MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 44: ONE DIRECTION

How long do you reckon someone needs to be within the music industry for them to be influential or impactful to people of generations old and young? Do you have to be within the realms of music for ages and ages like U2 and release years upon years of chart-topping songs, or can you just be a year in your career, someone like Billie Eilish or Lewis Capaldi, and still have an impact on music and/or society as a whole? Well, I guess the truth is…I don’t really think it matters how long you’re in the music industry- 2 years or 20 years. What matters, I reckon, is the artist’s ability to create music of a nature that is able to inspire, impact, affect people, challenge societies, give hope and become a catalyst for positive change- if the song does that, regardless of how old the artist is (or maybe in artists like Billie Eilish’s case, how young the artist is!), then they are in for stardom quicker than anyone can ever believe. The trick is to maintain that grounding- physically, spiritually, psychologically and mentality, when you’re constantly under the microscope of the media, 24/7. The pressure can sometimes get to you, just understanding the full gravity of how outside people are always looking at you to see if you can slip up in your performances in any way. The stage is set, and people, no matter how kind or good-natured they can be, are often passing judgement, unintentionally, I’m sure. Nevertheless, more often recently, artists have been coming to the table which is ‘the industry’ younger and younger, and frankly, there seems to be a ‘throwing-out’ of these artists on a regular basis, as well. So to come back to my original question- preferably I reckon artists need to have a few albums underneath their belt for them to be called ‘influential’- otherwise anything less, I believe, is often framed as a ‘fad-of-the-times’- harsh but true.

Still, influence is a matter of opinion for the artists I’ve decided to pick as part of my top 100 list (not-inclusive of the top 30- of which I feel more certain in relation to the artists included in such a list!), and this next band, One Direction, have certainly had their fair share of publicity, fandom and songs that have impacted, and are still impacting, people around the world, with their catchy boy-band/pop music. Louie Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles and Niall Horan (the five make up One Direction) have created an album discography (5 albums in 5 years) and an avid fanbase, that in 2020, five years after their indefinite hiatus, they’ve continued to become one of the most popular boy-bands since Backstreet Boys, and one of the most popular bands, to ever come out of Britain in a long, long time- since bands like Take That, Spice Girls, Coldplay and Mumford & Sons. And so, if anyone has been alive within the last 20 years, they would’ve heard about One Direction. Then again, erase that statement- anyone who is alive right now, should’ve heard about One Direction, at some point in their lives. If someone hasn’t…well, google them, listen to a few songs from them, and then come back to read this blog post. Now that I know you’ve heeded my advice and researched a band that has ridden upon the success of their X-Factor experience way back in 2011; let me just say this- regardless of whether you believe this band to be good or not, one cannot deny the fact that this band is influential to a generation that has grown up with their music (i.e.: not me!).

One Direction have been able to deliver unprecedented success during the time in which they were active- from the years of 2011-2015, they amassed a lot of fans, and 5 albums later (and a whole lot of singles that have managed to chart the radio stations by storm), this quintet (who went from 5 to 4 upon the release of their most recent album Made In the AM) have given to us songs that, for lack of a better word, are about love, relationships and heartbreak- perfect themes to be consumed at great lengths by the teenage population (I guess, especially young girls who would listen to such music on a whim because of the looks of these band members). Personally I myself haven’t heard that many songs by the band, and frankly; this blog post has been the one where I’ve been putting off and off again, not because I don’t know that they are indeed influential, popular and the rest of it…it’s just that One Direction (1D) aren’t necessarily the type of music that I’d naturally seek out, nor is the niche market that they gear towards, mine to begin with. Sure, there are songs like ‘History’, ‘Drag Me Down’, ‘Live While We’re Young’, ‘Best Song Ever’, ‘One Thing’, ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, ‘Steal My Girl’ and ‘Perfect’ that have popped up in either my iTunes Playlists or my Spotify Playlists over the years by accident, or even on the local radio station that I frequent from time to time over the years. But as I set aside this week to listen to the band and get a little ‘culture’ and ‘perspective’ about what 1D are about; I tried to understand their ‘message to the masses’ and what I believed they wanted to present to their listeners…and in all honesty, I wasn’t connecting that much to the band, if at all. Just like how I felt in previous blog posts gone by, when I wasn’t connecting to the music of artists like Evanescence and Phil Collins to name a few; so too have I been underwhelmed with One Direction and their music. Yes, there are songs that have charted well on radio and the eye of the public. Yes, there are songs that are catchy. Yes, there are songs that maybe mean something to someone- and for me, especially the song ‘Drag Me Down’, is a track that has spoken to me over the years, about the love I know Christ has for us, when I know in reality the song is indeed written with an earthly love in mind. Nevertheless, I still often find myself toe-tapping to these songs at different periods of time throughout the year. But as a whole, if I were to recommend this artist to someone I know, like a friend…well, I wouldn’t. Maybe it’s because I’m forever comparing 1D to that of Backstreet Boys (of which I heard a lot of when I was writing the blog about them), and I’ve realised that Backstreet Boys themselves have been much more creative in their craft as they evolved over time to deliver songs that actually mean things to people. Nevertheless, while I myself may not be able to connect to 1D’s music as I initially thought I would’ve, I’m sure other people may connect to them in a greater way than I have. And I’ve realised that that, in and of itself, is very much ok!

