Two years ago, the boys of One Direction didn’t know each other. In 2010 Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson individually auditioned for the seventh season of the UK edition of Simon Cowell’s competitive reality show The X Factor, but inspiration struck guest judge Nicole Scherzinger, who corralled the boys into one telegenic, over-gelled, talented boy band. Since then, One Direction — along with fellow Brits The Wanted — has ushered in a new era of chart-topping boy bands. Last year, their Up All Night stormed the Billboard 200 albums chart, making the group the first U.K. act to open at No. 1 with their debut album. Yes, that includes The Rolling Stones, Coldplay and The Beatles. One Direction bested them all. Their album spawned a slough of hit singles, including “One Thing,” “Gotta Be You” and the inescapable smash hit, “What Makes You Beautiful,” which has gone on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time. The group has sold out a world tour, performed on Saturday Night Live and played the 2012 London Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony. And much to the glee of their ardent fanbase, the group beat teen idol Justin Bieber for the most share-worthy video at the 2012 MTV VMAs. (They also nabbed “Best New Artist” and “Best Pop Video”, but in this Facebook- and Twitter-driven age in some ways “Most Shareable” is the bigger win for their target demographic.)
In their two-year existence, One Direction has spawned a legion of zealous fans, called “directioners” who are part of the “1DFamily.” Directioners are so passionate in their love of all things 1D that they spend a great deal of time online mocking Justin Bieber’s fans (a.k.a. Beliebers), scorning the girlfriends of the One Direction boys, crafting fan fic, creating incalculable number of fan Tumblrs and ensuring that at almost any given time there is bound to be at least one trending topic on Twitter about One Direction. Toast tasted by Niall Horan was almost sold on eBay for close to $100,000 according to DigitalSpy, racking up a hundred bids before the auction was pulled. Even deadmau5 called One Direction the future of music in Spin.
Now One Direction is back with their second LP, Take Me Home, in stores Nov. 13. Their sophomore effort shows the guys have grown up a bit and shed some of their childish ways (they were so much younger last year!). While the album certainly has its fair share of swoon-worthy songs coated in sugary sentiments about young love (“Last First Kiss”), it also touches on more mature themes sure to raise the eyebrows of lyrics-listening parents, such as those from “Change My Mind”: “So baby if you say, you want me to stay/ Stay for the night/I’ll change my mind.” Yet the band manages to maintain their veneer of innocence: when they’re not singing about sleepovers, they are crooning lines like, “Been dreaming about you a lot/And up in my head I’m your boyfriend,” from “I Would,” which is exactly what every young girl wants to hear from the lips of her object of affection.
Take Me Home features both uptempo numbers like the incredibly catchy single “Live While We’re Young”—which is undoubtedly the heir to the “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” throne—and the Motown-tinged melody of “Kiss You,” as well as slower jams like the Ed Sheeran-penned “Little Things.” Sample lyrics include: “You never want to know how much you weigh/You still have to squeeze into your jeans/But you’re perfect to me.” Lines like that will undoubtedly cause some eye rolling among feminists and parents, while simultaneously enthralling the tween demographic—which is kind of the point. One Direction knows how to speak to their fans, which is why there’s little doubt that they have another smash hit on their hands.
Since their global takeover seems inevitable, we’ve come up with a list of things that adults can (learn to) love about One Direction.
1. One Direction has heard of The Clash.
The opening chords of the first track on Take Me Home, “Live While We’re Young” may sound vaguely familiar to adults. The pert song blatantly rips off the introduction to The Clash’s seminal “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” It’s hard to tell whether this is the act of a brazen upstart act with no respect for their elders (and their riffs) or an homage to the band that helped define the modern rock sensibility.
The BBC asked the group about the songs’ similarities and Louis Tomlinson responded, “I assume it must be quite difficult to do a unique riff now because there have been so many songs — surely there’s only so many riffs you can pull out?” Added Harry Styles, “It was kind of on purpose, though. It’s a great riff, so…” If you find yourself humming along or even head bobbing to the incredibly catchy song, you can still maintain your cool veneer.
2. One Direction is a band of good kids.
The five guys are like the kids every parent hopes show up on their door step on prom night looking fly in a rented tux with too much cologne and a corsage in a plastic grocery store container. They may have rented a hotel room and begged their older cousin to buy them a bottle of pink champagne, but if your daughter proudly sports a purity ring, you won’t have much to fear. Now if The Wanted come for your daughter, feel free to consider your position on the Second Amendment more carefully. They are the unabashed bad boys of the boy band genre and their manager Scooter Braun (a.k.a. Justin Bieber’s manager) has no qualms letting them talk sex, dirty words and more sex.
