does, and you hold him against your breasts and tell him he is perfect while his snot runs down your sternum. Two weeks later he will try to rip your dress off at a train station in Brighton after you make it clear you should stop seeing each other. A cabby on his way to Tremont for closing time spots the struggle, slows down without stopping, swings open the passenger’s door and pulls you in by the elbow. He delivers you silently back to your mother’s house without asking any questions.

WEDNESDAY: “Ghost” by Ella Henderson

The moment Andrew’s door latches shut you are overcome by a thick wave of loathing, but the truth is that you loathed him from the moment he bought you your first shot of Patron. You wouldn’t have gotten in the car if you didn’t want him to hurt. You hate his five o’clock shadow and his ice-blue button down and how he’s trying to find a way to get you into his bedroom without acknowledging that he wants to get you into his bedroom. He would never, ever date you, of course. Real estate Southie guys like girls who jog, you’re guessing, girls with planners and blithe, effortless motor control, not cackling barflies who pick up and move north to make bad art and vomit in public and prick their hearts on self-made spindles. You don’t know this for sure, but tequila has no time for criticality, or for undoing the ripe adolescent taxonomies that prevent you from approaching men like him when you’re sober. Oh, you approached him, by the way. Don’t forget. That’s another reason you hate him. He fell for it.

“Do you want a drink?”

“The fuck do you think?”

You toss your purse onto his faux-leather ottoman.  You bare your teeth in the shape of a smile.

“I think you need another drink, is what I think!”

“You’re a prince. Thank you, sir.”

He taps his index finger on the highest point of your knee every time he makes a point. The point he is currently making concerns his timeshare in Cape Cod. He’s pressed his lean body into the softness of yours on a creaking Craigslist couch with an urgency that numbs you further. He’s telling you how beautiful you are, which more or less equates to telling himself he is beautiful. His breath is hot and sticky. You kiss him to make him stop talking.

THURSDAY: “Cruel” by the Veronicas

You accidentally leave your copy of Irreality by Max Blecher at a fourth date’s condo in Ferndale, Michigan, and when he texts you to confirm how attentive and dull he was after you bounce in an Uber, he confesses to leafing through the first chapter. He likes having your book in his kitchen, he says—it makes him feels like the prince in a nerdy version of Cinderella. You call him from your cab and tell him sharply to stop. That’s your property, after all. He can’t just change it to mean something. The next time you see him he slides the book across the table to you in a Ziplock bag while you try to explain why you can’t get drinks next week.

FRIDAY: “Little White Lies” by One Direction

The same day your shrink suggests that maybe this abiding interest in casual sex falls a little short of productive, you book a plane ticket to Brooklyn to see a guy you have only known in person for about ten hours total. The distance makes you far more interesting to him than proximity ever could. He is short and bright but not difficult and defines himself through things and the rituals he ascribes to those things, a characteristic painters shouldn’t be averse to, theoretically. He lights candles as a preamble to sex. He loves Maggie Nelson but does not want to talk about feminism because he feels ill-equipped to talk about feminism because he is. You drop your dress to the floor when he asks you if you’ve seen Lethal Weapon, but he ignores the bait and persists in playing you the clip where Mel Gibson tries to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. He laughs at Mel’s accent. You have no idea what to do with your face.

SATURDAY: “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele

The government worker from Walpole with a recently dead mother and nervous fingers has asked you to write him a letter. He likes the way you talk, he says. You want badly for the epistolary impulse you reserve for men you love to stretch in his direction, but disappointment has left you mean, and you can’t think of anything helpful to say. You could tell him that, of course. You could tell him that he clogs your pores in choking weaves of noun-ness, of slippery experience slicked to slide over purpose. You could let him know he’s just another bearded signifier feeding his own flesh back second-to-second in endless, stake-free loops of multiple choice. You sometimes wonder if you molded him from scraps of rage and breathed air into his dick so he could blush and lie like a real man. That’s not what comes out, of course. You put pen to vellum and call him beautiful like a good girl. That is what straight men want to hear, you have learned, especially from you, since your particular breed of beauty seems to swallow viewers whole against their better judgment. An art critic would call that quality “immersive.”A painter would call it “maximal” without actually knowing what the term meant.

SUNDAY: “Don’t” by Bryson Tiller (Sevyn Streeter Remix)

You know full well that your memories lie, in the same way a photograph lies mimetically, in the same way a painting of that photograph tries to lie less. Socrates thought all human knowledge was recollection, since Hades more or less recycled its tenants after feeding them liquid amnesia. So, if learning is recovery, then forgetting should feel like home, not like bereavement, right? You split a plate of poutine with a Literature PhD candidate who tells you how shocked he was that MFA kids so often proved such lazy readers—their responses were always based on taste, not analysis. Creatives are scavengers, you argue. Your kind doesn’t read; you comb rocky shores for gold. You need meaning to shine so badly you forgo scrutiny to grab transcendence faster. You crave sublimation. And you bite his neck because that’s how you recall intimacy now, in negatives. The men you fuck form the contours of an empty space exactly the depth of your divestment, and their absence inhabits your skin beyond a haunting. You’d kill to be lonely. If you aren’t trying to shed shadows, you’re desperately salvaging details you didn’t even know you coveted before they began to fade. The sex is fine. He texts you the night before he moves to Wisconsin to see if you want to come watch Blackadder reruns on his couch. You put your phone on silent.


