by Dianna Vento
Boy bands and I have had an interesting relationship over the years.
When I was seven, I wrote a letter to Lance Bass telling him that I wanted to marry him one day. A few weeks later I received something in the mail. Lance had written me back saying he couldn’t wait for our wedding.
When I was fourteen I began my love affair with the Jonas Brothers and, at the pinnacle of my infatuation, I ended a date with a real life boy early so I could get home in time to watch Camp Rock premiere on the Disney Channel.
Recently, at the age of 19, I hit a new low in my relationship with boy bands. After doing a bit of research for the purpose of this article (ie: watching more boy band interviews than is probably deemed socially acceptable for anyone over the age of 14,) I came to a startling realization: that I had developed a bit of a crush on one of the members of One Direction. After admitting this to my roommate, I proceeded to blather on about him for five minutes, throwing around the word “dreamy” more times than I am proud of and acting like I was seven years old again, about to scrawl Mrs. Lance Bass a thousand times across the pages of my Lisa Frank Trapper keeper.
To my admission my roommate replied, “You know, I think my sister has a crush on that Nigel one.” My roommate’s sister is eleven. And let me tell you: there are few things more embarrassing than realizing you have the same interests as someone who can’t yet see a PG-13 movie on their own and my split-second decision to whine “His name’s Niall!” in response to my roommate was definitely probably one of them.
But, alas, it appears I should not be ashamed of my rekindled boy band love because I am not alone. At least according to the New York Times, boy bands are back!
Not only are they back, they’re back in full force, it seems, with a new group of guys constantly ready to swoop in and try to harmonize their way into the hearts of people all over the world. At the forefront of this music movement are British/Irish phenoms The Wanted and One Direction. Both artists have recently released the lead singles off their highly anticipated new albums: two songs that though sharing a similar theme present takes on the subject as startlingly different as the bands themselves. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, or you’ve mastered the art of blacklisting on tumblr, there are a few things you should probably know about the two bands before we get started.
One Direction came to be formed as a group two years ago on the UK edition of The X-Factor after its five members were unsuccessful in their attempts as solo artists. Despite eventually finishing in third place, the boys still landed themselves a deal with Simon Cowell’s record company Syco at the end of the competition. The boys aged 18-20 align themselves with the stereotypical boy band archetypes as follows: there’s Louis Tomlinson – the funny one, Zayn Malik – the quiet, mysterious one, Liam Payne – the sensible band-dad, Niall Horan – the cute and cuddly one, and Harry Styles – the charming, young flirt. The boys are known in the public eye for their stunningly close friendship as well as their total physical inability to go more than five seconds without touching one another.
The Wanted came together as band in 2009 via a mass audition held by Jayne Collins – the woman responsible for creating the uber successful girl group, The Saturdays. The 9-month process initially procured Max George (age 24), Nathan Sykes (age 19), and Tom Parker (age 24) as the band’s first members out of the 1000 hopefuls to make the cut. Siva Kaneswaran (age 23) and Jay McGuinness (age 22) were added on at a slightly later date. Following the re-audition of seven additional possible singers, the final five selected men were signed to Maximum Artist Management and Geffen Records. The band, who took off in the US after having their song covered on Glee, are known best for their self-admitted hard-partying, lady-killing ways and their complete refusal to sidestep the more risqué questions asked of them during interviews.
Aside from their occupational titles and mixed British/Irish roots, the two groups of boys don’t actually have all that much in common. Oh – except for the fact that they both absolutely hate each other.
The feud between the guy groups started off simply enough. The Wanted, who at the time were enjoying the perks of having a number 5 charted single in the US and a song covered on Glee, were asked during an interview whether or not they thought One Direction could achieve similar success stateside. This prompted band member Max George to say: “I’m not sure how well they’re doing yet. They’re more faces, if you know what I mean….We have a lot of radio play….we’re more of a music band.”
Following heavy fan backlash, the members of The Wanted took to twitter to claim they were misquoted, (probably for the best as contrary to their statement One Direction’s album Up All Night actually went on to debut at number 1 on the American Billboard Hot 100 – a feat never before accomplished by a British act) but by then the seeds of animosity between the groups had already been planted.
The fiery feud, mostly fueled by nasty put-downs from The Wanted and fanned by One Direction’s increasingly sarcastic retorts, eventually escalated to the point that it was rumored that both bands had been told by their managements to lay off discussion about the other in interviews. A rule that, for 1D member Louis, did not extend to getting papped laughing his way through a copy of The Wanted’s book that he found on sale for only a pound (approximately $1.60.)
Flash forward, now, to the VMAs back in September, where a reporter who is either kicking or praising himself right now, mistook the much older men of The Wanted as One Direction. The Wanted used this snafu to their advantage, and under the guise of pretending to be 1D, told the reporter that the Wanted’s new single I Found You was going to be far superior to their [One Direction’s] own single Live While We’re Young. A statement, that Louis Tomlinson, whole-heartedly disagrees with.
As of recently, both bands have officially released the highly anticipated music videos for their new singles, and the public can officially decide whose is superior.
Now, I’m not going to lie – I struggled greatly while writing this article. The more I researched and educated myself on these two bands, the more I found myself growing fond of the goofy One Direction boys while cultivating an ever-growing animosity toward the men of The Wanted. It wasn’t because of the group’s lack of musical prowess – because my record shows that I am powerless to any sort of catchy pop ditty, and it wasn’t because I somehow found myself identified as Team 1D. It was the boys of the band themselves that made my skin crawl.
No, it is definitely more so because I am female and as such I felt uncomfortable listening to interview after interview of the band’s, and being unable to find a single moment where any of the members uttered something about a woman that wasn’t incredibly degrading in some way.
I would just have to power through, though. It would be fine; the men were separate from the music after all. That’s what I told myself – until I actually watched the two videos under trial.
As previously mentioned, One Direction’s Live While We’re Young and The Wanted’s I Found You share more than just a similar release date – they share a narrative as well. It’s the classic tale of boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy wants girl to have sex with him ASAP. Romantic. However, despite having this in common, the way in which both singles handle the treatment of the woman involved is drastically different.
One Direction take the more conventional one night stand route of finding a girl you want to have sex with and, you know, actually asking her if she wants to have sex with you too. It seems like such a simple thing – of course you would ask the girl’s permission before anything happens.
Hey girl, I’m waitin’ on ya, I’m waitin’ on ya/ Come on and let me sneak you out
The lyrics at the very open of LWWY request that agreement and follow it up with contextual reminders (albiet brief) that the girl is very much so allowed to decide to turn him down.
Hey girl, it’s now or never, it’s now or never/ Don’t over-think, just let it go/ And if we get together, yeah, get together/ Don’t let the pictures leave your phone
However, that necessary consent is something that is startlingly absent for the majority of The Wanted’s number.
She wants me to come over/ I can tell her eyes don’t lie/ She’s calling me in the dark
Despite lyric after lyric of the man singing about how much he knows the girl wants him (because apparently consent can be read via one’s eyes) it isn’t until the song’s near end that the girl gives him any sort of okay – and when she does it’s for round two.
The night is getting colder/ And I can’t come off this high/ I don’t want this here to end/ I know she feels the same/ Cause I can see it in her eyes/ She says can we start again
The uber creepy quasi-consent is carried over and intensified in the band’s music video for the single.
The video is prefaced with a parental advisory message though, in my opinion, a large stamp reading TRIGGER WARNING would have been more apt as the screen then cuts away to the face of a clearly-pained woman who is bound and gagged, superimposed next to the band’s name.
We’re properly introduced to her a bit later on when we see her, presumably at an earlier date, conversing with band member Nathan at a party.
We get a few shots of The Wanted walking a dog in slow motion and out of focus.
Then we get to meet this dude who we know is going to be a creep based on his decision to wear a flannel to a black tie event.
The plot of this vignette is finally introduced when we are informed that creepy flannel guy is the one who tied up the woman we met earlier.
But never fear because then we get over half a minute of The Wanted beating random people up! And, since they’re completely taking down men up to twice their size, we can tell they’re the good guys.
Our good guys theory is confirmed when Nathan busts into the room, knocks out creepy one-shirt guy, and spots the woman he had taken captive.
And now that the climax of the vignette comes to an end as the song’s refrain approaches, we can all rest a bit easier knowing that this woman has been rescued and her traumatic experience being kidnapped and possibly assaulted is finally ov – WAIT WHAT?!
That’s right, instead of rescuing the person obviously in need of help, Nathan makes out her instead. You know, the same woman who has been bound and gagged and probably wouldn’t turn away the man she thought was saving her even if he gave her more of a chance to. He does this all before stealing a key from her pocket and leaving her, still tied up, in the room all alone. Oh yeah, and he winks at her as he leaves.
The final shots of the video show the band using the woman’s key to open a box filled with apparently very precious jewels. So, you know, at least all of that sexual assault was worth it in the end.
The Wanted’s creepily sexual video for I Found You bears stark contrast to One Direction’s Live While We’re Young – a video that’s so incredibly wholesome-looking that if you don’t listen carefully to the lyrics you’d never even realize that Zayn Malik pretty much just asked you to not text anyone dickpics after it’s all said and done.
In fact, despite the song blatantly asking a girl to hook-up with them, the video itself shows approximately zero of that interaction, with the boys instead choosing to hang all over each other as opposed to one of the many girls frolicking around them.
LWWY takes us on a journey of the longest, cleanest party ever featured in the music video for a song that’s overall theme is basically ‘We’re DTF, how about you?’ The whole shebang starts with us waking up alongside the boys of 1D, who, according to the (far too) many interviews I watched of theirs, all supposedly sleep naked. So I’m feeling pretty lied to right about now.
We move outside and onto some jam circle shenanigans featuring Zayn’s eyebrow.
We find out why one should ever get into a car with Louis.
Things get kind of crazy when the boys play with some balls.
We’re shown the only dance move One Direction knows.
And then we get to see some antics in the pool that I’m pretty sure was only there to give a reason for two of the boys to take their shirts off.
I’m sorry but by this point if you don’t find One Direction adorable then you’re wrong.
I think the reason why I find the LWWY video so enjoyable is that, after squirming in my seat for 4 minutes with The Wanted, a super fun and silly video in which the most overtly sexual moment is puppy pile between the five band members is a breath of fresh air.
Now, I’m not saying that One Direction’s video is more enjoyable than The Wanted’s solely because of its comparative innocence. Mostly, because as the song’s lyrics and Harry’s impeccable inflatable banana placement will go to show you, One Direction’s image isn’t one that’s exactly virginal. The 1D boys probably won’t be donning purity rings ala the JoBros anytime soon but they also don’t need to. No, the problem with The Wanted that One Direction has managed to avoid is not that they are sexualized in general, but instead the problematic ways with which they frequently choose to sexualize themselves.
There are two very troubling things that must be taken into account when discussing the problematic approaches to sex that members of The Wanted have taken in their careers. The first is the incredibly demeaning way in which they frequently discuss women in their interviews, rarely mentioning a member of the other gender out of context of discussing a possible future sexual conquest. Classy. That coupled with the fact that the boys gave the okay to a music video that shows not only gratuitous violence but features a member of the band actually sexually assaulting a woman, is where my problem with this band starts. There is a line where the sexualization of a group of men can go from good ole fun to a five-on-one threat to the viewer and The Wanted teeter that line dangerously.
In their video One Direction manages find the perfect balance between innocence and sexuality that The Wanted were unable to locate. Unlike their older counterparts, 1D are not so explicitly (and violently) sexualized to the point that they become the kind of guys that inspire my mother to slip “How to Avoid Getting Drugged And/Or Murdered at College Parties” magazine clippings under my door whenever I’m sleeping back at home.
At the same time they aren’t trying to present themselves as fabricated images of a group of boys so pure and innocent that they could be ready to star on their very own Disney Channel show at any moment. They’re not pedaling off five Taylor Swift-esque creatures so naïve that you just want to shake them, yell “DO SOMETHING WRONG ALREADY,” and then feel bad about it for a few hours because you might as well have just kicked a puppy or something. They’re still selling sex, but its safe sex.
Now we’re down to the last point of comparison: the songs themselves; and, vocally, it is no contest over which of the two tunes is better. Both songs feature compelling vocal leads in Zayn Malik and Nathan Sykes – both arguably the strongest singer in their respective groups. However, despite his powerful performance on the song’s refrain, The Wanted’s Sykes is vocally impotent in comparison to 1D’s Malik. His gravelly tone though nice when used sparsely, is over-emphasized on the number and he is unable to produce the smooth runs that Malik makes seem simple at this point. The Wanted’s number also features a chorus that consists solely of harmonizing falsettos that are more grating on the ear than pleasing – a really peculiar misstep by the band who had no problem with the high notes on their debut US single Glad You Came.
So if it wasn’t already clear: in this particular battle of the boy bands it was One Direction who emerged victorious. With the band’s peppy vocals, catchy lyrics, and ability to refrain from completely objectifying women in their music videos it wasn’t even much of a contest. And, judging by the fact that LWWY has already broken records world-wide, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. This wasn’t the first time the pair have been faced off against each other and it definitely won’t be the last. Though if The Wanted continue with their current patterns they can pretty much fork over all bragging rights to 1D right now because, in an ironic turn of events, I pretty sure there is no one I want less right now than I want The Wanted.