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Saturday afternoon I spent some time at the Beacon Theater for a matinee performance by the British boy band One Direction, who played three shows (two at the Beacon, one at the Izod Center) in the area over the course of the long weekend. It was an extended version of the opening set they played at Radio City Music Hall earlier this year—the 75-ish-minute set was padded out with a bunch of seasonally themed videos that looked like chillwave-inspired ads for a super-preppy clothing line (the room went absolutely silent when any romantically interesting women appeared on the screens showing these clips, in a stark reminder that boy bands’ fantasy-object status is paramount at all ages). (Well, the bras and underwear—multiple on both!—that were thrown were probably stark reminders too. But I digress.)
Also padding out the set, since the boys only have one album under their belt: Cover songs. The still-curiously-mature “Use Somebody” cover that united mothers and daughters back at Radio City got a prime spot in the backend of the set; there was also a medley of hits earlier in the show that included “I Gotta Feeling,” “Stereo Hearts,” and—in another sap to the parents—”Torn,” the Ednaswap song made inescapable by Aussie soap star Natalie Imbruglia in the late ’90s. The breezy guitar and sad-confused lyrics fit in perfectly with One Direction’s scrubbed-schoolboy-who-can-still-be-bad aesthetic, and perhaps most surprisingly, every member of the audience, even those who weren’t even eggs when the song hit big in 1997, knew every word. Which got me thinking: What other songs from that halcyon era could One Direction, whose sound borrows much more from the alt-leaning radio pop songs that would later become adult-contemporary staples than it does the likes of ‘NSync and the Backstreet Boys, remake into their own, cherub-cheeked image? Six suggestions below.
Garbage, “Only Happy When It Rains”
PROS: Will be a great bridge into the group’s inevitably “difficult” follow-up to their debut Up All Night, especially if introduced into the set around the next time Harry Styles breaks up with another British boldfaced name.
CONS: The inevitably literal video accompaniment that’ll accompany this song’s concert performance.
Hootie & The Blowfish, “I Only Wanna Be With You”
PROS: Bright shiny guitars; video can feature the boys playing a fun game of cricket.
CONS: We’ve already had enough unfortunate side effects of the ’90s revival, from the whole Newt Gingrich fiasco to the Everclear/Lit/Sugar Ray/Gin Blossoms/Marcy Playground revival act known as the Summerland tour. Sure, Darius Rucker is making a nice name for himself in the country world, but wouldn’t his bandmates love to try and squeeze the last droplets of revenue out of Cracked Rear View? (It’s not like they made money on all those copies people plucked out of used bins.)
The Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris”
PROS: Another song that moms and daughters can agree on; could be a great springboard to getting Johnny Rzeznik, who was pretty terrific as a judge on the rightly short-lived, yet strangely compelling, battle of the bands The Next Great Ameican Band, into Britney Spears’s probably-soon-to-be-vacated X Factor chair.
CONS: Beyoncé beat them to the punch.
Spice Girls, “Say You’ll Be There”
PROS: Obvious parallels (five dudes, five ladies); probably the Spice Girls’ best song; could be a fantastic gateway to their own film, which should obviously be an homage to Spiceworld.
CONS: The skits and goofy banter on Saturday showed that the dudes of One Direction definitely have charm, but can any of them reach the charismatic heights of Geri “Ginger Spice” Haliwell? Jury’s still out. Perhaps this should be saved for a joint cover during the UK’s yuk-it-up-for-charity Comic Relief special.
Blind Melon, “No Rain”
PROS: Potential for a social-media-based Search For The Next Bee Girl could really light up Twitter.
CONS: Lead singer Shannon Hoon’s high-pitched voice is somewhat hard to replicate; could reignite the “Who’s The Better Dead Frontman: Shannon Hoon Or Kurt Cobain” wars that threatened to overtake my trips to the record stores during a particularly bleak period of the late ’90s.
New Radicals, “You Get What You Give”
PROS: One of the greatest songs of all time.
CONS: One of the greatest songs of all time. And Glee had at it last week. JUST LET IT BE.