3. They bring in the best talent to work on their albums.
Presumably at the request of Simon Cowell, the group’s debut, Up All Night, included a song, “Tell Me A Lie”, co-written and featuring vocals by inaugural American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson. While Clarkson isn’t on their new album, One Direction did team up with a number of A-listers like British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (who may be dating Taylor Swift); Dr. Luke, who co-wrote Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” and is largely responsible for the rise of Ke$ha and Katy Perry; Swedish producer Shellback, who has written songs for Pink, Britney Spears, and co-wrote and co-produced Maroon 5’s mega-hit “Moves Like Jagger;” and Toby Gad, who co-wrote Fergie’s hit “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” One Direction knew enough not to mess with a successful formula, though, bringing back much of the talent that made their debut such a smash hit, including Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk and Savan Kotecha, who penned 1D’s career-making single “What Makes You Beautiful.” The trio wrote the majority of the songs on the album, most notably the lead single “Live While We’re Young.”
4. One Direction encourages creative writing
Have you been meaning to write a novel but couldn’t find the right inspiration to put words on electronic paper until you heard One Direction? Well you are not alone. Directioners are a wildly prolific bunch when it comes to crafting fan fiction along with the sub-genre real person fan fiction (RPF), which is a more involved fantasy focused on real people and using real events to support their theories. Most of Directioners’ RPF is focused on the fictional relationship between Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, whom some are convinced are in love, but ,for various reasons compiled by The Daily Dot, cannot be together. Feel free to search for “Larry Stylinson” the faux-relationship’s fan-given moniker on Tumblr for a taste of the depth of this argument.
RPF aside, One Direction fanfic is not to be taken lightly. British 16-year-old Emily Baker just inked a deal with Penguin to publish her story, Loving the Band, about a teen who is in an intense romantic love triangle with two of the One Direction boys. The story was plucked from a young adult fan fiction site called Movellas by a publishing industry eager to find the next 50 Shades of Grey, which started out as a Twilight fan fiction story called “Master of the Universe.”
5. One Direction was influenced by Queen.
Filled with stadium-busting beats, “Rock Me,” one of the more notable tracks on One Direction’s new album, is a clear homage to the anthem rock of Queen. The Dr. Luke-produced track contains an unbelievably catchy bridge that has the boys breathlessly singing: “I used to think that I was better alone/ Why did I ever want to let you go?” The band sounds like they are slightly out of their pop comfort zone, but the end result is still toe-tappingly charming. Sure, lyrics like “I want you to rock me/ I want you to push the pedal/ Heavy metal/ Show me you care” are slightly silly, there is still no denying the song’s appeal.
While One Direction may only know of Queen thanks to American Idol, when the opening bars of the song ring out in whatever coliseum the band is playing on their tour, it will give parents stuck chaperoning their offspring at a One Direction concert an opportunity to take a break from staring into their smartphones to look up, blink a few times and remember their own fandom.
6. You may actually have a chance with at least one of them.
Harry Styles, 18, has famously dated 32-year-old British television presenter Caroline Flack, had a well-publicized fling with a married 32-year-old DJ named Lucy Horobin, and even allegedly hooked up with 37-year-old “Torn” singer Natalie Imbruglia. So go ahead and fuel your fantasy life. However, as an adult who has most likely kissed more than one person, it may be challenging to shoehorn yourself into songs like “Last First Kiss”—one of the few songs on Take Me Home that the boys helped to cowrite—with lyrics like: “I wanna be last, yeah/ Baby let me be your, let me be your last first kiss/ I wanna be first, yeah/ Wanna be the first to take it all the way like this.” However if you can pretend that you have a shot with Harry, Louis, Liam, Niall or Zayn, your imagination is undoubtedly up for the challenge. Be aware though, that Harry has said he “won’t date anyone older than [his] mum Anne — who is 43.”
7. They are really good at what they do.
For boy bands, maintaining their fantasy-object status is paramount to success, which is why One Direction’s album is tailor-made to make pop fans of any age go weak in the knees. The album is filled with odes to things that matter most to their audience: Love, love and nothing but love. Be it secret love in “They Don’t Know About Us,”broken love in “Heart Attack” (“Baby, now that you’re gone/ I can’t stand dumb love songs”) or “Summer Love” (penned by “What Hurts The Most” songwriter Steve Robson). They even pretend that unrequited love exists in their world. In “I Would” the boys croon, “I can’t compete with your boyfriend/ he’s got 27 tattoos!” Songs like “Back for You” show how adept they are at pinpointing the hopes and dreams of a teenage girl. While the boys in the band might be a bunch of jet-setting superstars spending every night on the road, they assuage the fears of their fans who will inevitably become their girlfriends by singing, “Baby, you don’t have to worry/ I’ll be coming back for you.”