One Direction at Target Center, 7/18/13
Photo courtesy of the artist
Target Center, Minneapolis
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Teenage boys were scarce at the Target Center Thursday night, aside from three of the five heartthrobs in One Direction. That's both predictable and a little bit of a shame, because adolescent males could maybe learn a little about what girls want in a boyfriend by studying the behavior of the pop stars they scream at.
1. Just be yourself
Though manufactured in Simon Cowell's X-Factor-y, One Direction's no-gimmick gimmick is that they're just average lads who can sing. Their performance was pretty much true to that image: They can sing, and their stage presence is decidedly average. Dressed down in jeans and t-shirts, the British/Irish quintet -- Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik -- traded competently emotional vocals and indulged in jolly onstage banter mostly too mundane to be quotable.
So don't worry that you have to be clever and funny to talk to girls. Be yourself. One Direction were themselves. To a tedious fault, even.
2. Express your emotions
The show's first half was peppy enough, from the party jump-along "Up All Night" through the unlikely medley of Blondie's "One Way or Another" and the Undertones "Teenage Kicks." Then 1D slowed things down a little (OK, a lot) with a selection of ballads voicing a sexless yearning for intimacy, with the lads seated contemplatively on the stage's platforms and staircases. This was a good time to a) be a teenage girl or b) get snacks.
But the takeaway for boys is: Let her know you're insecure too. With "I Would" ("I can't compete with your boyfriend/ He's got twenty-seven tattoos.") and a cover of Wheatus's self-loathing "Teenage Dirtbag," One Direction repeatedly advanced the (in their case, dubious) proposition that they may not be as cool as other boys, but they have more love to give. Worth a try, though YMMV.
3. Don't be all about sex all the time
One Direction never push too hard. Their uptempo tunes typically channel hormonal overload into silly jumping around, and the physical contact they suggest seems fully clothed. "Kiss You" barely opens its lips, and even the "let's get some" of "Live While We're Young" comes across as giddily chaste in this context. Though obviously parent-pleasing, this brings us to the problematic...
4. Don't dance
One Direction sure do mill around a bunch onstage. There were none of the choreographed moves that the turn-of-the-millennium boy bands who helped establish teen pop's dominance flaunted. While it was easy to mock some of those old dance routines, they did continue a solid R&B tradition, and it gave the performers something to do while they sang and focused their performances.
Then again, One Direction shared the stage with what was basically a rock band, and their sound, as crafted by Max Martin student Rami Yacoub, is more guitar-pop than the R&B/Eurodance that the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync offered. "One Thing" is practically a power-pop take on the Backstreet's "I Want It That Way."
5. Goof around with your buddies
During the reluctant breakup ballad "Change My Mind," a suspended platform transported the boys to a second, smaller stage on the other side of the arena. Here, they answered audience-tweeted questions such as whether they could speak in a Minnesotan accent (a disastrously demonstrated no) and whether they'd rather go forward in time or back (a split decision, with some curiosity about the '70s expressed).
Similarly, during costume changes we watched videos of the lads playfully goofing around at home and around town. Part of One Direction's appeal is that they let girls imagine what boys are like when there are no girls around, even if their representation of male bonding is less gross than the usual reality.
6. Be really cute
OK, that's not really something you can learn. But it'd be perverse to review a One Direction show without acknowledging their adorability. Warning: Harry Styles' transformation from scampy Artful Dodger type to tousled hunk is almost complete. If that kid ever starts brooding, womankind is doomed.
7. Don't be mean; complement the girl
One Direction sell the attractive fantasy that the manipulative push-and-pull of adult sex and romance is an unnecessary perversion of adolescent innocence. Admirably, they don't rely on the dirty pop trick of mooning over how another girl has unjustly made them suffer as a way of allowing listeners to protest in their hearts that they would never hurt the singers like that.
But they do have a pet seduction technique: Find out what she's insecure about and say that's why you love her, in display on "Little Things," about falling for freckles and dimples, and the show-closer "What Makes You Beautiful" (is that you don't know you're beautiful).
There were more lines like "This may be the loudest crowd yet" and "This gig is literally the best" than I could even keep track of. Flattering lies -- especially those that can't be easily disproven -- can be an effective way to reinforce a girl's affection for you.
Hey, I didn't say I approved of all the lessons One Direction had to teach boys.
Personal bias: It's weird to boast "I was there" James Murphy-like about the first wave of boy bands, but I was around to review some of those shows way back when, including 'N Sync's Pop tour. And I can say that, if anything, the girls have only gotten louder. So... progress?
The crowd: Ha, do I even have to tell you? More than 15,000 girls, all too young to have ever lived in a world without teen pop.
Overheard in the crowd: "No, not which one do you have the most of a crush on -- which one do you think is the best singer?"
Random Notebook Dump: The arena sound system played three songs played between the looped onscreen commercials and One Direction's appearance onstage: Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," Reel 2 Real's Madagascar-endorsed "I Like to Move It," and a medley of songs from Grease. The girls in the crowd knew the moves to "Greased Lightning" as well as they knew the "Single Ladies" dance. These songs were all oldies to them anyway.
Up All Night
More Than This
Love You First
Change My Mind
One Way or Another/ Teenage Kicks
Last First Kiss
Back for You
Na Na Na
She's Not Afraid
Live While We're Young
What Makes You Beautiful