My toddlers appreciate boybands at a 13-year-old girl’s level.
Not to be immodest, but with my 2 1/2 year old twins, that would be an understatement. They squeal with delight when a One Direction song comes on. We watch the videos for “What Makes You Beautiful”, “One Thing” and “One Thing (Acoustic)” before they go to bed at night. They beg to hear the album whenever we’re in the car. They even specifically request “the sad song” with an appropriate degree of tweenage sullenness.
And I, for one, couldn’t be prouder.
Before anyone gets any creepy ideas, my personal fondness for boybands is in no way akin to Lou Pearlman’s. I don’t know any of the boys’ names, their favorite colors or their secret celebrity crushes.
My kids are too young to care about those things either (thank goodness). So why are we a family of Directioners? (OK, I’ll leave Drew out of it, but the kids and I are all fans.) Here are a few reasons:
Their music is better than kids’ music. Occasionally, I can get my kids to listen to The Shins or Wilco, and Bennett will proudly admit that “Motortown” by the Kane Gang is his “jam”. But most of the time, “Daddy music” just doesn’t cut it, and One Direction is a lot more tolerable to these grown-up ears than The Wiggles. 1D’s debut album, Up All Night, is far less abysmal than you’d expect, and there are no blandly educational lyrics to spoil the fun melodies.
Their music is catchy enough to be kids’ music. I may see a big difference between One Direction and The Wiggles, but my kids don’t. Their tunes are upbeat (even the sad song), catchy and easy to sing along to. My twins never complain when 1D is on, and I never have to pretend my iPod is broken just to get a moment’s peace.
Their music is cleaner than most pop music. OK, yes, it’s time for me to strap on my fuddy-duddy hat and chase the rest of today’s top 40 hits off my lawn. Do you know how hard it is to find songs that are appropriate for 2-year-olds (or 10-year-olds for that matter) in today’s music scene?
Madonna’s song “Give Me All Your Luvin'” seems perfectly pitched at her bediapered fans. It even has a chorus which consists of shouting out letters, just like on Sesame Street. And then, just when it seems like fun for the whole family, M.I.A. shows up and drops the S-bomb in a completely unnecessary second rap interlude. You can’t avoid it either, because there’s no “clean” version of the song available.
My only choice is to lower the volume whenever the offending section comes on. As a result, my kids have learned two things from Madonna’s latest hit – that “L-U-V” spells Madonna and that “Daddy doesn’t like M.I.A.”
With 1D, I never have to touch the volume knob or hit the skip button. Their songs are actually even more innocent than their titles suggest. “What Makes You Beautiful” isn’t “the way you do me, baby” or “that sweet ass”, as today’s Top 40 fan might expect. It’s that “you don’t know you’re beautiful”. Aww. And when the guys say they want to stay “Up All Night”, it’s with the glee of a squeaky-clean teen whose idea of being naughty is thumbing his nose at bedtime. Why do they want to stay up? Duh, to dance, of course.
They’re easy to root for. Just when you thought I couldn’t get fuddier or duddier, watch me double down… I like One Direction because, well, they seem like nice boys.
They’re goofy and awkward, like 18-year-olds are supposed to be. They have terrible hair. They smile like they actually appreciate being famous. These kids aren’t worried about bringing sexy back. In fact, they’re doing their darndest to shoo it away again. And good for them!
Watching their TV appearances feels something like spying on the back two rows of a school bus on its way to the senior trip. They’re laughing conspiratorially, but they’re not really up to anything bad. They’re just happy not to be doing algebra for a change.
There’s something innocently appealing about that kind of unprofessionalism, especially in a world where we turn to reality TV competitions to make superstars out of novices. (And of course, the 1D boys were discovered on the UK version of the X Factor. They came in 3rd. Aww.)
Just watch the blonde kid during any of their performances (including the videos). You can see every single thing that’s going on in his head along the way, from “Oh, right, here’s where we clap.” to “They told me to smile, oops, better start smiling!” to “I wonder if my mates from school are going to see this.”
If one of the One Directions showed up on my doorstep 15 years from now to take my daughter on a date (or – let’s be real – my son), I would be totally OK with that. In fact, I’d be psyched because Drew and I would have plenty of material to snicker about after the kid left. (Did you see his sweater vest? What’s up with that hair swoop? Is there a nest of bees living in there? Tee hee hee!)
Compare them to the other British boy band of the moment, The Wanted. Sure, they have a few catchy songs, but frankly, those boys scare me. They look angry and thuggish. Just because your band name is “The Wanted”, it doesn’t mean you need to look like you were recruited out of a police lineup. Seriously, in just what sense are these boys “wanted”? If I see them in public, I’m dialing 911, just to be safe.
Yes, I know what happens to boybands over time, so I know exactly which “direction” this latest batch is headed. They’ll get jaded and egotistical, corrupted by the music industry and the bottomless pit of groupie poon at their disposal. They’ll want to be “taken seriously”, so they’ll add single entendres and M.I.A. interludes to their songs. They’ll see image consultants who’ll give them reasonable haircuts and walk-on roles on “Gossip Girl”. I already hate the One Direction of 5 years from now.
But for now, let me enjoy 1D as it is today – a group of harmonizing dorks who have no idea how dad-friendly they are.
And that, of course, is what makes them dad-friendly.