What Is One Direction? A Guide for Adults

What Is One Direction? A Guide for Adults

Aug 26, 2013

Directed by Super Size Me's Morgan Spurlock, One Direction: This Is Us hits theaters this Friday. Hypothetically, people will go see it. One of these people could be you. Maybe you'll get dragged to it by a young family member. Maybe you're a Morgan Spurlock completist. Or maybe you just have a thing for really young boy bands.

But for many of you, chances are good that you have no earthly idea what a One Direction is. This brief guide aims to help the One Directionless (that's you) finally get a working understanding of this extremely successful group, which seems to exist on a planet entirely separate from our own.

One Direction's story begins with the British television show The X Factor. Rather than an adaptation of the similarly titled Marvel comic, The X Factor is a program in which Simon Cowell (kind of the Gordon Ramsay of the talent scout game) watches people show off their talents and grades them accordingly.

All five members of what would become One Direction auditioned as solo acts for the show. They didn't make it. But then someone shoved them together into a singing-boy sandwich. They found much more luck with this approach. Though they only came in third place on the show, Cowell was impressed enough to sign One Direction to a £2 million recording contract (the £ indicates a payment method in which $1,000 bills are stacked on a scale until there are two pounds worth).

So they started recording music. Their first album, Up All Night, was a huge success, selling 4.5 million units in 2012. According to Wikipedia, it is an album which contains all kind of pops:  pop rock, dance pop, teen pop and power pop. Up All Night even put One Direction into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first British group to go straight to number one on the U.S. charts with a debut release.

Up All Night spawned a handful of singles, but its most successful (in fact, one of the most successful singles of all time) is called "What Makes You Beautiful," a poppy song in which all five boys are in love with a girl who suffers from self-esteem issues, prompting the gentlemen to take turns explaining why they think she's hot.

Soon after the success of Up All Night, One Direction released their second album, Take Me Home. An increased familiarity with the band granted their harem of songwriters a greater ability to write around each members' strengths. As a result, the album has a sound "characterized by metronomic pop, vocal harmonies, hand claps, prominent electric guitar riffs, bright synthesizers, a homogeneous sound and message, and rotations of lead vocals" (Wikipedia again). This album was also a massive success.

One of Take Me Home's biggest singles is "Live While We're Young," a song in which the five boys attempt to talk a girl into having sex with them by utilizing "YOLO" philosophical points as their primary argument.

To the uninitiated, it's tempting to see each of the five members of One Direction as four clones accompanied by a random blond kid. Look closer, however, and you'll find that each member possesses a unique style and outward personality: 

The one who looks like Justin Bieber is named Liam Payne. He was sickly as a child and looks up to Justin Timberlake. 

The one who looks like John Stamos is named Zain Javadd "Zayn" Malik. Representing the "bad boy" of the group, Malik smokes cigarettes and cites hip-hop as one of his primary influences.

The one who looks like C. Thomas Howell is named Harry Styles. Representing the group's intellectual side, Styles cites the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Coldplay as influences. He is also credited with supplying the band's name.

The other one who looks like Justin Bieber is named Louis Tomlinson. Louis comes from a broken home. He enjoys acting and playing soccer. He also has some tattoos and looks up to Robbie Williams.

The one with blond hair is named Niall Horan. His hair is blond.

Unfamiliarity with the group has led to some common misconceptions. For instance, One Direction is an entirely secular musical group despite their Christian rock-sounding band name. And even though they enjoy great popularity in America, they are actually British-Irish, which allows them to maintain charm even when you can't understand what they're saying.

All in all, One Direction seems like a nice group of fellas who are eager to entertain your youngsters with as little genuine subversion as possible. When it comes to bands of this nature, we could certainly do worse, as anyone who remembers New Kids on the Block can attest.

One Direction: This Is Us not only captures live performances from the band but also documents their story so far, making it both a treat for fans and a wonderful jumping-on point for the One Directionless. So if you have a kid who really wants to see the film this weekend, maybe it won't be the worst thing in the world. If nothing else, it indicates a graduation from stuff like Planes.

Unless, of course, One Direction ends up supplying voices for Planes 2. In that case, you're just screwed.

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