One Direction in America
An interesting hour on Radio 1 (2 April, 9pm) followed the Simon Cowell-manufactured boy band One Direction on “five days of craziness” as they successfully toured the US. “By the end of this hour,” says Scott Mills, with just the right amount of wit in his voice, “you’ll know exactly what it’s like to be in the biggest thing to hit America.”
A fast cut to Cat, Zo and Gigi – teenage girls outside One Direction’s hotel in Nashville. “I would sit here and not eat for, like, ever. What if they kiss me?” gasps Zo, sweetly. “OMG you’ve put the idea into my head now!” heaves Gigi. (Graham Greene: “Happiness annihilates us. We lose our identity.”) Suddenly everyone yells: “I just love everything about them! They’re so humble!”
What is this obsession with pop stars being humble? It’s all over the place. Florence Welch: humble. Elbow: humble. Adele: almost humble – but then she flew off with her carmine nails in a massive helicopter. Even Jarvis Cocker was on Broadcasting House the other morning being supremely humble. “I’m blushing now,” he said, following the presenter Richard Coles’s complimentary intro, when he should merely have nodded like an official at passport control.
When an industry declines as much as music has you get a lot of people too keenly aware that they are relying on the goodwill of others. They can’t afford to piss anyone off. It literally pays to be humble. (Little me. Kerching.) Of course there’s always been a tradition of this in music – the Beatles were forever deferring to Elvis – but must everyone be quite so professionally diplomatic? The nauseating humility!
Back on the doc, we cut to band member Harry Styles – the one with the hair. He was slightly confused as to where he was (“Nashville? It’s the something of music, isn’t it?”) In truth he didn’t sound all that humble – more profoundly weary, as though he could suddenly see all the future holds for him: to be a person more than commonly inept at boiling an egg. “We drive a long way. And then we get off the bus,” he said in an immaculate monotone, which had a suffocating nearness and rendered everything else in the programme obsolete. “And then do some promo. And then do a gig. And then we get back on the bus . . .”