WHERE HAVE I BEEN THE PAST THREE YEARS. How did I miss this?
One Direction is huge, the biggest boy band in the world right now I think, and they completely flew under my radar until about three days ago.
I really can’t write about them and ignore the issue of vocal talent/training. I’ve done my homework (thanks, YouTube!) and have come to the conclusion that Liam is the only member of the band who can actually sing. Zayn has improved tremendously since his initial X-Factor audition, as has Harry. Niall is…okay. And Louis simply can’t sing at all. His live performances make me cringe.
I’ve reasoned that Simon must have been looking specifically for five boys to round up into a boy band otherwise I really can’t understand how Harry Styles got through on his first audition. Acapella, Harry? What were you thinking??
So their success as a “band” is entirely based upon Liam’s nice voice, their collective good looks (which can somewhat be attributed to what I like to call “the cheerleader effect“) and brilliant marketing. What a show, what a show!
They don’t even dance.
Let’s remember NSync, shall we?
Personally, I was always a diehard Backstreet Boys fan (and everyone knows you’re either NSync or BSB but definitely not both) but I can’t deny it: NSync was good. They were individually talented, represented different voice parts and styles, but sang in beautiful, live harmony. Five boys should mean five voices should mean multi-part harmonies. Observe:
There’s nothing like a perfectly-executed, quite challenging acapella arrangement performance to prove that these guys really could sing; and not just sing, but sing together in harmony, on different voice parts.
I don’t even want to talk about Justin Timberlake’s hair (amazing) or solos (amazing), mostly I just want to show the incredible contrast between what they were delivering as a product in 2003 versus this silliness One Direction is selling us in 2013.
I tried to find a really good 1D live performance and this was the best I could find. I was particularly impressed with Harry’s rock-n-roll yelling thing; he obviously has the most challenging part and the most to lose if he messes up…but in general things are messy and the unison parts don’t sound so much live as prerecorded…
“They can’t sing in any meaningful sense: if all five of them have a go, they average out at somewhere in the vicinity of the note. They can’t dance either, just slouch around in skinny jeans with the occasional handstand contest or outbreak of homoerotic play-fighting. Another clip shows them putting on fat-suit or old-person disguises, then busking, breakdancing and dispensing hugs in Camden Market. Lads, mucking about, having a go. One Direction’s entire marketing strategy in a nutshell. It’s all image management…”
So if they can’t sing and won’t dance then what can they do?
Well, they can be relatable and endearing. They can look like they’re having a lot of fun. They can be stylish. They can unapologetically just “be themselves” which is somewhat refreshing.
And my god can they make
Harry’s the standout: “Styles is America’s fantasy idea of a cute Englishman, which can’t have harmed One Direction’s astounding Stateside success… He’s also the one who’s got “solo career” written all over him, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Right now, we meet One Direction two albums in, they’re 19, they’ve been to the gym and the tattooist and they look slightly more like men than children…”
Overall, I’m fascinated by the phenomenon that is One Direction because it seems so obvious that they lack the vocal skills to even sing together in harmony, which is like Boy Band Responsibility Numero Uno.
And they don’t even dance. (Did I say that yet?)
But I guess the lesson here is that if you package something up pretty enough and sell it the right way to the right people at the right time then maybe, just maybe it will become very profitable. (Marketing has sorta been on my mind lately…)
Just when you’re losing faith that there isn’t anyone talented out there in pop music, remember Pentatonix. Talk about a vocal pop band.