6 Years Of One Direction Musical Growth

In the past 6 years we have watched Harry, Niall, Liam, Louis, and Zayn grow into the artists they are today.

From their early years at the X-Factor, One Direction had a different sound. Not the typical ‘boy-band’ sound we were used to. No choreographed dance moves. No matching outfits. Every time they set foot on that studio stage it was something new.

A lot has changed in these past six years. Their clothes, their style and yes, their music. Since the beginning the boys always wanted to be apart of the music, they didn’t just want to sing their part. We wanted to take a trip down memory lane and take a deeper look at their growth musically through the last six years.

X-Factor/ Up All Night 

The usual pop boy band sound was never an option with One Direction. Even in their early years their sound had more of a rock and roll vibe to it with more guitar and bass, while still keeping the pop music feel they were expected to create. Although they didn’t write their music, they performed it as they wanted to. Like they wanted it to sound.

Torn is a perfect example of taking a song and making it their own. The original version is the quintessential 90’s broken heart ballad. Simple vocals that packed a punch. The One Direction version has a lot more pronounced vocals. This is an early telling of the amount of talent these 5 boys actually have.

With Up All Night, the boys were still singing the pop hits but with the pronounced guitar, and synth sounds this album was something unheard of something new.

Take Me Home Era

Take Me Home while still giving off that pop sound was much more rock and roll than their first album. This change went over well with fans, outselling Up All Night in it’s first week. With songs like “Rock Me” which is a very 80’s synth-rock tune and songs like “Kiss You” with more of a Bow Wow Wow “I Want Candy” vibe the album really starts to show that they can sing more than just what we hear on the radio. All the boys starting hinting into writing the songs they perform with TMH having writing credits on a number of songs.

Having two albums under their belt, the boys were starting get a grasp on the kind of music they wanted to write.

Midnight Memories

TMH was the perfect segway for the more rock based album that was Midnight Memories. Although MM did have more rock influenced songs, this was the most heartfelt album at that point for them. They wrote all but 3 tracks on the album, which at that point was something not done by most ‘boy bands’. One of the most noted songs on the album  was written by Niall Horan, Tom Fletcher, Danny Jones and Dougie Poynter. “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” shows a side of 1D that the media rarely touched on. How they feel on the road. Never wanting to forget where they came from, and being grateful for what they have.

Taking a look at the different song like “Story of My Life” or “Little White Lies” they’re both very different, but yet musically they’re both much more complex than anything on the previous album. “Little White Lies” starts with a very distinctive guitar riff which sets the mood for the whole song.”Story of My Life” starts with dual acoustic guitars while letting the voices shine through. Even when the chorus hits the voices are still the show stopper. The angelic sounding backing vocals really help this song shine.


After MM, the boys took a different approach to their sound. FOUR had a 80’s arena-rock sound to the album. This album really showed off Harry, Liam, and Louis’ knack and real talent in songwriting. Having wrote all but 4 songs on the album was another big accomplishment.

“Where Do Broken Hearts Go” is probably the song with the biggest throwback vibe. Written by Harry Styles, the song starts with a single guitar chord and a soft piano in the background, which enters just like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”. Throughout this whole album you can start to feel and hear the personal influences the guys put into these songs. Songs and artists they listened to for years who inspire them, being written into these songs. There is almost nothing more beautiful than that.

Even though “Night Changes” was released as a single, it doesn’t take away the musical impact of the song. To this day, this is played on radios fairly frequently. It is loved by not only fans but people who have no idea of another One Direction song. Why? Because although FOUR contained complex riffs and sounds we never heard from the before, it also contained simple, relatable ballads. and “Night Changes” is just that.

Made in the A.M./ Mind of Mine

In early 2015 Zayn Malik decided to leave One Direction and start a solo career on his own. This did not effect One Direction, nor himself. It quite frankly made them both stronger.

Made in the A.M. is so different than anything One Direction has done up to this point. Each song sounding and feeling different than the next. You can put on any song and hear the musical influences that they take from. When you hear “Walking in the Wind” you can’t help but think of Paul Simon’s Graceland which was a totally new sound and vibe from Paul. “Hey Angel” picks from The Verve and Robbie Williams. “What a Feeling” sounds like Fleetwood Mac could have produced it. It gives a feeling of being in a time machine and it’s taking you through a musical journey. This really shows that not only can these 4 boys write and perform pop music, they can write blues, rock, anything they put their mind to. They write music based on life experiences, what influenced them, what drives them and what they’re feeling.

Mind of Mine

As a solo artist, ZAYN was able to start writing what he wanted. He was able to have complete control of his music. Each song on MoM, sounds totally different than the one before. “PILLOWTALK” was the first single from his debut album. Right away you could hear the difference in sound from his past work with the band. The sound is R&B and new age soul.

We are so proud of ZAYN and what he has accomplished. For doing what he needed to be able to be himself.

Looking back at the last six years of One Direction you can’t help but feel proud of them. Breaking barriers of boy band normality, showing the world they are talented and showing them they can not sing their heart out, they can write their heart out too.

They may be on a well deserved temporary hiatus to grow and learn new things, we hope that they know we have been here listing to them grow for the last six years, and we will be here waiting for the next six.

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Written by Amber Nordberg

I'm 25, living life and loving the adventure. Lover of One Direction and 5SOS. Find me on Twitter, @ambernordberg