2 stars

I became a One Direction fan because of a rather vivid dream in which I was skiing in the Swiss Alps with Harry Styles. I’ve been helplessly (and shamefully) addicted ever since.

However, after the release of their latest single “You & I” and the accompanying music video, the band has officially tested my patience as they struggle through their transition from tween sensation to “real artists.” Puberty is hard, but it’s harder when the girls follow you home in large numbers, I imagine. Nonetheless, there is no excuse for a music video that is less than aesthetically pleasing. Much less.

I didn’t think that any video that started with Niall Horan could be bad. They proved me wrong.

The first frame of the video includes a sign that reads the name of the producer and a list of business hours, Monday through Sunday. Each day on the list has the same hours, and yet they took the trouble to write out every single day on a separate line. Couldn’t you just write, “Open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day”? Or, at the very least, change the hours to keep the pleasing visual of a full sign while retaining a purpose.

Right away, as Niall emerges from the poorly signed store, the viewer can tell that the lighting is incredibly washed out. This may be to attain a dreary seaside vibe, but instead the most attractive member of the band looks like he has the flu (and, for the record, so do all the others). The music video has taken a big hit right at the beginning with this lighting choice, and Niall’s overemphasized half-blond/half-brown haircut doesn’t help. Furthermore, if the lighting is supposed to channel a cloudy day, why do all of the band members look like they’re walking into the sun? Squint much?

As Niall emerges from the store and begins to walk down what can only be the longest dock in the history of the universe, he moves like he’s treading through molasses. The viewer then realizes that the speed of the video has been slowed down just enough to be noticeable, but not enough to reduce the awkwardness of his pace.

To top it all off, it is quite apparent that Niall is lip-synching because the soundtrack doesn’t match up with his mouth. Hey, no criticism on the lip-sync. Heaven knows it’s hard enough to walk at an astronaut’s labored pace. But if you’re going to do it, do it right (and, to be fair, Harry Styles later rescues the band with his superb ability to imitate his ability to actually sing).

After the first half of the verse, Niall appears to be tripping on the board walk; he looks down as he moves forward and then … Oh, my bad. Niall isn’t tripping. His face is just changing into a different face. A whole, new face.

Suddenly, the viewer is staring into the lumberjack-bearded face of Liam Payne. Liam then changes into Harry after stoically drifting his hand into the air, palm facing in (probably to look at his lyrics), and swiping it down across his face in a harsh “happy face, sad face” gesture.

Harry, after stopping to ponder what must have been a very fascinating sailboat off in the distance, runs to catch up with the camera, which is moving right along without him. Once he does so, he turns around and, during that twist, transforms into Zane, but not quickly enough to avoid a few seconds of Zane with a really bad half-Harry-half-Zane mullet hairstyle.

Zane changes into Louis by the simple turn of the head, perhaps the most alarming transformation yet due to the complete visibility of facial features and the sharp distinctions between the features of these two members. Louis’s shaggy head of hair is then transformed back into Harry after Louis covers his face with his hand (palm out this time, because Louis is a baller and actually knows the words to his own song).

The viewer then gets the privilege of spending some close personal time with Harry’s forehead as the camera zooms in to a distance inches from his face, only to pan out and reveal the band, together. To accomplish the meant-to-be-artistic-but-actually-just-frightening interchangeability of the band members, all of them wore the same gray sweatshirt and black skinny jeans (a dull color scheme for a dull day, I suppose).

After they are together, however, each band member gets to add their own personal flair to their wardrobe. Harry, however, is stuck in his drab pullover (but it serves him right for getting two face morphs instead of one. Camera hog).

It appears that five new band members seem to have joined One Direction in this video, all amalgamations of their former selves. I’m sure I speak for the fans when I say that we hope to never, ever see these new five members in a music video ever, ever again.

Ever. It will save us all a lot of time from checking under our beds for half-formed One Direction band members before we try to go to sleep at night.

Doubtless, this face-change effect was added to create a visual diversity within the piece. I can see where it would be needed, because for four minutes and four seconds, One Direction fans watch all ten members of One Direction walk down the same dock.

Then, to add to the list of inexplicable visual decisions, the One Direction members are somehow frozen in place in different positions, which the real, live members then move into from behind to dissolve. And also, there’s a pink balloon.

Don’t ask about the pink balloon. I’ve got nothing.

After almost three straight minutes of walking, One Direction suddenly decides that its “pace of honey” walk in a straight line wasn’t enough. Now, each member bursts with energy, flipping around and kicking around a pink ball and jumping off of crates and dancing. Here is the band’s playful energy and silly temperament that so often exudes from their music videos.

However, in “You & I” it seems all wrong. The traditional boyish charm is misused, creating a dissonance between that same charm and the tween seriousness of the subject matter (which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is all about “You & I,” despite the fact that Lady Gaga already canvassed that topic).

If anything, the interplay of each member’s charisma with the others leaves the viewer thinking that their love song is actually for each other. “Nothing can come between us,” indeed.

It was no Swiss Alps skiing trip, I can tell you that. It all started with a dream, but there is no ignoring that this video was a nightmare: a nadir of the One-Direction collection. After this low, it can only go one direction: up.