Like with Ellie Goulding a couple months ago, it’s a little strange to be getting new music from One Direction seemingly so soon after they showed up with their first album. But really, 1D are vets of this boy band game now, having been around for two years, and having already inundated the public with debut Up All Night and hit singles “What Makes You Beautiful” and “One Thing,” it’s time for them to move on to bigger and better things.
Is that what they’re doing with “Live While We’re Young,” lead single from upcoming sophomore album Take Me Home? Well, bigger, certainly—”Live” follows the group’s established songwriting formula basically to a T, but everything sounds even more forceful and in your face, like the group is actively trying to grab your attention from the radio across the room. The song is so assertive in its insistence on YOLO’ing it up that it almost sounds threatening, like those who feel like chilling out and reading a book for the night might face social ostracizing. It’s for listeners who weren’t quite convinced by the subtlety of Owl City and Carly Rae’s “Good Time.”
That’s not a bad thing, though, as songwriters Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk are again up to the task of writing a song that sounds as much fun as the group appears to be having, so that even if it is a little bullying in its gleefulness, you won’t mind having your hands forcibly thrown into the air. The song is smart to swipe the guitar-only opening pattern from The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”—akin to “What Makes You Beautiful” lifting the “Summer Nights” beginning—calling on pop history to get you excited for the song before you even really realize why. Then smart little lyrical plays like “The music up, the windows down” and “I know we only met but let’s pretend it’s love”—1D sees you, Carly Rae!—convey an incredible amount of urgency and fun without much clunky verbage, making singing along something of an inevitability.
You could maybe say that it’s a little disappointing that the song so carefully adheres to the “Beautiful” and “One Thing” road maps—down to the wordless chanting and the quiet chorus reprise in the bridge—and certainly, continuing to follow on this path risks obvious listener exhaustion. Still, this does seem like the big single 1D have been building towards, and if it isn’t their biggest smash to date, then the entire boy band revival of the last year might be coming up on its expiration date far sooner than we’d anticipated.