Torey is an east-coast gin enthusiast currently wrapping up her painting MFA somewhere needlessly far from the ocean. More grown men have caught her eating ham out of a bag than she is comfortable reporting. Her mom is way, way funnier than she is. 

witchsong top fives of 2015, songs edition

Top Five Songs Kenzie Cried To, For Various Reasons, in 2015

1. Sia, “Alive
I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m alive
I’m alive
I’m alive
I’m alive
2. Patsy Cline, “Crazy
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying
3. Taylor Swift, “Long Live
When they gave us our trophies
And we held them up for our town
And the cynics were outraged
Screaming, “This is absurd!”
‘Cause for a moment a band of thieves in ripped up jeans got to rule the world
Long live the walls we crashed through
All the kingdom lights shined just for me and you
I was screaming
Long live all the magic we made
And bring on all the pretenders
I’m not afraid
4. One Direction, “Through The Dark
When the night is coming down on you,
We will find a way through the dark
5. One Direction, “History”

 

Top 5 4 Songs from 2015 To Send To Space, as Proposed By Sophia

1) “Run Away With Me”, Carly Rae Jepsen
I want to send Carly Rae Jepsen to space. I want Carly Rae Jepsen to perform in zero gravity. Don’t you want that? This song has bagpipes. I mean, what more could you want? It has bagpipes, it is ecstatic. It is a rush of blood to the head, it is the gold standard for pop songs everywhere, it is made of joy. We can turn the world to gold. Someday I will run NASA and I want you to all close your eyes and imagine with me the future in which Carly Rae Jepsen’s sugarcane-robot voice rockets into the stars. This is the best communication of our capacity for desire. This is need shrieking and giddy, a laugh and nothing coy about it, this is the possibility of a new year stretching shining soap-bubble perfect in front of us. What reason is there to be, really, except for this song? BABY TAKE ME TO THE FEELING.

2) “Favourite Color”, Carly Rae Jepsen
From space our planet is so small and blue and sometimes I think about that and I want to cry. The universe is so big and we are a tiny rock. Do you think aliens know what the color blue is? Probably not, all things considered. What is blue except really the color of the Earth from space? We are small lives on a small planet and we are only ever made huge against backdrops of each other. This song, then: I’m bright baby blue, fallin into you / fallin for each other. The falling is mutual and so is the immensity—not just a person but a color, a feeling. The thing about Carly Rae Jepsen is these lyrics sound so silly written out and you hear them and they aren’t at all. I want her to write a song about every color there is so we can understand them all better: a gift from our baby-faced Canadian prophetess, baby blue.

3) “Last Christmas”, Carly Rae Jepsen
Is this the most important Christmas song that has ever existed? Maybe. I mean, probably. Give me one that’s more important and I’ll take it back but I don’t think you can. Carly Rae Jepsen’s voice like layers and layers of gauze with a hitch running all the way through it. Crystalline and then waver and waver and waver. I want you to watch the Late Show Performance of this song, where she wears a white sequined blazer and glittering black pants and her hair is very short and her eyes are very bright. There are few things a ridiculous as Christmas, you know, but one of them is Christmas parties—everyone dressed in too many sequins, everyone dreading going back outside in the cold. Her voice is so delicate and biting and she lets her teeth catch on all the most important words in this important song. Once bitten, twice shy. Send this song to space so that we can imagine all those stars twinkling like lights.

4) “I Really Like You”, Carly Rae Jepsen
You might think that it is redundant to send both this song and “Run Away With Me” to space but I promise you it isn’t. The spectrum of human want is complicated and so is every inflection of Carly Rae’s voice. Nothing in the world except maybe galaxies is as important as the hiccup in her voice, everything you say is a sweet re-he-ve-layyy-shun. This song propels itself forward and then sometimes startles, just for a second. She says I feel like I could fly and I do too, all those synths like a rush. This song carried me all the way through 2015 the way “Call Me Maybe” carried us all through 2012 and I am going to put it on a flash drive and launch it to Mars so that it can live forever.

Tess‘s Top Five Most Played Songs (based on no exact metric whatsoever) in 2015

  1. “Bathroom Sink” – Miranda Lambert


2. “Little Green” – Joni Mitchell


3. “I Have The Moon” – Lush


4. “Secret Love Song Pt. 2” – Little Mix


5. lol obviously it is “Ring of Keys” who am I fucking kidding?


 

Kenzie’s Top Five Songs Not From Any Of My Top Ten Albums

1. Rihanna, “Bitch Better Have My Money
2. Missy Elliott, “WTF (Where They From)”
3. Haley Kiyoko, “Girls Like Girls
4. Justin Bieber, “Sorry
5. Fifth Harmony, “Reflection

 

letter(s) from the editor(s): aly’s top ten albums of 2015

10. The Firewatcher’s Daughter, Brandi Carlile.

You lose so many things you love as you grow

9. Reflection, Fifth Harmony.

Where you from? Must be heaven / You’d be rich if lookin’ good was your profession / Think I’m in love ’cause you so sexy / Boy I ain’t talkin’ bout you I’m talkin’ to my own reflection

8. Another Eternity, Purity Ring.

I wanna know what’s your quietest feeling?

7. RevivalSelena Gomez.

I mean, I could, but why would I want to?

6. Beat the Champthe Mountain Goats.

I personally will stab you in the eye with a foreign object

5. Froot, Marina & the Diamonds.

Sometimes you have to learn to forget about it

4. E•MO•TION, Carly Rae Jepsen.

‘Cause I want what I want do you think that I want too much?

3. Purpose, Justin Bieber.

Is it too late now to say sorry?

2. Made in the A.M., One Direction.

You know I’m always comin’ back to this place / You know I’m always gonna look for your face

  1. Get Weird, Little Mix.

We’re gonna get (get) weird (weird) all night I said let’s get weird all night

Honorable mentions: Sounds Good Feels Good by 5SOS, American Beauty/American Psycho by Fall Out Boy, Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves, III by JoJo.

I apologize for linking to myself so much but I, uh, apparently talk a lot, and also didn’t really listen to anything that I didn’t scream about this year. Sorry that I have so little chill.

