One of the best-selling boy bands of all time turns ten years old this month.
This month marks the ten-year anniversary of the formation of One Direction.
The original members of the English-Irish ensemble—Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson—each auditioned separately on the British singing competition show, The X Factor, and were assembled as a group by the request of judge Simon Cowell. By the time One Direction announced an indefinite hiatus in 2016, they had become one of the best-selling boy bands of all time. Although they were formed on television, One Direction were rapidly propelled to global stardom thanks to the Internet—a frenzy that's been likened to Beatlemania on numerous occasions—and breathed new life into the boy band movement as a result.
One Direction didn't move as many records as the Backstreet Boys or NSYNC in their heyday, but they were in a unique position as one of the first major boy bands to emerge after the blog era of the Internet. One Direction's fervent fan base are largely credited for popularizing "fan accounts" on social media sites like Tumblr and Twitter, and the band's presence on YouTube helped foster a deeper connection with fans that prior groups didn't have the bandwidth to access.
Despite occasional dismissals from critics and general boy band-haters, it's undeniable that One Direction were one of the most influential pop acts of the 2010s—and they have some genuinely good bops. To celebrate the occasion, One Direction are launching a 10 Year Anniversary website on July 23 filled with exclusive content, and we're paying homage to them with a roundup of their most underrated songs across their five albums.
“Up All Night”
One Direction's 2012 debut, Up All Night, wasn't their strongest effort, but its title track somehow managed to transform a sloppy house party setting into bubblegum pop bliss. Complete with chipper synths, gang vocals, and a nod to Katy Perry, "Up All Night" is a certified fist-pumping earworm (although it's pretty jarring how the lyric about "people going all the way" blew over all of our heads).
First heartbreaks always hurt the most, and One Direction offered plenty of possible additions to breakup mixes of teen girls worldwide. "Heart Attack" depicts the grief after hearing the doomed words: "Let's just be friends." Horan's exclamations of "ow!" throughout the track give it an especially catchy punch.
“She’s Not Afraid”
It's a tale as old as time: The girl who seemingly fears nothing except commitment. In the subtly raunchy "She's Not Afraid," Malik sings of a girl who loves scary movies and wild nights out. It's a bit of a tired trope, but with melodies as catchy as these, it's hard not to join in on the fun.
One Direction's third album, Midnight Memories, saw the boys expand their sonic palette and adopt a wider array of influences, allowing the band's members to tackle some songwriting duties. "Happily," a carefree love song co-written by Styles, bears a clear resemblance to major folk bands like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, though its stadium-sized chorus gives the track a fuller feel.
"Little White Lies"
If "Happily" was One Direction's folk moment, then "Little White Lies" was their dubstep trial. EDM was steadily trickling into the pop sphere around this time (remember that drop in Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble?"), and One Direction tipped their hats to the genre with "Little White Lies." Its hair-raising chorus features a revving bass that adds a sense of euphoria to the drunk-in-love lyrics.
“Little Black Dress”
Anyone familiar with "Little Black Dress" shouldn't have been surprised by Styles' pivot to rock 'n' roll in his solo career. Reminiscent of the Rolling Stones, it's also become a staple in live performances by Tomlinson, who has called it one of his favorite One Direction songs. It was also co-written and co-produced by Teddy Geiger, now a frequent collaborator of Shawn Mendes.
"Fireproof" was never an official single and never reached the level of virality as other One Direction hits, but it's remained a favorite of both fans and the band members themselves. The soft-rock tune's writers include Payne and Tomlinson, who have both expressed how much the song means to them.
Over chugging, staccato synths, "Stockholm Syndrome" is one of the most promiscuous songs in One Direction's discography. Styles, the song's primary writer, has said that the song is about his relationship with a nymphomaniac. But with lines like, "I'll never leave if you keep holding me this way," he doesn't seem to have been too bothered by his partner's habits.
“Change Your Ticket”
One Direction are noted fans of their fellow Brits in the 1975, and it's no shock that "Change Your Ticket" was inspired by Matty Healy and company—the song nearly parallels the 1975's "Girls." In a feature for Spin, Healy dished about how One Direction invited him in to record, but wound up uncredited when "Change Your Ticket" was released as a bonus track to FOUR. "It would have been a bad 1975 song," Healy said, though he maintains that One Direction are "nice guys." Drama aside, it's still a damn catchy One Direction song.
One Direction's last album, Made in the A.M., certainly wasn't the same after Malik's departure, but the band didn't lose their trademark catchy melodies. One of the album's highlights is "Wolves," a whimsical, piano-driven song about protecting your partner. "It makes me think about being in the club, and loads of these guys are trying to get on with your girl, and you're just like, 'no!'" Payne explained in an interview. Sweet? Overbearing? Either way, "Wolves" might be one of One Direction's most underrated choruses.