One Direction to the Great Big World with Beyonce

Evon Hung, Contributing Writer

A new year holds new films, artists, and playlists. Music can get old fast but legendary Beyoncé and beloved One Direction have carried over their popular albums across to 2014 – and successfully maintained their status on Billboard’s Top 10. But even underground music can pack a punch, as shown with A Great Big World’s newest release. While these albums have played nonstop on millions of playlists, here’s my take on the raved tracklists.

Beyoncé’s new self-titled album, released in mid-December, has captured my attention, as well as thousands of others, with its glamorous, brassy, autobiography-like appeal. In this installment, Beyoncé emphasizes her womanhood with explicit messages and experimental sound in her songs.

The album is a reflection of Beyoncé’s entire career – each song expresses a highlight of milestones reached in her life. It starts with one of my favorites, “Pretty Hurts,” conveying the superficiality of materialistic media and ends with the track “Blue” featuring her daughter, Blue Ivy.

The album reverberates with soulful vibes, lush yet edgy vocals evident in “XO” and emblazons with provocative themes and sonic beats such as in “Drunk in Love (featuring Jay-Z).” Its stylistic approach strays from conventional pop-culture and ventures through slow R&B venues. Listening to the album as a whole makes me feel as if I’m swaying on a low-lighted dance floor with vibrant energy.

Though the music style differs from conventional pop, content integrated in the album is explicitly mature. For the majority of the album, there’s not much depth nor do the lyrics promote any meaningful message. But even with these set-backs, Beyoncé delivers flawlessly. I’m not an avid fan, but I can see why so many are. Quality is upheld and the rave about this album isn’t all just hype – Beyoncé has game.

Also at the end of 2013, One Direction released their third album, “Midnight Memories,” which has hit Billboard’s Top 6 and received four British Award nominations. Their promotional hit song, “Best Song Ever,” has reached over 193 million views on YouTube. Though the song title and lyrics aren’t the best, the track wholly represents the album as bouncy, addictive, and boy-band slick.

This particular album doesn’t diverge much from their previous works. The style focuses on animated pop and synths, combining tastes of the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and Jonas Brothers – but it does incorporate a rock/acoustic-feel (like those of Coldplay and Mumford & Sons).

I don’t find the album to be a keeper on my playlist, but I do enjoy “Half a Heart,” a pop-acoustic rendition of a broken heart, and “Better Than Words,” another cute love song with adorable lyrics. The vocals are crisp and polished –talent that has developed ten-fold since One Direction’s X-Factor days. The entire record is typical for a boy band, but the music flow is easy to digest and suitable for a wide audience.

This album is a great collection of clean-cut vocals and lively tunes. “Midnight Memories” has followed up One Direction’s successes of past albums; Directioners won’t be disappointed with their latest release.

Moving into indie-pop territory, A Great Big World recently released their debut album, “Is Anybody Out There?”. Since their big break on “Glee” back in 2011, A Great Big World has made another statement with “Say Something” featuring Christina Aguilera, which sold over 100,000 singles in one week. Of these albums, this one is my favorite.

There’s a lot of acoustics in the record; you get a bundle of piano pop-rock and buoyant tempos like those in “I Really Want It” and “Everyone is Gay” that keep the indie vibe alive. Vocals range from a warm, textured timbre to a raw, stripped-down quality, possessing tone elements like those of Nate Ruess of Fun.

In fact, while the album exuberates an upbeat, preppy feel, there are tracks that express gentle vulnerability like in “Say Something” and “I Don’t Wanna Love Somebody Else” – songs that are stark in simplicity and style, factors that I can really appreciate.

A Great Big World is a new band, but has already gained enormous exposure. “Is Anybody Out There?” promotes themes of individuality and breaking boundaries. It’s vivacious, full of personality, and deliciously indie – I’m loving every bit of the album.