Also – I am writing a Purpose review, I am! It is taking a long time because its thesis is “Justin Bieber is lonely and uncertain” and so I have to take frequent crying breaks. So I am sorry for that as well although I would then have to link to myself more, so I guess maybe that equals out.

Happy solstice! Happy whatever holiday! Happy try not to kill your relatives, and remember that no matter what they think of your hair/gender/sexuality/music taste, we love you here. Thank you for sticking with us this far – it means more than you know. See you in 2016!

letter(s) from the editor(s): kenzie’s top ten albums of 2015

I love end-of-year lists. I love countdowns. The whole concept, the ranking, the weighing of one thing’s merits against another’s, that all appeals to me. I know some people don’t care for it, but me, I’m all for it. Which is why from now until the end of the year, you’ll see a whole lot of lists on witchsong. Some music, some not. We’re starting with top ten album lists from the editors, and since I get to decide the order, I’m obviously going first. So, enjoy. Here are my top 10 albums of 2015.

10. Troye Sivan, Blue Neighbourhood.

Lane-Del-Rey-Honeymoon-Artwork 9. Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon.The whole album has the same sadness and pop and glitter of “This is What Makes Us Girls” and “Video Games” (although no song on Honeymoon comes close to being as excellent as “This is What Makes Us Girls”) but it’s also more self-aware in a way that I find vastly appealing. She is singing about jazz and California and pink flamingoes and Billie Holiday; she is really Performing Lana Del Rey. But she knows not everyone loves Lana Del Rey, and the tension that comes out of that self-awareness is a vital element of Honeymoon. “I don’t matter to anyone, but Hollywood legends will never grow old,” she sings on “Terrence Loves You.” The line that follows “we both know it’s not fashionable to love me” is “but you don’t go ‘cause truly there’s nobody for you but me.” She knows. “Look at you, looking at me.” She sees.

8. Shamir, Ratchet.

one-direction-album7. One Direction, Made in the A.M. “Maturity is not about attaining fixity, but about learning to handle flux, becoming a person who can grow and learn and leave and become a self, over and over, in new ways. You follow your heart even though it’ll break sometimes. Ending is not erasing, and ending does not eliminate the possibility of future beginning –– you will find me in places we’ve never been, for reasons we don’t understand. One Direction will leave us, is leaving us, has left us, but left with the promise that any time I’ve gone / you can listen to my voice and sing along, and in that sense, the words of “History” have become true: this is not the end, this is not the end, we can live forever.

1035x1035-MI00039034986. Carly Rae Jepsen, E•MO•TION. “Pop music is all about desire, but nobody wants like Carly Rae wants. (…) From insistent lead single “I Really Like You” to sweeping opener “Run Away with Me”, Jepsen’s still crushing, but her songs push hard away from the cliché of the passive, lovelorn singer. She sings authoritatively; the chorus on “Run Away with Me” is practically an order, as if everything in the world depends on whether she and the object of her affections leave the party together or not. And on “Emotion”, Jepsen all but hexes the guy who’s rejected her, though she phrases it like a love song. “Be tormented by me, babe,” she sings. “In your head, and I won’t stop/ Until you forget me, forget me not.” The words ring vicious in her sweet and pseudo-innocent delivery — she’s under your skin whether you like it or not.” Sasha Geffen, Consequence of Sound.

5. Alabama Shakes, Sound and Color.

sleaterkinney-nocities-14254. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love.I don’t know how to say that this album zips and quavers with real animal strength I sometimes forget can be a part of music and it makes me feel strong, sleek, like I’d only key somebody’s car if they really deserved it and I’d look good the whole time. Most days I feel as if I might do anything. Most days I cannot make all my parts move in synchronicity. Sleater-Kinney, still, now, and maybe I should outgrow this, though these songs seems to say I won’t (“wandered through the void of me” in the title track) helps me carve a clear self from my whole mess, clean, and that self is cool like concrete for an hour, for a day.

3. Little Mix, Get Weird!

selena-gomez-revival-album-2015-billboard-650x6502. Selena Gomez, Revival. “The current of this album is strong and swift and steady, and it sucks me under, throbs under my skin. This is so calculated, and I mean that in a good way – this is a hypnotist in peak form. This is the sinuous dance of a cobra as it moves toward prey. It’s quiet and even but it feels like when you speak very calmly because you’re afraid you will cry or laugh or scream. It is total control, a mastery of self and emotion, and it is then directing that control outward. Selena isn’t a belter, she’s not screaming at the top of her lungs; even when she’s showing emotion she’s doing it in a way that feels the exact opposite of casual. It’s not an accident when she lets a card show here and there. And there are flashes of that, quick bright bursts of energy up out of the steady rhythmic flow.”

Florence + the Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful - Island Records, 20151. Florence + the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.But—and here is the vital thing, the thing that makes it an album about absolution and the cleansing power of fire, of fury, rather than the wrath of a woman scorned—through that all there is hope. There are the first tentative steps to piecing yourself back together on the other side of leveling everything you knew because there was something broken and rotten at the foundation. Look at “Third Eye” (you don’t have to be a ghost, here amongst the living; you are flesh and blood / you deserve to be loved). Look at “St. Jude” (and I’m learning, so I’m leaving). Look at “Delilah” (I’m gonna be free and I’m gonna be fine). This is Florence as phoenix, rising from the ashes, newborn and vulnerable but renewed and washed clean by the flames.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ONE DIRECTION’S MADE IN THE A.M.

