One Direction: fleeting infection or everlasting obsession?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the size of  Simon Cowell’s ego you would have noticed that UK boy band sensation One Direction have recently visited Australia and sparked something of a media frenzy.

The brainchild of the uber pop producer Simon Cowell, these five photogenic teens have taken the world by storm, even leading some to claim they are the next Beatles.

Although the popularity of One Direction may seem obscene – they aren’t the first boy band to cause teenage girls to cry with excitement, parents to plead with their children to turn the music down and the rest of the male population to feign indifference (but secretly harbour jealousy).

One Direction in Sydney

Throughout the history of pop culture there have been a host of boy bands who have shared success similar to One Direction but have faded away as quickly as they rose to fame.

Here’s what they need to do to move from a fleeting infection to an everlasting obsession.

1. Write their own music and perform it live

Many boy bands begin life as a cover band or employ a team of songwriters.  This is absolutely fine in the short term.  The Rolling Stones and The Beatles started out by playing old Chuck Berry songs and Elvis rarely wrote his own material.  However, to increase their credibility as artists they need to be seen as talented musicians and not simply the puppets of a record company.

Moreover, this must translate to their live show.  They cannot expect musical longevity if they simply dance around on stage, lip-synching to pre-recorded material.  Their fans will outgrow it and people will quickly become sick of paying and expensive ticket to a mime show.

2. Rebel against or stand something

Many artists have outgrown the pop label by rebelling against or standing for something.  It mobilises fans and gives people a reason to care about the artist beyond their music.  U2 have stood for reducing poverty, disease and social injustice, Bruce Springsteen rebelled against the Vietnam War and the Sex Pistols rebelled against everything.

These artists become linked to these issues and their legacy endures.  (Just don’t do what Metallica did and rebel against their fans for downloading their music on Napster).

3. Gain a strong foothold in the American market

Making it in America is something British acts have yet to master.  Sure the Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin did, but Oasis and Blur didn’t and relative up and comers like Kasabian, Bloc Party and the Arctic Monkeys have yet to mirror their home-grown success in the US.

As the biggest music market in the world, achieving major commercial and critical success in the US is essential to standing the test of time.

4. Build respect with the critical music audience

They will need to build some sort of critical respect to have any longevity.  Bands which are seen as fads are those which didn’t establish any critical legitimacy and there music is confined to a specific demographic and in a specific time period.

It is something intangible and elusive.  It’s what makes you able to revisit an artist periodically throughout your life and find the music relevant and not cringeworthy.  It’s this factor which separates the Beatles from 5ive, Madonna from Ke$ha and Led Zeppelin from Limp Bizkit.

Achieving music immortality inevitably involves a large element of timing and luck, but it is likely a combination of solid tunes, a respectable live show, good sales and critical respect.

About AnthonySchumann
Subtle Bravado // Creative Boutique. Ted Anthony - Vision Alec Schumann - Creative Follow @AnthonySchumann

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