If you were anywhere near Rockefeller Center in the past couple of days you likely couldn't help but encounter the force of nature that is One Direction mania. Particularly rabid fans of the dreamy British boy band had been camping out for days in preparation for their performance on the Today show this morning, and while you might have been lucky enough to merely skirt the crowd on the way to where you needed to be, what if you had to actually deal with one of these hopelessly devoted creatures face-to-face? Well you just might have to next week. In case you've got some 1D-crazed niece (or nephew) or sister (or brother) waiting for you when you go home for the holidays, we've got some handy talking points for you that ought to earn their respect. The gents have a new album called Take Me Home, just released in the U.S. today, and for, uh, your benefit, we've listened to the whole sugary thing. Here's what you can say about five of the most important tracks to impress the Larry Stylinson 'shipper in your life.
Track: "Live While We're Young" What to say: Oh! The album's first track? Starts off with a bang, doesn't it? Well, it's such a fun party anthem, and it's a little edgy, isn't it? (For the 1D lads, anyway. No one is getting "higher than the Empire State" as in Fun.'s "We Are Young" and in most cases anything is classier than Ke$ha, who half-raps through "Die Young.") What the critics say: Chris Richards of the Washington Post wrote that the song "is a battle cry for the YOLO generation, a giddy ode to seizing the day and 'doing what we do, just pretending that we’re cool.' Catch that? They’re just pretending that they’re cool, exuding a sly self-awareness that actually makes them seem wise and, in turn, pretty cool."
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Track: "Little Things" What to say: Oh wow. Yeah. When they performed this song on the Today show, girls wept. It's so nice that One Direction is continuing their message of appreciating girls who feel under-appreciated, like on their earlier hit "What Makes You Beautiful." Even though Harry Styles might have dated Natalie Imbruglia, maybe one day he'll love you for the things you hate about yourself. Or some other nice guy will. Each of the members have a solo on this one, and I heard Directioners (like this one) like the new sense of teamwork on display in the album. That's especially good for Niall and Louis fans: it's not all about Harry, Liam and Zayn this time. Did you know that Ed Sheeran, who duets with Taylor Swift on her new album, was responsible for the song? What the critics say: It can be kind of, well, jerky, according to Jon Dolan of Rolling Stone: "a certain amount of douchiness creeps in: 'You still have to squeeze into your jeans, but you're perfect to me,' one of them sings on 'Little Things.' Hey, buddy, you're a millionaire: Buy her some loose jeans."
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Track: "Rock Me" What to say: This song was clearly influenced by Queen's "We Will Rock You," which is nice because the boys (or their writers) are nodding to their British heritage. Who is Queen, you ask? Well, they were kind of like 1D except their lead singer wasn't quite as interested in dating girls as Harry is. What the critics say: Jocelyn Vena of MTV explains that while there is certainly that "homage" there, the guys of One Direction "manage to reel it in with nods of an acoustic guitar. The chorus is a bit silly, but certainly gets the job done in all its toe-tapping goodness: 'I want you to rock me/ I want you to push the pedal/ Heavy metal/ Show me you care.'"
Track: "Change My Mind" What to say: Hm, so there's some innuendo in this song, like talk of staying the night, but these boys are legal consenting adults. You just focus on the sweeter romantic parts. On this album the band is trying to reach a slightly more mature audience, so that's really who this song is for. Again: Staying the night is for older people. What the critics say: It's one of the songs that Ben Rayner of the Toronto Star says tends "toward Bryan Adams at his most drearily sentimental."
Track: "Back for You" What to say: Such pure pop, in the style of the boy bands of my own youth! Come sit and let me tell you a tale of O-Town... What the critics say: Dolan says "album rivals the best of Backstreet and 'N Sync when the material pumps (power-pop sure shots like 'Kiss You,' 'Back for You' and the Clash-biting 'Live While We're Young,' written by masters like Shellback and Rami Yacoub)."