Pop Culture

One Direction Versus Pedantic Listeners

As the latest incarnation of the musical monomer and unsinkable rubber duck that is the 'teenage heart-throb boyband', One Direction have made a good portion of British citizens absolutely sick of their smug expressions, apparent physical perfection and that one member that looks a lot like Ellen Degeneres. 

If your lyrics made this little sense you'd be pouting sadly too… probably…

I suppose it's good news for myself and other like-minded Brits that they've done a Piers Morgan and fled to the Americas, ready to sicken/entertain a whole new continent, and it is with that in mind that I give to you, the republic of internet, Eddy's guide to why One Direction's lyrics are the quackery of music, AKA why a logically-minded person should be so lucky as to avoid getting a headache from One Direction as bad as the metaphorical headache they have been to so many of us redcoats.

Let us take, as probably the finest example of lyrics that practically break the laws of physics: 'What Makes You Beautiful'.

The boys in One Direction would have us believe that the way the subject flips his/her hair makes them overwhelmed, but as we all know thanks to the truly Shakespearean linguist Willow Smith, it would be much more feasible for this androgenous adonis to whip their hair. Preferably back and forth.

As dictionary.com defines flip (used with object): 'to toss or put in motion with a sudden impulse'; this would suggest that the subject of this song (for brevity's sake let's call them 'shle'), is either somehow detaching shler hair from shler head and causing it to rotate in the air before (assumedly) landing back on shler head with no damage done, or shle's moving shler hair with an urgency that implies a physical recoiling.

For the second explanation of this flipping of hair, it would appear that the boys in One Direction are pleased to the point of being overwhelmed when this person is scared by something, shocked to the point of jumping backwards, or avoiding getting her hair caught on fire.

Needless to say that sounds very… creepy.

And because of that implication I'm going to assume that (as 1D are deemed 'heartthrobs') that the way the hair in question was flipped was with a method that defies the laws of physics and biology unless the subject immediately goes bald upon flipping hair, which would I suppose, be overwhelming.

But even if shler hair was permanently lost in this act of flipping and everyone in One Direction has a fetish for bald people, it would be a heck of a job to pluck all the hairs from your head with one 'flip', and as anyone who has had their hair pulled out will testify, it's a pretty painful thing to do just to impress five guys who (let's be honest here) just look like a pouting, shorter version of N*Sync.

In fact hairs are embedded relatively deeply in mammalian skin, and while flinging them off of your head wouldn't be as ridiculous as punching someone and losing an arm, you would have quite the job on your hands to try and purge these keratin-based fibrous superstructures from your head all at once.


If you managed to remove hundred of these structures in one motion you'd have more than just the members of One Direction overwhelmed.

If we instead, take the word 'flip' in its mathematical sense, we can postulate that this person is not only being stalked by five teenagers at the same time, but also has the ability to spontaneously transform shler hair into a mirror image of itself at will. Now that would indeed be overwhelming. It would also be basically impossible.

Okay, now I've got you thinking about that line way too much, let's move on to the first line in this song that really made me want to flip my hair in the literal sense: 'you don't know you're beautiful – that's what makes you beautiful'.

This line creates a paradox of sorts for the subject of the song, this person is sought after by all five of the shifty-looking members of One Direction because they're very attractive and don't know just how attractive they are. However, One Direction claim that the reason why this person is so attractive to them is because of shler ignorance of shler own appearance. We can them assume that One Direction are for some reason trying to get themselves over this person, because by releasing a song letting this person know that they are beautiful they are taking away the sole reason why this person is attractive to them in the first place. With this paradox in place, after the first time the subject hears 'What Makes You Beautiful' One Direction will be lying in every subsequent performance, for shle will no longer be beautiful to them.

That to me is not, even as love songs go, a very promising premise for a record.

There are more examples than this is One Direction's catalogue, such as the fact that 1D claim that another person that all five of its members are romantically interested in has 'that one thing' despite the fact that nobody in the band knows what that one thing is, therefore essentially postulating the lyrical equivalent of dark matter rather than doing a controlled experiment to determine what exactly that 'one thing' is. It would seem that One Direction are blissfully ignorant, and as we all know, pride and ignorance make a dangerous mixture.

