One Direction are an English-Irish pop boy band based in London, consisting of members Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson. They signed with Simon Cowell‘s record label Syco Records after being formed and finishing third in the seventh series of British television singing competition The X Factor in 2010. The group subsequently signed in the United States with Columbia Records. Becoming a prominent figure in mainstream popular music and popular culture, their two albums Up All Night (2011) and Take Me Home (2012), broke several records, topped the charts of most major markets, and generated worldwide chart-topping singles, including “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Live While We’re Young“.
Propelled to international success by the power of social media, One Direction are often described as sparking the resurgence in the boy band concept, and of forming part of a new “British Invasion” in the United States. Their achievements include a BRIT Award and 3 MTV Video Music Awards. As of November 2012, the boy band have sold over 15 million records worldwide. According to Nick Gatfield, the chairman and chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment UK, One Direction represented a $50 million business empire by June 2012. They were proclaimed 2012’s ‘Top New Artist’ by Billboard, while The Huffington Post named 2012 “The Year of One Direction”.
The X Factor, formation, and record deal (2010–11)
In 2010, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson auditioned as solo candidates for the seventh series of British television reality singing competition The X Factor. Failing to progress to the “Boys” category at “judges’ houses“, after a suggestion by guest judge Nicole Scherzinger, they were put together to form a five-piece boy band at Wembley Arena, London, England, July 2010, during the “bootcamp” stage of the competition, thus qualifying for the “Groups” category. Subsequently, the group got together for two weeks to get to know each other and to practise. Styles came up with the name One Direction. For their qualifying song at “judges’ houses”, and their first song as a group, One Direction sang an acoustic version of “Torn“. In the live shows within four weeks, they were Simon Cowell‘s last act in the competition. The group quickly gained popularity in the UK. One Direction finished in third place and immediately after the final, their song “Forever Young“, which would have been released if they had won The X Factor, was leaked onto the internet. Shortly afterwards it was confirmed, One Direction had been signed by Cowell to a reported £2 million Syco Records record contract. Recording for their debut album began in January 2011, as they flew to Los Angeles to work with producer RedOne. A One Direction-licensed book, One Direction: Forever Young (Our Official X Factor Story), was published by HarperCollins in February 2011, subsequently topping The Sunday Times Best Seller list. The same month, the boy band and other contestants from the series participated in the X Factor Live Tour. The tour saw the group performing for 500,000 people throughout the UK. After the tour concluded in April 2011, the group continued working on their debut album. Recording took place in Stockholm, London, and Los Angeles, as One Direction worked with producers Carl Falk, Savan Kotecha, Steve Mac, and Rami Yacoub, among others.
Up All Night and international breakthrough (2011–12)
Released in September 2011, One Direction’s debut single “What Makes You Beautiful” bowed at number one on the UK Singles Chart, after becoming the most pre-ordered Sony Music Entertainment single in history. Subsequent singles “Gotta Be You” and “One Thing” both peaked within the UK Singles Chart top ten. In November 2011, they signed a record deal with Columbia Records in North America. Steve Barnett, the co-chairman of Columbia Records, said it was not a difficult decision to sign One Direction. “Other artists in that category had gotten a little older. I just thought there was a void, and maybe they could seize and hold it.” “What Makes You Beautiful” was released in the United States in February 2012, where it debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 28, becoming the highest debut for a British act since 1998. It peaked at number 4 and has sold over 3 million units in the US. Upon arrival in the US in February 2012, One Direction embarked on a radio promotion spree, as well as their first North American concert tour as an opening act for Big Time Rush. They made their first television appearance in the US on The Today Show on 12 March 2012 at the Rockefeller Center, an estimated 15,000 fans descended on the plaza. Critically commended for its appeal to the teenage audience, One Direction’s first studio album, Up All Night, was released globally in early 2012. It became the UK’s fastest-selling debut album of 2011, and topped the charts in sixteen countries. The album bowed atop the US Billboard 200 chart, making One Direction the first British group in US chart history to enter at number one with their debut album. They were inducted into the Guinness World Records as a result. Up All Night also became the first album by a boy band to sell 500,000 digital copies in the US and as of August 2012, had sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
One Direction attended the 2012 Brit Awards at which “What Makes You Beautiful” won the BRIT Award for Best British Single. In April 2012, an American band who went by the same name, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, the US band had been using the name since 2009, recorded two albums and filed an application to register the trademark name in the US in February 2011. The US band said they were entitled to three times the profits made by the UK band, as well as compensatory damages in excess of US$1million. The lawsuit claimed that Syco and Sony Music “chose to ignore the plaintiff’s rights and wilfully infringed them” after they realised in early 2011 that the two bands shared the same name. Syco Records subsequently counter-sued, suggesting the US group was trying to make money from One Direction’s success and that the boy band was the first to use the name in US interstate commerce. The BBC reported in September 2012 that the UK group won the legal dispute over the right to keep using their band name; the US band changed its name to Uncharted Shores. The name change was announced in a joint statement that also noted both groups were happy with the outcome.
