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Michael Varrati

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It's OK to Like One Direction, Right?

Posted: 10/01/2012 7:45 pm

The messages come by night.

"We shouldn't do this, should we?"

My fingers hover over the keyboard, uncertain about my response. I understand the trepidation. Once we commit, there's no going back.

Sadly, as clandestine as the conversation seems, it is hardly rooted in anything unseemly or illegal. Rather, my cousin and I are at a standstill about whether to go to a particular event. While we have definite interest, we know that our attendance will automatically out our allegiances. For two individuals who take pride in their music cred, can we really be seen at a One Direction concert?

Although we ultimately didn't get tickets (they sold out), the answer to this question is very simple: Yes, yes we can.

I'm so tired of the social stigma adults and "legitimate music" fans put on tunes that are decidedly teen. I've also never believed in the notion of the "guilty pleasure," as it somehow suggests that something we like is wrong or uncool. I'm here today to tell you that it's 100 percent OK to like pop music, because it's not always just teen, it's also fun.

Look, I've spent my time in the punk rock trenches. I've scoured the record shops for the rare T. Rex B-sides, and I've argued over whether Waters or Gilmour brought more to the table in Pink Floyd. Heck, sometimes the most mainstream music argument I have with my friends is over who was the coolest Ramone (it was Joey, sorry guys). I love the counterculture. I love the dirty, the sleazy, and the music that incites a riot. I appreciate the artists who use their tunes to smash social mores and call our government on its shenanigans. That's the music that gets me fired up, because that's why rock 'n' roll was made, babies.

That said, I also occasionally just like to check out and feel good. That fight's always going to be there, and we can always come back to the fire. However, sometimes we just need a little time to celebrate. That's why I like dance and pop music, because it is the musical equivalent of a laugh or a good feeling.

Furthermore, teen idols and musicians fill as much of a need in the musical pantheon as the subversive artists. Youth is short lived and fleeting, and we need to celebrate it while we can. Remember those fun, carefree summer days? The ones you spent laughing with your friends, riding bikes or cruising around in your first car after school? That's pop music. Sometimes it's superficial, sure... but who wasn't when they were 16?

The first time I heard One Direction on the radio, that's what I liked about the song: Beneath the pop hooks was an unbridled celebration of youth. They seem to be having a great time, and you know what? I'm a little jealous. Live while you're young, indeed, boys. There is a moment when life becomes a little more Pixies and a little less Katy Perry, but if music allows us to hold onto the good feelings a bit longer, then I wholeheartedly encourage buying those records.

"But," I can hear my music elitist friends whine, "It's so manufactured!"

Yeah, okay, maybe that's true. If you put a Flaming Lips album and a Justin Bieber album in front of me, there's no denying who I'm going to tell you brought more to the table musically (sorry, Biebs... nothing personal). But, as I mentioned before, pop music isn't new, nor are pop idols. The friends who decry the Top 40 icons of today are the same ones who knock people over getting to the dance floor when "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" is played. The point is, we all have that pop song that means something to us, an instant transportation back to our childhood that makes us want to dance with careless abandon. You may not understand the current pop trends, but ease up on the criticism. After all, the pop music today is the cherished nostalgia of tomorrow.

This is why pop music is both disposable and not at the same time. It's emotional escapism that encapsulates a moment. The beat becomes a memory; the catchy hook becomes a shared experience of somewhere you have been before. You may love the song and then leave it behind, but years from now, when you hear it on the radio or dance floor, it will rise in your heart for three solid minutes like a phoenix from the ashes, reminding you of who you are and where you've been.

I guess that's not just pop music, but let's try not to be so serious all the time, OK? Look, I'm invariably going to always return to my Amanda Palmer and Pansy Division albums, but every once and again I want to just get up, dance, and forget about everything but having fun. If that makes me a One Directioner, then I will proudly say, "So be it."

...and while that doesn't mean I'll be buying 1D posters or T-shirts (I'm a size medium, by the way) anytime soon, it does mean I'm not going to hide the fact that I know and love a fun song when I hear one.

So, if you're out there in your Slayer T-shirt, but shamelessly dancing to Carly Rae Jepsen when no one is looking, I say, "You go girl." After all, that's what makes you beautiful.

 

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