Somehow, someway, One Direction turned ten this week.
Yes, ten. And, at 21 years old myself, I’m not quite sure when time managed to escape me—because in my head I am still 13 writing fanfiction in my room, hanging up posters from Rolling Stone of the band on a beach, and having my heart literally melt because of the way that Harry Styles shakes his hair out of his eyes—but it is right now, in this moment, that I feel as if I’ve crashed headfirst into unwarranted adulthood. As if the rug has been pulled out from underneath me. Damn.
Ten years is a very, very long time. A lot can happen within a single decade—in fact, a lot did happen. We’ll get to more on that later, but it is important to say first that I am starkly nostalgic of those times, which now seem to be reminiscent of the most incredible joy and comfort. It seemed as if the mind, body, and spirit of every single Directioner somehow operated on the same wavelength—and heartbeat. I always loved the idea that we all, as a collective, validated one another’s thoughts or commentary and found community in adoration. Looking back, being part of a fandom like this one was surely a bit of necessary respite in a time of awkwardness, petty teenage relationships, and deceit.
Of course, there are other things too. For starters, it is common practice to associate things like personal style, music, cinema, and clothing to be both obvious and meaningful stakeholders of culture—which certainly helps in the case of any band or musician. Think of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk or Elton John’s sunglasses. Those are things you will never forget, or that you will even cherish. The kind of things that you can point out from a mile away. The kind of things that seem to transcend time and place—that sort through all of the randomness and bring you back to that one perfect moment or feeling. For One Direction, at least to me, it’s their silhouettes and boyish laughs. But also, it’s their evolution from shaggy hair, varsity jackets, khaki pants, suspenders, and striped T-shirts to slick black suits, skinny jeans, assortments of tattoos, and wide brim fedoras all the while maintaining a charming sense of self.
Now, I know what you’re thinking—she’s obsessed! And, while that is a true statement, I am not just saying these things as a fangirl. Trust me, I’ve fallen in ‘love’ with my fair share of boy bands (insert the Jonas Brothers, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Big Time Rush here) but nobody, and I mean nobody, compares to One Direction. So, although this might seem like a stretch for most people, One Direction defined a generation. And, they defined it in a way that moved way beyond the capabilities and limitations of music.
There is no denying the enormity of the impact and that One Direction had, whether you are a fan or not. It is clear as day.
However, it is quite important to note that their career as a band was not always a linear feat. As most people know, they weren’t always a band. Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson each started off as solo artists, all under 25 years old, on the X-Factor UK. On July 23, 2010 Simon Cowell, the notorious judge of the talent competition, pulled the 5 boys together and gave them the chance of a lifetime. By the time they rounded out the competition, One Direction wound up in third place and backed by Cowell’s record label, Syco. Right off the bat their first singles as a band toppled charts across every single continent. Quite literally, their Na na na‘s could be heard world-wide, which is nothing short of a testament to the stardom that they soon would face. Not to mention the frenzy of fans, media, and paparazzi that quickly surrounded the boys which in hindsight seems like an all-encompassing storm. It was a non-stop cycle of album making, global touring, countless 24-hour long live-streams and video diaries commemorating their relationship with fans, along with goofy realness that made them immensely crush-worthy.
Fast-forwarding a bit, One Direction managed to accomplish a ton while in the limelight. In 2011, the band’s debut album Up All Night shot to #1 overnight and stayed there, making them the first UK group to peak at #1 in the US with a debut album. In addition, they were the first group to debut at #1 with their first four albums in the US: Up all Night, Take Me Home, Midnight Memories, and Four. In 2012, the band performed at the Olympics closing ceremony in London. By 2013, the group produced and released two concert documentaries titled One Direction: This Is Us and One Direction: Where We Are. In 2014, Billboard announced One Direction Artist of the Year. Altogether, the band has sold more than 70 million records worldwide. In addition, they’ve taken home 16 MTV awards, 154 awards in other isolated categories, and have been nominated for 317 awards in total. Plus, they have sold over 8,287,195 tickets on their tours.
On March 25, 2015 Zayn Malik, 22 years old at the time, left the band during the One The Road Again tour citing a need for normalcy and some time out of the spotlight. Speculations have risen since then about the real reason behind his leaving the band, including episodes of discrimination based on his religion and music style. The other boys continued on and produced the Made in the A.M. album that same year. The band never toured with this album and announced that they too would be going on a hiatus in January of 2016. All 5 members have gone on to maintain remarkable solo careers while holding on tight to their roots in One Direction. The most successful being Harry Styles, an undeniable international heartthrob and sensation.
So far, there has been no serious mention of a reunion in the near future, but hey, miracles do happen! Based on their social media presence on the day of their 10 year anniversary, the boys seem as amicable, genuine, and grateful as they were a decade ago.
Within their record-breaking career before entering a hiatus, the quintet managed to reaffirm what a boy band means all the while establishing their unique and notable brand. These are heavy, even monumental, footsteps to fill.
So, no, One Direction is not just a measly boy band. At incredibly young ages, they were thrust into a world of not so subtle adoration and managed to produce worthwhile music for a loyal, dedicated, fanbase. They changed my life in the best way. Let’s give credit where credit is due and grant them the celebration that they so desperately deserve.
Happy 10 Years of One Direction!
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