One Direction dropped their new Ed Sheeran-penned single, “Little Things” — a followup to their hit “Live While We’re Young” and the second track released from the upcoming Take Me Home — this morning, and as expected, there’s nothing “little” about its online reaction.
Though the official lyric video has only been live for a few hours, it has already received over 127,000 likes and 55,000 comments on YouTube, and as young girls across the U.S. wake up today and check their Tumblrs, those metrics are only going to soar higher.
Because of that massive, adoring fanbase of occasionally irrational Directioners, I realize what I’m about to write might not be especially popular, but I’ve got to be honest: this song is kind of messed up.
Yes, it’s a pretty, strummy offering that gives each boy his own solo (for the first time, every individual’s voice is clearly recognizable), and yes, the stripped-back melody is rather lovely and characteristically Ed Sheeran-y, but it’s the lyrics that I find troubling. I mean, just look at ‘em:
“I know you’ve never loved the crinkles by your eyes,” sings Liam Payne during the second stanza of the song. “You’ve never loved your stomach or your thighs / the dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine / but I love them endlessly.” Later in the song, during Harry Styles’ verse, he sings, “You still have to squeeze into your jeans / but you’re perfect to me.”
Perhaps I’d hear those lyrics differently if Ed Sheeran had released this song for his own fans, but this is officially a One Direction song now, and there’s something icky about the endlessly coiffed and tailored (not to mention athletically-built) boys delivering those words. Last I checked, One Direction’s fans aren’t composed mainly of aging obesity victims — they’re little girls who range in age from about 8-14.
At the older end of that spectrum are girls currently enduring middle school, who may very well be feeling insecure about their bodies. In that case, it seems terribly misguided (or at least ruthlessly conniving) to tap into that insecurity with “Little Things” and ask girls to find their validation in One Direction’s blanket affection. But I could maybe see how people would find the words sweet.
More troubling to me are the younger fans who listen to this song. The carefree 9-year-olds who nibble on fruit roll-ups on the way to gymnastics class. The ones who watch Good Luck Charlie before bed, getting one last year out of their Sleeping Beauty nightgowns. “Little Things” presupposes insecurity in order to be effective lyrically, but for all those happily naive fans that (thankfully!) aren’t dealing with body image issues, One Direction literally provides insecurities for listeners to feel.
But that’s just part of why the whole pseudo-chivalrous “You’ll never love yourself half as much as I love you” vibe feels so disingenuous. One Direction doesn’t — they simply can’t — love each of their fans as much as they say they do. Not in the way an insecure person needs to be loved to escape that awful cycle of self-reflection. They’re an international phenomenon touring the globe and clinking glasses with the rich and beautiful, not psychiatric counselors. Their therapy by way of crooning is simply undercooked.
Give the song a listen below.
So, you tell me. Is there something insidious in those lyrics, or am I being melodramatic?