ALY: I still have not listened to Made in the A.M. I am afraid to listen to it, honestly, because I am so sad about everything. I am going to listen to it alone, I think, which is interesting to me that that’s what I want to do because One Direction has always been for me a thing of togetherness, of experiencing a thing with other people. And I eventually want to experience MITAM with other people, and I will, but I am not ready for that yet, that rawness. But I think that that’s not what this album is about, like, the necessity of being alone in the midst of other people, the kind of blinking brightness of coming out of a darkened room into the middle of the afternoon. How did we get here? We watched the Live Lounge performance yesterday and it left me feeling strange and hollow and empty because, like, the passage of time! There is no clearer indication of how much everything has changed than revisiting the past, in superimposing it upon the present and looking at the way the edges don’t match up. “Torn” is actually about One Direction, is what I’m saying, and that realization left a sunny, windblown space inside me. Illusion never changed into something real; I’m wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn. You can’t ever get anything back;  you can sing the same song but there are only four boys on stage now and they look sad and scared. Their cover of “FourFiveSeconds” was almost as hurtful; just tryna make it back homeThat’s all I want. It has been five years and no matter what happens I love these boys, I love them with a clear pure fire that will never go out no matter how it sputters, but they are different now and so am I, and so are we all. I haven’t listened to Made in the A.M. but still in my soul I know what it’s about, which is this: It will never change me and you is a fiction that only growing up reveals to you. I’ll still feel the same about you is impossible just by the nature of being alive, of being a person that is also a chrysalis that is also a constantly mutable thing. Growing up is about realizing that it’s okay to feel differently, to say goodbye, to feel love and know that it is different from the love you felt before even as you feel it for the same people. Swearing that your emotions will never change is a lie and we tell it to ourselves and to everyone else and Made in the A.M., actually One Direction itself as it is now, honestly, is about opening your hand and letting that lie blow away into the hot bright empty space inside you. I don’t know if they’ll come back but even if they do it’s not like everything will be the same because it already isn’t, and I am trying to be okay with that, and I think they are too. It will never change me and you isn’t that your emotions will never change, never wax and wane and mutate, but that the idea of me and you will never change. We will always be tied to each other by something. We will aways be a “we.”

ASHLEY: One Direction has loved for years to compare themselves to lads at “uni.” If this is true, Made in the A.M. is their post-graduate album. It’s regretful, world-weary. We had it all, yeah and we walked away… The much publicized and debated departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction in March 2015 is not obvious in the seamless vocal recording—full, textured and layered, perhaps now more than ever as they even managed to record several tracks with a 24-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios—but Zayn’s absence is unquestionably evident in the melancholy and poignant lyrical content of Made in the A.M.  Zayn’s departure has given them the vocabulary necessary to express rage, remorse… to reminisce. The album has been dedicated time and time again to the fans. The unspoken dedication is to the boy who left center stage in March. I try to forgive you, but I’m struggling cause I don’t know how… It’s beautiful, albeit complicated, to listen to Niall, Harry, Liam and Louis grapple with the reality of their success and the physical (and emotional) loss on the road of their best friend. The isolation of fame on “Perfect” (if you like causing trouble up in hotel rooms), the confusion of losing the only comforting reality they’ve known on “Olivia” (and time is irrelevant when I’ve not been seeing ya), and the constant thrum of attention on “History” (all of the rumors, all of the fights / But we always find a way to make it out alive). One Direction does not hide the pain, anguish, and promise of the last year in their voices.

Made in the A.M. confronts the reality of what they’ve lost (and gained) in artfully crafted melodies. Made in the A.M. is a natural progression for One Direction from the harmonies and rock influence of FOUR. This album created by men who have been crowned “king(s)” because of us is ambitious, lush, and complete. “Never Enough”, “Wolves” and “Temporary Fix” are three of the strongest pop-rock tracks they’ve ever released. Eccentric, original, catchy. “What A Feeling” is a great homage to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” “If I Could Fly” might be the most intimate and sincere ballad One Direction has ever released. Edges soft, tones hushed. There’s resolve. Yes, there are still lovers as there must be on One Direction albums—I’m not trying to downplay the very real role of break ups and conceptions in the legacy of their music—but the disappearance of Zayn—I believe—has given them the language necessary to articulate twist the knife and break and, most importantly, for all of us still here, forever. “Long Way Down” laments, We had it all yeah / And we walked away… One Direction does not hide; rather they confront the last year track by track, and thank us for staying. “Walking in the Wind,” influenced by Paul Simon, directly addresses Zayn’s absence. We had some good times, didn’t we? / We had some good tricks up our sleeve… Made in the A.M. doesn’t ask for the soaring, far-reaching vocals of Midnight Memories; they’ve crash-landed. This has been a year of assessment. At the “End of the Day,” they’re still here and we’re still here. I don’t know who is more grateful. We can live forever…

CARSON: What is a first impression if it’s not really a first impression? Because it was so easy to get my hands on this album before its “official” release date. Too easy. Browsing through 8tracks and casually finding the entire album easy. Not to mention that, what, eight of the 17 tracks on the album have already been released on Spotify? So basically, sorry not sorry that my first impression is sort of hollow, but who cares? The temporarily-fixed last album is out!!! Immediate favorites: “Never Enough.” The other one, “Walking In the Wind,” I think, is the one that Harry said was based off that Paul Simon song. Right? But “Never Enough” is a Paul Simon song! A poppy, silly one at that. It’s “You Can Call Me Al” and, for good measure, Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling.” “Olivia.” This opinion is a little biased – and it now makes two songs named after close friends – but this one is just as cute as Olivia is. One part sentimentality, the other a giant reference to The Beatles. I’d say this is their most Beatles song, which is saying something – also, Willy Wonka vibes? Finally, “History” and “Temporary Fix.” More Niall songs! Well, not “History,” but to be honest “History” should just be a Niall song. As we’ve all decided in that unspoken agreement, Niall is the band’s historian. But Niall shines on this album. And all albums, giving us “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” and “Act My Age,” but particularly in this one, with some genuine bangers. I want to yell all of Niall’s songs so loudly, it hurts. Niall, or my projection of Niall, represents the best parts of this band – lads being lads, people with maybe a little bit of darkness mostly obscured by light and genuine fun-loving. It’s all Niall. Maybe this album is the band’s tribute – not to Zayn (though of course there are so many Zayn songs on here) – but to the unobtrusive glue that keeps it held together. And I couldn’t ask for a better way for them to (maybe) end.

CORBIN: The thesis of FOUR is that change will not happen once you prove that something has been happening long enough: she been my queen since we were sixteen is also I have loved you since we were eighteen is also even when the night changes, it will never change me and you is also I won’t act my age, I’ll still be the same and you will too. The thesis of Made in the A.M. is that change must happen, but whatever will happen does not invalidate what has happened. “Love You Goodbye” begins by saying it’s inevitable everything that’s good comes to an end, so the leaving can happen with grace despite the sorrow of loss. It hurts to know that you cannot rise and rise and rise forever –– we built it up so high and now I’m falling, it’s a long way down –– but doesn’t have to be we had a spaceship but we couldn’t land it. It can be we can sit right here and say goodbye because we’ve already won. Maturity is not about attaining fixity, but about learning to handle flux, becoming a person who can grow and learn and leave and become a self, over and over, in new ways. You follow your heart even though it’ll break sometimes. Ending is not erasing, and ending does not eliminate the possibility of future beginning –– you will find me in places we’ve never been, for reasons we don’t understand. One Direction will leave us, is leaving us, has left us, but left with the promise that any time I’ve gone / you can listen to my voice and sing along, and in that sense, the words of “History” have become true: this is not the end, this is not the end, we can live forever.

KENZIE: Everything about this album is nostalgic, in a way. The sound of it is clearly inspired by Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac, they’ve even said as much; the lyrics are about looking back, about goodbyes, about endings. It’s a gift to get us across a span of time that could be a year, could be two, could continue indefinitely. But it is a gift– it’s happy, it is about accepting that things end and that it doesn’t invalidate what happened before, it doesn’t make that less important. And to be clear, I love this gift. I love it and will cherish it and I pre-ordered it and I’m probably going to buy it on vinyl on payday and I’m going to choose to believe that “I Want to Write You A Song,” a song about them writing us a song to sing along to when they are gone and we are sad, was written for me personally. It isn’t Take Me Home or FOUR, Zayn is missing, life is changing for them and the absence of One Direction is looming on their horizon and ours. For some people, that absence is going to sting too much. Sometimes people can’t let go; we’ve got albums about holding onto things and preserving, given to us by One Direction, so I know. They know. It hurts to need to let things go and to accept that good things end. And that is fair. But that doesn’t mean the good things weren’t good. It doesn’t mean they can’t still be good for you. For me, the nostalgia feels sweet and gentle, and the bops in between the nostalgia are just so goddamn much fun. “Never Enough” is full of grunting, “Temporary Fix” is fun and filthy and talks about the things you can do in the dark. This isn’t just some ballads for looking out into the sunset and taking that first step forward, it’s also fun, it is happy, it is going to be okay. We have this to tell us that. One Direction are going on hiatus. It is indefinite, who knows when they’ll come back, if they’ll come back. But we have this. We can sing their songs. The things they built, the things we built, they still exist. And that is a gift.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ONE DIRECTION’S “DRAG ME DOWN” VIDEO

ALY: I don’t sleep super well, I guess. I used to have night terrors and then I didn’t, and now I have nightmares all the time, and there was a period of time during grad school where I was like okay, I’m back, I’m getting the hang of this. And in the last few months that has totally evaporated and I just wake up in the wee hours for no reason whatsoever and lie there and look out the window and look at the internet. @god why et cetera. But so anyway, she says, getting to the point, I was awake this morning at like three am refreshing Twitter while I made finger-clicky sounds at Sadie to shut up meowing, and ALL OF A SUDDEN there were gifs of my favorite face, Harry Styles’ face, and he was wearing an outfit I hadn’t seen before and I knew. I knew. So I refreshed one more time and there it was, there it was, my new favorite thing of all things. This video! Can you EVEN BELIEVE this video. I am so delighted, I am so overjoyed. This is like, Take Me home-era amazing, this is exactly the only thing I ever want from these boys. Like, what are my favorite 1D videos? “Kiss You”, obviously, LWWY, obviously, “Best Song Ever” if I’m being honest because Marcel and also Louis tummy, and like, that’s it. Those are the ones I watch. The ones where they just fuck around! And sing! And don’t brood! So what is the next best thing, the thing I have been waiting for: Shoot them into space!!!! SHOOT THEM INTO SPACE WHERE THEY BELONG. NEVER LET THEM COME BACK. Anyway, I had very few actual thoughts watching this beyond like “!!!!!!! !!!!! 😀 !!!!!!! 😀 😀 :D!!!!!!!!!” and that tumblr post that’s like good shit GOOD SHIT etc, but I did have some. First of all: I am so in love with Harry Styles it is STUPID and he looks SO GOOD. He is literally an alien passing on the tricks he has learned to appear human and I love him so much. The little I’m-watching-you hand at the robot, kill me, the fucking tea! the jacket! the MOUTH! Can I live, @god @harrystyles. Liam is doing what he does best, which is being hot in a firefighter way and wearing tank tops while putting his biceps in the air and being generally “the fourth one.” You know? Like when a non-1D is naming them they’re like Zayn, Harry, Niall, Louis, and there’s one more, right? And it’s always Liam. I should make it clear that I love Liam but like you cannot argue with me on this point. This lemon point. MOVING ON. Louis is definitely going into space for revenge??? Like??? He looks so OMINOUS!! He is so determined to avenge something, which I assume is that they shot the chimp from “Steal My Girl” into space. He’s going to get the chimp back. My tiny feisty astronaut. He would be the one that would survive, you know? Have you read The Martian? It would be him for sure. Niall is wearing Harry’s clothes, I’m pretty sure, and I don’t know why but I love it. Sorry this got really out of hand! I just love them so much! I love them the most when they are just doing shit that I get to watch, and this time I get to watch them go to space!!! Logically I know it cost millions of dollars and was very orchestrated but my brain is like “Nope, this is just 1D day in space! It’s all good!” and that is all I have ever wanted!!!!!!!!

