Hear Us Out: Why One Direction Will Be the Next Beatles
Boy bands come and boy bands go. Many of them enjoy that first burst of fame and then peter out as their fans inevitably age and move on, failing to ever recapture previous levels of fame. One band, in particular, started out as a boy band, arriving on American shores 50 years ago today (specifically Feb. 7) to the deafening screams of female fans in what was known as the British invasion.
Yes, that band was The Beatles.
But The Beatles of the’60s were markedly different than The Beatles of the ’70s, having evolved from the fun, dance pop-rock of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Twist and Shout…’
…to the trippy rock of ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.’
It’s almost as if they were two different bands. There hasn’t been another Beatles in five decades. Until now. That band is One Direction.
We know that 1D haters will scoff at such a lofty comparison, since Paul McCartney and the late John Lennon secured their place as one of the best songwriting tandems in modern music history. That can’t be disputed. The songbook and catalog is the proof.
And while One Direction are really only at the very beginning of their career, even with three albums under their belt, they have miles and miles to go before they generate a substantial body of work.
But they are on the same path. They’ve gone from the froth of ‘What Makes You Beautiful…’
…to the more contemplative and thoughtful neo-folk pop of ‘The Story of My Life.’
The first major similarity between 1D and The Fab Four, besides being cute, British and talented, is the mania that surrounds them. Sure, the Wanted are beloved by fans and had major dance hits, but there is a chasm between their level of mania and fame and 1D’s.
No boy band has had this since ‘N Sync, who splintered and never got back together, which might be the case for the boys of the Wanted. 1D could veritably ride this wave of mania through the next decade.
Why? Well, their merchandising is savvy, keeping their name out there. And while Directioners skew young, the music feels good to them. It appeals to a feel good place in their bodies and brains, and that won’t change. Why? Because the music also has a dangerous rock element, one that they may not be so quick to abandon once Directioners start dating and go to college.
The undeniable fact that Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik are all incredibly good looking men, as the Fab Four were, guarantees that they can extend their fame for years. Good-looking and talented young men will always draw female fans, and eventually, their boyfriends. People want to be entertained by attractive, talented artists. So 1D have that going for them.
One Direction demonstrated their versatility by co-writing most of the songs on their third album ‘Midnight Memories,’ an album that marked a sonic shift for the boys. While still maintaining some familiar elements of the frothy pop that first attracted their fans (along with their boyish good looks), they stretched their creative muscles and went to new places, taking risks.
Their neo alt folk style worked, and fans responded. So did non-fans. [Full disclosure: This writer's former roommate admitted to being thoroughly impressed by their 'SNL' performance, which included serious acoustic songs. That, music friends, is telling.] The boys possess the talent to push them forward beyond the “just another boy band” tag. Plus, LT called 1D the boy band that doesn’t dance, so they are invested in being much more than a boy band.
The album also showcased an affinity for rock music, which many of their now-young fans will gravitate towards even as they get older. They will develop a taste of different types of music as they get older and go to college. Additionally, 1D might pick up male fans who like rock music, as well.
The songs are there. The music is there. The foundation is there. One Direction are showing the ability to switch from ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’ to ‘Kiss You’ to ‘Best Song Ever’ to ‘The Story of My Life’ to ‘Midnight Memories.’ That’s a myriad of different sonic styles right there! Each song is unique, and uniquely 1D.
The Past + the Present
One Direction also understand their heritage and legacy. Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson are not afraid to speak of their love for Bon Jovi or the Who, so there’s no reason more of that influence won’t bleed into or find its way into the music. The boys are enjoying “the fame” right now, but as they get a little older and that aspect becomes less paramount, they will further focus on the music and songwriting, which they have already shown a propensity for.
While the boys have been accused of lifting from classic acts – Def Leppard, The Who —it’s more of an homage and a testament to their respect for the spirit of rock and roll. The boys are not just about making frothy dance songs that taste good now and go down easy. It’s not empty calories for them.
While it’s true that some of their Directioners, deny it as they might, will grow up and move on, there will be a faction that stays with them for life. And they will replace the fans that move on with new ones that like music as a whole.
It has been a while since a British band has laid down these kind of longterm and long-reaching roots, going from pop to rock. One Direction have shown that they are following that path.