Dear reader, I can smell your cynicism from here. It’s the same turned-up-nose, too-good-for-it stuff I get with my roommates when I have the audacity to suggest that boy bands have musical merit and, more often than not, legitimate talent. The most common argument, one that seems sensible, is that they will “be forgotten about” in four years, so why bother. Two words for them:
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to talk about One Direction (if you know me, you’ll know I always talk about them anyways). Now, now, don’t get your proverbial knickers in a twist. I don’t have the audacity to suggest that One Direction is capable of the aural ingenuity that inspired The White Album or Sgt. Pepper’s (I don’t think anybody is). But I absolutely do have the audacity to draw parallels between Take Me Home (their latest album) and Please, Please Me (the Beatles’ first). Bubblegum pop-rock aimed at legions of teenage fangirls that is just cheeky enough to have people guiltily tapping their feet to it under the table. Even the upbeat songs prate on about love and hand-holding and sunshine and puppies. That’s all there is to it … right?
Nope. Not by a long shot.
The boys have a new album coming up shortly, and its first single, “Best Song Ever” has just come out. I know, awful title. I laughed too.
The song is pretty good, featuring these sweet little rock hooks that weren’t present in their early stuff. Then I saw the video. In a song that sings about girls and dancing and giving hearts, the boys of One Direction dress up as two studio executives, a stereotypically effeminate choreographer, geeky marketing lackey, and a female administrative assistant. It is so cheesy, so silly that it’s almost like it was done on purpose and … oh my God. It was done on purpose.
In the midst of the boy/girl band revolution that they inspired, One Direction had the guts to spoof it – and by extension, spoof themselves. And laugh while doing it. In the video for “Best Song Ever,” they unabashedly poke fun at themselves (specifically their inability to dance) and especially rib their management, well known for constantly forcing them into artistic boxes. It even ends on a feel-good “we are who we are” note! Brilliant!
It doesn’t stop there. Listen to some of their other songs and pay attention to the words. It’s a smorgasbord of thinly veiled sexual innuendo, subtle jokes, and veritable tomfoolery. Just like the Beatles used to have in droves. But that’s not all. The boys don’t have choreographed dance routines (or back-up dancers), they’ve had a hand in writing some of their best songs. They relish giving to charity, laugh at their crying fans, and bask in the homoeroticism of it all. Conventions? What conventions!
In the end, by more mature and more serious, they didn’t imply some genre defining musical reinvention. They just simply meant an exploration of boy band-hood at its finest, replete with silliness intact.
So while you tell me that One Direction isn’t “real” music (and I listen to enough of that), I say that in a world filled with auto-tune, remixes and uninspired hit-making machines, One Direction is a breath of fresh air. Sure, they’re a cash cow, but the boys know that! They’re just too busy having fun and being themselves to care. So why not just drop the pretension and join the dark side?
We clearly know how to party.