November 20, 2013
Julian Bunetta & John Ryan
Lyrically, the song describes a desire to openly love and need a person, without concern for outsider judgement.
Strong was co-written by Louis Tomlinson, and is widely speculated to be about his relationship with bandmate Harry Styles. Some fans have theorized that the first verse appears to reference several nautical themed tattoos Styles and Tomlinson both have. Harry's father, Des Styles, tweeted that the track was his favorite from the album.
Tomlinson commented on fans use of the "You make me strong" lyrics on signs they hold up at concerts as a highlight of his career and a reminder of the impact his songwriting has on people.
One of the songwriters involved noted that Tomlinson wanted to make a statement that went against the stereotype of men suppressing their feelings and emotions.
In an interview with MTV News, Julian Bunetta said, "We got into this discussion about how when you tell someone like 'I need you, I love you and I need you 'cause you make me strong,' essentially you can scare someone off. It's pressure, so people just kind of run from it. So, that's what the lyric is," recalled Bunetta, who also helped produce songs on the album. "It's saying 'I'm sorry if I say this, but fuck it. It was just sort of a thing that I think all guys feel, having to uphold a woman who I love 'I'm strong' philosophy, and kind of throwing that idea out the window."
Michael Cragg of the Daily Mirror gave "Strong" four out of five stars and wrote: ""My hands, your hands tied up like two ships" sings Zayn to open Strong. I don't think it's about nautical bondage mind you, but more about love and feeling safe with someone that's your soulmate etc. etc. and so on. Again, it's upbeat but quite 'mature', and certainly less teenage than "What Makes You Beautiful". This isn't about a quick fumble, more a recently announced engagement. It's also ridiculously catchy." Writing for Billboard, Chris Payne called the song "a love song in the earnest, mid-tempo vein of previous track "Don't Forget Where You Belong." It's the sort of song plenty of boy bands and well-meaning soft rockers have pulled off before...."
The song reached number one on the Official New Zealand Music Chart, making it One Direction's third number one in New Zealand, after "Live While We're Young" (2012) and "Story of My Life". It also charted at number 48 on the UK Singles Chart, number 87 in the Billboard Hot 100 and number 44 on the Canadian Hot 100.