One Direction Infection: A Chronic Illness?

By Raven Cullo This summer marked ten years since One Direction’s breakout, and quarantine gave fans the opportunity to re-enter the fandom.

Raven Cullo celebrated One Direction's 10 year anniversary party in July 23, 2020 (The Wheaton Record/Raven Cullo)

Quarantine, for some, was a season of self-discovery and introspection. Virtual therapy appointments were made. Creativity was granted space to soar. Memories, once neglected, were revisited. With abounding downtime came the freedom to explore old scrapbooks, overflowing closets, and dusty bookshelves. Nostalgia became the new black.

Iconic authors of our youth like Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins published new books that journeyed back into the stories that defined middle school. Netflix so brilliantly included “Avatar: The Last Airbender” in their library of streamable content. And a high-quality filming of “Hamilton” premiered on Disney+. Obsessions from our adolescence moved to the center of our lives all over again.

In this season, some of us even discovered that our collegiate selves are not so different from our grade school selves. Perhaps we never outgrew certain phases. Perhaps the music we listened to in middle school is still just as danceable. Perhaps we still have an infatuation with all things British. 

Or maybe I am just speaking about myself. Livening up my time in quarantine, July 23, 2020 marked the 10 year formation anniversary of Generation Z’s most iconic boy band, One Direction. While the boys — Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson — had promised a mere hiatus from their group endeavors in December of 2015, enough time has passed to assume they were simply letting their fans down easily. Unfortunately, no grand reunion tour was announced, nor was there any new music, but it was nice to see the official One Direction Instagram account posting content again after years of inactivity. Regardless, die-hard fans still spent the day in celebration, reminiscing over the joy created by “the boys on the stairs.” 

I wasn’t the only one reminiscing, either. Junior English major and perpetual Directioner Kenzie Buchan told me how the anniversary had revived her affection for the band:

“On July 23, I woke up to waves upon waves of nostalgia. When I say I’m nostalgic for One Direction, I don’t just mean I miss them being together in one band, I miss everything that came with that. Staying up until midnight for new albums and songs, watching “One Direction Funniest Moments” videos with my friends at sleepovers and bonding with strangers at concerts over Harry Styles’s one liners. So while I say I miss One Direction, I mostly miss everything that came with them being a band. But also, I turn 21 in December and am currently housing a Harry Styles cardboard cutout in my Terrace apartment, so do with that what you will.” 

Through platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter, One Direction has begun to capture the attention of a new generation of fans, who know of the boys through their solo projects and are only now discovering their group work and experiencing the joys that many of us did in middle school or high school. 

Even some One Direction agnostics have been forced to concede the band’s cultural cachet. Take freshman Helen Huiskes, for example: When One Direction was active from 2010 to 2015, she didn’t consider herself a fan. However, she’s observed their influence increase in current pop culture and media:

“I’ve noticed their collective work has become a kind of nostalgic throwback for people…as those people who loved them in their preteen or teen years are facing chaotic adulthood and world situations, they sort of seem to regress and become re-immersed in their One Direction phase because it’s something that reminds them of a simpler and happier time. Ever since their 10-year anniversary passed, people have been talking about the band more and remembering the ways they used to be fans when they were younger”

According to studies performed by Nielsen Music/MSC Data, the historic anniversary generated a 174% increase in U.S. streams of the group’s music. Framed alternatively, the band’s catalog incurred 21 million streams on July 23 as opposed to the 7.7 million received the previous day. As heartwarming proof of the nostalgia experienced, the most listened to One Direction song on July 23 was “What Makes You Beautiful”— the band’s debut single. Back in 2010, it made history as Sony Music Entertainment’s most pre-ordered single of all time. 

Quarantine was full of challenges, but it had its unexpected charms, too. Whenever I think back on this season, I, for one, will indulge in amaZAYN, brilLIAM, extraordinHARRY, fabuLOUIS, and phenomeNIALL memories. 

P.S. If you’re ever in need of a One Direction dance party, cry-session or sing-a-long, you know who to call.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wheaton Record or Wheaton College.

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