ASHLEY: The last several months have felt extremely rewarding as a One Direction fan. They’re still here. We’re still here. I feel like they are finally listening to themselves, and to us. If I didn’t have you there’d be nothing left… I am very thankful today for One Direction’s “Drag Me Down” music video. We’ll start with the first reason that involves me waking up in time for my flight to Chicago at 3:30 AM with 6 Twitter notifications about the surprise music video drop. I am glad I waited to watch it until I was fully awake—thanks to the water bug that surprised me in the Queens bathroom I was brushing my teeth in—to witness Harry Styles croon to me in a close-up shot within the first 5 seconds. When will I stop refreshing this video to stare at Harry sing, shout, prance? I’ve got a fire for a heart… My standards have been lowered for One Direction music videos after years of misfires, but that single frame confirmed I’d be watching on a loop in the days to come. “Drag Me Down” is a song that warrants a video that isn’t a joke. Post-FOUR, One Direction feels like a band with a stronger sense of self.  The harmonies, lush vocals, and EDM influence demand our attention on “Drag Me Down.” For the first time in years, the productive value, low-key conceptual narrative (astronauts, or Harry goes back to his home planet), Saint Laurent and Adidas attire, hair product and location (NASA!!!!!) are working to create a video that highlights their maturity and scope. It is cinematic. “Drag Me Down” is what “Steal My Girl” wishes it were. This music video might have been filmed in one day, but you surely can’t tell. The mistakes of “You and I” are not repeated. The shots of the boys in front of the air hangar are breathtaking, massive. This video actually feels worthy of starring the most SUCCESSFUL band of our generation. Ben and Gabe Turner effectively emphasize what I, and we, love about the lads. The location feels specific. Almost as if Niall woke up in the middle of the night with a storyboard to justify another trip down to NASA (a wink—One Direction is so good at those—to us fans who ‘Liked’ all his Instagram pictures last year during his tour). You’ve got Harry’s hair in constant close-up, a tangled mess of curls loose in the wind. His gazelle legs stalking after the camera in silver metallic boots, looking one second away from toppling into us headfirst just as he has our love. You’ve got Liam doing what he does best—prep work (in this case, working out those muscles) (oh, and let’s not forget grabbing onto Louis like a safety net). You’ve got Niall—arms open to the world and head tilted towards the sun—ready to receive our love with his chest hair on display, rocking maroon boots stolen from Harry’s 2014 wardrobe, giddily laughing. You’ve got Louis set as a silhouette against the sun in all black—his concentration and gaze dead locked on us, thumbs up and mouth in constant motion. One Direction has long—successfully and brilliantly—capitalized on the boys’ images and the relationship that we have forged with each one of them as individuals within this larger-than-life phenomenon. Here, they have finally learned how to do that in a music video worthy of our time (and worthy of a Vevo record). Sure, they’re astronauts launching up into space. But, at the end of the day, they are really just themselves. Scuffed suede boots, Paige Denim and high-set quiffs.  The boys we have all stood by.

CAROLINE: One Direction aren’t a video-making band. They have surpassed and eschewed the standards of the boy band in a lot of ways but they are shit at video treatments. I like to think they have very little to do with the process – maybe they just show up for 12 hours, get the shots, jet back to wherever they came from. I don’t want to blame them for their shit videos; I want to blame Ben Winston. I want to blame Ben Winston even when he’s not around.

This video is plotless – it is big and techy and shot at NASA but I don’t know why. Ben Winston takes the most literal approach –“Story of my Life?” Family photos! “Night Changes?” NIGHT CHANGES. And “Drag Me Down,” even though not orchestrated by his hand, follows the same trend. That said, I do very much love that we finally got some official 1D in space material. It’s one of my favorite fandom tropes and even though this video isn’t very good or interesting, it does fulfill a pretty widespread fandom need, I think, so I’ll count it as a win.

I also need to talk about Harry Styles, alien kitty, making his way back home. He’s wearing silver glitter boots and a silk Louis Vuitton bomber jacket – alien resort wear. His eyes take up majority of his head & he’s sipping tea with a robot before he launches into space. This is a narrative I want to see explored – we find out the boys are training (while Harry really isn’t) to give him a ride back to space. I’m upset about the missed opportunity and a chance to really make the fandom happy but really, what am I talking about, no one on their team wants to make us happy! We have to dig around in the rubble and make our own happiness! Go read some alien Harry fic!

There are a few moments that do deserve honorable mentions: the boys working the camera (i.e. Harry chasing the camera), very Du Jour, very early oughts. Louis appearing from behind Harry at the 19 second mark and then eclipsing Harry as he walks closer to the camera at the 23 second mark. The spatiality of this video, how big everything is and how each member occupies the space. Also shout out to Niall’s burgundy Chelsea boots and Liam sweating it out on that exercise bike. Also is Louis wearing a shirt with the moon on it?

