One Direction have broken up. This is international news. We can live in denial, clinging onto the promise that one day they’ll get back together but we all know absence doesn’t actually make the heart go stronger. Like every boy band before them, and my parents’ marriage, a trial separation period will only make the cracks of a once holy union get wider and wider until they open up into a gaping pit of despair. This pit will suck in any remaining love or hope, or any innocent adolescent bystanders, deep into their own aching resentment from which the innocent will never recover. But come on, really, is it as bad as it seems? Is this the end of music as we know it?
Short answer: yes.
This was heartlessly confirmed by a 6pm BBC News report on the day of the announcement where they pointed out the stone cold truth that One Direction are the biggest band since the Beatles. Some may say that there have been better bands since the Beatles or even, dare I say it, better bands than 1D themselves – but these people are wrong. Let’s look at the evidence.
Firstly there’s The Rolling Stones. The Beatles’ contemporaries, some say their music has aged better than the fab four’s because of their grounding in roots and blues music. I say all people really care about is that dude Jagger who popped wicked shapes, and Harry the Handsome looks like him anyway:
So we can pretty much do without them.
Then there’s more artsy types like Pink Floyd, who crafted vast epic suites of sound, some more than half an hour long. Many featured compositions which some have compared to classical music as much as to rock and roll. Obviously that’s not going to work as well as ‘Drag Me Down’ in the club but never mind – what are they saying with their music?
Well let’s take some lyrics of Roger Water’s (he also seems to be a performer of the song but that must be a mistake) from their classic ‘Wish You Were Here.’ It goes:
‘And did they get you to trade/Your heroes for ghosts?/Hot ashes for trees?/Hot air for a cool breeze?/Cold comfort for change?/And did you exchange/A walk on part in the war/For a lead role in a cage? How I wish, how I wish you were here.’
Right, now let’s compare that to 1D’s 2011 breakout song ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful.’
‘Baby you light up my world like nobody else/The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed/But when you smile at the ground it ain’t hard to tell/You don’t know/Oh oh/You don’t know you’re beautiful/That’s what makes you beautiful.’
What the band’s writers are doing is explaining to a girl, fictitiously or maybe even seriously, what makes up her self-worth; which is helpful advice. Roger’s one has none of that, in fact, I can’t see any tips in there at all.
The only comparison really between One Direction and Pink Floyd is that they both shared a heartbreak: the early loss of a band member. Yes, Syd Barett is Floyd’s very own Zayn Malik, their very own crazy diamond.
There were some bands after those in the UK, such as The Clash. Here’s a song of theirs called ‘Lost in the Supermarket.’
It is better because it’s shorter, has a verse that’s short that goes into the catchy bit which is great, and it has a beat you can dance to. It also seems to portray a working class British lad lost in suburbia, trapped between the tedium of his home life and his only means of stimulation; the local supermarket. But there all he gets is art commodified and commercialised, bland and empty just like the pop artist pioneers of the 1950’s and 1960’s forewarned: profit above all else, designed to shift products en mass, from which he can gain nothing but an overwhelming sense of tedious repetition and numbness.
Not bad. But did The Clash ever make a sick and hilarious Pepsi ad like this one? No.
There were others that came and went like Joy Division, New Order, and The Cure, and then there was that band The Smiths. Their music was also nice and catchy, which was in part due to the work of Johnny Marr, whose guitar work you can see nicely packaged by the BBC here.
Which is all very nice, but look at this performance of ‘Steal My Girl’ from the Summer Ball earlier this year. If you look closely (CTRL+ is zoom in) then you can see One Direction’s guitarist absolutely killing it at the back of the stage there. Pretty neat.
Then there’s that Abingdon band Radiohead who had that catchy song ‘No Surprises’. Bit of a one hit wonder to be honest although they have done other stuff… but just look at them.
They’re weedy and nerdy and Thom Yorke essentially looks homeless at this point. One Direction are FIT.
There are also other less attractive bands out there such as The Libertines, Oasis, Blur – if you really want to put yourself through looking at them.
Then if we decide to go really far beyond The Beatles we have The Arctic Monkeys who have actually had more number one albums than the boys, so there must be something to them. But actually, if you look at how they formed – they met at school, they didn’t even know how to play their instruments, and they just decided to form a band. They practised until they’d honed their skills and their songs and set out to perform their way up… they weren’t at all put together from contestants for a talent contest by Simon Cowell in ten minutes: so I don’t trust them. 1D were cherry picked.
So there we have it: there’s really not much else going on for people to listen to so I can see why people like One Direction, and it’s clear that they are, or maybe were, the best music group out there. If they disband… Is music over? The BBC certainly think so. I guess some people somewhere will keep making it but really with British music being the best of them all and with the best British band of all time imminently parting ways… what’s the point?
What’s the point of anything?
Liam Inscoe – Jones
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.