Five reasons One Direction are a British boyband phenomenon

One Direction: A British boyband phenomenon

Last month One Direction became the first British group to enter the US Billboard chart at No.1 with their debut album. This staggering achievement took place just six months after their first single release and only 15 months after they had finished third on The X Factor. So how did they get so far so quickly? Here are five answers.

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Mock his hair, waistband and oddly tight skin around the eyes, but never underestimate Simon Cowell. He looked at Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan and saw potential that only his smarts could unlock. It didn't matter whether they won The X Factor or not – he knew this was where the cash lay and had them lined up before the competition was resolved.

Since then it's all been furious activity to get their image right, ship in the slick writers and producers and secure the big bucks endorsements with the likes of Pokemon and Nokia. And Cowell has used his considerable Stateside clout to get them a US record deal with Columbia. They've handled the rest.

They've been on a journey

Anyone who watched The X Factor in 2010 will feel they invested something in One Direction's eventual success. We saw them arrive one by one as little boy hopefuls, suffer devastating failure at boot camp then experience almighty relief when they were thrown together by shrewd mentors.

The alchemy was better than Cowell could have hoped, as the boys hit the ground running. They looked cute, they dressed impeccably and – equally importantly, but only equally – they sounded good as a team. Unusually for an X Factor group they barely stumbled in the live finals and only lost out because of the audience's pre-2011 preference for soloists.

The journey gave us a chance to distinguish their personalities – Liam the big brother, Harry the ladies' man, Zayn the moody Brando, Louis the prankster and Niall the chirpy makeweight – but it also gave them the time to understand that chemistry themselves. It's something they've built on as they've established online identities, and like the Spice Girls before them, it's given them a character to project to new audiences.

They know their switched-on fans

In this post-Bieber world (yes, folks, we're living in a post-Bieber world), if you don't own the social networks you're yesterday's news. One Direction have dived in with gusto, larking around on Twitter all day every day and connecting directly with the fans. It's natural, unforced and everyone feels involved.

While – even combined – they're not quite up to Justin Bieber's Twitter follower levels (20m+ and counting), each One Direction Member has between 2.6m and 3.3m followers (and a further 4.6m Facebook 'likes' in their collective back pocket), and they reward fan loyalty by posting pictures of each other in their pants.

The interaction snowballs. It's not rocket science, but if you're willing to dedicate the time – and if you have the ambition, which 1D surely do – you can monopolise the online conversation all over the world.

The time was right for a British invasion

Each British invasion of the US charts has come at a grey time for the American teenage girl. The first came in the early 1960s with The Beatles and everyone else who crept in while the door was ajar. Elvis Presley had returned from military service a crooner and there was a gap in the market for peppy lads who could whip the girls into a chaste lather.

The second invasion was spearheaded by the impossibly glamorous Duran Duran in the early 1980s, when the US scene was a wasteland of adult orientated rock and the early stirrings of hair metal – nothing for the discerning 12-year-old there.

And now? All the biggest pop stars – Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé – are women, hip hop and R&B dominate the charts and 'N Sync and a less creaky Backstreet Boys are but a distant memory. Serendipity, that is.

The music is spot-on

Ah, of course. The music. It's not just that Up All Night is a decent record – it's the Kelly Clarkson songwriting credit, the Summer Nights opening to What Makes You Beautiful, the precise harmonies that echo those Backstreet Boys again, the big radio-friendly power-pop, even the sunkissed photo on the CD cover.

The whole package oozes sleek professionalism, and there's nothing America likes more than that. When it all comes down to it, this is simply a job very well done.

Why do you think One Direction are so big in America – and here? Do they deserve it? Tell us what you think on Twitter @MusicOnVM.

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