One Direction fans have reason to rejoice this holiday season: They get not just one, but two full albums from former members – Liam Payne and Harry Styles. Unfortunately for one of them, the reception will be frosty.
Payne’s 17-track “LP1” never really gets off the ground, a collection of monotonous club songs that often sound like warmed-over Justin Beiber rejects. It doesn’t help that some of the offerings are more than two years old.
The first tune – “Stack It Up” with A Boogie Wit da Hoodie – is the best and then the album falls off a cliff into a swamp of skittering drums, synth and libidinous lyrics (“Flippin’ that body/Go head, I’ll go tails”). It breaks no new sonic ground and has a faintly musty whiff. (Weirdly, Payne finally stops grinding for a weepy original Christmas song at the very end.)
There’s a good reason for the first tune being good – it’s co-written by Ed Sheeran and Payne doesn’t try to disguise its origins, mimicking Sheeran vocal tics and flow. For a first album, Payne surprisingly doesn’t show up: He had a hand co-writing only four songs and fails to do anything interesting with his voice.
While Styles is off making fascinating, intriguing music, Payne is clearly phoning in his debut from the club. He sounds happiest on “Both Ways,” when he boasts about his girlfriend’s bisexuality. “I don’t discriminate/Bring it back to my place/Yeah she like it both ways.”
The album reaches ludicrous heights on “Strip That Down,” a 2-year-old embarrassment that credits no fewer than 15 writers, including Sheeran, Quavo and even Shaggy because they’ve lifted so much of his 19-year-old hit “It Wasn’t Me.”
“You know I used to be in 1D (Now I’m out free)” Payne sings on it.
The sound of freedom never sounded so banal.