I remember when *NSYNC went on hiatus: they just kind of did.
I grew up with BSB, *NSYNC, and 98 Degrees, and while I lived for and loved them so much, one day I turned 16 (or 17 — it’s a blur, now that I’m 486), started listening to “party music” and/or “punk/ska” (I stood by Less Than Jake then and I kind of stand by them now), and then one day Justin Timberlake released his solo album, and we all stopped hearing from BSB and then when *NSYNC released “Gone” it was like . . . sure? We were kind of over it. Or at least I was. By that point, I was riding The Eminem Show wave, and couldn’t believe how much fun dancing to Missy Elliott was, and of course Justin singing about Britney was a big deal, but not as big a deal as Britney’s album, thank you very much.
What I’m saying is that it was a time, and that growing into and out of music is tough, and last night was the end of an era for a lot of pop music fans.
On yesterday’s (British) X Factor finale, One Direction performed for the last time before their (supposed) 18-month long hiatus, putting an end to what Liam Payne described as the “first chapter” and reminding all of us of what it felt like to leave high school or a big first job after it defined a huge part of your life. It’s a necessary bummer. It’s One Direction’s equivalent to when Peggy quits Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and we all knew she had to peace out, but it sure as shit didn’t stop Don (or any of us) from crying when it happened.
If you’re like me (and if so — hi!), and you’d lived through the boy band craze of the nineties and early 2000s, their solo careers, the madness and mayhem, and Ginger Spice’s exit from the Spice Girls, you probably recognize One Direction for what they are: a really great pop band. I feel a little too old to connect to the groups’ triumphs and tragedies on a massive scale (because that’s the way it works — also, I am very good at turning my emotions off), but goodbyes are hard, even if they’re only goodbyes for now, so it’s important that when talking to diehard fans, you recognize that.
But at the same time, I’m excited for what the 1D hiatus brings. I’m psyched for Harry, Niall, Louis, and Liam to live their best Peggy Olson lives and move on to new and exciting things that make them get their grooves back. You’re not supposed to stay at your first real job. You’re not supposed to stay in high school or college. You’re supposed to move on and challenge yourself so you can become a newer and more improved version of yourself. For them to stay as is wouldn’t be conducive to change or evolution or even becoming better, smarter, more interesting people. I mean, hi: you ever run into that guy who still works at the restaurant you both worked at during college? And he doesn’t see it as a problem that he’s still trying to date year one bar servers because he wears a tie now? Exactly. It’s upsetting for everybody. On several fundamental levels. (But especially you, because now you’re making small talk with him and . . . holy shit, is that a tribal tattoo on his arm? What the fuck? Why is he wearing a Tapout shirt under his blazer?)
So as a pop fan, of course it’s a bummer to know that if and when One Direction comes back, it will be different. But at the same time, also as a pop fan, I can’t think of anything more interesting than four grown-ass dudes saying, “Yeah, we gotta figure our shit out — BRB.” Change and breaks and self re-evaluation takes guts, and I like knowing that these creative humans are choosing to do the one thing that will maintain their creativity (and also their sanity). Self-aware people are my favourite kind, and while I selfishly would like to know I could see them live every summer, I’d rather see them later down the road when we can all be sure that nobody got any barbed wire ink to impress the first year liberal arts major who’s made it very clear she’s got a boyfriend, Ryan.
And I mean, think about touring the world every day, every year, for five years. If they didn’t want a break, we would only be left to assume that they were Pete Campbells, not Peggys. And the former is the scariest possibility of all.