One Direction, despite my own lack of enjoying a lot of their music, are still very popular and influential in every sense of the word. With five albums created in as many years, and some of the biggest songs to ever come out of the 2010s decade of music, we have been honoured to be a part of the band’s history where it has given to us songs to party with, songs to become introspective with, and songs that are just plain funny and silly. Zayn, Liam, Louie, Niall and Harry have all indeed crafted something that has defied anything that has ever been done- for a boy band to rise to that amount of stardom within a very short time, and then to fall so quickly throughout their hiatus (because the next best thing has come around) is nothing short of remarkable and dare I say, miraculous. I don’t think anyone in 2011 could’ve ever thought that 1D would be as big as they are currently today. No-one- not even the band members themselves. Their first radio single ever, ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ is an empowering song for anyone who may lack a little self-confidence, or have image problems- the track itself being especially poignant and heartfelt for the audience of teen girls; while ‘One Thing’ is a love song with all the cheesy lyrics that make people of an older generation balk and shake their heads…nevertheless, such songs which have a vapid and often superfluous undertone, are still popular amongst the teenagers of today. ‘One Thing’ speaks of a love that a teenage boy could feel for a teenage girl (or vice versa, or even how some grown-up adults feel), and is a reminder that teenagers are being exposed to the topics and issues of love, attraction and the rest of it, at such young ages, and often, being in such states younger and younger is what can often cause confusion, heartache, and breakups, long before people need to be immersed in such a complex world of love. Nevertheless, teenagers are experiencing it, and for what it’s worth, a song like ‘One Thing’ by 1D can get into the mind of a teenager, maybe even more so than any other band that’s ever graced the earth- so parents and friends need to sit up and take notice. Because maybe, just maybe, to relate to your younger kids and teenagers, all we need to do is to just suck up a little pride, and just listen to a 1D song or two. You never know, maybe we may find a song that speaks to us in the process.

Maybe it’s just me, but often I feel like the song ‘Live While We’re Young’ can seem a little hedonistic, even if it’s unintended. I do know what the song is relaying to us- living while we are young and have the ability to travel and go places, because when we’re old, often we may not be able to undertake such dreams because of physical ailments and other things that stop us; but the song itself, in spite of this message that I’m sure was intended, sadly comes off as uninspired and at times, feeling like the personas in the song are just singing it and longing to live life young for nothing more than selfish gain and pleasure. Yes, I know that when we’re older, we may not have the same opportunities as of now, and thus we need to take the opportunities presented to us from the get-go, yet this song makes living life young seem to be the popular option we all should take, often at the expense of everything and everyone else. I know that that interpretation of ‘Live While We’re Young’ isn’t what was initially conveyed, but nevertheless, it was the message that spoke to me when hearing it, and upon reflection, such a message received isn’t really a great message at all. Living self-centred isn’t really the way to go, yet such a song as this for me gives me a glimpse into what people’s mentality of living life young really is- to live life full of pleasure and wants, of longing and the need of the self, before looking out at others and seeing what their needs are and tending to them before your own. Sadly, ‘Live While We’re Young’, as toe-tapping as it is, delivers a message so confusing that it may indeed unfortunately reflect the state of young people now- confused in a time where we don’t know what to do or be, because of expectations and information overload. Nevertheless, One Direction have given to us these songs, and no matter how you slice it or see a million different interpretations to the same song, the songs are still popular, impactful, and high-selling- yes, inclusive of ‘Live While We’re Young’ too!

