1D Rebranding and Eventual Reunion: GP vs. Fandom Perception

So I’m seeing a lot of tension an unrest over the way that the members of 1D, Harry in particular, are distancing themselves from the band as they embark upon their solo careers (ie, Harry, or whatever intern runs Harry’s sm scrubbing his twitter clean of 1D mentions). I know people are anxious about this, and I understand that anxiety, but I want to offer a different perspective: I think this could be a good thing, not just for their solo ventures, but for 1D as a whole. Hear me out on this one, sorry it’s long winded.

So. One of the things I notice a lot, especially from people who have been immersed in the fandom for three, four, even FIVE years, is that they don’t necessarily have the most comprehensive grasp of how the boys and the band are perceived outside of the fandom, and rightfully so, as they have not existed outside it in a long time. This makes it really difficult for some fans to envision a rebrand for 1D that would appeal to the GP.

As many of you know, I’m SUPER new to the fandom. May marks my fandom anniversary, and even than it took me a good three months or so to actually start listening to and enjoying their music, so I don’t actually consider myself to have been a full blown 1D fan until August of 2016. I came in post hiatus, and was VERY much a member of the general public in regards to my perceptions and understanding of 1D as a band AND as a brand before that. I cannot speak for the entire GP, as there are a variety of views and experiences, but this what it was like for me. (Not sure how much demographics matter, but I’m a 26 year old American born and raised in LA who was at college in Massachusetts during 2010-2013 when 1D was at the height of their popularity. I’m a huge fan of pop music, so I was aware of them and didn’t have an initial bias for their genre).

Before I got into 1D, and even AFTER I became initially interested in them via the Larrie fandom, I didn’t know SHIT. I also didn’t know a single 1D fan to give me liminal information about them, as I was in college when they formed and became popular and the majority of my peers were neither in the target audience, nor old enough to have kids who were. I thought 1D were an overrated, untalented, manufactured boyband created for children. I had NO IDEA they wrote their own music, that they had wonderful (queer, subversive) lyrics, that their later work spanned multiple genres, that they were fantastic song writers, that they were talented and diverse vocalists, or even that they were wonderful, charitable, observably passionate and COMPASSIONATE human beings. In America they were marketed as 5 Justin Beibers, and I knew Beiber was a jerk and I didn’t care for his music, so there was essentially no reason for me to look into 1D. As a member of the GP, I saw them as a kiddie band of asshole white boys, and there was essentially no visible marketing or PR efforts made to overturn this image. Harry was a womanizer, Zayn was an arrogant asshole, and they were the only two I ever saw in the tabloids or knew by name. That was the extent of the PR I witnessed for them as someone who enjoyed pop music and saw headlines, but wasn’t looking closer.

If I hadn’t gotten into them, I wouldn’t have known ANYTHING beyond that, and if they had come back from the hiatus as 1D before having solo careers and rebrands, I would HAVE CONTINUED TO SEE THEM AS A KIDDIE BAND OF ASSHOLE WHITE BOYS. And mind you, I’m someone who likes pop music, listens to pop music, and enjoys 90s boybands from my childhood. I’m not the type who’d be adverse to their music just based on elitism or principle. Basically, I’m trying to say as a former and recent member of the GP, that 1D does not just suffer from the USUAL amount of delegitimization and dismissal most pop music or music created for and by women suffers from in regards to the GP: it’s more deep-seated, more hostile. It’s very cool to hate 1D in the general public, EVEN if you exist in circles which don’t delegitimize pop music as a whole. I think it comes from the rise of hipster culture, where some pop music is considered appropriate to like ironically, (Justin Beiber and T Swift were examples of this when I was in college but I think it differs geographically), some is appropriate to like nostalgically (90s pop largely) and some is appropriate to like contrarily (i.e., everyone hates Nikki Menaj but she’s actually really cool!!!111! I’m enlightened for thinking so!!) and some is appropriate to like politically (Beyonce or Gaga, who are vocal about oppressed groups they support or belong to). 1D, in my experience, is not appropriate to like in any way, according to hipster culture. They’re much more popular to hate. Hipster sensibilities effect the way young people as a whole perceive popular culture, and it marks artists which are considered “interesting” enough to look into. 1D is just not one of these artists in my experience. 

Now, it feels so foreign to look back on how I used to feel about them knowing what I know now, and how purely and simply and wholly I love them. This fandom is so intense and devoted, but it’s also a bubble and I think it’s really easy to lose sight of how much 1D is disrespected by the GP, and how hard they’re going to have to work to come back as a band that’s taken seriously. I DO think they’re coming back and I DO think that’s one of their ultimate goals, but I think they want to come back not as the 1D they once were, but as a band that’s NOT cool to hate. I think they wan to build their new model and brand for longevity and accessibility, much like the Beatles (another band who was largely considered a manufactured pop act for teenage girls before they successfully rebranded, which people forget).

