Two takes on One Direction
Charlotte Calmes is an O.G 1D fan; Kelsey Kern is a recent convert -- the two Inkspot staffers share their love of One Direction
March 6, 2021
When those two magical words are spoken, they have the power to make minds jump to the products of the group’s instant “X-Factor” successes. Songs like “What Makes You Beautiful” or “One Thing.”
Or to chart-topping singles — “Sign of the Times” and “Slow Hands” — songs that gave individual names to the members behind the 1D madness.
Harry. Niall. Liam. Louis. Zayn.
What sets the band apart is that their legacy is based on more than “One Thing.” One Direction’s legacy is both the success of the British boy band as a whole and the successes of its members’ solo endeavors.
Despite not releasing new music together since 2015, One Direction has never officially broken up; instead, they announced a “hiatus” to allow the members to focus on solo albums.
That hiatus is now going on six years and counting.
Since One Direction is still technically together (while very clearly being broken up), the members’ success as solo artists is inevitably linked back to 1D.
Fans of 1D arrive from all different directions. Some were introduced to the group during season eight of “The X Factor.” Others first saw them on “iCarly” in elementary school. Newfound fans stumble upon them after tracing their favorite solo artist’s career back to where it all began… (Wait, Harry Styles used to be in a band?)
There is a division today between One Directions veteran fans — those who have been hooked on the band since day one and stuck around to witness each solo member’s success — and latecomers, fans who are just discovering a love for the band. But the two groups can agree 1D has a discography of killer bops and ballads.
Two Inkspot staff members, one veteran fan and one with a newfound love, reflect on their One Direction obsessions.
Obsessed since seven: Listening and loving 1D since elementary school
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that One Direction was my childhood. My elementary school classmates and I would constantly talk about the band. At lunch, on the playground during recess, when waiting in line at the drinking fountain, we would be talking about the group’s breakout hits “What Makes You Beautiful” and “One Thing.”
We were obsessed.
I was obsessed.
I vividly remember begging my mom to take me to the mall so that I could buy the band’s latest albums at Claire’s and Justice, the trendy tween stores that sold everything 1D at the time.
My four One Direction t-shirts, proudly purchased after weeks of saving, were in heavy rotation in my wardrobe — just so nobody forgot that I was their biggest fan.
And I was, in every aspect of the word’s meaning, a superfan.
When I look back on the elementary and middle school 1D days all these years later, my superfan status makes me cringe.
But when I remember the pure joy that obsessing over the band brought me throughout my childhood, I don’t regret wearing that “I love 1D” t-shirt. I don’t regret screaming at the top of my lungs at their concerts, even though it probably caused some type of long-term vocal cord damage.
I will never forget my mom blasting “Midnight Memories” on the ride to the Where We Are Tour at Soldier Field. I will never forget staying “Up All Night” at slumber parties with my current best friend and talking about how much we loved the members (mostly Harry Styles, because it always seemed like he was everyone’s favorite). And I will never forget my childhood bedroom, the walls lined with magazine posters that I traded with my classmates after getting my hands on the latest copies of Tiger Beat and Teen Vogue.
I may not have realized it at the time, but what drew me to the band was truly the instant boost of serotonin that I got from listening to their music. While their anthems were unrelatable at the time (songs about heartbreak and high school romance didn’t hit home for me at age eight), they were still bops that I could blast on my CD player and talk about with my best friends.
As someone who has always obsessed over One Direction and their entire discography, I am a firm believer in one phrase popular among OG fans of the band: “once a Directioner, always a Directioner.”
This takes on a whole new meaning today, as each of the members has released solo music, becoming breakout solo stars. I had the chance to review both Niall Horan’s and Harry Styles’ solo studio albums and ended up deeming their solo endeavors standouts of the music industry, something I could never have imagined at age eight.
As my One Direction posters have come down (most of them except the “Midnight Memories” album cover poster at least, sorry, “signed” Harry Styles headshot poster), the holes from the push pins remain. The gaping hole in my heart resulting from their “hiatus” (hate to break it to you, but they are broken up) has now been filled with new music from the members, but not as a group – this time in solo form.
Harry Styles’ solo music captured my attention first. It quickly became my favorite among all the members’ solo projects, as I realized that his entire discography was reminiscent of what is missing in so much of mainstream music – true artistry.
Many of Styles’ songs, like old school rock-reminiscent tracks “Kiwi” and “She” and heartbreaking ballads like “Cherry” and “Fine Line” serve as songwriting and production standouts. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I blast them daily.
Another contender for my favorite former 1D member turned solo artist is Niall Horan, whose music is severely underrated (None of the singles from his most recent album reached the top ten on the Billboard charts), as his music seems to have been slightly overshadowed by Styles’ recent overwhelming success.
Horan has improved tremendously since his time in the band, growing from a squeaky-voiced teenager into an artist with true vocal and lyrical talent.
The artist’s sophomore solo album “Heartbreak Weather” is a perfect demonstration of his growth as an artist since his 1D days – “Black and White” and “Bend the Rules” are two of the best tracks resulting from the band’s breakup (oops, I meant “hiatus”). They demonstrate Horan’s newfound ability to tell real, vulnerable stories through his music.
Styles and Horan have both benefited from their steps in different directions, as they have allowed them to explore their own styles and make names for themselves without overarching management agendas influencing their musical choices and overall images.
