Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants. Who am I dealing with this time?
. . . yay. Well, after embarrassing myself up and down last week by admitting that “Call Me Maybe” might be my favorite pop song of the year so far, I only thought it fair to handle another slice of teen pop today.
Much like previous Radio Rantee’s The Wanted, One Direction is a motley crew of photogenic (although not ridiculously so) lads from Britain strung together to be a boy band. Rather transparently, too; apparently after they all bombed the solo Male Singer of The X Factor, one of the judges suggested they form a band for the “Groups” category. So yes, this group owes their existence to the same strategy that Will Ferrell used in Blades of Glory. But, anyway, after being Big in Britain, they’ve finally started to breakthrough in America with “What Makes You Beautiful”.
So, speaking of the song, I hope you like that I-IV-V surf rock guitar riff because the music in “What Makes You Beautiful” never strays from it. The guitar tone might change, some synths might be brought in, and there might be drums everywhere, but that ubiquitous chord progression is this song. Or maybe I just think that because the production on this song is terrible, even by Overproduced Pop Song standards. Once this song gets to the chorus, I imagine Simon Cowell sitting with the producers at the soundboard telling them to crank it higher and higher. And I’m not even music snob/audiophiling this one; if you put the official YouTube video of “What Makes You Beautiful” next to the video for any other pop song, you’re going to hear this one more every time. It’s the audio equivalent of Michael Bay’s super high contrast Transformers, where they sky was blue and the characters were orange.
Credit where it’s due, though, the guys in One Direction don’t sound too shabby. Even if they’re compressed to the point of clipping on the chorus, they sound strong together, and it’s pretty clear to tell where one Preppy British Teen With Too Much Hair Product stops and where another Preppy British Teen With Too Much Hair Product begins. Would I want to listen to any of them for a whole album? Probably not, but at least they sound like convincing pop stars. The dude that gets the bridge does an especially nice job.
Unfortunately, “What Makes You Beautiful” is another self-esteem booster to preteen girls who need British boys to tell them they feel pretty. What makes it stand out, though, is how transparent 1D is about it.
“You’re insecure/Don’t know what for” Uh, hair color, hair style, body size, body shape, acne/lack thereof, how the smile looks, skin tone, eyelash length, arm hair color, shoe choice, nose shape…take your pick. But, enough about me.
“Being the way that you are is eno-o-o-ough” In other words, you’re amazing just the way you are.
“The way that you flip your hair gets me so overwhelmed” I love the way you do that minor personality tic! Oh, it’s so adorable when you blink! “But when you smile at the ground, it ain’t hard to tell” So the whole band is into Shrinking Violets?
“You don’t know you’re beautiful/That’s what makes you beautiful” I’m sure that this is meant to mean that because you’re so humble, you’re beautiful, but based on other lines, it reads as “We find your insecurities sexy”, which has a predatory vibe to it. Combine that with “If you only saw what I can see/You’ll understand why I want you so desperately”, and it sounds more like “Well, think what you want, but I think you’re attractive, and that’s what sells here”. That, and there’s something about “You don’t know you’re beautiful” that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, “What Makes You Beautiful” doesn’t take with me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s catchy in all the right ways after a few listens, and One Direction sounds like they know what they’re doing. But the song smacks of being too smug for its own good, and the production is so harsh and clipped that it’s just not fun to listen to. Kind of ugly, actually.
Like what you see? Like Ranting About Music on Facebook!