In Defense of One Direction, Or Why Your Favorite Music Is Terrible

Is there anything old people like more than hating on young people’s taste in music? I mean it’s like the Olympics for us:

Magazines and television and advertisements tell teenage girls that they should like certain things, and then other magazines tell girls that they’re stupid for liking those things. Then magazines publish articles and TV shows run specials wondering why teenage girls don’t have better self esteem, like they didn’t make it that way.

There’s nothing wrong with teenage girls being enthusiastic about boy bands or (heaven forbid) having sexual feelings about the boys in boy bands. There is something wrong with the way that other people react to teenage girls and their interests.

The GQ dickhead the author is responding to makes one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever read, and I read Republicans for a living:

“These women don’t care about the Rolling Stones. They don’t care about the meta-modernist cycle of cultural repetition. They don’t care about history. All these female fans care about is their immediate vociferous reverence.”

First, no normal teenager at all cares about the meta-modernist cycle of cultural repetition, so blow it out your asshole.

Second, for fuck’s sake, why does everybody have to start with the goddamn Stones? Must all interest in music begin with the 1960s Western Male Canon, and go from there? For all the hipster-hating that goes on among Baby Boomers this is just the same in reverse: Love my Important Music or you’re just not cool. I doubt everybody worships at the altar of the first band they ever heard. Maybe you start with the boy bands and listen to other stuff later, fer chrissakes.

Maybe you’re 13 and you care exactly as much about the Stones as 13-year-olds in 1964 cared about Glenn Miller.

I’m biased because my era’s most popular music didn’t exactly set the world on fire, unless you think Blind Melon was some kind of apotheosis of lyricism, so whatever the hipsters and the latest boy bands come out with is at least an improvement on that shit. (And don’t throw Nirvana in my face. Nirvana fans my age have made Nirvana so insufferable that it’s impossible to come to any appreciation of it that isn’t tainted by some socially impaired dickbro repeating Cobain’s lyrics a million times because if you don’t love them, you just weren’t listening correctly.)

I don’t understand what we get out of loathing what Kids Today like, I really don’t. I’m not One Direction’s target demographic, but if it comes up on Pandora while I’m running, I’m not throwing a fit about it. It’s mostly positive, peppy, silly stuff and who the hell cares? I don’t understand the rage people fly into about its popularity. Other than not-so-subtly broadcasting that we are Old As Fuck, what are we saying when we go around talking about how awful and trivial everything today is?

We’re saying look how much better WE are, for having 20 years on everybody, is what we’re saying. And, um, yeah, of course. My 18-year-old self HAD NEVER BEEN TO A ROCK SHOW. I knew Neil Young as the guy whose whiny, nasally tape got stuck in the truck’s tape deck during a 6-hour car ride and my dad wouldn’t shut the fucking thing off so for SIX HOURS it was Neil wheezing about the free world over and over and over. I’d never heard “Ohio.” I had never heard of Leonard Cohen. I knew who Bob Dylan was but fuck if I’d ever listened to him once. And forget female artists; Janis Joplin sounded like somebody having a seizure to me at that age.

But what exactly was my 18-year-old self’s obligation to that music? And why do we all need our opinions, musical and otherwise, validated by every successive generation? Quoth Pete Townshend, a fellow who knows something about sound, on outraged fans bitching about One Direction ripping off Baba O’Riley:

Pete Townshend has responded to One Direction fans furious over an Internet rumor that the Who were pursuing legal action over the boy band’s “Best Song Ever,” which bears more than a passing resemblance to “Baba O’Riley.” Not true, Townshend said yesterday in a statement.

“No! I like the single. I like One Direction,” Townshend said. “The chords I used and the chords they used are the same three chords we’ve all been using in basic pop music since Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry made it clear that fancy chords don’t mean great music – not always. I’m still writing songs that sound like ‘Baba O’Riley’ – or I’m trying to!”

In fact, Townshend appears to be flattered that has band continues to shape the contemporary pop scene: “I’m happy to think they may have been influenced a little bit by the Who,” he said. “I’m just relieved they’re not all wearing boiler suits and Doc Martens, or Union Jack jackets.”

Right? Be relieved we’re not all repeating the same shit over and over in exact form, or there would be no joy in going back and discovering things we missed growing up, in no small part because they sound so different from what we have now.


13 thoughts on “In Defense of One Direction, Or Why Your Favorite Music Is Terrible

  1. I hate people who moralize about other people’s musical taste. There’s a simple solution: don’t listen to stuff you dislike and play whatever floats your boat. After all, the Beatles were the original boy band.

  2. But – ‘band’ being the operative word – MY problem is in the past 20 years ‘bands’ are now just made up of little fluffy bunny (girls OR boys or wherever in between) singers who don’ They are just a gaggle of singers and dancers who have an unknown/ever-replaceable actual band behind them that no one ever really knows.
    The WHO PLAYED… The Beatles PLAYED… Duran Duran PLAYED.
    Now get the f*ck off my lawn (well, if I had one…)

  3. Pete’s always been one of the more enlightened thinkers in rock. When punk exploded in the UK, the Who were the only big group that punks didn’t dismiss as dinosaurs. And Towshend has always either defended the music of the moment or said “it’s us old folks’ job to get out of the way.” A mensch indeed.
    And as for whoever that Esquire dumbass is: the Stones are overrated (though Exile on Main Street is not, and if their whole output was that good they’d be worthy of the hype). And yes, Iam familiar with the canon. I knew all 4 Velvet Underground albums back and forth by the time I finished high school, I can name all of Van Morrison’s albums in order (and could probably rattle off the track listing for half of them from the top of my head), I’m fluent in Zappa, etc etc…and the song I’m listening to most these days is Dance Apocalyptic by Janelle Monae. A great pop song is a fucking treasure.

  4. Also: Nevermind is a classic, In Utero was a sophomore slump, and the live album was a good, solid release. The legend of Cobain has somewhat outpaced his band’s recorded output. (Nevermind really is a classic though.)

  5. 17 and 18 during the British Invasion and while I was more of a Who/Kinks fan, I liked Glenn Miller, too

  6. And in the 60s, how many teens cared about Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller?
    And of course, there were absolutely no bands between Dorsey and the Stones.

  7. If I may quote (and update) Horace, De gustibus non est disputandum, MOTHERFUCKERS.
    Christ almighty, I wish the Boomers would just get the living fuck over themselves.

  8. Ha…when I worked in a theatre in college I used to holler “the 60’s are OVER” at one of the other student stagehands when he put the Dead on for working music. This was in 1979.

  9. You know, the radio today, all that’s on it is this Rush Limbaugh cretin and that Glenn Beck idiot.
    Whatever happened to MUSIC?
    (I miss Marty Robbins.)

  10. My sons aged 21 and 14 have independently come to the conclusion that the 1960s had the best music, which amuses me. They do like some rap I don’t at all care for, but by far the top songs in their canons come from the Beatles, Pink Floyd (early stuff I had never heard) and Hendrix.
    They don’t, however, share my fondness for New Wave, a period that just seems endlessly fun to me. That’s OK. No one else seems to like it either. That’s what headphones are for, I guess.
    I miss Marty Robbins too. And Johnny Cash.

  11. Hey, I danced to Glenn Miller at my wedding. I was making a time disparagement, not a musical one.

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