In the beginning, there was nothing. And then God created One Direction.
In the ’60s, four young men from Liverpool changed popular music forever; five decades later, five young lads from somewhere around there are close to perfecting it.
The differences between these two groups — The Beatles and One Direction — are quite pronounced. Each Beatle is a musician, while One Direction uses those headset microphones. The Beatles were some friends from an old skiffle group; each member of One Direction auditioned for the U.K.’s X Factor separately before a judge’s suggestion brought them together. One is the classic (arguably nostalgic) picture of how a band should be formed — organically. The other couldn’t be more modern, constructed or artificial. But for all the locally grown spinach in the world, thank goodness we still have someone making chocolate bars.
Perhaps the widest chasm behind what we consider true artistic talent and manufactured pop music is creative control: Who is writing the songs we like to hear? Sure, we can overlook how Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé probably aren’t up late at night scribbling over a piano, but few other popular stars are so free of scrutiny. Whenever the pretty faces get popular, it begs the question: Who is really behind the music? Perhaps it’s authenticity we’re after. Maybe it’s envy that it wasn’t us chosen to sing someone else’s brilliant music.
The Beatles, after a few years essentially operating as American soul music tribute artists, developed into a songwriting force. Sure, they were usually a step behind someone (The Byrds, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, everyone on Motown), but most of us don’t care about innovation. Only the ears need be pleased. The mind can easily be fooled, just as long as we’re hearing true creativity and not a business plan.
We’re so conscious, so hyperaware of being marketed to, that some music doesn’t pass the test. It’s product and not art. Though it gets popular, who is really enjoying it? Thus lament the critics, blogs and anonymous Internet users everywhere. All too familiar: 1. “Such a throwaway single.” 2. “Just a club hit, only good for dancing.” 3. “I hate this song, I just sing along because it’s catchy.” 4. “Derivative. Uncreative.” 5. “He/She/They didn’t even write this!”
According to mentor Simon Cowell, the boys — Harry, Niall, Liam, Zayn and Louis — work on their own arrangements (which, if you still haven’t listened, are euphoric). But it doesn’t take a long look into their albums to see they’re rarely credited as writers. But the fact remains: Someone is writing these amazing songs, and they keep writing them for One Direction. You can say it’s a boy band, but I think they’ve long since transcended that label.
One Direction is the only group in the market that could perform these songs. They are at once the singers and the muses for the behind-the-scenes bards penning these classics. The Backstreet Boys had weird haircuts, strange pants, and goatees that now make them seem like an unfortunate casualty of the ’90s. Imagine them singing One Direction’s instant classic, “What Makes You Beautiful.” No, thanks.
One Direction’s music is part pop-punk, part pop-dance, part pop-R&B, part progressive-post-hardcore (maybe) and the most fun. But it’s always theirs. No one else provides the aesthetic inspiration for what 50-some years of popular music has been building toward. It’s Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers meets Michael Jackson meets Justin Timberlake. But the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s synergy.
It took us a long time to get this far, to put everything in place, for everything to happen just the way it did. But they’ve arrived, a new breed of genius. The culmination of creativity and marketing. Welcome to pop paradise. Pure perfection.
Jake DeVirgiliis is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.