I'm with Harry Styles, One Direction should write their own songs

Plus: Something is forgotten in the state of Denmark and Orwell got there first on Wodehouse and Nazism

Share
Related Topics

This column on matters cultural has failed hitherto to mention a cultural phenomenon of our time – the boyband One Direction and their highest-profile member, the mover, shaker and dater Harry Styles. I will right that wrong, because Styles has come up with an interesting observation. The 19-year-old has been pondering the future, as 19-year-olds do, and has questioned whether the band can be sufficiently authentic without writing their own songs.

He has been reassured this week by Cathy Dennis, a key songwriter for Kylie Minogue and the woman behind one of Kylie's signature pieces, "Can't Get You Out of My Head." Ms Dennis, unsurprisingly, claims in a newspaper article that one can have a long and fruitful career in pop by using outside songwriters. She adds: "It will be expected that they will write their own songs at some point. Someone is going to say, 'hang on, the royalties coming in from just singing are not enough'. But if 1D started writing their own songs it could be the kiss of death... to emulate The Rolling Stones – you can't have that overnight."

She seems to think the desire to write is royalties-related, and, of course, you make a lot more money if you write the songs as well as sing them. But I'd credit Harry Styles with wanting a bit more than money.

Certainly, the history of popular music from Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra through Barbra Streisand and many, many others including Kylie, shows that if you can really interpret a song distinctively you don't need to actually write the thing.

But it does seem to me that in the main the interpreters have been solo artists. Groups, from the Sixties explosion of The Beatles, Stones, Kinks and Who via Britpop's Blur, Oasis and Pulp to Arctic Monkeys and a thousand others have a songwriter in their midst to give them not just a personal sound, but a personal mode of storytelling – the erstwhile chronicling of teenage angst by Pete Townshend, for example.

So I'm with Harry. I watched One Direction at the Brits, and their rendition of Blondie's "One Way or Another" only served to make me think of Blondie, and not just with sympathy. Even new songs by hired writers are unlikely to give them a consistent sound and story that can last years.

To be true artists, and to last, a band, whatever their manufactured origins, must write their own material. It lifts a band from being a well-drilled, sexually manipulative outfit to a creative body with artistic integrity. It gives them distinctiveness and puts them in the great tradition of British bands making a narrative and portraying the angst and excitement of their generation. By instinctively recognising this, Master Styles shows that he has a wise head on his young shoulders.

Right Ho, Nigel. But Orwell got there first...

Nigel Williams, the Golden Globe and Emmy winner, has written a one-off drama about PG Wodehouse's war years to be broadcast on BBC4. Williams's script will challenge the line that Wodehouse collaborated with the Nazis. "He was extremely naive; he thought he was just talking with his readers," says Williams.

I hate to break this to Mr Williams, but this isn't quite the revelation he seems to think it is. The idea that Wodehouse consciously aided the Nazi propaganda machine was described as "untenable and even ridiculous" by George Orwell in his classic essay "In Defence Of PG Wodehouse" – written in 1945.

Something is forgotten in the state of Denmark

There are, of course, two Danish actresses well known to British TV viewers; Sofie Grabol, who plays Sarah Lund in The Killing, and Sidse Babett Knudsen who plays the PM in Borgen. Quoted in this paper this week, Ms Knudsen said breezily that she hadn't actually watched any of The Killing, adding: "I'm a bit of a snob about television." None of it, not a single minute? This is quite remarkable. It's hard to find anyone in Britain who hasn't had a look at The Killing. That a leading Danish actress hasn't sneaked a glimpse at what one of her biggest rivals is doing is quite an admission. Or is Ms Knudsen making the point that she is simply too busy to watch Ms Grabol on TV? What's the Danish for "oooh"?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London