It’s tempting to chuckle at One Direction’s inconsolable fans throwing themselves on the pop pyre over news of the band’s forthcoming “hiatus”. Not an official split, I hasten to add. More a 12-month break with no plans to tour their next album, which to my ageing ears sounds like, “We are sick of the sight of each other. In fact, if we have to meet one more time at 5.45am in a Kuala Lumpur hotel lobby to do a breakfast-telly promo performance, someone might get strangled.” Not a divorce, more of a “conscious ungrouping”. Maybe forever, but more likely until someone can’t pay their tax bill.
I have always thought being in One Direction must be like being contractually forced on to a tedious, never-ending coach tour, with people one had already started to suspect one might not gel with shortly before the first Forton Services toilet stop. But then I would say this, as I’m a cynical old adult, my eyes fully opened to the realities of life.
All boybands must die. They cannot survive in a vacuum-packed, dewy-skinned bubble. They must become bored, want solo careers and start looking a bit like they’re being held hostage in videos. And with this expires something fresh and naive within their teen fan base.
Zayn Malik, first to quit, has morphed before our eyes from a twinkly-eyed sliver of boyhood into a surly, underslept twentysomething who can no longer keep a lid on his feelings that his colleague Liam is a bit of a prat. Liam has always seemed a bit of an old woman in his demeanour to me. His attempts to keep the band on course over the past weeks have been so stringent he could have been carrying a clipboard.
What Zayn must have realised – with some inevitability – is that pointing wildly and doing occasional leg kicks to flimsy pop songs in front of hysterical young women is a lucrative but unfulfilling pastime. After some public bickering and a pregnancy announcement, the band appears rudderless. Young fans will no doubt see this as disappointing and dark – for me, this is exactly how things should be.
Still, part of every boyband’s schtick, and what makes them so utterly loveable, is this notion of brotherhood as an unbreakable bond. Young girls want to believe that Harry, Liam and Louis (or Robbie, Jason and Mark) are destined to stay together forever, because all strong friendships we make as young people last forever, don’t they? We’ll never change, grow old, splinter off or forget each other. We’d never let babies or bald ambition split us up. We’re just going to be here, suspended in time, forever young and incessantly loyal... until that terrible moment when life’s great alarm clock clangs and wakes us up.
1D: Crazy things Directioners say
1D: Crazy things Directioners say
1/20 One Direction
'I'm so jealous of everyone that meets One Direction. Then again if I met Harry I would hyperventilate, suffocate and die so...' - @m_a_g_z_i_e
2/20 One Direction
'If I ever received a tweet from anyone in One Direction I'd literally die on the spot and I want my obituary and tombstone to blame them.' - @aurosan
3/20 One Direction
'When I die, I want the One Direction 'Talk Dirty to Me' video displayed at my funeral, on a screen projected over my casket, playing non stop, thank you.' - @zaynlikespayne
4/20 One Direction
'I cannot speak I want to write the word 'love' everywhere and tell everyone I love One Direction more than anything ever.' - @sneezeharrys
5/20 One Direction
'I'm in the 'I'm gonna die alone with 8 cats and my posters of One Direction don't breath near me or I'll punch you' mood.' - @nouisteenagers
6/20 One Direction
'HARRY. YOU ARE NOT A GOD DAMN MAN WHORE. YOU ARE A CUPCAKE. JESUS.' - @daddyslittlelou
7/20 One Direction
When 1D were on the cover of GQ magazine: 'The GQ pictures make me want to stab myself in the uterus!' - @ziallsafari
8/20 One Direction
'I hope that I die before any of the boys in One Direction does cause I will not be able to even move if they go before I do.' - @pokeniall
9/20 One Direction
Another GQ response read: 'Holy. C**p. The boys on the cover of GQ magazine. Someone shoot me. Push me off a cliff. Stab me!' - @wafaastalks
10/20 One Direction
'Person: Why do you love One Direction? Me: Why do you breathe? Person: If I didn't I'd die. Me: Exactly.' - @idrugsharry
11/20 One Direction
