On Tuesday night’s “Glee,”the students of McKinley High will beknight One Direction with a pop culture stamp of mainstream approval. The manufactured group from the United Kingdom has cemented its stance as boy band du jour. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier.
For some, a simple mention of the words “boy band” may produce a shudder-inducing recollection of years spent admiring men with unnaturally high voices and matching outfits. We like to think we're past those days, but the minute ‘N Sync comes on an iTunes playlist, we’re miming the memorized dance moves and mouthing the burned-in-our-brain lyrics.
It turns out there isn’t a generational pause button for boy band love — I’ve managed to find myself just as happy singing along to One Direction.
For those who aren't in the know, One Direction is a good old-fashioned boy band. They starred on the seventh season of the British version of “The X Factor” as five failed soloists who the judges decided had more potential as a group than individually.
One Direction didn’t win that reality show, (they placed third overall), but they did win over enough of an audience that Simon Cowell signed them to his own record label. Much like some of the mop tops that have crashed onto American shores over the years, One Direction has started to cause the beginning of a stateside sensation. A number one album, an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” opposite Sofia Vergara, a sold-out Madison Square Garden concert and Tuesday night’s “Glee” tribute have quickly come as a result of the boys’ success.
The biggest thing the group has going for them (besides variants of British and Irish accents), is simplicity. They harmonize. They dance, but not to the degree that ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys would coordinate around the stage — this is more of a stop and strut. They don't really play any instruments on stage, and their songs are the definition of tunes-to-indiscriminately-nod-your-head-to.
As with all successful boy bands, the members of One Direction each have their pre-determined personality: Harry’s the charming one, Louis is the funny one, Liam’s the serious one, and Niall... well, I guess Niall’s the cute one.
Their current hit, “What Makes You Beautiful” has all the ingredients for a fun summer song: Simple guitar strums, a verse of “na-na-na’s” (always a classic), five-part harmony of adorable boys, and easily memorized lyrics for later regurgitation when you’re alone in your car (“The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed.”) Numbers like “Gotta Be You” showcase their harmonies, while “One Thing” allows each of the members to have their moment in the sun with individualized verses that build up to a chorus filled with a steady beat, electric guitar and rhythmic power-pop hand clapping. They sing about staying up late, finding the perfect girl (“Don't need makeup / to cover up / being the way that you are is enough”), and minimal heartbreak.
It’s a time-tested recipe for boy-band success.
Update: A previous version misidentified the band as Australian.