As Paul Simon sang in 'The Boy In The Bubble' 'every generation throws a hero up the pop charts' and One Direction just happen to be the British group chosen this time round. It's also become something of a pattern that you don't have to win TV talent shows to enjoy a hugely popular career, in fact JLS, Susan Boyle and Olly Murs were all runners-up in their respective competitions and have gone on to a level of fame that far exceeds the winners. While manufactured bands have been a constant almost since the dawn of rock, every step of One Direction's genesis took place in the public eye through the UK's X Factor. Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson had all entered the 2010 season of the UK's X-Factor as solo singers.
Individually rejected they were offered the opportunity of progressing in the competition if they were prepared to form a band, which they all agreed to. Hastily practising and getting to know each other they were mentored by Simon Cowell and naming themselves One Direction they ultimately finished third in the contest. Despite failing to win they signed to Cowell's Syco Music and Columbia Records and released their debut single 'What Makes You Beautiful' in September 2011 that debuted at No 1 in the UK and peaked at No 4 in the USA where it went on to sell in excess of four million copies. A UK-only follow-up 'Gotta Be You' debuted at No 3 and preceded the band's debut album that was released one week later. The multi-platinum Up All Night entered the UK charts at No 2 and went on to top the charts in sixteen countries including the USA where they became the first British act ever whose debut entered in the top spot. With eventual worldwide sales exceeding five million copies the album yielded two more singles, 'One Thing' and 'More Than This', the former reaching No 9 in the UK and just inside the Top 40 in the USA. Phenomenally popular (particularly with teenage girls) One Direction capitalised on their success, with all the energy and enthusiasm of youth, by promoting the album in the UK, North America and Australasia with their Up All Night Tour. The concerts were documented on the video album One Direction: Up All Night - The Live Tour before they performed at the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games on the 12th August 2012.
The next two months saw the release of the single 'Live While We're Young', which reached No 3 on both sides of the Atlantic and their second album Take Me Home which topped the charts in no fewer than thirty-seven countries including the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Greece and Italy, and emulating its predecessor sold in excess of five million copies worldwide. The subsequent single 'Little Things' became their second UK No 1 while 'Kiss You' peaked at No 9. Although the album was still very much alive, February 2013 saw the band releasing a non-album single on behalf of the Comic Relief charity. 'One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)' was a mash-up of Blondie's 'One Way Or Another' and the Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' and became their third UK chart topper. Later that year their 3D concert and documentary film One Direction: This Is Us which was directed by celebrated American filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me and Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden) premiered in UK and US cinemas before being released on video. The Top 10 singles 'Best Song Ever' and 'Story Of My Life' preceded the band's third album Midnight Memories that was released in November 2013 and topped the charts in twenty countries including the UK and the USA where it debuted at No 1. Subsequent singles 'Midnight Memories' and 'You & I' were less successful although they both entered the Top 40.
In less than four years One Direction established themselves as a global phenomenon with more than fourteen million albums sold and a godsend to the marketing men they have spawned a whole industry of merchandising that includes films and the books; One Direction: Forever Young, One Direction: The Official Annual 2012, Dare To Dream: Life As One Direction and One Direction: Where We Are, Our Band, Our Story: 100% Official. They have received numerous awards including four BRIT Awards, five BBC Radio Teen Awards, two American Music Awards, an Australian ARIA Award, three Billboard Music Awards, seven MTV Europe Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, nineteen Teen Choice Awards and four World Music Awards.
The band's willingness to support charities, their cheeky yet likable personalities and their infectious pure pop songs have seen their popularity stretch beyond their core teen fanbase and even Zayn and Louis allegedly being filmed smoking a joint has not had a lasting detrimental effect on their career.
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