Well, I’m finally breaking down and doing a post about the biggest British band internationally at the moment: One Direction. I honestly don’t care for them, an opinion not helped by the fact that every single single of their first two albums tend to sound the same, and that every single one is just a song directed by the band to a girl, which is boring because it’s the same exact thing with no variation (even The Beatles in their strongest “Silly Love Songs” mode tended to at least switch it up with songs like “I Saw Her Standing There” and “She Loves You”); awkward when you realise that this song can’t be for you, since you’re not a teenaged girl; and just plain creepy when “What Makes You Beautiful” assumes they’re seriously insecure, and “Little Things” took it up to eleven by explaining their love in the most disgusting manner since Monty Python recorded “Medical Love Song.” And that was supposed to be a gross-out comedy song about Venereal Disease!
But let’s talk about their one song that truly breaks the mold: “The Best Song Ever.” Needless to say, it doesn’t exactly live up to its title, but at least it’s something different. And a big controversy erupted when it was released and people listened to the intro: namely, it sounds quite a bit like the iconic power chords of “Baba O’Reilly.” In the end, the song is about how they had a date with a girl and they danced to the best song ever; Given the oft-noted similarity in the intros, “Baba O’Reilly” is probably the titular “Best Song Ever.” Granted, as awesome as it is, it’s not the best song released in 1971, nor is it the best song released by the Who, or even the best song released by the Who in 1971.
Of course, it should be noted I would not be surprised if the unfortunate teens raised to suckle at the teats of today’s soulless music [Fun fact: As I write this the #2 song in America and the #3 song in Britain (which was #1 last week) is Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop," the most depressing party song of all time] had only had their first exposure to The Who (except for CSI reruns) from the fact that people noted the similarities between the two songs. And then, people got paranoid that the Powers that Be could be conspiring to have the song pulled.
1D fans went to Twitter, using the hash tag #donttouchbestsongever posting messages like: “WE SPENT HOURS GETTING THIS SONG TO NUMBER 1 IN TURDY SEVEN COUNTRIES, TOUCH IT AND YOU DIE” (Note the spelling errors.) or “You should be afraid, we’re psychotic. If you delete it, you don’t wanna know what’ll happen;)”. Quite frankly, if 1D fans really are this crazy and they actually come upon this article and descend upon it like a plague of locusts, it’ll at least give me the assurance that people other than Jonathan, my Dad, and my shrink are reading my columns. Comments are very rare, and the last one I got seems to have confused me with Jonathan.
But, as it turns out, the rumours that “Best Song Ever” would be deleted are completely unfounded. Pete Townshend, guitarist for the Who, and writer of “Baba O’Reilly” and a whole bunch of other awesome songs, had this to say: “No! I like the single. I like One Direction. The chords I used and the chords they used are the same three chords we’ve all been using in basic pop music since Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry made it clear that fancy chords don’t mean great music – not always. I’m still writing songs that sound like ‘Baba O’Riley’ – or I’m trying to! … It’s a part of my life and a part of pop’s lineage. One Direction are in my business, with a million fans, and I’m happy to think they may have been influenced a little bit by The Who. I’m just relieved they’re all not wearing boiler suits and Doc Martens, or Union Jack jackets. The funniest thing is that in Canada this year I met with Randy Bachman, once the leader of The Guess Who, who told me that he not only copied ‘Baba O’Riley’ for [Bachman-Turner Overdrive's] hit ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’, but he even called his band after us. Why would I not be happy about this kind of tribute?” So, there you have it. “Best Song Ever” is in no danger of being deleted. Unless UMG and Syco sue each other in a lawsuit that both Pete and 1D think is utterly stupid. It may not happen now, but it did happen between Rene Clair and Charlie Chaplin.
For what it’s worth, I should probably mention one thing: the video is bookended by skits where 1D meets with people from their record company, played by themselves. Niall and Louis play studio executives, Zayn plays their (female) assistant, Harry plays a marketer, and Liam plays a very camp choreographer. You can see their alter egos above. I must say that this doesn’t really add much to the video, and, especially given that the head of their record label and the man who put them together in the first place is Simon Cowell, who, it should be noted is a very recognizable media figure on both sides of the Atlantic and, as a result, may very well be the most recognizable music executive of all time, having 1D play their own bosses makes no sense. But there is one thing to say in its favor; if they ever do a Cloud Atlas-themed music video, they just might be able to pull it off.
“The Best Song Ever”, released last month, is the first single from 1D’s third album, which has just been given a title: “Where We Are.” It is due to be released later this year. It is also set to be a part of the upcoming Morgan Spurlock documentary One Direction: This is Us, which will be released on August 29 (in the UK) and 30 (in America.)