‘Steal My Girl’, on face value, is an earnest song of unveiling to a girl, the persona’s love and affection, but looking a little deeper, the song itself can have a few disturbing qualities. Just like how The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’, upon another listen and contemplation, shows us the stalker-like qualities of the persona in the song, so too does it feel like for ‘Steal My Girl’. Yes, I can tell that this song shows the persona in love with a girl, but frankly, if the girl isn’t engaged or married to you, then the song that states ‘everybody wanna steal my girl, everybody wanna take her heart away, couple billion in the whole wide world, find another one, cause she belongs to me’ delivers lyrics that can be seen as a little controlling. Yes, this song I’m sure was intended as a celebration song- acknowledging that in every great thing that a person has, people want to steal such a thing away from them just because they can; but for me I felt such a song as this came to the surface as one that was bringing a person down, reducing people to belonging to someone like property. Nevertheless, this is how I felt- it could change in the future, but this is where I am at when hearing not only this song by 1D, but countless others too. I know it’s not their intention or fault for the song to come out the way it does, and I know that many die-hard One Directioners may not see the message of any of the songs from the band, how I see them; and that’s ok.  Everyone who hears any song by any artist may have different interpretations. Still, one cannot deny the murkiness and ambiguity of a lot of One Direction songs, so much so that many of these tracks blend into one another, and no track that was ever not a single, was ever memorable in the first place. I know, harsh words, but this is just me expressing what I’ve seen about the music for this past week. It was indeed nice to open my mind to see what a generation that is not mine, sees in this band, but upon the start of such an experiment, I was reminded that music doesn’t have to be universally liked by everyone for it to be deemed influential, impactful and challenging to listeners around the world.

Mind you that doesn’t mean that I dislike every single song by 1D- not at all. ‘Drag Me Down’, recently covered by CCM artists David Dunn and Jordan Feliz not too long ago, speaks of an unconditional love that sticks by a person, as we understand that ‘…if I didn’t have you, there would be nothing left, the shell of a man that could never be his best, if I didn’t have you, I’d never see the sun, You taught me how to be someone…’ Whether the song is talking about another mate, or even the Lord Almighty Himself; we don’t know, but that is beside the point- ‘Drag Me Down’, no matter which interpretation resonates, is still a song of hope and comfort, as people who care for you will be close through the tough times. Other songs that speak to people, myself included, are songs like ‘History’ (a song where the persona pleads to the other to not give up a failing relationship because of all the history endured and the love they ultimately share), ‘You and I’ (a longing between the persona and their significant other, as they state that nothing can come between the love felt between the both of them), and ‘Perfect’ (a realistic vision of what people look for in relationships, and the understanding that people don’t have to put on a picture-perfect state of self in order for them to attract people to them); while ‘Best Song Ever’, as catchy as the music is and how I unfortunately dance along with the song (on the inside) even though I know the song itself can be a little much to be desired; what I’ve found about said song, is that the message is a little garbled (in that we don’t fully know whether its about a boy and a girl meeting at a bar and things ensue, or whether its actually an ode to 1D fans about sticking with them long after their time in the spotlight has come and gone). Nevertheless, ‘Best Song Ever’ is catchy, and a song that sad to say, is a guilty pleasure of mine. Nevertheless, apart from a lot of the 1D songs I’ve mention here in this blog…there’s not really anything else that the band has put out that has been memorable to myself. Maybe to others, but for me, though I’d love to say that I was impacted by this song and that, and that the Lord really spoke to me through this song and that I was convicted and compelled…what I will really say (for real) is that much of this discography, aside from what I did mention prior, has been songs that are about issues that aren’t that deep enough to bring out a reaction from myself (either good or bad), or the song just doesn’t resonate, and I’m sure I’ll resonate with someone else. And that is very much ok, in my book. If people are inspired by such bands to become better versions of themselves, then no matter how cliché the bands sound, or how out-of-touch I may seem when I hear this music, the music regardless has served its purpose well.