KENZIE: I love this video. My roommate texted me and said, “The new One Direction video sucks” and I told him to go fuck himself because this video is so fun? Yes, okay, it’s a little narratively obvious, maybe a hair too literal. But how can you expect me to care when as a result we get Harry, Liam, Louis, and Niall in astronaut suits? How can you expect me to care when I get to see Harry Styles teach a robot to drink its tea with its pinky extended? You can’t. Nobody can drag us down because we’re flying into space and we’re gonna chill out in zero gravity and that’s just fine, thank you. They also all look so beautiful in this entire video, we get a peek of chest hair over the top of a floral shirt, a beautiful Louis Vuitton jacket, sweaty Liam in a tank. Music videos are a visual medium and the visuals here are top notch, even if that video is just the various members of One Direction being beautiful while showing how competent they are at things like riding stationary bikes or standing in an elevator with their heads tilted slightly upward, looking nervous and excited. This video is my kind of music video. Any kind of music video that starts with the focus on Harry Styles’s mouth while he sings is going to be my kind of video, honestly, but this– a video that looks fun to shoot, a video that you don’t need an advanced degree in comp lit to decipher, beautiful people– this is especially my kind of video. Plus like, NASA and One Direction are apparently bffs now and that is so great and feels like wish fulfillment for the fandom at large, including president of the 1D fandom, Mr. Niall Horan. I love this. I’ve watched it like twenty times and that was just first thing this morning.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ONE DIRECTION’S “DRAG ME DOWN”

ALY: What does it mean to be fireproof? I thought – I always thought it was walking into the flames, walking through them, living curled inside them like a coal, glowing, smoldering. Now I know better, now I’ve already written an email to my tattoo lady, because what it means to be fireproof is to have fire for a heart. To live every day with those flames licking up your throat, through your ribcage, lighting your way. You don’t burn! You never burn. You have fire for a heart because you are strong enough to exist around that fire, to keep it within you, not caged but housed. Symbiotic. And when you realize – when I realized that’s what it is – it feels like invincibility. I’ve got fire for a heart! I can’t get past it; I will never need to. Isabel said something about One Direction always writing songs that are about them and also about us, and, like, true? Like. One Direction loves me – I rewatched This Is Us two nights ago and it hurt so much but also the girls are not crazy the girls are just excited and also, also, also I know they love me, they don’t know me but I know they love me. And they do! Nobody can drag me down because I have them, and their love, and this fire for a heart. Loving these terrible precious boys has given me life, literally and figuratively. I am a better and stronger person because of One Direction, because of the way they taught me how to feel and how to feel okay about feeling, as stupid as that sounds – to be okay with the feelings that I have and to value them. To let the fire burn within me knowing that I am fireproof. To let the lights shine on me knowing they can’t blind me. But we love them too, remember; we have made them just as much as they have made us. Symbiotic. I love this song so fucking much.

ARIA: “Drag Me Down” opens with Harry’s voice sonically personifying a pout, leading into Louis’ hoarse, emotional scream-singing. This is exactly what I signed up for. During the initial crescendo into the chorus (a shouting bridge! classic 1D) I expected it to drop into a frenzied dance beat, but instead–sexy guitar riff!! It’s very Haim and it’s very grown up of them. Now, if they’d stop yelling in unison, that would really cinch it for me. I don’t love it completely. I guess it was only a matter of time before One Direction reached the point of releasing singles that musically sound like they could have been a Maroon 5 song in another iteration. Maybe that’s unfair; there’s a lot of man bands in top 40 radio these days. It could be any of them. Probably Maroon 5, though. Our boys want us to know they are men now! This involves experimenting with more “grown up” sounds, from Mumford-style folksy guitars to Imagine Dragons electro beats to this, a cast-off Maroon 5 song. With so many different influences converging on pop right now, it seems like they’re trying out everything there is to try without landing on anything that sticks. Here’s to hoping they find their own sound eventually (soon). I really mean that; because I’m embarrassing and shamelessly into Harry’s classic rock vibes, my fingers are crossed and candles burned for them to go back to whatever horrible thing they were doing with Midnight Memories, because I loved Tom Petty Direction.

Ok! Having gotten that out of the way, time to dive into the mythology. Goddess help us all. First of all, 3 in the fucking morning? Who do you think you are, Beyoncé? One Direction waited until the witching hour in the US to drop this anvil on our heads. Coincidence? Probably. Brushing aside my “Stevie Nicks worshiping Harry Styles is a witch” headcanons for the time being, what that leaves is the rest of what One Direction worships, which is the proverbial “us.” We are the Girl Almightys, but not stationary on a pedestal. This is a dance, something reciprocal. Our love fuels each others’; these songs about love are about ideal love, love that isn’t a feeling but an action, a constant exchange of support and emotions. They are songs not just about a singular romantic relationship but our relationship with the band. Our love and support begets theirs, and like this song says, “if I didn’t have you there would be nothing left.” There is a story here, a story about real people who have real hardships and their love for each other is a beacon of light that leads them through the thick of it. Strengths can become weaknesses and vice versa–“don’t burn out” / “I’ve got a fire for a heart.” But the overarching idea is that we have built something–a relationship–and the strength of this relationship is what allows us to navigate the darkness and difficulty of life (and mental illness, if I’m being totally honest, so much of this speaks directly to mental illness). This is what all good relationships do, with our friends, family, and significant others. That’s what they’re for. One Direction wants us to know that, and wants to make sure we know that we are part of it for them the same way they are part of it for us. Anyway, this has culminated in me sobbing in my bed about Through The Dark. No one can drag us down, we will find a way through the dark.

CAROLINE: I’m at my least eloquent when writing on One Direction as a fan rather than a ~scholar but I don’t want to do research right now (even though I think this song made it to number one on iTunes in a matter of minutes & that needs to be investigated), I just want to stay awake & sweat over what we’ve been given.

