Going into my fourth month of lockdown, I felt like I didn’t have much to look forward to. That is, until I realized that July 23rd, One Direction’s ten–year anniversary, was coming up.
Saying that I was a “Directioner” growing up is a complete understatement, and my parents laughed at me for being so excited that the special day was fast approaching. But truthfully, One Direction was a major part of my early teenage years. Celebrating their accomplishments meant looking back at those years when I danced around in my room, with posters of the five boys plastered all over my walls (yes, all over my walls).
It’s no secret that One Direction took the world by storm. Rolling Stone even calls them “One of the Great Rock Bands of the 21st Century.” But it wasn’t always like that. Before Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, and Zayn Malik rose to fame together, they auditioned individually for the X Factor. After going through the first round of auditions, the five boys were told they were not advancing to the next stage of the competition as individuals. Then, Simon Cowell made the last–minute decision to turn them into a five–piece on July 23, 2010.
One Direction then went on to win third place in the X Factor, but that didn’t define the success they amounted to, which is largely due to the incredible fan following they earned. As Billboard reports, “The rest is, quite literally, history. Over 300 shows played across four sold out world tours, four No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200, six Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits, four Video Music Awards, 28 Teen Choice Awards, two Saturday Night Live appearances, billions of streams...”
Even with their growing levels of success, the band decided to take an 18–month break in 2015 after losing one of its members, Zayn Malik. However, the break has turned into an indefinite hiatus, with all of the members focusing on their solo careers. Despite the fact that many may think One Direction is over, the band has yet to announce its official break–up.
Although they have been on a break for five years, their fervent fan base has successfully continued. For this reason, the internet had been buzzing for a couple of weeks in anticipation of the band’s anniversary.
In the weeks leading up to the special day, fans speculated about what was going to happen, paying attention to each band member's every move for hints. Some of the boys, specifically Niall Horan and Liam Payne, were very vocal about the anniversary coming up, mentioning that they all were back in contact. Payne went on to say on an Instagram live, “Louis told me off for revealing a little bit of our plans the other day.”
Fans even went crazy when singer–songwriter Ashe, who has been in contact with Horan after their “Moral of the Story” collaboration, mentioned that something big was coming up in the music industry. Even though she said she couldn’t talk about it, she assured that it would lead to everyone pushing back their projects because of the event. This led fans to wonder if this “big event” had anything to do with One Direction.
Directioners were thrown into a frenzy: is One Direction coming back? Will they be releasing a new album? What about unreleased music? Are they finally releasing the “Infinity” music video that was filmed in 2015? Will they even interact publicly at all? Will Zayn be involved in the anniversary plans?
Fans seemed to get some answers on July 15th, when Simon Jones—who was part of 1D’s PR team—released an article addressing the band’s plans for their anniversary. He said, “there will be a brand new 1D anniversary website, a 10 year celebration video especially made for their fans, and interactive playlists and activations across digital platforms.” Fans were confused, this surely couldn’t be everything the band was going to do for their ten years, right?
Even after this news, Directioners prepared themselves for the fateful day. On the eve of July 23rd, they collectively gathered on social media to prepare for the day that would presumably be full of surprises.
Then the day began: at midnight new EPs including acoustic versions and remixes of old songs were released. Throughout the day, vertical videos full of unseen footage were added to the background of each 1D song on Spotify. Fans listened to Liam Payne on a radio interview. Four of the five original band members shared their thoughts on social media. A celebratory video, which now has 13 million views, was released on YouTube, along with 4K versions of old music videos that are being released throughout the week. And finally, the website went live, which unsurprisingly crashed in a couple of minutes and wasn’t available until the next day for most fans. Ultimately, everything that Simon Jones had published came true, and it’s safe to say that some Directioners were disappointed. Many went on to say that this was part of the "One Direction experience."
Even though July 23rd is well over, some fans continue to hold on to the hope that something exciting is brewing. When the anniversary website originally crashed, it displayed a message stating “10 Years of Reason Being.” Fans were confused: what in the world is Reason Being? Then, when the 4K version of music videos began to be released on iTunes, the artist name under the “What Makes You Beautiful” video was listed as One Direction & Reason Being, which has now been changed to One Direction only.
Additionally, as fans navigated through the anniversary website, they realized it was full of easter eggs. These included USBs that could be moved to open hidden pictures and envelopes with hidden notes: fans were quick to note that only one envelope that says “Special Issue, Closed Until 2020” cannot be opened.
What does this mean? Could Reason Being and the hidden envelope lead to some exciting news for Directioners, or are they just details that were overlooked by the band's team and are being overanalyzed by fans?
Even though fans continue to look for answers, and the official anniversary plans did not go as expected, July 23rd was still a special day for Directioners all over the world. It was an opportunity for them to look back on the band’s accomplishments, simultaneously looking back at their own teenage years, as many fans are well into their twenties today.
Fans interacted on social media, shared old photos and videos, participated in fan projects, made One Direction the most streamed artist on Spotify with 18 million listens, and elevated four of 1D's albums to the top 200 Billboard charts after years of their initial release. Much like the One Direction's success, the nostalgic day was defined by the fans as they celebrated their own memories and accomplishments in tandem with the band's. Even though the band members have been focusing on their solo careers, Directioners never fail to prove that whatever happens, whether the band reunites sooner or later, they will always be there to show their support. As the band’s song “History” affirms, One Direction and their fans truly are “the greatest team that the world has ever seen.”