The first time I heard “Best Song Ever,” it was on the radio. My dad turned the volume louder because, of course, he thought it was that one song by The Who. (Side note – I know it was “Baba O’Riley,” I was born in 1994 and I don’t live under a rock.) So imagine my father’s surprise when Harry Styles’ energetic and notably mature – since, say, “What Makes You Beautiful” – vocals cut into that iconic intro.
Immediately my dad switched the radio station, but I insisted on turning it back. I had never been a fan of One Direction – I didn’t know any songs besides “Kiss You” and “WMYB,” and that the blonde member was the only one who was Irish – but I had heard that this track was titled “Best Song Ever” and I wanted to see if it lived up to its promise.
Well, it’s been four months since “BSE” dropped, and these five foreigners who I have no chance of meeting or knowing personally have broken into my heart. Yes, I learned all their names – frontman Harry Styles, goofy Louis Tomlinson, kindhearted Liam Payne, sweet Niall Horan, and mysterious Zayn Malik (dibs). Yes, I bought their new album. And, yes, while there are some shaky cuts I could do without, I like their music. While I’m still working through the stages of denial, I can say that I have converted into a fan of One Direction.
The conversion began with “Best Song Ever.”
Aside from that introduction (Pete Townshend liked it, so it’s fine), “BSE” seems like a cut-and-dry boy band song. There’s shouting-style harmonizing, alternating lead vocals and lots of trills by that one member who can hit high notes really well, my boy Zayn. On the surface, these five appear to fit into the mold set by groups who came before, but if nothing else, “BSE” proves one thing – One Direction is no run-of-the-mill boy band.
Boyz II Men leaned towards R&B, N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys favored pop and dance. Eighties-style rock was never in the equation for a boy band before 1D, and the boys took the opportunity and ran with it.
The band’s timing could not have come any later. Before “Best Song Ever,” the group’s biggest US hit was still “What Makes You Beautiful,” a mastery of bubblegum-like crooning about girls being pretty and self-conscious that basically took over the world. No other single had become as successful, and after two albums the boys were still locked into the pop realm. “BSE” had a lot riding on it because it was the band’s first transition into a new sound, one that may be too mature, not for these 19 to 21-year-old boys, but their young fanbase.
“BSE” delivered, and in a big way. The song is still pop – the synthesizers and addictive beats are still present – but the vocals and attitudes have changed. You can hear it in the rasp of Styles’ voice, the word choice of a few of the lyrics (“Can I take you home with me?” asks Horan, whose voice still sounds so youthful his line is almost ironic), and the chorus, which is shouted with charisma rather than crooned.
“Best Song Ever” (and the hilarious video, which I have shamelessly watched at least a dozen times) demonstrates the dramatic turn One Direction has taken from breaking the pop boy band mold – a mold broken in a catchy, fun way. So congratulations to this band and their current takeover of the world – you have gained yet another fan, and surely many more to come.
Image from of onedirectionmusic.com