Unless you've somehow avoided the Internet for the past three months, you're probably at least somewhat aware of the fact that Justin Bieber and One Direction both released new albums this past Friday, titled "Purpose" and "Made In The A.M.," respectively. The ultimate fangirl battle has commenced, and the two modern day pop legends are duking it out at the top of the charts. My social media is filled with enthusiastic posts from fans and complaints from non-fans, as it has been every time a musician with a primarily young, female fanbase has launched new music or gotten themselves into trouble. This time around, however, there's a third kind of post: the begrudging, wait-this-doesn't-suck, I'm-ashamed-I-like-this post acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, artists like One Direction and Justin Bieber are not devoid of all musical merit simply because legions of girls love them.
Our society tends to inherently take anything that's largely beloved by girls and immediately turn it into a joke. Uggs and leggings? Lol, basic b*tches. Starbucks? OMG PTL 4 PSL! Justin Bieber? One Direction? Ohmygod, slay me I wanna marry all of them! Newsflash: Things girls enjoy really aren't deserving of mockery; in fact, some of them (cough, JB and 1D) even deserve a little respect.
I'm not trying to convince you that everything these "princes of Pop" have ever done has somehow been musical genius. Bieber's music until his 2012 album "Believe" was pure bubblegum, guilty-pleasure pop, as was One Direction's music until 2013's "Midnight Memories" began introducing a slight classic rock edge to the boyband's sound. Despite each act's musical evolution, however -- Bieber chased R&B influences before landing on dance-pop for "Purpose," while 1D has continued to dive into influences ranging from Paul Simon and The Beatles to Kings of Leon, Fleetwood Mac (Mick Fleetwood and Harry Styles are reportedly pen pals) and The Strokes -- the court of public opinion has largely frozen both of them in 2011, finding it hard to believe that anyone over the age of 15 would enjoy their music. When Bieber straight-up killed an acoustic version of his single "Sorry" on "Ellen," at least five of my male Facebook friends shared the video with shocked, sheepish captions admitting that they -- gasp! -- actually liked it. What gives? Why is it such a big deal? Liking an artist that girls like doesn't make you shallow or mean you have poor music taste; in a lot of cases, it means quite the opposite.
For example, last summer One Direction's fans (who have a notoriously poor opinion of the band's management and label) decided that they wanted the track "No Control" to be a single. So they made it one. Fans on popular blogging site Tumblr, which is the online home of many 1D devotees, researched and promoted, figuring out exactly how to get the song on the radio, make it a global Twitter trend, and how to drive it up to the top of Billboard's viral charts. They learned how the music industry works, they organized massive social media campaigns, they created marketing materials that included single covers and commercials for the song "No Control" even became a top contender for Billboard's annual Song of the Summer Award despite not being on the original ballot, and sales for the song went up 1,674 percent. Literally.
This was a new kind of fan movement: an intelligent one. This trait has become more and more prominent in fandoms dominated by young women, as they have a deeper understanding of what it takes to make a legend, and, armed with this knowledge, they're well on their way to making their favorite artists historic musical figures.
Here's the point of all of this ranting about the musical development of teen pop idols and their fan's immense influence on the music industry: stop making fun of girls for the music they love. It's happening a lot, to young fans of a myriad of artists, in real life as well as online. Fuse's Maria Sherman recently wrote an essay about a photographer going out of his way to hassle fans of One Direction's former tour mates, Aussie pop-punk group 5 Seconds of Summer. It's not cool. Perhaps it's time to not only leave girls and their music alone, but also give some of their music a chance. You just might be pleasantly surprised.