An honest (and matured) reflection on One Direction

Image courtesy of One Direction via Wikimedia Commons.

Life comes full circle at the weirdest times. It most recently happened to me when I created a playlist entitled “one direction songs that remind me of u” and revisited the sensational boy band One Direction’s entire discography. When these albums were initially released, I was in elementary and middle school and lived vicariously through them. I spent my nights romanticizing the songs and wondering if I would ever make sense of the lyrics. Now, 10 years later, I have a new perspective on my favorite songs. Reader, I present to you an honest review of my favorite One Direction songs, past and present. 


Beginning with tunes from the group’s first album “Up All Night”, we have the classic “What Makes You Beautiful.” This one is (hopefully) on everyone’s throwback playlist as a song that bonded a generation. I remember listening to it with my cousin on my iPod touch and getting all the feels when Harry’s solo (you know the one) would start. Probably the first song I heard by the band, this bop is timeless and still resonates every time it’s put on blast. If you haven’t already, use it as a “feel good” song next time you and your friends can’t decide what to play. Also on the album is the title track “Up All Night.” I most recently revisited this one while walking back from a production night for The Miscellany News that ran later than planned. I knew I was in for a long night and it just felt right. The actual song is about falling in love with someone and staying up late with them. As a tired college student, this one still gives me hope that fun nights of adventure dedicated to making new connections are ahead, rather than more mind-numbingly boring nights spent coding in my Davi single. Rounding out the album is a song I did not pay much attention to back in 2011. “I Should’ve Kissed You” is upbeat, catchy and underrated. Listening to it now, the lyrics sound like an internal conversation everyone has with themselves at least once. I definitely recommend giving it a listen if you have a “one that got away.”


One Direction’s sophomore album “Take Me Home” is by far my favorite of the five. The songs on this album have the highest highs (see Zayn in “Kiss You”) and the lowest lows (see “Change My Mind”). The track that has brought me back to this album countless times over the past year has been “I Would.” Whether it’s poorly scream-singing the chorus at my friends as we discuss our love lives or sitting in my room during a hype-me-up jam sesh, to me this is another one of One Direction’s hidden gems. My second song of choice is actually a midpoint between the other two I love from this album. Set to a drum-heavy and fast paced beat, “Loved You First” is the perfect song for when you find yourself feeling “sad-happy,” as I like to call it. Last but definitely not least: The track that has remained my rock from 2012 to 2022 is “They Don’t Know About Us.” This was the first song added to the aforementioned playlist, and it has only gotten better over time. The beat drop into the chorus always makes the lyrics all the more impactful. Overall, this album was the hardest to pick highlights from, but I think these three do it justice. 


Another difficult album to pick from was the band’s third album, “Midnight Memories.” One of the more broadly emotional songs released, “Story of My Life,” is about love in the context of experiencing different places and stages of life. The music video for this song had my younger self in tears; it showcases meaningful photos from the individual band members’ lives. Listening to it in my college dorm room while looking at the photographs of my life on the walls only deepens my connection to the track. I used to wonder what growing up would entail and, though I am still in the process of it, I now have some of the answers. The second track that still appeals to me is “Don’t Forget Where You Belong.” For the longest time, I wanted to leave my hometown and never look back (main-character style), and this song only amplified those feelings. Having accomplished part of that goal by leaving for college, I now find myself looking back quite frequently and missing the nuances and familiarity of the physical and social community I grew up in. My final selection taps into the inner hopeless romantic. “You & I” is a slow song about love that can defy any obstacle it’s faced with. 10-year-old me considered this the definition of a love song; it’s the type of song someone would sing to you after throwing rocks at your window to get your attention. Though I no longer hold out hope for the latter, I still appreciate the sweet vibes and meaning behind the song.


Perhaps the most interesting to revisit was the fourth album, appropriately titled “Four.” Unlike the others, I had been listening to it continuously, particularly during quarantine. In lieu of actually going to social events, my best friend and I would drive around, listen to music and have many parked-car conversations. Given the state of the world at the time, we became very attached to “Stockholm Syndrome.” This song carried me through the pandemic and some of my lowest times at Vassar. While the world being in lockdown felt like a weight, it also brought me some of the best memories, and I long to go back at times. I also spent significant time dreaming of the future, particularly about what adult life would be like, and “18” was the perfect background music to those thoughts. I convinced myself the start of young adulthood would be one of the best years of my life, and when I finally turned 18, I constantly made jokes about how I had a year to find my soulmate so the song could play at our wedding. I was unfortunately unsuccessful, but to anyone turning or currently 18, give the song a listen and be filled with hope for the next year! Rounding out the album, the perfect compliment to “18” is “Night Changes,” a song about how quickly growing up happens. In the song, the subject reflects on a past relationship and the changes from that period of their life. In recent weeks, I have frequently been comparing my pre-college life to my current life, and reminiscing on the various milestones I have hit and the song only furthers the nostalgia.  


The group’s last album was released during my transition out of being a superfan. Many of these songs were actually a first listen for me, and only two of them really stuck. As a now-adult with the ability to book a hotel room, “Perfect” is a fun and slightly mischievous song I misunderstood as a child. It describes what seems to be a one night stand but in the most romantic way possible. As a more “emotional connection” person, I can appreciate the fun framing of the memory. On a more somber note, “Infinity” is an emotional song about heartbreak and wishing a relationship could have worked out. One of the biggest lessons I have learned recently is how to make peace with unfortunate circumstances, but still allow myself to have feelings about them; this song is the perfect example of the concept.    


In 2016, the band went on a “hiatus,” which they have not yet returned from. While part of me still holds out hope the band will come together for some type of reunion, the members have found their own individual paths, as have I. Since then, I have experienced a global pandemic, graduated high school and started college, the last of which being something I have been looking forward to since I became a One Direction fan. I have also lived through many events that have reshaped how I view certain songs and made them all the more meaningful. This reflection makes me wonder where I’ll be and what I’ll feel in another 10 years. I encourage anyone reading this to revisit music you wouldn’t normally think to go back to and listen to it from a new point of view. It truly is a wonderful experience.

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