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March 20, 2012  | by: Emily Simpson

What is this, the British version of Justin Bieber multiplied by five?

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have a clue who One Direction were before I typed their band name into Google for the purpose of writing this article. I don’t tend to be incredibly up-to-date with a lot of stuff, trapped as I am in the magical realm of 80s and 90s punk music, but occasionally I will make the effort to drag myself into 21st century pop culture. Then I read the first line of their Wikipedia entry and promptly cringed: “One Direction (sometimes referred to as 1D) are a British-Irish boy band consisting of members…” You want me to review an album created by a boy band who abbreviates their name to 1D? I’m game. Let’s see what happens.

I will give One Direction credit for a rather unorthodox origin story. Apparently the boys applied individually in 2010 for The X Factor, a British television music competition franchise engineered by former American Idol judge Simon Cowell, but failed to qualify as solo performers. It was then suggested that the five boys join together and form a band, thus qualifying for entry into the “groups” category of the competition. The group made it to the final rounds of the competition, finishing third-place overall. Good for them! But honestly, listening to their latest album, I can’t understand what makes them stand out from anything else on the charts for the past ten years. It’s catchy, sure, but lacks substance overall.

Actually though, as I reread that, I remember that once upon a time I was eight years old while *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys dominated the charts, and it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing by any means. I can still remember the lyrics to most of those songs – catchy, upbeat tunes about love and loss simplified to the point where kids could understand and vaguely relate to them (in that abstract, dreamy, going-to-fall-in-love-someday kind of way). Boy bands are historically great providers of that kind of youthful optimism that the world is missing most of the time, as evidenced by cynical punk kids like myself who from the get-go try to write off groups like this as being substance-less and therefore sub-par.

The truth is that bands like One Direction, even though they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, are important additions to the worldwide music scene for the young teen demographic. It’s nice to have charming, catchy summer tunes for the beach and the radio waves while you’re grocery shopping. It’s refreshing (for some of us) to hear lyrics like “baby you light up my world like nobody else” and “you don’t know you’re beautiful” in the midst of songs all about pointing to a girl in the crowd and saying that you’re gonna get with her tonight. Seriously not cute, Enrique, in case you were wondering.

So you know what, One Direction? I’m going to go ahead and give you the thumbs up. No, I’m not going to personally listen to your album on repeat because I think it would drive me insane, but I’m not so far gone into music snobbery as to write you off as being irrelevant altogether. I think you’re doing something important for a music scene that I have long ago left behind, and that’s equally as important. Please just don’t turn into women-hating jerks.

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