One Direction's Songwriting Secrets: Their Plan for YouTube Dominance
"We wanted to do something where we didn't copy anything right off," says 1D tunesmith Carl Falk.
If One Direction's songs sound a bit familiar, it's no coincidence.
THE YEAR IN MUSIC 2012
"What Makes You Beautiful," "One Thing," "Live While We're Young," its three biggest hits to date, are all the products of Carl Falk, Rami Yacoub and Savan Kotecha, two Swedes and an American who first cut their teeth writing for Irish boy band Westlife. Like their predecessors, One Direction's music has a uniformly pop sound to it designed to showcase voices over beats, with little regard for EDM trends or borrowed cred from guest rappers.
"It felt like everyone tried to do boy bands by going to the cool, hip producers who were coming up," says Kotecha, the American third of the songwriting trio. "We wanted to make it very vanilla. You're aiming for teens and tweens with boy-band guilty pleasure music. We weren't trying to be urban or rhythmic, and they happened to share the same vision."
Falk also wanted to create songs that were built around guitars, as both himself and the band's Niall Horan are both guitar players. "Each of the songs have signature riffs -- something so people can play YouTube versions of our songs," says Falk. "We wanted to do something where we didn't copy anything right off. We're trying to do our own thing a little bit, even if it's just guitar parts."
The songwriting and recording process for "Take Me Home" this August also empowered the boys, with co-writes from all five members on three of the standard edition's tracks, guitar work from Horan on six songs and Styles now building a recording studio at his home in England.
The band's members would pair off in groups of three during their songwriting sessions to best focus their ideas. "Somebody could have the first initial idea after we heard a melody or a track, and someone would chip in a few works and then Liam or someone else could come in and by end of the day we'd have a song," says Zayn Malik. "We wanted to feel like we were giving a little more back in our personal lives, so what better way than to get involved in the writing process?"
The sessions, which were largely split between Stockholm and London, were of course accompanied by an extra, surreal layer of pressure -- mobs of fans waiting outside the studio every day, singing the lyrics to hits like "Beautiful" and "One Thing" while the band was inside struggling to come up with follow-ups. "It was crazy -- we only had a month or so to record the whole album, but we always felt like we had the fans on our side," says Liam Payne during One Direction's New York visit, where fans have been greeting them during their stay at the Trump Hotel. "They're always anxious to know where we are - even before I do. It's good to see that level of dedication."