I think some people in this fandom want the validation and recognition they deserve for being fans of 1D and recognizing their musical worth even in spite of their horrible marketing and reputation, and I totally understand that. Like, it would be wonderful if the boys could be like, “1D ISN’T bad and we’ve always been talented and anyone who’s listened to us for long enough knows that! You’re not stupid for liking 1D! 1D, as we were and as we are, are real music!” This is part of where that desire for Harry to not distance himself from the former 1D image as he forges his solo brand on SM comes from. People want, (and deserve!) that validation, we don’t want to feel dismissed as 1D is dismissed. 

But it’s just not realistic. It’s something that only exists within the context of the fandom, and as wild and huge and passionate and powerful as we are, WE ARE NOT THE GENERAL PUBLIC. 1D want to come back, in my opinion, as the legitimized and respected rock group THEY DESERVE TO BE SEEN AS, and unfortunately their fandom and talent alone aren’t enough to do that. Music is the business and they NEED the approval or at least respect of the GP in order to succeed in that business venture.

This is why Harry (and to a certain extent, the rest of the boys) are rebranding in such away that distances themselves from that image. They NEED to do it, FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR OWN CAREERS BUT ALSO FOR ANY FUTURE AND LASTING CAREER FOR 1D. Harry ESPECIALLY. He’s the most recognizable face and name from the band and I know from the fandom perspective it seems all positive, like he’s talked up by the GP and respected, but the truth is that I thought he was an ENORMOUS jerk before learning otherwise and I know a lot the GP does too. He was the most aggressively marketed to the GP, and the brand they marketed is easy to hate. The other boys need to make themselves more relevant to the GP and elevate their names in general,  but Harry needs to REWRITE HIS ENTIRE NARRATIVE and overturn the horrible reputation he has as a fuckboy serial womanizer who dresses like a shitty hipster (oh my god it kills me to say this, Harry I love you but this is what I thought he was, this was how he was sold to me). He NEEDS to rebrand as the Iconic Timeless Rockstar, not just to earn respect as a solo artist, but to CHANGE THE FACE OF 1D, SINCE HE’S BEEN MARKETED AND PUSHED AS SUCH FOR THE DURATION OF THEIR CAREER.

I think that every member of 1D needs to have a successful solo venture in order to rebrand as individuals, and ultimately the to alter the shitty GP perception of the band as a whole. When I think back to what it was like to be in the GP, one of the ONLY realistic things which would have successfully worked to pique my interest in a 1D reunion would have been if my initial biases and opinions of them had been ALREADY ALTERED by solo rebrands. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have looked twice. They need to have collaboration with other artists outside the 1D brand, they need to be viewed as legitimate artists in their own right.

I’m a big Justin Timberlake fan for example, and I dig NSYNC for nostalgia’s sake (Backstreet Boys for lyfe tho if we’re talking 90s), but I would have been ten times more interested in an NSYNC reunion if every member of that band had a solo career as successful as Justin’s. ESPECIALLY if those solo careers existed in different genres and styles of music they excelled at, ESPECIALLY if they routinely collaborated with artists I already like and respect like Justin regularly does.

But the thing is, the members of NSYNC WEREN’T ALL AS TALENTED AS JUSTIN. There could not have been five Justins. BUT EVERY MEMBER OF ONE DIRECTION IS!  They can do it, they can smash a solo career in a different genre, gain the respect and appeal of that fanbase, highlight their strengths, and change the GPs perception of the BAND when they inevitably reform.

But first, they have to shed the terrible brand they were saddled with during 1D’s early career. What I’m arguing is that it’s GOOD AND ULTIMATELY BENEFICIAL for each of them to distance themselves from that brand. Harry deleting the references to the band on his SM is, at least in the long term, a move towards the eventual longevity and success of 1D’s new brand. I know it sucks for us here in the fandom, and it feels in validating and confusing and scary, but we have to understand that they already HAVE our support, they have it no matter what they do or when they come back. What they DON’T HAVE is the support, respect, or even INTEREST of the GP, and they need that to come back. 1D was not originally built or marketed to last, but I believe when they return, they COULD BE. In short, they’re the greatest thing we’ve ever seen already,  BUT THEY COULD BE THE GREATEST THING THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN. They just have to take the necessary steps to get there, and this might be one of them.

thank you @cuethetommo for prompting me to write this!