One Direction catalogues themes & images & repurposes them each time they release new material – they never get too far away from the original source, even if they trick casual listeners into thinking they have. One Direction has a core that has remained relatively consistent since Midnight Memories. They are nuanced songwriters – 1D imagery is perennial & blooms more meaningful as they persevere. I’m not in the business of One Direction “proving” themselves or finally being accepted into canon of “music white dudes think is okay” & the discourse surrounding this song is already leaning in that direction but I will say this is a fucking bop, this is mercilessly executed pop. Niall sounds like Adam Levine & Harry is riffing. There are echoes & “oohs” & that guitar that sounds like it is winking, this is POP. This is not One Direction with “Story of my Life” & their attempt at faux adult contemporarily listen at your desk at work, this is formulaic One Direction in 2015 utilizing each member to their fullest & most dynamic potential. Did anyone know Harry’s voice could do that? I don’t think it was necessary to prove the vocal talents of the other boys (to this extent) because up until now, Zayn provided the frills. I don’t think this is One Direction “proving” themselves to audiences but proving to themselves that they can exist without Zayn. This song is the rebirth of OT4.

This song is a natural progression from their work on FOUR except in that this is the single. None of the standout tracks from FOUR were put anywhere near radio. “No Control” only got off the ground because of fan initiative. “Drag Me Down” is a single released by the band/management that sounds like the “deep tracks” that are scarcely even included in the set list of a tour promoting the album those songs are from. This is the first good choice made by One Direction’s management in several years.

I do need to take a few selfish moments to talk about these riffs. Harry is not given room on recorded material to riff, those spots filled by Zayn in the past & tag teamed by Liam during live shows. Firstly, I’m not sure I can believe that is real. It is instantly obvious that it is him, by process of elimination if nothing else, but it isn’t something I can just accept as fact. Like Perrie’s note in “About the Boy,” I’ll believe it when I hear it live & will be joyously proven wrong. I don’t often feel bad when Harry isn’t given a lot of solo parts in songs because I think his voice is well recognized, well received, as is his celebrity, & I say to myself (during songs like “Through the Dark”) “I think he’ll be okay,” but I don’t know the last time we got a full Harry song, maybe “Happily?” This song is OT4 & I also think this is Harry blatantly screeching, “I AM IN THIS BAND FOREVER.”

Also, who the fuck is laughing at the end?

CORBIN: you know that feeling where you’re driving on the highway and there’s a car up ahead of you going just a little too slow so you pull into the passing lane and speed up, and as you press your foot harder and harder into the gas it seems like you’re not really going to make it, the other car’s going a little faster than you thought and you’re definitely going over the speed limit, your fists are tight on the wheel and you’re suddenly conscious of the rules of physics in a way you weren’t before and right as you think it’s too much and you’re going too fast and you’ll lose control you pull ahead, you soar ahead, and ease back into the other lane with a smoothness and a steadiness you didn’t know was possible while the road fans out wide and beautiful ahead –– you know that feeling? that’s what this song sounds like, building to the chorus and then dropping into it with loose, practiced, unhurried grace. and frankly, i’m hoping that’s how one direction feels right now: like frantic too-fast acceleration that is finally settling into a smooth ride. i love this song. i love it. i love direction. i’m never taking this off repeat.

ISABEL: One Direction has always been a series of lessons I needed and recoiled from and finally surrendered to. I drank up what they said to me like water in a Manhattan August, grateful and undignified, and at some point the identification didn’t so much shift as expand, so that I could be both sung-to and singer, object and subject, poem and poet, listening to myself sing about salvation and feeling both rescued and brave. This song is a repository of One Direction’s favorite motifs, so much so that it throws into relief the story they’ve been writing: how to feel human when inside you is the force of the elements, how to endure your own uncooling fire and survive your own raging sea. How to find the steadiness of the shore by revealing the flickering tremors of your mercurial heart. How to turn your exhausting spirit into something bearable without taming its beautiful bright power. I’ve got a fire for a heart / I’m not scared of the dark, and I’m not scared of the fire, which scorches but which also shines, I’m not scared of what I know now I’m strong enough to carry. You taught me how to be someone, One Direction tells me, and I think, #same, and then I think something slightly different: you taught me I already was. They’re still teaching me, and I’m still here, burning and fireproof, drowning and sailing strong through the storm. It’s hard going, but I’m going. Another lesson I had in me that became clearer when some idiot millionaires in tank tops and ripped jeans said it for me, showed me the words I couldn’t feel behind my teeth: nobody can drag me down.

KENZIE: Listen, okay. OKAY. There are very few things that make me feel as alive as loving this band does. I’ve talked about it before. When this song dropped and my phone blew up and my friend visiting from out of town rose out of bed and walked into my room with his phone in hand like his very soul had been summoned, it’s like… it is beyond words. Every cell in your body wakes up and so many of the people you love the most are experiencing that exact thing at that exact time and it feels like your heart is in your throat, it feels like transcendence; it’s the closest thing my heathen self will ever get to religious ecstasy. How else can you describe how it feels to be the recipient of a token of pure joy after a really difficult few months? We know the headlines, I don’t need to repeat their premature death knells. And then here’s One Direction coming to you at 1am on a Thursday night/morning, saying “Nobody can drag me down,” saying “all my life you stood by me when no one else was ever behind me,” saying “you taught me how to be someone.” What’s more is the song is good, it’s an evolution in their sound but it fucking SLAYS. This isn’t just talk, it’s triumphant, it’s flipping your hair at (and maybe flipping your middle finger at) the naysayers and rising from the flames where they tried to burn you to nothing. (Don’t even get me started on “I’ve got a fire for a heart, I’m not scared of the dark,” a line that I heard and immediately had to repeat at the top of my lungs, because we all know how I feel about “Through the Dark” and the echoes make me want to set someone, probably myself, on fire. [I’m hoping someone else has something more eloquent to say about that, honestly.]) I love this song. I love it fiercely, I will defend it to the death, no one can take this joy from me, no one can take this band from me. I paid $1.29 for this song so I could have it immediately, and then like five minutes later it was on Spotify, and I’m not even mad. What a terrible, beautiful, perfect gift.