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The new fab five?
Step aside Justin Bieber, teens and tweens in India are headed the other way - One Direction. The English-Irish boy band made up of Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson has young girls from New Delhi to New York swooning over their chart-busting numbers like What Makes You Beautiful and Live While We're Young.
1D's - as they are called in texting shorthand - happy-jumpy tracks are booming off sound systems in coffee shops and clubs everywhere. Even the yummy mummy brigade, not quite in tune with the low-rise, shaggy-baggy clothes or the funky hairstyles, is secretly hanging on to the syrupy sweet lyrics. "You can't go to bed without a cup of tea, And maybe that's the reason you talk in your sleep, And all those conversations are the secrets that I keep, Though it makes no sense to me. "
Not since the Beatles, critically acclaimed and universally loved, has a British pop act generated so much hysteria. It's even wowed the US, which hasn't seen so much fuss over a boy band since the Backstreet Boys and NSync almost a decade ago. Though BSB rocked the '90s, their comeback efforts have been comparatively tame. One Direction couldn't have picked a better time to knock at the door. They are a mix of chic and charisma. Horan, 19, from Ireland, is 'the cute one', Malik, with an edgy smile, is 'the quiet and mysterious one', Payne is 'the sensible one', Styles, is 'the delightful one' and Tomlinson is 'the funny one'.
Cajole Kapoor, 18, first noticed 1D while on a foreign vacation last year. "It's been ages since we've had a boy band that stirs the senses the way these boys do, " says Cajole, who often takes the stage for music and drama competitions at the collegiate level.
The Chennai-based Dataram sisters - Nitya, 16, and Adhya, 15 - who rate their 1D hoodies that say, 'Keep Calm' as their most prized possessions, saw a video of One Direction at a party a year ago. Nitya, whose personal pick is Zayn, born to British Pakistani father Yaser and English mother Tricia, says the 19-year-old is hugely popular with South Asians, who identify with his looks. Adhya says her favourite numbers are What makes you beautiful and Little Things. "The lyrics address the feelings of insecurity and hopelessness tht girls of my age experience. I listen to them 24x7. "
The group, about two summers old, came together by accident. In 2010 the five boys auditioned as solo candidates for the British television singing competition, The X Factor. They didn't make the cut. Later, following a suggestion by guest judge Pussycat Doll lead artist Nicole Scherzinger, the boys, who didn't know each other before, were thrown together. They entered the group category of the competition soon after, finishing third. That's about the time Indian fans began to take note. The name 'One Direction' was coined by Styles who wanted the group to go in "one direction". The direction they went was up as Simon Cowell's Syco Records signed them on for a 2 million pound contract.
That's not to say that there is no criticism. For one, not many guys like them. Even in the age of instant celebritydom, the question of longevity cannot be ignored. Comments like: 'I'd like to see where these boys will be in 10-15 years' and '1D is a fad that will blow away' are all over the internet.
Sharanya Goel, 17, who has listened to 1D, says she understands why they work even if she doesn't quite get them. "They sing of falling in love and loving and in that sort of way they're like the Beatles, " says Sharanya, who worships at the altar of the 60s group. "But that's the only comparison you can draw between the two bands. In the end, I guess it's all about doing time. I can't really say with any conviction if they will actually last. "
Adulation and recognition have been quick to come. The band performed What Makes You Beautiful at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. They bagged a Brit Award and three MTV Video Music Awards. The group's record sales exceeded 8 million singles, 3 million albums, and 1 million DVDs. According to Nick Gatfield, the chairman and chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment UK, through music, merchandising, and touring sales, One Direction represent a $50 million business empire.
Their Twitter account has amassed over 5 million followers and is growing at the rate of 20, 000 per day. Indian fans have a Facebook page.
The boys are everywhere - on television commercials and magazine covers. Their blazers and chinos have had an impact on menswear sales. Tomlinson, 20, a self-confessed fashion freak who loves clothes and enjoys shopping, has a quirky sense of style. He rolls his trousers and never ever wears socks. And that's just the look young girls now want their boyfriends to sport. Styles' tousled look is being imitated from Kanyakumari to Kolkata. The boys are on supermarket shelves too: hair straighteners have the 1D logo. There are dolls on each of the five members. The band is in the process of filming a movie. They already have a few publications, one of them is titled Dare to Dream. They're living a dream. And their fans are living it with them.
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