'Don't hate on Louis you f**king a******s or I will shove bleach into your a******s and pull out your eyes with a spork.' - @fxkinlouis
12/20 One Direction
'When are you in public and a One Direction song comes on and your kidneys rupture and then you die.' - @harryhasbooty
13/20 One Direction
'If One Direction were falling off a cliff and I could only save one then I'd shoot myself so we could all die and meet in heaven' - @austinrahone
14/20 One Direction
''One Direction is goin' to be the next to break up'. If you don't shut up I will break your neck and pray for you to die.' - @bubblegumniall
15/20 One Direction
'My friend doesn't like One Direction and I told her that if she said something rude on Twitter she would die.' - @flashing1D
16/20 One Direction
'Do you ever feel like you want to scream and cry and laugh and smile and die because of One Direction. Because same.' - @chenloves1d
17/20 One Direction
'When Niall cuddles someone or something and his cheeks do the thing I die.' - @daintyiero
18/20 One Direction
'My parents always say 'They're gonna die down' and 'You'll grow out of them'. No f**k you I'm getting One Direction tattooed across my face.' - @calumshoran
19/20 One Direction
'Dear One Direction, you stole my heart but that's okay. I like my boys like I like my tea - hot and British with some Irish creme.' - @torii_rakusx
20/20 One Direction
'Imagine Niall barging into the church and saying 'I OBJECT' to your marriage because he loves you.' - @niamhabitat
I want to giggle at crying Directioners, but I empathise with some of their youthful woe. I remember saying goodbye to Duran Duran and Wham! through a veil of tears. There will be no more tour meet-ups and a winding down of the endless band tittle-tattle on Twitter. The posters on their bedroom walls will become ragged and grow vintage in look. And there will be a growing acceptance that this period in their life is on the retreat, thoroughly dwindling in relevance.
Yet there is so much about the boyband stage in a girl’s life that’s important. All these lovely boys in rows, singing almost exclusively about love. Love, at least, as one knows it aged 11, when it is nothing more complex than a funny, sick feeling in one’s stomach followed by a lot of hanging around in shopping centres.
My heart would do star-jumps over Simon Le Bon singing “Save A Prayer”, with its almost incomprehensible lyrics about powerful, unquenchable passion between lovers who can never quite be together. Boybands commodify and represent so many sweet, gentle tween notions. They give these kids a hook to hang their dreams on. No wonder it’s tough when it all goes tits up.
Directioners must have been thoroughly confused when Zayn further underlined his post-boyband “change of life” this month by dumping his blonde-haired pop-princess fiancee, Perrie Edwards from Little Mix. Fans had followed this delightful pop soap-opera from its offing. Handsome boy meets delightful, largely silent girl. Pop songs are written and sung about their mutual adoration. Aged 12, I certainly thought that engagement rings and house purchases signified romantic solidity. What a hard lesson it is to learn that, so often, all is not as it seems. Obviously now I know that any declaration of love even after the age of 40 should be mutually reassessed daily and on a piecemeal basis.
Yes, Simon Cowell will currently be plotting another boyband to take their place. But the One Direction fan – now growing older themselves – may well look at this new set of fresh-faced boys and, gasp, consider the whole thing all a bit babyish. By the time Bros came along, the answer to so many of my contemporaries’ wants and needs, I sniggered wildly at the silly girls putting Grolsch bottle-tops on their shoes. I wanted to be in the pub, drinking the beer itself.
The one solace Directioners can take is that in this day and age, it’s unlikely the band will be able to stop themselves returning. It’s just too lucrative. If Zayn does not return to the stage with the rest of One Direction on a We’re Back tour by the year 2030, I will eat my own knickers.
At the O2 Arena last year I screamed along with umpteen thousand Boyzone fans. Yes, everyone onstage was a tiny bit saggier and most of the audience would be up the next day for the school run. But there was, at least, a sense that everyone had benefited from the “hiatus”.Reuse content