06/03/2012 11:02 | By Tom Townshend, contributor, MSN Music

How UK boy bands are taking over the world

With One Direction causing mayhem wherever they go and The Wanted cracking the US Top Five, Tom Townshend wonders whether we're entering a new era of British pop dominance…


Harry Styles of One Direction (© PA)

Harry Styles of One Direction

Who is your favourite member of the British pop group One Direction? Is it Ian Direction (before he grew that beard)? Perhaps you prefer the baby-faced looks of Tarquin Direction, who is literally a baby.

Or maybe you just like the tall one.

But whichever constituent of the nation's most popular boy band makes you scream like you've just seen five sexy ghosts, there's no denying their irresistibly catchy songs.

Songs like, erm, I Love Loving You, You're Nice, and their number one hit I'm Dancing Right Now (Because I Flipping Well Love You).

Look at us being all sarcastic about a manufactured band. See how we mock the transient nature of their fame by deliberately getting their names and song titles wrong.

Because One Direction don't matter, do they? One Direction are little more than bum-fluff, hair-wax and funny trousers; pretty boys who were too rubbish to get through to the live finals of 2010's X Factor on their own merits and so were bundled together by the evil Simon Cowell to be a group that might appeal to the young, impressionable girls who watch the show.

And then they didn't win. What rubbish. Are they even still going? It can't be long before they're dropped, split up and are never heard of again outside the confines of a Butlins nightclub, where one of them is reduced to singing a nightly medley of their hit to an audience who've mistaken him for Eoghan Quigg.

"One Direction are poised to be the biggest British global pop phenomenon since the Spice Girls"

Except, that's not happening. One Direction are doing very well indeed. So well, in fact, that industry insiders are predicting that One Direction are poised to be the biggest British global pop phenomenon since the Spice Girls.

And in case you've forgotten or weren't born then, the Spice Girls were the biggest British global pop sensation since The Beatles (albeit briefly). So we're talking very ruddy big.

To give you an example of how big One Direction really are, despite having released just one album and three singles, Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis (yes, we knew their names really) currently boast over three million Facebook fans and two million Twitter followers.

The video to their debut single What Makes You Beautiful has been watched a staggering 63 million times. And their recently announced tours in Australia and New Zealand sold out in less time than it takes to play one level of Angry Birds (even one of the easy levels you can do with the round exploding one).

Why should people on the other side of the actual world care about One Direction? We can't blame The X Factor for that; they didn't even watch it. And neither did the good people of the USA who also appear to be lapping up their boyish good looks and rousing choruses - sending the aforementioned single into the Billboard Top 30 and making them the highest debuting UK band in the Hot 100 since 1998 (that was The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony, in case you were wondering).

Max George from The Wanted (© PA)

Max George from The Wanted

And it's not just One Direction who are providing Britain with an export industry once again (political satire, there). Fellow boy-shapes, and some might say rivals, The Wanted have also been greeted with open American arms.

Following an appearance on Glee (that's still going, apparently) Max, Jay, Siva, Tom and Nathan have seen their questionably titled single Glad You Came climb to number 5 in the Hot 100, and shift over 600,000 downloads. Blimey.

It's interesting to note that The Wanted are being managed Stateside by the absurdly named Scooter Braun, the man who steered Justin Bieber to a level of fame and fanatical loyalty even Kim Jong-il couldn't command.

If appealing to the hearts, hormones and piggy banks of girls aged 10 to 16 is The Wanted's goal, they couldn't have a better coach.

Bieber is surely the key to this. Because what could be more appealing to the teenage female population of America than one pretty, floppy-fringed, fresh-faced, singing, dancing, pin-up pop boy? Well... five pretty, floppy-fringed, fresh-faced, singing, dancing, pin-up pop boys - with adorable English accents.

Just as in 1964, when The Beatles arrived at JFK Airport to be greeted by 4000 fans screaming with an American twang, the British music industry is once again filling an aching need for a new generation of singing boys to be idolised, fantasised about and tweeted (tweeting was a lot slower in the 1960s, and done with paper and pen). The music they're making may not be self-written, or of quite the same revolutionary quality and sophistication as the Fab Four, but the screams are the same.

"We are entering a new dawn for the boy band"

What One Direction's unexpected but understandable global success means is, like it or not, we are entering a new dawn for the boy band. Even Take That failed to crack America, and yet these young tykes have taken it with ease on their very first attempt. Westlife? Sit back down on your stools, granddads. It's astonishing to realise that Harry Styles was only four years old when the Irish man-band were put together.

Pop is a young man's game again.

And this is surely just the beginning. Dance studios up and down the country must already be bursting with the sweat of similarly assembled formations of buffness and dimples, polishing their harmonies in readiness to join this new British invasion.

Lock up your daughters.

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