Seeing so many new fans finally understanding the hype around One Direction and obsessing over works of pure art like “Fine Line” and “Heartbreak Weather” has been insane, as I never could have imagined that the members of the circa-2010s boy band would still be a subject of conversation in 2021. But having seen the band’s evolution from a group of quirky teenagers who made upbeat earworms to mature individual artists with autonomy and their own respective styles has been even more shocking.
And through it all – the Ex-Factor auditions and video diaries, Harry Styles’ brief romance with Taylor Swift, the band’s appearance on iCarly, and Zayn Malik’s sudden departure from the band – I’m still here, listening the One Direction’s collection of bops on repeat to the point that they continue to top my Spotify Wrapped ten years later.
Everyone seems to have their “I knew it before it was cool” brag, and being a fan of one of the biggest boy bands of the 21st century since their start happens to be mine.
And I will never live that down.
A not so ‘Fine Line’ in my musical tastes: Finding 1D at 18
Unfortunately, my childhood musical tastes consisted of three things and three things only: “Glee” covers with M*tthew M*rrison, ’80s Hair Bands like Guns n’ Roses and Van Halen, and Taylor Swift (back when she was still country).
My first-generation, seafoam green iPod Shuffle lacked the perfection that is One Direction. 90% of my music knowledge stemmed from my father’s influence and questionable mashups with ear-bleeding Rachel Berry solos.
I was never unaware of 1D. In fact, I was fully aware of the band, and I hated them because of that. Every time I got in my mom’s minivan, we’d turn on the radio and instantly hear the screeching noise of “What Makes You Beautiful.”
The song was overplayed and over-hyped, but mostly, I was over it. Being the nuisance that I was as an eight-year-old, I thought it was too mainstream.
You think those indie dudes who gatekeep bands are bad?
I was seven, bragging about my knowledge of the ’80s and acting as though I was born in the wrong generation.
To anyone I ever bragged about my elite music taste to, I want to apologize; I only knew old music because of “Glee” and my dad (whose soul is perpetually trapped in the ‘80s).
I was the worst. I complained because I didn’t want to be like those crazed fans I had seen in Disney’s “Starstruck.”
I acted as though I hated One Direction and definitely didn’t watch “iCarly” Season 6 Episode 2 on repeat.
Because I was trying to protect the precious mirage that was my reputation, I refused to listen to One Direction.
I didn’t realize that my need to be “quirky” as a kid ended up leaving me with a musical-shaped hole in my heart.
In 2017, I heard a little ditty called “Sign of the Times” by this super underground indie singer, Harry Styles. I instantly fell utterly in love.
It became my favorite song.
It became my favorite music video.
It became my entire personality.
I couldn’t fathom how a former member of a poppy boy band could write music like that. In my mind, One Direction’s entire discography consisted of 30 duplicates of “What Makes You Beautiful,” all worse than the last. But Harry Styles was creating real art.
I ranked “Sign of the Times” as the best song on Harry’s self-titled solo album. This was quickly replaced by “Kiwi.”
Then “Sweet Creature.”
It was and still is impossible to pick a favorite song from Harry’s debut album.
Even then, with all my love for Harry Styles, I was reluctant to listen to One Direction. Unlike elementary school me, I wasn’t not listening to prove a point, I honestly didn’t think of them.
But when “Fine Line” was released in 2019, I was fully immersed in my Harry Styles obsession. “Fine Line” instantly became my favorite Harry song. It is masterful. I wasn’t sure how I could love Harry more.
But even then, I hadn’t expanded my knowledge of Harry’s music. I was still blind to the wonders of One Direction.
It wasn’t until January of this year(yes, 2021) that I finally realized One Direction’s power.
I was sitting in my living room and was shuffling a Harry Styles radio on Spotify. I heard a song I had never heard before. I stopped doing whatever it was I was doing and just listened. I felt a wave of joy wash over me and cleanse my soul.
Foot tapping became head bobbing. Head bobbing became a full-blown living room dance party. When the song was over, I grabbed my phone to see what the song was. I don’t know what I was expecting to see once I tapped on the screen, but what I saw was groundbreaking. It was…It was…It was… “Something Great” by One Direction? Seriously, I like a One Direction song? I was listening to a One Direction song, and it was good?
At that moment, I knew I had just changed my life.
From there, I decided to put my stubbornness to the side and changed the Harry Styles radio to One Direction.
The first wave of listening to One Direction led me down a hole of self-depreciation. As an 18-year-old just now getting into the band, my heart went in only one direction… regret.
Listening to the band reminded me of the childhood I could have had, the concerts I didn’t go to, the bare spots on my wall where posters could have hung. I would have ripped my Troy Bolton poster down in a heartbeat if I had known about the heartthrob that is Harry Styles.
I spent so much of my youth thinking I was too good for One Direction that I starved myself from the music that I truly craved.
Too good for One Direction? If I could see my younger self now, I’d do her a favor and shove that claustrophobic kid into the smallest locker I could find.
The second wave washed out the negativity and was filled with dancing and smiles.
Now I am diving headfirst into wave number three, trying to catch up with the decade of interviews, music videos, and solo albums. There is a lot of work left to do.
My hatred of my younger self’s need to be different has scarred me in many ways: emotionally, mentally, spiritually, you name it. The regret I feel for jumping on the One Direction bandwagon 11 years late will forever haunt my soul. Luckily, whenever I feel ashamed of my past, I can crank “Midnight Memories,” dance like a lunatic alone in my room, and forget all about my problematic past.