In December 2011, One Direction embarked on their first headlining UK concert tour, the Up All Night Tour. In early 2012, they announced Australasian and North American legs of the concert tour, with dates from April to July 2012. The tour, resulting in 62 shows, was met with positivity both critically and commercially. A recording of a concert from the tour, Up All Night: The Live Tour, was released in May 2012. In addition to the DVD topping the charts in twenty-five countries, as of August 2012, its global sales had exceeded 1 million copies. One Direction’s first-licensed American book, Dare to Dream: Life as One Direction, was published in the United States on 22 May 2012, subsequently topping The New York Times Best Seller list. In June 2012, Nick Gatfield, chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Music Entertainment UK, stated how he expects One Direction to represent a $100 million business empire over 2013. “What you might not know about One Direction is that they already represent a $50 million business and that’s a figure we expect to double next year”. In August 2012, the group’s record sales exceeded 8 million singles, 3 million albums, and 1 million DVDs, and they performed “What Makes You Beautiful” at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in London, which represented the handover to Rio de Janeiro as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics. One Direction were the biggest winners of the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards winning their three nominations on 6 September 2012, including Best New Artist.
Take Me Home and world tour (2012–present)
One Direction’s second studio album, Take Me Home, was released in November 2012. The Independent reported in April 2012 that Cowell had challenged music’s “most successful” songwriters to compete for space on One Direction’s second studio album. Dee Demirbag, responsible for international artists and repertoire at music publisher, BMG Rights Management in Scandinavia, said: “Breaking a boy band in the US is about as big as it gets in the music industry, so you can imagine the competition to get cuts on the next One Direction album is immense.” In May 2012, One Direction began recording the album in Stockholm, Sweden. The lead single “Live While We’re Young“, released in September 2012, peaked inside the top ten in almost every country it charted and recorded the highest one-week opening sales figure for a song by a non-US artist in the US. With the album and its second single “Little Things” both debuting simultaneously at number one in the UK, One Direction became the youngest act in British chart history to achieve this feat. In addition, Take Me Home sold 540,000 copies in its first week in the US, debuted atop the Billboard 200—making them the first British group to have both their debut album and its follow-up go straight to the top of the chart, and topped the charts in more than thirty-four other countries. Their debut album Up All Night became the third best-selling album (1,616,000) and Take Me Home the fifth best-selling album (1,340,000) of 2012 in the United States, making the vocal quintet the first act to place two albums in the year-end top five in the Nielsen SoundScan era.
One Direction performed “Little Things” at the 2012 Royal Variety Performance, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II and headlined a sold-out show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on 3 December 2012. One Direction are set to embark on their second concert tour in February 2013, the 2013 World Tour. The concert tour consists of over 100 shows in Europe, North America and Australasia. Ticket sales reached 300,000 within a day of release in the UK and Ireland, which included a six date sell out at London’s The O2 Arena. In Australian and New Zealand markets, tickets grossed US$15.7 million, with all 190,000 tickets being sold for eighteen shows to be held in Australia and New Zealand. Additionally, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced in November 2012 that a 3D biopic film centering the group is in production. The film is to be directed by Morgan Spurlock, produced by Spurlock, Ben Winston, Adam Milano and Cowell, and released by TriStar Pictures on 30 August 2013.
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One Direction’s debut studio album Up All Night (2011) is predominantly a pop music record, containing elements of teen pop, dance pop, pop rock, and power pop, with electropop and rock influences. Digital Spy‘s Robert Copsey described the album as a “collection of pg pop rock with killer choruses”, while The New York Times considered it “full of easy rock-inflected pop, blithe and sometimes clever.” Jason Lipshutz of Billboard acknowledged that the album demonstrates an originality in sound that was “necessary for the revitalization of the boy band movement”. Songs “One Thing” and “What Makes You Beautiful” were particularly noted for the genres of power pop and pop rock, for their “powerhouse” guitar riffs and “forceful” choruses.
