Pop Music: is it all going in One Direction?

10 Aug

I like One Direction.

There. I said it. And believe me, it wasn’t easy — I won’t, for example, be publishing this post to my Facebook. I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not I should admit this, let alone write about it. Because let’s look at the facts; they’re a manufactured boyband created on a bland reality show in order to appeal to pre-teen girls. There is nothing new or original about them — they can be compared to any number of boybands past, from Boyzone to the Jonas Brothers (the latter being an arguably more accurate comparison). The ‘boyband phenomena’ is one that everyone is familiar with, if not a particular fan of.

I’m not entirely sure what part of me is attracted to One Direction (if I did know, rest assured I’d be getting rid of it). There’s nothing about them that I can specifically point to and say ‘yes, that. That, right there, is why I like them’, as I find it so easy to do with most artists that I consider myself a fan of. I’m quite able to objectively list their flaws — see: the first paragraph — and while I can say that they are all, in their own way, not unpleasant to look at, the majority of them are also under 18. I would like to think that I am not in their target audience.

And yet somehow, I found myself hiding in the bathroom at work today after the first 8.30AM radio play of their single (Scott Mills, Radio 1) in order to play it through the tinny speakers of my phone. What was so urgent about this that I couldn’t wait? Why did I want to listen to it at all? Usually, chart music passes me by — it doesn’t particularly register on my radar. I get a thrill from finding music that is up-and-coming, of guessing what will be a hit and what won’t, of buying into the idea that a band that no one else has really heard of is a personal secret (and yet, that isn’t to say that I resent their successes, but I digress). This is a possible failing of mine, but I do commit the sin of writing off the majority of ‘mainstream’ music as boring and holding no interest for me. There are, as always, one or two that break the trend — Rihanna’s Man Down, for example, was a fascinating mix of traditional Caribbean rhythms with a darker twist that really accentuated how her music is growing and maturing from her previous albums (although the video controversy did overshadow the song, deservedly or no).

But — One Direction? Of all popular artists, why would I possibly be drawn to this one? What Makes You Beautiful is fun, there is no doubt about that, and decidedly catchy. The poppy, bouncy beats manage to just pull the subject matter back from the brink of diabetes-inducing sweetness and the song is halfway enjoyable if the lyrics are mostly overlooked (predictable complexities abound such as ‘you don’t know you’re beautiful / but that’s what makes you beautiful’ and ‘you got it wrong / to prove I’m right, I put it in a song’). It is undoubtedly better than I was expecting, but it is also standard fare from the pop acts created by shows such as The X Factor. There is nothing different or original about it.

The really interesting part of this, however, isn’t (and isn’t going to be) their music. I’m more interested in addressing the level of shame that I feel in enjoying it, and my instincts to either hide my enjoyment of it or justify it to people (I’ll admit, I’m one of those who overuses the phrase ‘but it’s ironic‘). When did the ‘pop’ label become synonymous with bad music? If someone says, “Oh, I enjoy pop music,” why is their opinion consequently so often dismissed?

Pop music has, after all, brought us some of the best music — The Beatles, to make an obvious point, were pop music. Adele is currently holding a high place in the charts, and her soulful, raw music — music that sounds like she is tearing her heart out in front of you and holding it up on display — is essentially part of what is so great about the state of popular music today. While yes, there are acts that I have great distaste for — consider Katy Perry’s emotionless prattlings about Friday night parties or Cher Lloyd’s ‘swagged out’ affront on the current number one chart position — there are also great artists such as the afore-mentioned Adele, Ed Sheeran, and Lady GaGa; who, regardless of your views on her, is bringing a debate and a sense of theatrics back into an industry that sorely needs it.

There is definitely a sense of elitism pervading at the moment and I am not going to deny that I am guilty of it (anyone who knows me will surely have heard me say “you really like Katy Perry?” in acerbic tones, accompanied by a contemptuous curl of the lip). And yes, I will continue to judge people for liking music that I don’t deem acceptable — there is no point in lying about it. Nickelback fans, I despair of you. But perhaps in future, because of my own flirtation with pop mediocrity, I should take time to actually listen closely to these artists before outright dismissing them, and to try and contemplate what exactly it is about them that draws people in. While thoughtless beats about getting inebriated and dancing on tables (I’m looking at you, Ke$ha) will always have their place, pop music can also be thoughtful, interesting and at the forefront of the mainstream music scene. People should take time to make that distinction.


One Response to “Pop Music: is it all going in One Direction?”

  1. current postage rate November 4, 2011 at 6:17 AM #


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