‘You’re insecure, don’t know what for.’
Six words which are guaranteed to elicit a strong reaction from any crowd even twelve years after the initial release of One Direction’s debut single, ‘What Makes You Beautiful.’ While it only charted at number 1 for a single week in September 2011, the song has since amassed over 1 billion streams. It may be seen as a classic example of generic 2010s pop music, but there is no questioning its importance in establishing the huge success of the five, then teenage, X-Factor contestants, who went on to achieve record-breaking careers. Twelve years on, it remains clear that, despite having been separated longer than the band even existed, One Direction’s grip on the music industry remains as strong as ever. The prominence of this single has not gone amiss to Harry Styles himself, who continued to perform it, over many of his solo hits, in his worldwide 2022/2023 ‘Love on Tour.’ Having attended his night 1 Cardiff show in June this year, I can confirm that ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ continues to receive a stronger reaction than many of Styles’ greatest solo hits, enforcing its status as a firm fan favourite.
While ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ can hardly claim to be a work of lyrical genius or particularly ground-breaking musical production, it certainly solidified the band’s boy-next-door appeal. The revival of boy-band charm in this debut single led to a largely reductionist view of One Direction, painting their fanbase as a screaming pit of teenage girls. However, with a credible 38.3 monthly Spotify listeners in September 2023, it is indisputable that the music of One Direction has created a community for millions of fans, which continues to outlast the band itself. Now considered a Just Dance classic, and a guaranteed addition to any 2010s playlist, the hit of nostalgia prompted by the opening lyrics, proves that One Direction truly did make something beautiful with their debut single.
Watch the video for ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ here: