One Direction announced their fourth album this week, appropriately title ‘Four’. It caused quite a stir in the fangirl community. Part of the commotion was because the first single ‘Fireproof’ was also released…and as a free download for 24 hours… (I reviewed the song with full lyrics in a previous post). Part was that it all seemed so unexpected!
But really, shouldn’t we have expected it? There was no way to know that 1D would pick that specific day to make their announcement, but we should have known an album was coming in November. “How?” you ask. “You never mentioned you were a psychic.” I’m not claiming to be so put those skeptical looks away. I was just as blindsided as you were. I felt like it was just yesterday that ‘Midnight Memories’ arrived in my iTunes by the magic of pre-orders. How could they possibly be releasing another little piece of heaven to us already?But then I went back, looked at the historical data and realized that One Direction is extremely predictable in their album release dates:
This prompted me to look at other artists. Is this common? But where to start looking…well the last big album announcement for fangirls was Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’:
It seems Taylor is equally consistent. Almost exactly 2 years to-the-day between albums. We really should have been able to guess that she’d have a new diary-entry-parading-as-an-album for us to rock out to in late October this year.
Consistency is kind of a thing…but how about the fact that 1D is releasing an album every year (vs Taylor’s every two). Is this sustainable? So naturally I made a graph:
Looking at comparable artists to One Direction, based on music type, popularity and fan base, I found that releasing an album/year is not common. One Direction was formed in July 2010 and hadn’t finished competing on The X-Factor until December that same year. In less than four years from that moment when they were heartbreakingly cut from the show One Direction will have released their fourth album. Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato took an extra year and year & a half, respectively, to reach that same point. Bieber is a hard one to judge because he has a habit of re-releasing his albums, (Now it’s acoustic! Now it’s remixed!) but in terms of straight studio albums he only has 4. Twelve years after ‘Songs About Jane’ (their first album) was released Maroon 5 just dropped their 5th album. But then again Maroon 5 isn’t a boy band…and maybe that’s it:
Maybe it’s a Boy Band Thing!
I compiled the same graph, but this time comparing One Direction to music’s most popular boy bands. For acts that are trying a resurgence, aka the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block, I found the ‘Peak Average’ meaning the average time between albums when they were in their original popularity.
Here we see more similarities. The ‘manufactured’ element of a boy band lends itself to fast returns. Even still, the boy bands of the late 90’s/early 00’s saw averages in the 20-30 months/album area. N*SYNC only produced 3 records before they split. If they had been as productive as 1D they could have released 6. Imagine if we had an extra 3 N*SYNC albums at our disposal…what a wonderful world this would be! Backstreet Boys saw the fastest turnaround, but were still taking 6 months more than One Direction to produce new music. The closest comparison can be made with the Jonas Brothers. The 3-brother band blew up with the same type of enthusiasm (though on a slightly smaller scale) as 1D. They popped off 4 albums in 4 years, whilst stealing the hearts of every teen and fangirl alike. And where did that get us in the end? With a band that we thought would never break up (I mean they’re family!) breaking up. Talk about awkward Thanksgiving dinners. But seriously it was too much too fast and no one was on the same page. I’m not saying this is One Direction problem, I’m just saying it’s one possibility for how it could all end.
Or 1D could be the next Westlife. 12 years. 10 albums. An album a year, with the odd gap year to recharge & reinvent. It’s a constant stream of music. But does that create other problems? Is it possible to flood the market with your music and decrease value of a new single based on how often they come out? If we are still using Westlife as an example it doesn’t seem to be a problem:
And so far it hasn’t been a problem for One Direction either:
I will definitely not complain if One Direction continues to put out new music every year. This sounds like a splendid way to live my life. However, with the evolution of their sound and the band’s increased involvement in writing & producing their music I will understand if they need to slow down output. I love quantity but would prefer quality. Plus if it keeps them from burning out they can take years between albums…I just want to keep hearing new 1D for years to come.
Love & Luck,