Vocally, in a live setting, Erica Futterman for Rolling Stone asserted their acoustic performances as both showcasing, “Horan’s ability to play guitar, as well as One Direction’s admirable live vocals. There was no need to worry about a backing track or a bum note, a pleasant realization at a pop show.” Herald Sun‘s Cameron Adams opined that One Direction have “strong pop voices”. Melody Lau of the National Post wrote, “It’s easy to get lost in inherent appeal of their perfectly coiffed dos and almost-too-put-together preppy style but somewhere in the midst of all the love-struck squeals of teenage girls are guys who can actually sing and, to a certain extent, entertain.” Jane Stevenson of portal site Canoe concurred, “What I didn’t really prepare myself for was that they all can actually sing in concert.” The Washington Post writer Chris Richards dissented of the approval, “As the five traded couplets, it was tough to imagine a future Justin Timberlake, Ricky Martin or Bobby Brown emerging from the pack. No one voice stood out.” Mike Wass of Idolator felt One Direction’s “surprisingly accomplished effort” of Kings of Leon‘s “Use Somebody” proved that One Direction are “more than capable” of evolving their sound.
Neil McCormick from The Daily Telegraph published an article on the nature of One Direction’s success in North America, noting that Americans had left a gap in the market, writing that it took the prominence of Justin Bieber to demonstrate that there was still a market for “clean cut, wholesome, whiter- than-white, middle class parent friendly pop: cute boys advocating puppy love. And what could be better than one cute boy, if not five?” One Direction have been described as sparking the resurgence in the boy band concept, and as forming part of a new “British Invasion” in the United States. Bill Werde, a representative of Billboard magazine commented, “There’s a lot of possibility here, there’s a lot of upside, that level of talent with those kinds of looks, it’s really a perfect storm for a massive, massive successful phenomenon.”
Sonny Takhar, the chief executive officer of Syco Records, attributes the breakthrough to the power of social media. “Sometimes you feel the song’s the star, but it’s not like that here – it’s the act,” he said. “It’s a real moment. Social media has become the new radio, it’s never broken an act globally like this before.” Will Bloomfield, the group’s manager, added, “These guys live online, and so do their fans.” Their management employs a social media team and the members all tweet themselves, “which helps create the illusion that they couldn’t be any closer to their fans.” One Direction’s Twitter account had amassed 5 million followers as of July 2012, with the account gaining followers at an average of 20,000 per day. Each member is known for his feature; Horan is “the cute one”, Malik is “the quiet and mysterious one”, Payne is “the sensible one”, Styles is “the charming one” and Tomlinson is “the funny one”. Horan commented on One Direction as a boy band, “People think that a boy band is air-grabs and [being] dressed in all one colour. We’re boys in a band. We’re trying to do something different from what people would think is the typical kind of boy band. We’re trying to do different kinds of music and we’re just trying to be ourselves, not squeaky clean.” Leah Collins, writing for the National Post, remarked that One Direction had succeeded on the latter front, “For the most part, that just means the group presents themselves as typical, goofy and uncensored teenage boys – posting jokey YouTube videos, for instance, or boozing at awards shows.” Writing for The Observer, Kitty Empire opined, “Dance routines are fundamental to the boy band – or at least, to 90s Take That and late-00s JLS. One Direction fulfil a great many boy band prerequisites (looks, soppy lyrics, tune-grasp, fame-lust) but their lack of routines points to the subtle digressions afoot here.”
Niall James Horan, born 13 September 1993 (age 19), is from Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland. Born to mother Maura Gallagher and father Bobby Horan, he has an older brother named Greg. Their parents divorced when he was five. He and his brother lived between each of their homes for a few years before eventually deciding to live with their father in Mullingar. Horan was a pupil at Coláiste Mhuire, a boys’ Christian Brothers school. He was in the school choir, performing seasonally around Christmas.
Prior to participating in The X Factor, he performed around his homeland, including as a support act for Lloyd Daniels in Dublin. Horan has been playing guitar since his childhood. Horan has also stated that he is a “big swing” fan, citing favourite artists Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Michael Bublé. Horan also cites rock music favourably and is a fan of The Eagles, Bon Jovi and The Script.
Zain Javadd “Zayn” Malik, born 12 January 1993 (age 20), is from Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. Born to British Pakistani father Yaser and an English mother, Tricia Malik (née Brannan), he has one older sister, Doniya, and two younger sisters, Waliyha and Safaa. He grew up in East Bowling, was a pupil at Lower Fields Primary School, and went to Tong High School, a state comprehensive school. Malik did not fit in at his first two schools due to his mixed heritage, and after moving schools at the age of twelve, Malik, states he started taking pride in his appearance.
On auditioning for The X Factor, he stated: “I was looking for an experience”. He cites urban music as his main musical influence, growing up, he was into R&B and rap. He as well as other members of One Direction further notes artists such as Bruno Mars, as a “dream collaborator.” Malik is addicted to smoking cigarettes, and has expressed no desire to quit. Malik once wrote on Twitter, “La ila ha ill lalla ho muhammed door rasoolalah“, known as a common declaration of faith among Muslims meaning: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.”
