One evening of fifth grade, I received a crucial Google Chat message: a link to a music video of a song called “What Makes You Beautiful.” I had never heard of One Direction, but I clicked on it, saw five teenagers jumping on a beach and the rest, as they say, is history.
I immersed myself head first into the world of One Direction, watching video diaries and performances of the The X factor, joining the Twitter and Tumblr fan and making some really bad lyrics videos on Windows Movie Maker.
To admit that now is a little embarrassing. But as we rapidly approach the 10th anniversary of the formation of the group, I thought about how cool it was that I was 12 so open to my love for One Direction, despite the widespread ridicule the band – and their teenage fan base – endured.
It’s a well-documented phenomenon that people don’t really respect the things teenage girls like.
Take, for example, The Beatles: When the band arrived in the United States, it was the young people, especially the girls, who went crazy with them. Critics called the Beatles “unbelievably gruesome,” “appallingly anti-musical” and “repulsive, and they called the screaming girls which was the spearhead of American Beatlemania “bottomless chasm of emptiness. ”
And although these 14 and 15 year old girls are responsible for $ 161 million in record sales, it wasn’t until men like Bob Dylan identified the band’s endurance beyond “teeny-boppers“- and until the band started to write music, the boys felt they could sit down and talk about – that the Beatles became the cultural institution they are today.
And check out the New Musical Express “Worst Band” awards: Many of the winners are bands that teenage girls love. 5 seconds of summer won three years in a row. The 1975 won it in 2014, when their popularity was fueled by teenage girls. But in 2016, after hipsters and music critics decided they were cool, they overtook NMEs. Albums of the year listing.
One Direction, the 2013 winner of Worst Band, has withstood its fair share of contempt. They were called, among other things: a corporate machine made by Simon Cowell; inauthentic and artificial; to success only because they were attractive. But all of this criticism was in reality a thinly veiled disregard for the views of teenage girls.
In that vein, being a shameless fan of a band that so many people hated was pretty brave of me and other young girls.
I’m not going to pretend that’s why I originally became a fan: They were funny, cute boys singing catchy pop songs with a huge backlog of content I could watch and review. I’m also aware that it sounds a bit silly to call it brave – there are obviously a lot of braver things to do than as a bunch of boys. But at the time, it was a big deal for me.
Just a year ago, I had been the kind of girl to hate about things considered “girly”; I spent 2010 writing parody lyrics for “Baby” that made fun of Justin Bieber and his fans. But as I moved into my teenage years, I unconsciously began to reject the internalized misogyny that made me believe I had to be “not like other girls. ”
I confidently experimented with things like wearing denim shorts instead of my usual MSI recreational soccer shorts and wearing my hair loose instead of a low (objectively ugly) ponytail. And the less personal decision to love One Direction was pivotal in my experimentation.
But as I got older, I started to feel less sure of my fandom. I deleted my Tumblr, changed my Twitter username, and removed my Facebook cover photo from the group. But I haven’t become less of a fan. The only difference was that I didn’t publicly approve of my passion.
As a full-fledged young adult, I felt like I needed to start thinking about “grown-up” stuff, like The Eagles and taxes. A young teenager might be obsessed with a bunch of boys, but it’s kinda weird when an 18-year-old does.
But then, in 2017, just before the release of his first solo album, Harry Styles did an interview with Rolling stone.
“Who says young girls who love pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical tastes than a 30-year-old hipster? He asked. “Teenage fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they are there. They don’t act “too cool”. They love you and they tell you so. What is sick.
It was important to hear that Harry Styles considered himself an artist no less because his audience was mostly young women – that he didn’t just expect “real fans” to like his music for.
It re-energized my attempt to be more open and honest with my opinions – not just on One Direction, but in general. It doesn’t matter if what I like isn’t “cool” or “respected,” it just matters that I like it. Innovative!
Now there is a chance that I will get too deep on a band that has been on hiatus for five years. But even as I write this sentence, I realize that I cover my opinions again, lest people take me seriously.
So the point is, I still love One Direction. I just wanted everyone to know that.