During the height of their popularity in the early 2010s, English-Irish boy band One Direction were compared with The Beatles, much to the dismay of purist Beatles fans. The comparisons were mostly based on the spunky five piece’s impressive knack for dilating the eyes of lovelorn schoolgirls.
Famously, The Beatles, besides their talent for creative songwriting and other culturally defining antics, were aesthetically appealing. If you need further evidence, just watch some footage from one of the group’s performances in the early ’60s; you can’t hear the music for the screaming hoards of ladies on the front row. If you’re lucky, you might just be able to make out Paul McCartney asking politely for them to shut up.
The comparisons between The Beatles and One Direction came to a head in 2014 when Harry Styles claimed that One Direction had become bigger than the Fab Four. At this point, tabloids recirculated an old photo of the One Direction boys mimicking the Beatles’ famous Abbey Road album cover where they had been shot walking across the zebra crossing near Abbey Road Studios.
McCartney has candidly responded to such comparisons a number of times over the past decade. While McCartney seemed to be comfortable that One Direction weren’t poised to usurp their place in the history books, he did express that he didn’t like people comparing One Direction with The Beatles. “I always think it’s a little bit unfortunate when you call [a band] ‘the new Beatles,’” the former Beatle explained in a 2013 interview. “It can be the kiss of death because people expect you to live up to what we did.”
McCartney also noted the importance of considering each artist in their own era; the 1960s were very different from the 2010s. “We did what we did in a particular period in time which was very different to now, obviously,” he said. “I don’t know whether it was different to be a wild success but it was different.”
While McCartney wasn’t keen on people comparing the boy band with his old rock group, he maintained that he had the utmost respect for them. “But I think these bands are great,” he asserted. “I like One Direction.” Shedding light on perhaps the main factor behind the group’s appeal, he said, “I think they’re young, beautiful boys, and that’s the big attraction,” he added. “But they can sing, they make good records, you know.”
McCartney concluded, clarifying the commonality between the two groups. “So I think that’s what [people] would see in common, y’know, girls love ’em and you can fantasise that you’re gonna marry ’em… or whatever,” apparently smiling on the final word of the sentence.
Watch One Direction star Harry Styles discuss Beatles comparisons in the video at the premiere of their film, This Is Us, below.