‘…maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I connect with different styles of music more than others. And it’s just natural, there will be music that you are drawn to for whatever reason, and there will be other music, that no matter how hard you try to enjoy or even like it, something doesn’t click. It can be the music, the lyrics, the overall atmosphere of the songs in general, but for whatever reason, the music in question just doesn’t tug at your heart. It just doesn’t. And that’s ok. Considering the mammoth amount of music that I have delved into this past 6 months, and the amount of music I will listen to as I journey on this blog post series that has opened my eyes to music that I didn’t know I could love and enjoy, there is bound to be music that I don’t really like…as much as I understand and fully support the band and their expression of their music, and giving people an outlet and a way to connect with people who feel the same things expressed in these songs, for me I can’t really relate…so if I wasn’t their target audience, why am I here writing about the band and stating that they are very much needed in the society of today, or that they are indeed influential in their craft and creating music that people (aside from myself) can be impacted with, when it hasn’t even happened for me yet? I mean, what I’m writing from here on end can be considered as mere folly or supposition, of speculation and assumption, because if a connection didn’t happen between myself and the music (as it has done countless times before in the past), then who am I to say that this music is influential- can the music impact countless of other lives, if my own life isn’t changed that drastically in the process? Simple. Because whether or not it alters my life, and whether or not I enjoy or even like the music at the end of the day, doesn’t change the fact that this band is still influential. That is why there are plenty of genres of music to enjoy- not every music style will connect with the soul of yours, and that is perfectly fine…’

If you would have followed my blogs over the last year and a half or so, then you’d know which band I am discussing about in this above quote that I took verbatim from the other blog that I wrote about 6 months ago. Yes, we’re talking and discussing about Evanescence in this previous quote, and upon reflection standing where I am today, I can say that this above paragraph can also be said, in my own opinion, about One Direction and their music too. For me I wasn’t that enamoured, impressed or even moved at many of the songs that they have recorded over the years. in spite of this, I still see the merit of such a band as 1D in society both when they were active, and even now in 2020. People connect with music like this, much that it pains me to say this. But herein lies the point- that if a song like ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, ‘Drag Me Down’ or ‘History’, can unite people and remind them of the validity of self-care, relationships, and never giving up in adversity, then the songs have achieved what they have needed to. Even if songs sing about superfluous things, like ‘Best Song Ever’, people can still somehow be inspired, don’t ask me how. God can work through the unlikeliest of circumstances, and in this case, the band 1D. Now in 2020, the band have gone their separate ways, even though there are rumours of a reunion for a short period of time, sometime in the future. The most successful of the solo artists, Harry Styles, just released his most-recent album in 2019, and despite his single ‘Adore You’ being what I believe to be one of the most over-played songs of the 2019/20 period, the song itself gives you much to think about- adoring someone regardless of what they themselves think about themselves, or how the lyrics declare that ‘…I’ll walk through fire for you, just let me adore you…’, a reminder that no one should do anything to receive unconditional love as depicted in said song. Nevertheless, the band have moved away from the group-stage with this hiatus, where each individual band member have tried it out there on their own, never really reaching the success that 1D had when they were active. It is a reminder for us people that often, a group is much more than the sum of their parts, and that maybe, it is better for everyone involved to work together in groups rather than being alone- there is a sense of camaraderie and friendship that comes alongside unity when working together- accountability and honesty can flourish when in the presence of band-mates. Regardless, the band 1D is no more for now, and maybe, just maybe, shouldn’t really come back until the songs from 2011-2015 are mined and reflected upon for all their worth. Still, one can’t deny the influence the band has had when they were around, even if I myself wasn’t as connected to them as I initially thought I was going to be when I started with this blog post. 1D have changed the landscape of boy bands forever, and together with Backstreet Boys, have paved the way for other boy bands to follow in their footsteps. Whether boy-band groups of the future, who’ll always be compared to 1D or Backstreet Boys, will take up this mantle or not, is a different story altogether!

Does One Direction make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song (aside from ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ and ‘Drag You Down’) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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