Louis's baby news sends 1D in only one direction
Once the babies come, boybands go and the only ones surprised are the boys themselves
Published 19/07/2015 | 02:30
'Once Keith's girlfriend Lisa was pregnant, I knew that was the end of it," Louis Walsh said of the demise of Boyzone in a 2005 interview with me for LIFE magazine. "In a boyband, the fans do not want to see them with girls. The fans want to think they're available and I believe in that whole thing of bringing in the girlfriend through the back door of the hotel and all that. Because you're selling a myth and you're selling it to girls."
By that time, Louis had managed a lot of acts, but Boyzone had been his first big one and he'd been on the full arc of youthful exuberance with them: success, girlfriends, babies, wives, ego-trips, splits and bust-ups.
Louis had been around the boyband block, and he took a position that these teen-idol heroes follow a certain trajectory that always ends the same way; badly. Which most grown adults would accept; but try telling that this week to the millions of young girls all over the world, who were heartbroken last week when it was announced that One Direction's Louis Tomlinson (23) is going to be a daddy.
It's likely that there are 1D fans so young that they don't even yet know how babies are made, but still, instinctively, they know that the dream is over. The loss of Zayn Malik from the group in March was one thing, a first experience of lost love, but a baby signals a loss of innocence that no boyband can really survive.
Last Tuesday, an official announcement was made that Louis Tomlinson is to become a father early next year. The mother-to-be is an LA-based stylist called Briana Jungwirth, with whom the 1D star has been photographed 'partying' several times since splitting up with his pre-fame English girlfriend, Eleanor Calder, in the spring. Don't you just love 'partying'? It seems so innocent, but can suggest anything from sharing an ice-cream to sharing a baby, and everything in between.
Jungwirth is the same age as Tomlinson, a mere 23, and her parents have publicly leapt to her defence in recent days, concerned that the fan backlash and paparazzi pressure will cause their daughter to crack.
Interestingly, the name Yoko Ono has been wildly bandied about all week by the under-15s, who might not ever have heard The Beatles, but know that those two little words mean "bad bitch who went and ruined everything".
1D statements were issued to the effect that Tomlinson was delighted with the pregnancy. He's going to be a "hands-on dad" and his mother has already seen scans and can't wait to meet her grandchild.
Simon Cowell, who has had 1D on his record label, Syco, since they were solo hopefuls shaped into a group on the 2010 X Factor, was reportedly "absolutely delighted" with the news. Having become a father himself last year, the story went, Cowell felt particularly thrilled to hear that Tomlinson was to join the daddy ranks. Yes, because a 54-year-old millionaire becoming a father is the same thing as a 23-year-old whose livelihood depends on him being a relatively unthreatening crush for adolescent girls.
Apparently, and this was put in such a way as to convey personal closeness, Cowell was the first person after his family to whom Tomlinson told his news. I bet he was.
There's a lot riding on this. One Direction are the biggest band in the world and, from an adult's point of view, there's no need for the gravy train to grind to a halt just yet.
But that's an adult's point of view, from which the departure of Malik in March and now Louis's news seem like a sort of youthful self-sabotage.
If you had to go back and pinpoint when the shine started to go off One Direction, it was when Malik and Tomlinson, then 21 and 22, respectively, were filmed smoking a roll-up cigarette in a taxi in Peru. It was the kind of smartphone footage you see all the time, and in the background, a voice identified as Tomlinson's said "Joint lit. Happy days." They pair were lambasted as bad role models, but anyone with a bit of age and experience couldn't help but feel sorry for them.
What you had to wonder, though, was who took the footage? It seemed at the time that it was Tomlinson, but it was hardly he who put it online. Unless he was looking to get into trouble, but if it wasn't him or Malik, then it was someone else in the car, someone they trusted. Of course, for today's teens and twentysomethings, this happens all the time, this is how they live. They photograph and video their lives constantly and lay it out for everyone to see and to comment on. Which is why neither Malik nor Tomlinson stopped the videoing and considered that it might cause them career trouble. They were, for a moment, being just like everyone else. Except that they're not.
Going all the way back to The Beatles or The Monkees, through the Bay City Rollers and Wham! and Take That, Boyzone and Westlife, maintaining an illusion of wholesome attractiveness has been key to keeping a teen and pre-teen fan base. Girlfriends are traditionally a no-no, drink and drugs are frowned upon and the boys must not be sexy, per se, just cute.
And in the days of the aforementioned bands, this was possible. Now, it is not. Since the leaked video footage in Peru, members of One Direction have been regularly photographed 'partying' pretty hard. All it takes is one person in the gang with a phone and a will to make a 60-second name for themselves and the boys look like they're not the innocents the songs and the merchandise would have their fans believe.
Worth noting, though, that the carefully styled rebel, Harry Styles, has never been snapped misbehaving, nor has our own Niall Horan, who is far too country cute for that. This pair are probably the ones the record label have marked for big solo things; because they behave. The fifth guy, Liam Payne, makes minimal impact, while Malik and Tomlinson have been the group bad boys, the ones who will blow 1D apart, but also the ones who are behaving most like two normal young fellas. Consequences, you may recall, don't mean much when you're 23. Though the arrival of a child can put paid to that.
Everyone thinks they know it all when they're young. We think that no one before us has ever felt this way and that we'll go on feeling this way forever. Being famous only intensifies that. But everything changes, to paraphrase Gary Barlow.
As Louis Walsh said of boybands in 2005: "They all change; you can't help it. At the start, you can slap them down, because they need you. But as they get bigger, they turn into monsters; 99pc of them."