I wasn't hoping for much. At best, I thought we might get a Justin Timberlake-lite bop. But what we ended up with as the debut single from Liam Payne, the final Direction to release his blueprint for world domination, is "Strip That Down."
"Strip That Down" is a song so relentlessly square (save for the bit when, inexplicably, Quavo from the Migos jumps in) that it sounds like co-writer Ed Sheeran was given a brief which just said "make it a bit… streetwise?", and came up with a number that can only be described as the beginning of a new genre called Gary Barlow Trap. Some of the lyrics go like this:
"Used to be in 1D (now I'm out free)
People want me for one thing (that's not me)
I'm not changing the way that I (used to be)
I just wanna have fun (and get rowdy)"
Now while I wish Liam the best for the rest of his solo career, and hope that this is merely a rocky start, I must, with some regret, say that this is unfortunately not very good. It is so not very good that it sent me on a journey through all five stages of grief—which largely saw me experiencing them all at once—during its short, three minutes and 25 seconds runtime. Let me explain:
When I first pressed play on "Strip That Down" this morning on the number 78 bus to work, there were a good few seconds at the beginning, when I heard the opening clicks against that minimal synth, and thought 'actually do you know what this might be alright!' I regret to inform you that I was in denial.
My denial soon subsided when I realized that this had Ed Sheeran written all over it (his rhythmic songwriting tics, heard most obviously on tracks like "You Need Me, I Don't Need You," hover all over this song like a heavy-handed spray of Lynx Africa deodorant). You can hear them to the extent that I can imagine Ed playing on an acoustic guitar for old Payno, the two of them smugly going "yes mate this is sick." This made me want to smash up my phone. I was experiencing anger.
I found myself thinking, One Direction would never have done anything like this. What if 1D had never split up? "Strip That Down" would never even have been a glint in anyone's eye. A case of classic bargaining.
I will admit to feeling a level of sadness that Liam Payne did not come out of the gate and "smash it," mostly because I always hope that big pop releases will "smash it." The depression element here also comes a bit from how unbelievably boring and uninspired the song and its lyrics are, considering all of the tools Liam had at his disposal. This song should have been much better, and whoever let him indirectly rhyme "1D" with the second syllable of "rowdy" should be put in prison.
The first throes of this actually came quite early, when the "used to be in 1D (now I'm out free)" line first happened. I cackled so loudly and involuntarily that a number of the other bus passengers turned around to have a look at the small, cackling woman, and that made me laugh even more. Sometimes you have to learn that you can't pin any of your hopes for good pop music on a lad who, if he had not become a pop star, would 100 percent be a Wolverhampton Tinder mainstay with a bio that says just says "love the gym." Ah yes, acceptance.
Anyway yeah that was my morning, hope yours was nice too.
Follow Lauren on Twitter.
(Image via Liam Payne on Instagram)