Pop paradoxes: One Direction

You don’t know (oh, oh)

You don’t know you’re beautiful (oh, oh)

That’s what makes you beautiful

What makes you beautiful, One Direction

Low self-esteem: it’s the new deal-breaker, girls. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, not only are you expected to go through a nightmare ritual of starvation, primping and “pampering” in order not to feel unattractive, it transpires that if you do this and no longer feel unattractive, this in itself will make you unattractive again. Got that? Basically, you must feel unattractive in order to be attractive. Jesus, it’s a bloody minefield these days.

Personally I think One Direction (or 1D, as I don’t like to call them) are taking a major risk with this song. What if the object of their affection happens to hear it and take it seriously? Then she might start to “know” she’s beautiful, only then she won’t actually be beautiful any more. Come on, boys, have you really thought this one through? Would she still be beautiful at the point of “knowing” and only stop being beautiful once you knew that she knew? How does it all work? WE NEED TO KNOW!

It’s a real philosophical dilemma, of the sort we’ve not seen since Carly Simon’s You’re so vain. “You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you”, sings Carly. Well yes, Carly, I do, WHAT WITH YOU HAVING USED THE SECOND-PERSON PRONOUN “YOU”. What am I meant to think? And besides, since you’ve written a whole song slagging “me” off, and then justified this by claiming I must recognize myself in said song, might that not suggest to you that I’m NOT actually vain? That in actual fact I have the humility to recognize my own potential vanity so that it does not in fact become a reality? Huh, Carly? Did you think of THAT?

It’s even worse than that time Gwen Stefani decided to cover If I were a rich man (changing “man” to “girl”, for some reason, clearly not getting the “fantasy” element of this ditty, despite its ample use of the subjunctive). “I’d have all the money in the world, if I were a wealthy girl” claims Gwen. Well, no, Gwen, I suspect there are plenty of people (you, for instance) who manage to be rich without having “all the money in the world”. Moreover, if you did have “all the money in the world”, we’d all move to a bartering system or find an alternative form of currency. We have our pride; we won’t all be held to ransom by the ex-lead singer of No Doubt. So in that sense, you, Gwen, would no longer be wealthy in any meaningful sense. So be careful what you wish for. Or sing about. Whatever.

Anyhow, back to 1D (argh! Now I’ve started doing it!). To cover their backs, I reckon One Direction should release a follow-up single along the lines of “actually, you look shit really, but I love you all the same” (cf. Billy Joel’s Just the way you are). That should sort it out. It’ll also show all the haters who thought I’d never use my PhD.