I'm a 24-year-old One Direction fan. One day, years ago, a friend suggested I listen to the band while I was studying for finals in college. I had never heard of those five boys from the British X-Factor, but I gave their music a chance, one thing led to another, and now "Up All Night" is at the top of my running playlist and nothing pumps me up more during a long drive than "Best Song Ever." Like all good Directioners, I watched the new video for "Steal My Girl" as soon as it was released.
At first I was confused. It seemed terrible. I had an urge that has never occurred with anything remotely related to One Direction -- I wanted to stop watching. Why was Danny DeVito there? Why was Harry dressed like Mick Jagger (seriously, will someone get that boy a haircut)? Why did Louis spend the entire video talking to a chimp? While "Steal My Girl" is a great song, the video made me yearn for the days when a One Direction video was just the boys looking posh and adorable while running through London.
But on repeated viewings -- because no true fan watches a video just once -- I realized that this video is quintessential One Direction. This band has built its massive fan base and riches on the idea that they are just five goofy lads from small towns in England. That's really what they were when they started, just ordinary teenagers on a singing show, and they have perfected that idea over the past four years. This isn't a band made up of choreographed dance moves, matching leopard and leather outfits and smoldering glares. Mystery and ridiculously calculated image may have worked during the years of Backstreet Boys reign as biggest boy band ever. But this is an age where I can find out anything I want about Niall on the front page of Buzzfeed. Mystery doesn't exist in 2014, and anything that seems fake or planned out will get the Perez Hilton treatment and immediately go down in flames. Fans want a band they can relate to, and that's just what One Direction is and what they prove with this video.
This is the kind of band who's most produced video featuredthe boys in drag and dressed as old record executives
. They have the kind of stadium show where Liam will find himself suddenly entertaining the audience while the other boys sneak off stage to pee. Harry is the kind of boy band member to spend an awards showeating an orange
instead of engaging in the absurd spectacle. When it came time to plan an elaborate music video, I can actually picture the five of them cracking up while suggestions like "Danny DeVito as director" and "Liam leading a marching band" bounced around the room. There is nothing serious about One Direction, and that lack of gravitas allows people like me to listen to their albums shamelessly and allows them to goof off in the desert without critics having to wonder what every frame of this video means and how it fits into the One Direction cannon. It doesn't mean anything, and neither does most things One Direction does.
Sit back, stare at Niall's infectious smile, ignore the obvious Journey rip-off, and enjoy "Steal My Girl." That's all One Direction wants from you, is to enjoy it all.
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS •