One Direction / by E

       The working title for this was "I Do Not Know"; I really don't. I  cannot seem to wrap my mind around the phenomena of One Direction. What is so alluring about a group of pitchy, pre-pubescent looking boys; and their songs... They're just... Well, the ones I know of are a little super overly produced. The band remains this ephemeral (hopefully) enigma to me. How did they get so famous? Why are young girls so excited over them? How are their pants that tight; how much future damage are they inflicting upon themselves? Do they know the origin of wearing your pants that low? At least one of them is gay, right? How many of them are there?
       Actually, I do like one of the songs; it's fun to play super loud and dance around whilst your neighbors curse your musical tastes. I've just never paid much attention to the band. When they first came out as this huge deal from overseas (thanks England, you could have stopped with The Wombats and Ed Sheeran, but it's fine. Really), I just figured that their fame would be on the same level as Big Time Rush, where they act like they're a really big deal but you have never actually heard any of their music on the radio; that type of deal. Now that they are everywhere, including my morning show (yes, I love the Today show), I figured I should pay a little more attention to them. This research is futile because it only creates more questions for me than answers. For instance, I upset my youngest sister after showing how oblivious I was of the group members after passing a magazine cover.
Me: "Whoa! What? There's a blond one?? When did that happen?"
Sister: "Uh, he's always been there."
Me: "No, he hasn't."
Sister: "Yes, he has!"
Me: "'Kay dude, calm down. Seriously though, they all had curly brown hair a while ago."
Sister: -audible sigh-
       Do not try to have a rational conversation about this band with someone who is a fan. Just don't. Unless you're a fan too, but then rationality probably trips over a window ledge and falls away so.... It's not just One Direction (1D? Really?) fans who are irrational about that sort of subject matter; it's any fan of any band. If someone came up to me and said "Lady Danville sucks" I would resort to my preferred vernacular. 
       I only have three of their songs, and I question the motive behind my purchases every time I scroll past them, but those three songs actually give a pretty a clear picture of how the band (though immature and annoying in theory) has achieved such great success.        
       "What Makes You Beautiful" was this mega hit because thousands of tweens lost their insecurities for a bit (then they turned on the television or saw a billboard). The lyrics are questionable though; not in a bad way, only in a way that makes me think it was written in less than an hour. "You don't know you're beautiful, that's what makes you beautiful"; so knowing you're hot would make you ugly? No, actually, I'm seeing some merit in that now, thinking about past acquaintances.... Okay, well "the way you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed" is just ridiculous; if this makes them faint, what are they going to do when they get to the bedroom? And "right now I'm looking at you" just annoys me; there is nothing I hate more than a person staring. "To prove I'm right I put it in a song"; if it's this easy, why have I worked so hard on my argumentative skills all these years? Overall though, this song is awfully catchy. That's what it all boils down to, whether or not the melody is, as one of my professors preached (Every. Class.), "is the piece hummable"? It is, terrifically horrifically so. If I hear it once, it just keeps running around my head all day. Whether or not it is some great masterpiece that will define our generation and go down as "one of the greats" has no impact on its, or the bands, popularity. The only thing that matters to consumers is the immediate satisfaction they hear in the manufactured beats which blend (and support) perfectly with the harmonies of five guys who look harmless enough to adorn your daughter's pink walls.
       I actually kind of really like "One Thing"; just a little. I think it's that voice break right as the song begins, plus the fact that it (the voice) is backed by a minimal amount of instruments and technology. I'm not even that aware of the lyrics, I just love their vocals and the composition in this song. It sounds so clean, but in that good alternative (no, I am not saying they're alternative; I'm saying that their voices do not sound altered) way; and the composition is actually great. It sounds like it took a lot more time to create the score for "One Thing" than to make it for "What Makes You Beautiful". It's the only song that does not sound like someone's fingers were hovering over the sound board in the recording studio, ready to fix any fault in the vocals or missed cue by a musician; it is so much better than you would expect from this band. So, besides the fact that I actually like this song, what about it makes the band so popular? It does not have that shiny pretentious boy band sheen all over it, it's refreshing. I mean, it's not like the other refreshing artists England has supplied (they will never be able to achieve the quality of Rosenberg or Mercury. Not much of an argument) but this song is not bad, all things considered. It's just cute enough to make younger girls (their main demographic) love it, and lines like "I'm dying just to make you see" or "I've tried playing it cool" make it a little irresistible to those who have actually had these emotions. "Get out of my head and fall into my arms instead" is too great of a refrain to even consider this song as anything less than a success. Of course, that constant back beat is timed perfectly for you to dance around to it, and only furthers any liking you may have developed for the song. As different as this song is from their first mega hit, it really only helped to further the bands success. It's refreshing and does not pander to the insecurities of immature girls.
       Then there's their most recent single: "Live While You're Young". Oh, yes, this one.... Can I just say that, after some research, maybe this song is acceptable for the band members (if you listen to this thinking that they are fourteen/fifteen, it's a little.. questionable[?]), but the average age of their fans is far too young to hear lines like "tonight let's get some," "let's pretend it's love," or "if we get together, don't let the pictures leave your phone". Excuse me, but is this nine year old with one of the curly haired guys' faces on her shirt really listening to, and absorbing, lyrics like this. I am a big advocate for not censoring songs ("Forget You" is just stupid. Fuck you if like it better than the original) and artistic freedom, and I think it's ridiculous to blame Marilyn Manson for the Columbine attack or Eminem for the continued trend of misogyny in America, but if your demographic is young children, you do not use lyrics like this. That's like giving "Glad You Came" to a five year old; eventually they will connect the dots, grow up, and be just as traumatized by the fact that they sang that song, loudly, in public at that age as I was when I grew up and found out what that Uncle Kracker song meant. I guess I have to talk about the commercial merits of this song though, don't I? The guitar in the beginning draws you in and instantly creates the melody; it's already recognizable and easy to hum. The chorus is easy to sing along to, he just says "crazy" a bunch, then makes some "whoa" sounds; despite the fact that the lyrics are questionable, they are crazy upbeat and the lyrical concepts are so basic that anyone can pick up on the rhythm and sing along with, at least part, of the chorus. People like 'party' songs, it's a fact. That's why Katy Perry will always be more famous than Momma Holler; people don't care about deep or meaningful music, they just want something they can dance along to. I'm not really one to talk; I cannot wait for Ke$ha's newest album. The thing that makes this song so popular is the fact that it played off of every stereotype of a popular song: it is upbeat, it has easy and repetitive lyrics, and just enough guitar to make people think the song is 'good'.
       This last song was a bit of a downer. Listen to "One Thing"; it's good. I'm not putting down One Direction, I am only examining the facts which make them so much more popular than any other band right now. They are great; they are crazy famous and their pictures are on every tween girls wall on multiple continents, yet they somehow manage to not sound annoying in interviews and to steer clear of scandals, all while keeping their spot as number one boy band, in the world, while so many other ones are trying to surface. Business wise, they are a terrific asset; musically, they could have potential.
- E
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