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Frequently Asked Questions: One Direction

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(Courtesy Columbia Records)

(Courtesy Columbia Records)

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By Courtney E. Smith

Frequently Asked Questions is exactly what it sounds like, where we have experts guide you through the unknown about people and topics in music and pop culture. One Direction‘s new album ‘Midnight Memories’ is out today (Nov. 26), and if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about or have been living under a rock that’s been sealed in a chamber and haven’t seen the light of day in three years, this is an FAQ about the world’s most popular boy band.

Who are One Direction?

One Direction are a multi-platinum-selling boy band that, like many other leading boy bands, was hatched and had initial success in Europe. All five members — Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Niall Horan — auditioned for The X Factor UK in 2010 as solo artists. They were put together as a group by the show’s producers, eventually placing third on their season. They subsequently signed to Simon Cowell’s label, Syco Records, and became a worldwide phenomenon. Upon its release in February 2012, One D’s “What Makes You Beautiful” became the highest debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for a British act since 1998.

How are One Direction different from any other boy band?

The world of boy bands has taken a 180 since the ’80s and ’90s versions of the phenomenon. Whereas ‘NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block and the forefather of those groups — New Edition — were of the harmonize-and-do-choreographed-dance-moves school, One Direction do not dance (they actually have insisted in several interviews that they are incapable) and do play instruments in addition to harmonizing.

Really, this comes down to a split in influences. Where ’80s and ’90s boy bands took their cues from Motown singing groups (think of the Temptations or the Mircales, with their choreographed on-stage moves and hits written by in-house songwriters), One Direction and other current boy bands are more of The Beatles style (play an instrument, don’t dance, write their own music).

So which one’s the JT of the group?

Clearly you didn’t read what we just wrote about 1D being more like The Beatles than ‘NSYNC, but we’ll forgive it. Harry.

What’s with the on-stage crotch and butt grabbing?

One Direction caught in an infamous crotch grab while on stage in Auckland, NZ in 2012. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

One Direction caught in an infamous crotch grab while on stage in Auckland, NZ in 2012. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Yeah so that’s a thing the boys have been seen doing while performing, as captured in numerous photos and videos. When asked about it, Malik said, “We do it when we’re taking photos. We make each other laugh, grabbing each other’s bums.” It stopped after several million journalists noticed and started ask them what’s up with that. They currently do not answer questions regarding crotch grabbing, nor do they indulge in any Bieber-style (well, technically MJ) crotch grabbing. Some people chalk it up to boys being boys but some people…

Who’s this guy Larry? He’s not even in the band!

…some people may take it too far. Larry is the mash-up couple name that One Direction shippers use for the fanfic in which they make Louis and Harry a couple. And those people call themselves Larry Shippers. Larry isn’t the only 1D relationship mash-up the fans have dreamt up, he’s simply the most popular.

Why do people dislike (and sometimes fear) One Direction fans?

Well there’s that whole Larry Shipper/shippers in general think, which is a bit off-putting to some. There’s also the new layer of boy band fandom that’s come about in the last decade, thanks to social media. 1D fans are known to be a bit extreme, firing off death threats and other vitriol via Twitter en masse to parties including: girlfriends of the band, journalists who write anything except the most glowing of reviews, each other, fans of rival boy bands and, on occasion, members of the band themselves (as a last resort to get a follow back). In August of 2013, a group of 1D fans perpetuated a rumor that some Directioners had killed themselves in response to a negative documentary about the band that aired in the UK.

Those extremes aside, female fans of boy bands have always, through out history, been regarded with distain. Society is simply uncomfortable with young women getting in touch with their sexuality, which is arguably what boy band fandom is about.

Related: Frequently Asked Questions: Miley Cyrus

What’s the big deal about some of the guys having girlfriends?

Again, it’s a paradigm shift. The most recent iterations of wildly popular boy bands, from the ’80s and ’90s, were told to keep their girlfriends under wraps. Even in the case of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, two of the most famous people in the world, their involvement was kept top secret for as long as possible in order to keep a romantic fantasy alive for fans. That One Direction and their management haven’t subscribed to this idea is a huge shift in the world of marketing boy bands.

Wait, but didn’t Harry Styles date Taylor Swift? Is he some sort of professional ladies man?

The whole thing started when word got out that Harry, then 17, was dating The X Factor UK presenter Caroline Flack, roughly the same age as his mother. Hard not to come out of something like that looking like a ladykiller. He went on to a high-profile, on-again-off-again romance with Taylor Swift, who allegedly wrote “I Knew You Were Trouble” about him. He’s been linked to several other women, but confirmed nothing. In fact, he told GQ UK that he’s only had sex with two women.

Why do teenage girls go apes*** for these particular guys? They aren’t that cute.

We actually asked some actual teenage girls and they told us. Behold, below.

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