I turned 21 on February 21st. It was my golden birthday. It was a fun day to celebrate myself, but I was not prepared for an almost-quarter life crisis. My almost-quarter life crisis is not as bad as it sounds. I didn’t impulsively buy anything too damaging except pit tickets to Imagine Dragons, which, I will deal with during the summer when it happens. But I started thinking about how far away so many childhood and teenage quirks have become.
One of the things I started thinking about and started breaking down was the way I felt about myself in high school. You’re probably thinking, “Natalie really can’t let go of high school, can she?” And to that I have to say: First of all, you have no idea how I feel about high school, and this is not your average nostalgic reminiscence of the “glory days.” Heck no. I’m talking about the things I didn’t say in high school that are impacting me as an adult. The things I was quiet about. As a newly minted 21-year-old, officially two years past my teenage years, I have let myself approve of the feelings I had in high school that I didn’t express. I didn’t deserve to “suffer quietly” about my insecurities. I should have allowed myself to confront my insecurities and attempt to solve personal struggles instead of believing that they were distractions from “the bigger picture” that really was no picture at all. I was a teenage girl with real feelings that should have been expressed.
The other half of those feelings were about One Direction. We already know that One Direction is the love of my life. I now express my feelings, and I am proud to say that I am a 21-year-old who lives alone with three giant One Direction posters up. Two of them are from the real glory days of Up All Night and my Take Me Home tour poster. After living life as a fully legal adult for one week, I can say that I miss those Take Me Home days so terribly that I’ve found myself sleepily trying to play the songs on Spotify before I’m fully conscious in the morning. Last quarter, I was walking to class listening to “18” and I FULLY CRIED next to Drake Stadium thinking about how I was that 18-year-old girl so madly obsessed with One Direction. There is no better song that describes my young love for One Direction than “18.”
As a coping mechanism for my freshman year of college, I always read snippets of “New York,” but it’s been almost a year and a half since I downloaded the Wattpad app to read it. I’ve praised it many times, but I love that story so much that the fictional story of Zana and Harry are like my own memories now.
You could not have lived through the entire 1D era without adopting 5SOS into the boyband culture sphere, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw that 5SOS is coming out of exile or something to do a US tour. Their new song “Want You Back” is a great bop. Whatever cave with hair dye and 00 skinny jeans that they lived in for the last three years truly preserved that authentic heart-fluttering boyband sound. At first, I was hesitant to plan to buy tickets to their US tour, but I realized that this is the first happening of the prophetic Boyband Resurgence, and if I go see 5SOS I will be able to complete the trifecta of being a kid boyband fan, a teenage boyband fan, and an adult boyband fan and happy-cry like the proud boyband mother I am. So, Belasco Theater in March, or April, whenever that concert is, you can bet that if I don’t have a paper to write, I will be there in my DISCONTINUED 5SOS tally-mark black shirt that I have slept in for the past three years, waiting for the first sign of the resurrection of the boyband.
I only know a few One Direction stans who were there from the start. Back in my day, we weren’t even called stans. That’s something a Justin Bieber Twitter generation came up with. But I want to talk about something that I’ve felt since I was in fifth grade and obsessed with the Jonas Brothers.
Let’s talk about the Traveling Boyband/Boyfriend Song. I consider the following songs to be the Traveling Boyband/Boyfriend Song because they are about long-distance relationships, whether they mention their fame or not.
I EXCLUDE the CLASSIC “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” because it’s not romantic. Fight me on this, but it’s about their success as a band and their journey together.
Every boyband had one or more:
Jonas Brothers: “Hello Beautiful”
Big Time Rush: “Worldwide”
The Wanted: …… hang on….. I’ve always known that 1D killed The Wanted, but I ALWAYS thought their music was great and poppy. Going through their discography, they only had two albums! And their second one was a flop! 1D killed them at the root!
5SOS: “Beside You”
One Direction: Okay. They really profited from their global appeal and produced multiple travel songs: “Moments,” “Back For You,” “Summer Love,” “Right Now,” “Something Great,” “Spaces,” “Love You Goodbye.” Listen to my Spotify playlist for reference.
(tweet me @natblogs if you feel there are more)
As a CHILD I would listen to songs like “Hello Beautiful” and pretend that Nick Jonas was talking to me on the phone, telling me how life was stressful on the Hannah Montana tour and how he missed seeing me the most. I wrote a huge fanfiction work based on “Hello Beautiful.” This is what inspired me to pursue this topic. To make matters worse, I don’t consider “When You Look Me In the Eyes” to fit this category, but their black-and-white music video was so emotional and such a tour diary-esque style of storytelling that the music video is what I am basing the aesthetic of the Traveling Boyband/Boyfriend Song off of.
