Beginning tonight and spooling out over the weekend, a pack of five British youths will blitz the tri-state area with performances and signings and, eventually, a Rockefeller Center-stuffing appearance on NBC’s Today. The five young men make up the vocal group One Direction—a five-member boyband of floppy-haired dudes from the UK and Ireland, hatched in part by the ever-smirking real talker Simon Cowell—and they’ve so far had quite a bit of success on the other side of the Atlantic. If this whole thing works out and even more foreigners usurp this country’s teen-idol gigs, you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of them. (Even in those corners of the Internet that claim to dislike them, because what would those outlets be without talismans of Bad Music to rail against? Right.) In advance of their debut appearance in New York, which happens tonight at Radio City, here are six things to know about the group.
1. They’re a product of reality TV.
In 2010 Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson individually auditioned for season 7 of Simon Cowell’s UK Idol clone The X Factor, and they didn’t individually make the cut, but Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger (a guest judge that season) had the idea to glom them all together into a single unit. They eventually finished third.
2. The Ireland-born Horan is the “cute one,” but Styles is the one with the tabloid-ready story.
The yongest member of the band, the floppy-haired Styles was romantically attached to British TV presenter Caroline Flack at the end of 2011. They’d broken up by the end of January, although in Styles’s defense three months is a much longer time in the mind of a 17-year-old.
3. Kelly Clarkson co-wrote one of the songs on their debut, Up All Night, which comes out here next week.
Like many of the albums released by Cowell’s progeny, Up is full of material from people who have contributed to recent pop successes—RedOne, Toby Gad, etc. (The lead single, the peppy cheer-up-you’re-great nugget “What Makes You Beautiful,” debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 28 a few weeks back; it also, thanks to online voting, won the British Single of the Year award at the BRIT Awards.) A demo for the uptempo “Tell Me A Lie” with the inaugural American Idol winner on vocal duties leaked online last year, and it—like much of the material on Clarkson’s new album Stronger—puts the singer in the role of the aggreived party, dealing with a lover who wants to be with someone else. Here’s the version that’s on One Direction album:
One Directon, “What Makes You Beautiful”
4. Their fans call themselves “directioners,” and refer to their unit as the “1DFamily.”
In the social-media era, where fans of groups can congregate via @-replies and Facebook groups, fanbases giving themselves names has become more of a thing—Lady Gaga has her Little Monsters, and even Jessie J has her Heartbeats. So, too, do the teenagers who love One Direction.
5. They have not one, not two, but three CD signings this weekend, at various venues within driving distance.
Sunday’s, located at Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, is inviting people to start lining up at 7 a.m., or six and a half hours before the event begins. (It’s at Wal-Mart. Oh, Record World, where are you now?)
6. If they do break America—and quite a few signs, including the aging of Justin Bieber and the extremely strategic way in which they’re going to get in this country’s collective face over the next week, are pointing to the notion that they might—expect them to be mocked mercilessly by fans of “real music.”
Teenage girls are the least-respected musical fanbase, even though they often have pretty good taste as far as picking out catchy melodies and . (Speaking as a former teenage girl here, I might be biased, but I also know that right now I’d much rather listen to “I Think I Love You” than, say, something off Dark Side Of The Moon.) Yet they get relentlessly mocked by the cognoscenti for having bad taste, which really means “liking artists who aren’t as macho and real as the big guns approved by the canon.” Of course, there have been more thana few instances where aging out of their young phases has resulted in teen idols garnering respect—from Justin Timberlake to the Beatles—while other teen idols’ biggest hits have over tiem turned into vertebra on the adult-contemporary backbone. But it would be nice if more of the people who dismiss One Direction and their ilk as “fluff” when they’re first coming up would at least inspect the politics behind their disavowals, instead of just making snap judgments based on haircuts and the people who happen to be in the front rows of concerts.
One Direction plays at Radio City Music Hall with Big Time Rush tonight.