Why One Direction’s ‘Night Changes’ Brought Me to Tears
Forcing someone to choose a single One Direction track as their ultimate favorite is like asking Taylor Swift which cat she would save from her burning Manhattan apartment building. She would probably tuck both of them into their custom-made cat carry-ons and succumb to the smoke and flames together, as a family -- like that scene in 'Titanic.'
So when the hashtag #MyFOURTrackOnRepeat was trending on Twitter nearly all day yesterday, I felt my palms develop that clamminess that comes with the subtle anxiety of being forced to make a decision I knew I would ultimately come to regret. To choose a single song as representative of appeasing my auditory senses in the most satisfactory way above all others, off the album that many believe to be One Direction's magnum opus? I have arrived at the ninth circle of hell, and it is just as cold as Dante described.
The first time I heard 'Four' was during what fans refer to as the annual One Direction album leak of 2014. I used to be far more faithful to the wait of hearing an artist's music on its intended release date, but now that I have to moisturize twice daily to keep my slowly withering, old-lady skin from turning into a dried husk of fine lines and lizard scales, I have adopted Zac Efron's tired mantra, 'YOLO.' (He got it tattooed. No regrets, just love.) Translation: I have grown old with impatience, and One Direction will get my money regardless, so whatever. Not to mention, this is the Me Generation, is it not? If I can shop for a boyfriend with a Dorito-cheese-tinged thumb swipe to the right while perusing Tinder in my underwear, why not spend the 27 seconds it takes to find a stream of an advanced copy of an album I preordered anyway?
'Four' proved to be every part the dad-rock album of my dreams that early song snippets promised it would be. Heavy on '80s rock but light on the cheese and more or less self-aware of itself, it's an album that asks to be taken seriously, but will manage perfectly well on its own if you don't. When asked to isolate a single track and give it the grand title of 'favorite,' I thought it would be near impossible. But then I remembered my visceral and embarrassing reaction to 'Night Changes,' and I knew it was The One.
I don't know if it's the pairing of telling words like "innocence" (and the indication of its loss) with "mother" (along with her inherent disappointment) and the things I hold near and dear to my heart -- Zayn's uncanny ability to channel so much emotion via his unmatched vocal prowess, and the song's oddly somber, introspective quality -- but I broke down in tears upon first listen.
Full disclosure: I feel so many ways about things. I have so many feelings I don't understand, and in that sense I identify strongly with One Direction's target demographic: the 14-year-old girl. Truth be told, you never feel quite as deeply about things as you do when you're a teenager, and there's a kind of magic in that, which we all seem to lose out on as adults. I like to think I'm more in touch with my feelings than the average 20-something-year-old, in equal parts to my detriment and benefit. Besides, I write for a pop news site -- it is literally my job.
I am absolutely moved by music on a consistent basis (it typically involves Dave Grohl), but it isn't often I am rendered nearly incapacitated from grief after hearing a pop song for the first time. But there's something about 'Night Changes' and its perceived sadness that got to me. If you've ever felt strongly about anything -- a person, a cat, a blog -- there's a natural fear that comes along with that feeling of someday losing it. And while loss is real and natural and painful at any age, it becomes more realistic as you get older. Loss is what I have decided 'Night Changes' is about.
'Night Changes' is a decidedly contemplative track for a boy band not often thought of or considered for its nuanced songwriting -- but that's another issue for another time. I can assign a deeper meaning to the song, and perhaps, at the time, I did. Admittedly, it seems silly to put so much stock into a song that, at its core, arrives at the conclusion that the relationship touched upon in its lyrics is ultimately unchanging. But it's the phrasing around that declaration that hit me so hard: "We're only getting older baby / And I've been thinking about it lately / Does it ever drive you crazy / Just how fast the night changes? / Everything that you ever dreamed of / Disappearing when you wake up." Yikes. Talk about the sobering inevitability of losing that which you hold dear. Thanks, Harry.
So, as I sat there, weeping before my computer, writing up an article about that weird '80s aerobics video set to 'Shake It Off' that went viral, I felt free of embarrassment. Because I was alone in my living room. Then my mom asked me what was wrong and whether or not I'd just been fired from my job and I was forced to explain that, no, a new One Direction song released within me the free-fall of sorrow you see before you.
In that moment I felt I was in too deep, but I also have to hand it to One Direction for making a grown woman cry. In this moment I am proud of myself for admitting it on such a public forum, with my real name attached. Because that's the point of music, isn't it? To make you feel something? Even if that something is a longing for more tequila (hey, Ke$ha).
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