Big Time Rush really flushed out this idea of the Traveling Boyband/Boyfriend, only they reversed it and used this song in the part of the show where Kendall’s girlfriend Jo left him and LA to film a movie. They did an entire dance in the airport.
Big Time Rush really took this theme to the limit and made it sad. The Jonas Brothers were yet to be in the public eye with other people romantically, so that explains the one-sided relationship I created out of “When You Look Me in the Eyes.” However, Big Time Rush added a sense of matury to the theme, because the boyband fanbase had now grown from being pining little girls/boys/kids to budding teenagers with high school dances and more realistic teen-romance relationships. The idea that your boyfriend/crush could leave your shared space and never come back was now a reality.
One Direction does not have music videos for their better songs (yeah I said it) so you’re just going to have to trust me on this. One Direction took the Sad Traveling Boyband/Boyfriend Song and turned it into “I’m coming back for you,” hence their song “Back For You.” One Direction truly fooled us into thinking they were here forever in those early days of polos and Toms. BUT. One Direction took us into hookup culture, the world of instant gratification, and best of all, true love. Or, I don’t know, high school sweetheart stuff. Regardless, the culture and attitude of the boyband fan base had now become motherly (LOL), and instead of hoping to be noticed in a crowd, we supported them from home.
Let me break down their spectrum of their travel songs.
Here, we did not know much about One Direction yet. This was literally considered the Taking-Of-Virginity song. This is literally considered One Direction’s “first time” song. And how cheeky was it that it was the last song of their debut album?
“Back For You”
This is an upbeat song about them literally coming back for a person, but it gives the listener hope that their relationship is in good standing. The lyrics go: “I’m looking out at the crowd, you’re everywhere / I’m watching you from the stage yeah / You’re smile is on every face yeah / But every time you wake up you’re hearing me say ‘Goodbye'”.
Okay, so maybe that song is alluding to hookup culture, but the belief that someone is happy and thinking of you on tour is presented in a positive bubbly light, which shows that the relationship is strong.
I can’t type the lyrics out here because they’re too self-explanatory. But. This is a song that’s about One Direction saying “Thanks for the summer tour, go back to school, see you when the next album is out.
THIS IS ONE OF TWO OF THE SADDEST TRAVEL SONGS. This song also uses the theme of occupying space as a performer but wanting someone else to be there, to put them in a different space, away from the stage space. “Late night spaces with all our friends, you and me yeah / Love these faces just like how it used to be / And we won’t be going home for so long, for so long but I know / I won’t be on my own, on my own, I’m feeling like / right now I wish you were here with me.” Here, I think the relationship has matured between the fans and the band. Midnight Memories is a good album and the themes are more mature.
THIS IS TWO OF THE TWO SADDEST TRAVEL SONGS. Notice how this song is about how they do have a job as a pop star and talks about the space that they occupy as a performer, and yet what they want is their person near them. “You say we’re better off together in our bed/ I want you here with me / Like how I pictured it / So I don’t have to keep imagining / Come on jump out at me / Come on bring everything / Is it too much to ask for something great?” This song is practically them begging someone to come be with them. This song hurt too much as a girl in a small town with a lover in London.
“Spaces” and “Love You Goodbye” are both travel breakup songs that literally ended the One Direction era. They might come back. They probably won’t. I don’t care. I loved them so much.
SO! What to do with this information? This is the part where I introduce the mentality that came along with listening to this entire theme over the course of the 2000s. My hypothesis is that boyband fans adopted the mentality that we were the girlfriends of bands and boys who always left us to tour the world, so much that the idea that long-distance relationships were not foreign to young teenage fans. These travel songs are more than just songs meant to fill the quota for anticipated high-charting, high-earning, albums like Midnight Memories and Four. They reflect a culture of fans who saw bands as more than just a photo on a wall, but a relationship that they had been committed to since the beginning of the 2000s boyband era. There is an establishes sense of missing a person very far away despite not knowing them. There is a feeling of nostalgia that comes with listening to a Traveling Boyband/Boyfriend Song, like 5SOS’ “Close As Strangers”: “Six weeks since I’ve been away / And now your saying everything has changed/ [….] / I haven’t seen your face in ages / I feel like we’re as close as strangers.”
Part of my almost-quarter life crisis was revisiting my love of boybands (as I regularly do), and I want to celebrate this feeling of a long-distance relationship that I inherited from the boyband culture. That feeling is no longer active because these groups don’t exist anymore. But I do remember what it was like to feel that way. And I want to send this message into the universe to my teenage self that it was okay for you to love One Direction, and Big Time Rush, and all your boybands. You deserved that love.