Liam James Payne, born 29 August 1993 (age 19), is from Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England. Born three weeks early to mother Karen and father Geoff, he has two older sisters, Ruth and Nicola. Until the age of four, Payne had regular tests done in hospital as doctors noticed one of his kidneys was scarred and dysfunctional. To help cope with the pain, he had 32 injections in his arm in the morning and evening as a child. As a student, Payne was heavily involved in sports. Payne was bullied in secondary school and took up boxing lessons at the age of twelve. He was a music technology student at City of Wolverhampton College.
Payne had once performed in front of a 26,000 crowd at a Wolverhampton Wanderers‘ football match. Payne first auditioned in 2008 to The X Factor‘s fifth series when he was fourteen. He made it to the judges’ houses, but Cowell thought he was not ready for the competition and asked him to come back in two years. Payne cites Justin Timberlake as one of his biggest influences. He also said that he draws inspiration from Take That member Gary Barlow when performing.
Harry Edward Styles, born 1 February 1994 (age 18), is from the village of Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, England. He is a former pupil at Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School, a state comprehensive school. Born to mother Anne Cox and father Des Styles, he has an older sister, Gemma. He was seven when their parents divorced, his mother subsequently getting remarried. Following the divorce, Styles, his older sister and mother moved further out into the Cheshire countryside. At the age of twelve he moved back to Holmes Chapel. Prior to participating in The X Factor, the then sixteen-year-old Styles had a part-time job at the W. Mandeville Bakery in Holmes Chapel.
Styles was the lead singer for the band White Eskimo with band members lead guitarist Haydn Morris, bass guitarist Nick Clough and drummer Will Sweeny. They had once entered a Battle of the Bands competition, which they won. As a child, Styles loved singing, noting Elvis Presley as one of his influences. He also cites Presley for his musical beginnings. Styles also cites contemporaries, Foster the People, Coldplay and Kings of Leon among his influences. Styles states that The X Factor gave him “a lot more” confidence as a performer. Styles says that he often looks to Coldplay front man Chris Martin for inspiration when performing on stage. Styles also states that The Beatles had an influence on him growing up, as his father would play their music.
Louis William Tomlinson, born Louis Troy Austin on 24 December 1991 (age 21), is from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England. Born to mother Johannah Poulston and father Troy Austin, his parents split when he was young and he took on his stepfather Mark Tomlinson’s name. He has five younger half-sisters, and two of them had roles as babies on television series Fat Friends, on which he would go along and serve as an extra. After Fat Friends, he attended an acting school in Barnsley. He had small parts in an ITV1 drama film If I Had You and BBC‘s Waterloo Road. He was a sixth form student at Hall Cross School, a state comprehensive school, and a former pupil of the Hayfield School. He revealed that he failed his first year of A levels at the Hayfield School and ended up going back to Hall Cross and started A levels over again. He had a number of jobs, including at a Vue cinema and at Doncaster Rovers football stadium as a waiter in their hospitality suites.
As a student at Hall Cross, Tomlinson starred in several musical productions. Tomlinson revealed that landing the lead role of Danny Zuko in the Hall Cross musical production of Grease motivated him to audition for The X Factor. Tomlinson cites Robbie Williams as his biggest influence and idol. In an interview with Now Magazine, he stated: “I’ve always loved [Robbie]. He’s just so cheeky, he can get away with anything. His performances are unbelievable.” He also admires recording artist Ed Sheeran, describing him as “phenomenal.”
|2010||The X Factor||Contestant||One Direction were formed and finished in third place in the seventh series|
|2011||ITV2 Special, One Direction: A Year in the Making||Themselves||Biography of One Direction since finishing third on The X Factor in 2010|
|2012||Dancing on Ice||Musical guest||“Pop Week” (Series 7, week 5)|
|Saturday Night Live||“Sofia Vergara/One Direction” (Season 37, episode 720)|
|iCarly||Guest stars||“iGo One Direction” (Season 6, episode 96)|
|The X Factor (Australia)||Guest mentors||One Direction were guest mentors during the “home visits” stage of the fourth season|
|2012||Up All Night: The Live Tour||Themselves||The video concert DVD was recorded as a part of One Direction’s Up All Night Tour at the International Centre in Bournemouth|
Awards and nominations
One Direction have been recipients of a BRIT Award—winning their first with “What Makes You Beautiful” for Best British Single at the 2012 BRIT Awards, a NME Award, two Kids’ Choice Awards, and three MTV Video Music Awards, among other awards. One Direction won all three awards, they were nominated for at the 2012 Teen Choice Awards.
- One Direction: Forever Young, HarperCollins (17 February 2011) ISBN 978-0-00-743230-1
- One Direction: The Official Annual 2012, HarperCollins (1 September 2011) ISBN 978-0-00-743625-5
- Dare to Dream: Life as One Direction, HarperCollins (15 September 2011) ISBN 978-0-00-744439-7