It is hard to forget that boyband sensation One Direction broke up nearly eighteen months ago. Probably because none of them have gone away. All five former members are rabbiting off their own hits at a near constant rate. How am I supposed to mourn them if they refuse to piss off?
What each member can receive some semblance of credit for is their decision to move away from the sound that made the group popular. Zayn, Harry, Louis, Niall and Liam have grown into their own individual styles (on a sliding scale of quality as demonstrated by their placement in the above list) and left the throne of ‘boyband’ pop empty.
People want One Direction, people need One Direction. Fuck knows why but they do. There is a gaping hole in the market for a gaggle of clean-cut preppy guys who can stick by the One Direction template of 2% Personality, 5% Talent and 93% Hair & Makeup.
Enter Zach, Corbyn, Jack, Daniel and Jonah. Alone they are basically unremarkable, but together they are….in a band. That band is called Why Don’t We and they might be the next One Direction.
Clearly the band put a foot wrong by having an all Caucasian line-up. Did your production team not explain demographics to you? The real obstacle facing WDW is that they haven’t broken out, something 1D achieved on their debut single with the efficacy of the plague bacillus.
That had a lot to do with writer Savan Kotecha, who penned ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ after cutting his teeth with Britney, Gerri Halliwell and Alexandra Burke. Rule one of being in a boyband: you’ll rely on studio hacks your whole career, so get the best studio hacks.
‘These Girls’ suggests Why Don’t We have a lot of work to do. Not only does the basic arrangement sound horrible, even by the sub-Soundcloud standards of current pop, but of course there are trap influences in there. Of course Daniel tries to rap in a Caribbean slur and disembodied men chant “ey,ey,ey” as per hip-hop cliché. The house band at Chuck E. Cheese have better street credentials.
The writing is awash with corny generalisations about women: “Bad girls in Paris / Independent ones with money / Crazy ones who want to party / Some want to stay at home.” Why Don’t We act like they have women all figured out. A bit rich considering they’ve only been on solids since the year 2000.
One Direction at least had the good sense to aim their songs squarely at one girl; an all-size-fits composite for their doe-eyed fan girls to step into (“You’ve got that one thing”). This “I want ’em all” shtick just doesn’t land well.
Nor does their longstanding relationship with bro-douche vlogger Logan Paul. Their collab ‘Help Me Help You’ is dedicated to women’s inability to choose clothes and their general self-obsession; a phenomena I am yet to experience.
Elsewhere it is more obvious that WDW are onto something. They retain the core DNA of 1D; bland, likeable and completely benign. They also have a demonstrable knack for harmonising.
To their credit, WDW’s music does at least hint at what sort of music they enjoy. Whereas early One Direction songs lacked any sense of style besides bland bubblegum pop, debut single ‘Taking You’ offers slick electronic grooves and appealing R&B phrasing. ‘Something Different’ is inherently basic and lacking in substance, but nonetheless should have been a huge hit owing to the excellent delivery.
Why Don’t We may not exactly be poised to revolutionise pop music. In fact their loftiest ambition is to follow in the footsteps of one of the most artistically bankrupt groups in recent memory. However I suspect we’ll be hearing more from Why Don’t We soon enough.