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.