One Direction and The Wanted: If they can make it there...
British boybands One Direction and The Wanted have taken the US – and the pages of The New Yorker – by storm. Tim Walker charts their stateside success
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Wednesday 29 August 2012
The Beatles did it. The Stones did, too. Bizarrely, Bush managed it, where Oasis and Take That never could, nor Westlife, Boyzone or 5ive. Coldplay cracked it, and so – oh, dear – did the Spice Girls. Now, without question, One Direction and The Wanted have both joined the short list of British bands that have "broken" America.
Although Britain's two hottest boybands already have high profiles in the US, they leapt this week from the safety of the pop charts into the hallowed pages of The New Yorker, North America's leading highbrow magazine – featuring in two separate pieces for the latest issue. Despite having long been lodged in the minds of excitable teenagers, they've now finally arrived in the consciousness of the intellectual elite.
In March, Simon Cowell's protégés One Direction became the first British pop band in history to enter the US album charts at No 1 with their debut LP. The band are due to headline Madison Square Garden, Manhattan's premier music venue, in December. Hasbro is planning to produce a set of One Direction action figures.
The success of Up All Night, which has now sold more than a million copies and more than five million digitally downloaded tracks, saw them frequently compared to The Beatles, who first arrived in America at the head of the "British Invasion" in 1964.
"You laugh about it," said One Direction band member Zayn Malik soon after its release, "someone comparing you to such a huge phenomenon."
New Yorker music writer Sasha Frere-Jones suggests One Direction's success was built on social media and the influence of the internet, and that, unlike boybands of the past, their appeal is laddish, their role models rock stars, not R&B crooners. "What One Direction really sounds like, though," Frere-Jones writes, "is a bunch of girls."
If One Direction are The Beatles, then The Wanted are the Stones, self-consciously gritty by comparison. Not so gritty, though, that their single "Glad You Came" couldn't appear in an episode of Glee, and subsequently rise to the top five of the US singles chart. They appear in a New Yorker article about their manager, Scooter Braun, who also represents Justin Bieber. Indeed, there is speculation that the likes of One Direction might have been marketed so heavily in the States as potential replacements for tween titan Bieber, who at 18 could well be approaching his best-before date.
Might this explain his strange backstage game, recounted by New Yorker writer Lizzie Widdicombe, of "playfully jabbing everyone in the crotch with his fist"? When Bieber "jabbed at Siva Kaneswaran, a member of The Wanted, he connected. He called out, 'Got you, bro.'" No wonder he's so popular.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Student jailed for hacking University of Birmingham computers to improve his grades
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
MasterChef 2015: Simon Wood named winner
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Sherlock series 4: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have to be 'persuaded' to return, says Steven Moffat
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election