Still, at least they don't step into the realm of making false hypotheses regarding heredity across generations of women. That facepalm inducing faux-pas is what Will.I.Am would like you to know as the 'Got It From My Momma Hypothesis'.


[For the record I am very aware that One Direction did not mean to imply that their shared crush can actively break the laws of physics but as someone who has been writing songs for over four years I believe that the band should be held accountable for their lyrics. This also gives me an excuse to poke pedantic fun at the straw men that their badly written lyrics create about the desires of five debatably talented men.]



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Cat Strickson

Cat Strickson

Cat, or Elly, or Eddy, or whatever name they're going by these days, is a British palaeontologist and fantasy author. It's a pretty awesome skill set, but it doesn't pay much right now. They enjoy science, history, vidyagames and all things SFF.


  1. April 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm —

    I am very confused by this blog. While I have never heard this song, never want to, and agree that the lyric "you don't know you're beautiful and that's what makes you beautiful" is silly for the reasons you've stated, the huge rant about the word flip is weird to me.
    For a girl, particularly in the U.S., to flip one's hair can have several different meanings. One, to use ones hand and toss it over the shoulder; often in a coy manner to attract the attention of the opposite sex. While perhaps tossing would be a better description, it is still very very often said that they flipped their hair. Two, flipping your hair can be described as a certain hairstyle, where the ends of the hair are curled or tousled in a way that the end of the strands are pointed away from the face. The hairstyle is said to flip out in the ends.
    So the lyric that 3/4 of your blog was about makes perfect sense to me. The guy likes the way the girl tosses her hair over her shoulder. They would not be the first pubescent bunch to be insnared by a girl playing with her hair.
    And lastly, admittedly, I know nothing about this group but I don't follow the logic that it is a shared crush. Just because the entire group sings the song or even oogles the same girl in the music video hardly means the song was written for all of the members for the exact same girl and that they all feel exactly that same way. That's very unprobable and an illogical assumption.
    Ok, I lied, one more thing…I highly doubt they actually had anything to do with writing this song and I doubt as winners of a show they have very much creative leeway at all in their group and the songs they sing and put on an album. More than a reflection of their actual talent as songwriters it's more a reflective of their willingness to sell themselves out for fame.

    • April 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm —

      I will admit to not giving the writers of the song the leeway that they probably expected. Also I got a little too involved in being pedantic about their lyrics to turn that eye to my own convoluted joke.

  2. April 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm —

    I just laughed so hard I spit coffee all over the keyboard of my laptop. This is glorious.

  3. April 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm —

    That's it, stick a fork in it, this blog's done.
    Before I pack in and go home, though, I want to add a comment to your analysis of the word flip in reference to shler's hair.  It sounds like you've set the axis of rotation perpendicular to the center of one strand of hair, so that flipping a strand produces a mirror image where the strand's root is now exposed and the tip is embedded in the follicle, effictively making your point that doing this to your entire head is a little messy, impractical, and a horrifying thing to have in the middle of a lighthearted teen pop song.  Sir!  This does not need to happen!  Strands of hair are like flexible vectors that have their tails rooted in one place and are perfectly capable of three-dimensional movement.  If you change the problem by setting the axis of rotation to run through the strand's base, where strand-meets-scalp, and at an angle to the strand itself, you can flip the strand without ripping it out of your skull.  A mirror image can be temporarily induced with a quick up-down or left-right jerk of the subject's head (for simplicity's sake, I'm neglecting external conditions like wind and assuming uniform hair conditions).  The quality of the hair flip increases exponentially with the amount of head movement, thereby increasing the chance that it will attract attention and inspire an all-male band to recount the event through song and dance.
    Anyway, I hope you kindly consider my proposal so that hair-flippers everywhere can continue to enjoy rocking out to pop music or banging their heads repeatedly against their keyboards after reading all of this.  Great article!

    • April 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm —

      I bow to your superior knowledge of the science of boy bands and demand that you teach me your secrets.

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