One Direction Made Good Music, You Guys Just Hate Teen Girls, by Nya Hodge
A moment that’s forever changed the way I view media consumption is finding out that The Jackson 5 was technically a boy band: a beautifully-haired, sparkly-dressed, albeit from the ’70s boy band.
But what about this was so plaguing? What about this sent me into thought so deep I thought I would never return from the depths of pop culture analysis?
Well, first off, One Direction was also a boy band.
The lanky group of teen boys were beautifully haired, dressed like fraternal quintuplets, and sang their little teen boy hearts out. Not quite unlike The Jackson 5.
Now, I listen to real music (the scores to La La Land and that one Phoebe Bridgers cover of “Friday I’m In Love” by The Cure). The point here isn’t to say that One Direction and The Jackson 5 are stylistically comparable, because that’s not true.
But what is true is that The Jackson 5 and One Direction are both classified as boy bands, which you wouldn’t expect, considering the connotation of the word “boy band” implies “bad music.”
I blame misogyny, because I’m a third-wave feminist with internet access, yes, but also because it’s a common trend that’s seen even outside of the music sector of media. For instance, everyone hated Twilight because girls liked it — not because it was a flawed piece of literature.
Although One Direction has some credited certifiable bops that are reminiscent of The Lumineers (see: Walking in the Wind), The 1975 (see: No Control), and whatever drugs they put in Midnight Memories. Seriously, to this day it’s my favorite One Direction album; it’s a pop-rock album that’s got zero skips.
In Midnight Memories, One Direction strayed away from the pure pop roots of their freshman and sophomore albums, but it works. As they aged, so did their audience, and so the music got raunchy (or as raunchy as teen pop-rock can be).
One Direction has a solid catalog of pop music, with obvious attempts at rock and indie-esque love songs. They couldn’t diverge from their pop roots entirely, or else they would’ve lost what made them such staples on the Billboard Top 100, but their best was given with songs like Stockholm Syndrome, which has a strong bassline that reminds you of indie pop.
Their last album, Made in the A.M. is an earnest goodbye from the band. The music has the most mature sound out of their entire career. The lyrics are more intentional than just to make a repetitive summer anthem, and the music production itself is meant to be taken more seriously than their prior albums.
It’s tolerable — more than tolerable, actually, it’s good. There! I said it. One Direction has good music. Five Seconds of Summer has good music too, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll leave them for another day.
One Direction was popular for a reason, and yet this reason was downplayed because, well, they had a majority young, female audience. If you were on Twitter or Tumblr when a One Direction album was released, (which I wasn’t, as I was like 10, but I’ve done my fandom space archival research), you’d see groves of teenage girls excited about their favorite band dropping a fresh set of songs. But you’d also see claims that One Direction’s music held no true artistic integrity.
The crazed boy band fangirl was an SNL joke, a night show gag and something teen girls were afraid of being. We were insane, embarrassing and a cultural phenomenon for enjoying music — or at least that’s what everyone was convinced.
And this hasn’t just been since with One Direction. It’s seen so often where the artist has young women for fans.
The Beatles, for example, were also a boy band. Girls ate them up. I don’t blame them: the music was solid, British people are adorable and who wouldn’t get a kick out of a man named Ringo Starr?
They’ve aged to be a gender-neutrally loved band despite their roots in boy-bandery, but in their debut, they were discredited and disavowed.
So now, like The Jackson Five, New Edition and Boyz II Men, they can be respectable musicians. Since teen girls no longer enjoy them in mass, they’re allowed to be classic musical relics. Legends, even.
Teen girls help to drive the music market. We love things an impassioned, capitalistic amount. We spend our dollars, time and energy loving music. What we enjoy has artistic merit, or else, just like any other person, we wouldn’t devote ourselves so intensely to it.
Yeah, Niall Horan of One Direction was cute, and yeah 10-year-old Nya thought she was going to grow up and marry him one day, but also his verse in Rock Me, made her realize she really likes songs with strong guitar melodies.
One Direction was the foundation for my present day music taste. I can trace my love of Wallows and Hippo Campus to the poppier, but still recognizably indie style One Direction songs.
It comes down to the difference between boys in a band and a boy band.
One makes real music: Grammy-award-winning music, unashamed music.The other makes guilty pleasure music, girl or basic music — or at least this is what we’ve been telling our girls.
This misogynistic notion faded from our peripherals, as the boy band music archetype ended in favor of K-pop groups. Now, the ideals have taken a new shape. Even today, it’s ever present that the art, the music, that women enjoy is societally understood as a lesser art form.
I’ve combatted this with a playlist full of great, somewhat nostalgic and modern day songs by artists known for their teen girl fans. The playlist shows the different range and maturity of the music made by these artists over time, but also some modern day bops made by girl-loved artists. As a music lover and a teen girl, these songs are dear to my heart, and the community of other girls that surround them are almost as lovely as loving early 2000s Jonas Brothers.
Listen to it here, and don’t forget that you probably listen to at least one classifiable boy band.