Home Music Pop: One Direction May Be Launching Its Own Timberlake in Niall Horan

No one is going to accuse One Direction of being heavy, expressing much personal opinion or exhibiting a lot of focus. So when one member of the boy band, Zayn Malik, Tweeted “Free Palestine,” there were waves of shock.

At MetLife Stadium on Tuesday night, Zayn seemed a little cowed, and pretty tentative in the second show in a row at the venue– pretty much sold out to the rafters with girls, girls, shrieking girls. My nieces, age 14, were among them.

Let’s just say, between the endless actual fireworks, confetti, and prancing up and down a cat walk, One Direction managed to entertain its audience. All the girls loved them, while the parents and adults sat patiently and looked at their phones. One middle aged guy sported huge ear covering headphones. I don’t know what he was listening to but it wasn’t One Direction.

There are five guys in One Direction, a group cobbled together by Simon Cowell in the UK from one of his “X Factor” shows and turned into a modern Monkees. Well, not so much as they don’t have the songs or the records. One Direction has yet to produce anything as profound as “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” or “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

Their ostensible leader, Harry Styles, is a nice guy whom I’ve met before. He is channeling Johnny Depp via Keith Richards and has the Rock Star look– lanky, with wild hair pent up in a turban. He even he has a devilish twinkle in his eye. After seeing the group in person, though, I’d say their potential break out star is Nial Horan. He plays the guitar, sings very well, writes songs, and actually behaves like the group’s leader. Interesting.

Otherwise, One Direction is dependent on several real musicians who stay on the stage and play the songs while the guys bounce around the stadium.  The songs are static and not very interesting except for a couple of AM pop hits like “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Story of My Life.” The problem is that One Direction is a little adrift– since they are not musicians, they can only pretend to be a “band” for so long. Then reality kicks in– what are they? And unlike The Backstreet Boys or NSync, they don’t dance– there’s no choreography. They just lope about.

They also talk waaaay too much. There’s a lot of unnecessary yakking. Members of the group talked incessantly about “how amazing” the audience was, how “grateful” the group was to be at MetLife Stadium, and prattled on about the Super Bowl, an event that took place six months ago.

Of course, I am not the target audience for One Direction. The girls– all twenty thousand of them– loved the show. I suspect One Direction is at its peak right now. Their next album will go through the roof. And you know what? That’s fine. They provide a kind of harmless, neutered fun that doesn’t hurt anyone.

Anyway, let’s keep on eye on Niall. He may be the Timberlake here, or even Ed Sheeran. He needs to do a solo album. Until then, One Direction might want to think about who they are and what they’re saying on stage. Or learn to cover “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Amazing Grace.”

Another sort of boy band, Five Seconds of Summer, opened for One Direction. They actually play their instruments and act more like a circa 1982 New Wave power pop sort of MTV group.  If they can find the right songs, they may last longer than five seconds.

PS Live Nation produced the show. They sent a bunch of young people to MetLife to organize the evening, and they were all top notch despite the blistering afternoon heat.

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