Tuesday, December 11, 2018

One Directions "What Makes You Beautiful" is more than just an Anthem for Tween Girls

My generations most successful boyband “One Direction” debuted in September of 2011 with the certified quadruple platinum song “What Makes You Beautiful” off their debut album Up All Night. The boyband snatched the hearts of millions and took the music industry by storm. “What Makes You Beautiful” is arguably one of the most perfect songs for an assignment like this one. Musically, it is incredibly catchy and enjoyable, but at the same time, even if read aloud as a poem, "WMYB" unveils a poetic message of self-worth and inner beauty.

 “What Makes You Beautiful” is an affectionate, complementary, and blithe song; it makes you feel blissful, enthralled, and vivacious. It shows that even if you can't see your personal beauty, others can. Looking at only the words itself of the poem, the high-spirited tone is coming from a pursuing lover. The persona created by the singers are in love with a girl. The persona is trying to lift the spirits of the girl, who is insecure by hiding, written by the band, “ But when you smile at the ground it ain't hard to tell //You don't know, oh oh//You don't know you're beautiful,”.

The audience is the girl who the speaker is in love with but one could assume the message stretches to everyone discovering self-worth and inner beauty. In today’s digital media society, beauty expectations are extremely high and the pressures to meet them are higher, creating insecurities. What One Direction is trying to get across to the audience is that not only they but the world of eyes sees them as a beautiful light. The band sings,

      “Baby you light up my world like nobody else,
       The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed,
       But when you smile at the ground it ain't hard to tell,
       You don't know, oh-oh,
       You don't know you're beautiful,
       If only you saw what I can see,
       You'll understand why I want you so desperately,
       Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe,
       You don't know, oh-oh,
       You don't know you're beautiful, oh-oh,”

The meaning of the poem is to inspire confidence in young people. The insecurities held inside of their head are only what society deems “beautiful”, when in fact they are beautiful in their own unique way. I believe the main message of this poem is that we don't always see in ourselves what others see. We lack self-confidence and only see our flaws, the band ensures,

       “You're insecure,
        Don't know what for,
       You're turning heads when you walk through the door,
       Don't need make-up, to cover up,
       Being the way that you are is enough
       Everyone else in the room can see it,
       Everyone else but you,”

The band uses imagery by showing and not telling, they describe the scene as the girl is walking into a crowded room, everyone's head turns to them, I thought this was unique because I could imagine a girl walking into a party, flipping her hair then smiling at the ground. The specific lines were, “You're turning heads when you walk through the door,// Don't need make-up, to cover up,// Being the way that you are is enough// Everyone else in the room can see it,”.Furthermore creating a picture of the room from the boy's point of view.

 The song also follows the poetic device of clerihew, which is AABB rhyme patterns:

       So come on, you got it wrong   (A)
       To prove I'm right, I put it in a song (A)
       I don't know why, you're being shy  (B)
      And turn away when I look into your eye eye eyes  (B)

More so, in the specific stanza above there is alliteration, this verse has the words, “it”, “in”, “into” and “I’m”. All of these words have the occurrence of the same letter “I” at the beginning of closely connected words. One Direction ensures to use bright and extravagant diction of beauty and light so the girl understands that she is the light of the poet's life and that not only her but everyone has self-worth and inner beauty.

It all leads up to the ultimate, appreciations message of the song: people must stop being worried about only external things, or what society deems beautiful. The beautiful poem shows that even if you can't see your personal beauty, others can.


  1. I appreciate looking at this song on a deeper level than it normally is. I think there are a lot of songs that have lyrics that are overlooked because of the popularity of the artist, or the catchiness of the rhythm.

  2. I think that your focus on how the song shows, instead of tells, the listener what is going on, because I think in general it's important for good songs and poems alike to show the reader or listener what they mean, whether through flowery imagery like old poetry or good storytelling, like in this song.

  3. It's really interesting that you chose this song. I think people often forget that even a One Direction song can be poetry, and you did a great job proving that.