I can’t tell you what it really is. I can only tell you what it feels like.
I feel a lot of pressure on me to explain this thing, this small burning thing that lives in my heart. I feel it all the time, every lifted eyebrow when someone hears me talk about them for the first time, every time they realize, oh, you’re serious. But I feel it right now, too, on the edge of this precipice before we tip forward into full-on One Direction week. I don’t want to be, like, vain, but for a lot of you this is going to be it, you know? This will be when you decide whether you’re going to read everything else. And I hope that you will, I hope that this will convince you, pique your interest – I hope that I can convey in some small way why this band, this ridiculous band full of ridiculous boys, matters so much. And you should – even if you hate this piece, I mean it – you should keep reading, because better and more eloquent people than I have a lot of things to say this week. I just have the honor and the terror of going first. But here is the thing, the reason that it matters: doesn’t it make you curious, a little, that we have things to say? Things beyond, like, “they’re cute”? Maybe you don’t have a One Direction fan in your life (how did you get here, btw, please tell your friends about us because somehow you came here totally independently of us or anyone we know, please, tell our story), but more likely you do, and you don’t get it. You dismiss it the way you dismiss the way you feel when something comes on the radio you like; you enjoy it, but it doesn’t mean anything. And I’m sitting here on my bed in the sun, feeling my heart like a bird in its cage, trying to figure out how best to tell you: it means everything. And we want to tell you why, if you will listen. If you will open yourself to it.
It’s not not an infection, I’ll say that. There are definitely stages. I decided to stop jabbing another button every time “What Makes You Beautiful” came on the car radio. That was first. Then I started singing along, and that was second. Then I started waiting for it, and hoping for it, and one day when I was cleaning my apartment, right after Take Me Home had come out, I made a Spotify playlist that I still have titled “WHO EVEN AM I” that was just both of their albums. Just to see, I told myself, to see what the fuss was about. I was not the first one on this wagon by any means, and my smarter and more unafraid friends had been tempting me for months. Not on purpose, and I think this is the best thing. There is something about really loving something, openly and purely and without reservation, that draws people in, that produces a light that warms you and calls to you and makes you want to be a part of it. And I saw this thing happening to people whose opinions I trusted and valued, and I liked “What Makes You Beautiful,” and so I made that playlist. And I think I was probably three songs in before I was like oh fuck, this is the greatest, this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I still feel that way.
You love them personally, is the thing. I don’t know why or how it happens but I am betting you’ve felt it, maybe not with a boyband and so you feel better about it, but I guarantee you know the feeling. I chose Harry as my favorite because I thought he was the cutest, but three years and more YouTube compilation videos than I can count and a very long series of extremely poor fashion decisions later he’s still my number one. We know them, you know. And I know fame allows for fabrication, for projection, for interpretation and malleability and how, possibly, can you know a person you have never met, but listen, listen. This is part of it. We know them. We know their habits, their fears. We know they miss their parents; we know they love each other like the earth loves the sun. We know that nothing lasts forever but we look at them up on that stage living their dreams and we feel like it might. We know they love us. We know that they are just people but somehow, because we love them, they are more than that, they are something bright and shining and joyful that we can hold on to.
Pop music is so important to me, and I can’t tell you what to do but if I can give you any advice in this life it is this: listen to pop music. Let go of whatever it is that tells you that things that everyone likes are bad things and open yourself to the idea that there is still the potential for stupid, insane, unbridled joy in the human soul. I am a prime offender here; I was for a long time. I used to only listen to music that made me sad, because sadness is a valid emotion, and a smart emotion, and only real artists write about things that are sad, and only people who are smart and real can understand those songs, and everyone else who is stupid listens to pop music. And like, fine? I’m not trying to tell you that that’s not okay, if that’s what you’re into. But I will tell you this, and again, I can only tell you what it feels like: when I threw that away, when I stopped giving a fuck – that was a legitimate turning point in my life. There is nothing wrong with happiness, with things being easy. So much in this life is so hard, and sometimes “real” “art” is inaccessible in a way that, for some reason, makes it more legitimate. What I mean is this: I don’t care about musical talent as defined by a bunch of dudes at at some magazine who love dissonant guitar. I don’t read movie reviews. If something speaks to my soul I will pursue it, and honestly, One Direction was the point in my life where I began really leaning into that, really making that decision. They are incredibly talented, obviously, but like, no one who doesn’t already like them is at all willing to admit that, so I’m just bypassing it entirely. You don’t have to think something is “good” by some matrices that you didn’t invent, someone’s standards that were taught to you. I get it, I get that Dutch angles are cool and that it’s really soo amazing when they do one continuous scene for fifteen minutes with no cuts, but my favorite movie is Josie & the Pussycats and I could just give a fuck about what anyone has to say about that. Loving One Direction let me be more comfortable with myself and my interests and the things that I care about than I had ever thought could be possible, and no matter what happens in my life I will have that. I will have the knowledge that I loved a boy band so much that I cried about it REGULARLY, on MANY OCCASIONS, and that it made me happy beyond my wildest dreams, and that it brought me some of the dearest and best friends I have ever known, and that it helped me to know myself, and to love myself. All of these things are true, and I feel them so strongly, and the core of me is bright and sweet and hot pink sugar, and you don’t get it but I want you to. I can’t tell you what it really is, but I am going to try.
“Kiss You” was the second single off Take Me Home, which (gun to my head) is my favorite One Direction album. TMH is, for me, the peak of everything I love about them, and I am trying not to make this already-long piece any longer, so I will leave that there. “Kiss You” is probably my favorite One Direction song, though, like, if I had to choose. It is so much fun, oh my god, it is the most fun. The first time I heard it I was like, “You could probably do the Carlton dance to this,” and like, you can. It is SO MUCH FUN, it is a perfect pop song, and the video means more to me than a lot of physical possessions that I own.
This video, this representation of them, these five boys that I love so much: this is the best way I can think to describe One Direction to you. Look at them: they care so much. They care so much about what they do, and they love it, and they love each other. And they love us, because we make it possible, and that’s really all there is. You can say whatever you want about the machine, and the industry, and blah blah blah, but listen. One Direction lost a reality talent show in 2011 and now they are the biggest band in the world. And it’s because people loved them, because people like me saw something in them, something bright and burning and indestructible, something fireproof. There is something undeniable about them, a chemistry, a charm that comes from the fact that this is exactly all they have ever wanted, and they know how lucky they are to be doing it. And how much joy comes from that – can you imagine! And how much fear – can you imagine. Can you imagine still feeling like no one while everyone screams your name; can you imagine how much you would love the only other people who understood what that felt like. The most terrifying thing in the world is having your dreams come true, and I’m sure I’m projecting, but that is a lot of what we do with One Direction. They are us, somehow; they are me. They are people that I genuinely love and care about and, like, worry about whether they’re eating enough, and that is real. It is real in a way that I don’t feel when I listen to “real” music, and that’s why it’s so important. It is possible to be constructed and to be genuine at the same time, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, or has never been a human being. I love One Direction genuinely, with my heart and soul, and I have barely scratched the surface of what that means and what it is like but let me tell you this: it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Please, please stay tuned.