What Makes You Beautiful

Album: Up All Night (2011)
Charted: 1 4

Songfacts®:

  • One Direction is an English boyband consisting of Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne. The five teens applied as solo candidates to the seventh series of the ITV reality show The X Factor, but failed to qualify for the Boys category. However, after a suggestion by guest judge Nicole Scherzinger, the quintet were put into a band and eventually finished third behind runner up Rebecca Ferguson and winner Matt Cardle. Following their successful run on The X Factor, the group signed a £2 million record contract with Syco.
  • This is their first single. It received its first airplay on August 10, 2011 and was released a month later on September 11, 2011. Speaking to BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles, band member Harry Styles said: "When we were recording in the studio we knew instantly that we wanted this track to be our first single."
  • The song was written by The X Factor vocal coach Savan Kotecha and Swedish songwriters Carl Falk and Rami Yacoub, whose other joint songwriting credits include The Wanted's "Lose My Mind." Yacoub has also co-penned several of Britney Spears' hits including "Stronger" and "Lucky."
  • The song became the fastest selling single of 2011 to that date when it sold 153,000 copies within a week of being released.
  • The song was voted Best British Single at the 2012 BRITS Awards. The category is one of three BRIT Awards determined by a public vote.
  • When this debuted at #28 on the American Hot 100 chart it became the highest bow for a UK act's debut U.S. singles chart entry since The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" arrived at #13 almost 14 years previously.
  • One Direction performed this song and "One Thing" on the Saturday Night Live episode broadcast April 7, 2012. It was the first appearance by a boy band on the show in over three years. On Valentine's Day 2009, the Jonas Brothers were the show's musical guests.
  • Carl Falk told the story of the song to Examiner.com: "It was the first song we did for One Direction. It was hard at first for us to be convinced that a boy band like One Direction would work. How do you do this without sounding outdated or copying someone else? What we thought and what was clear about 'What Makes You Beautiful' was we had a vision of going back to the '90s, and bringing a little bit of that sound from 1999 — like the sound choices and instruments — and just do an updated version of that.

    If you look at the One Direction fans who are between 10 and 14 years old," he added, "they haven't grown up listening to music that I did when I was growing up, like 'I Want It That Way' [from the Backstreet Boys] or 'Bye Bye Bye' [from N Sync]. So we started to experiment with sounds and riff and everything. It didn't take long.

    Savan had the title already. We all loved it. It's kind of cool to say, "You don't know you're beautiful. That's what makes you beautiful." That takes it from being a beautiful title to a really smart concept. So everything just clicked.

    The same thing happened with the production. It didn't take long before we had a really good demo of the song. If you listen to the first demo we did of the song, that's kind of the direction the song took."
  • Savan Kotecha wrote the lyrics about his wife, Anna. He explained to Sugar magazine: "One morning when I was going to the studio, she was like 'Ugh, I look so ugly today' and I was like 'Nooo!' – my wife's this beauuutiful Swedish girl, and the 'you don't know you're beautiful, that's what makes you beautiful' line popped into my head."
  • Savan Kotecha explained to Billboard magazine why he and the other songwriters decided to go for a guitar-pop sound for this song. "Everyone was doing Rihanna dance-pop," he said. "My sort of rule with boy bands and groups, is you do, like... counter-programming, I guess? You do the exact opposite of what's going on. Because to me, I feel like teenage girls need to feel it's their own thing. If you're just trying to be Usher, they'll just buy Usher... so that was sort of my theory. So we always knew it was gonna be guitar, high-energy, but Carl and Rami just got [the production] right."

Comments: 4

  • Bethany from Blacksburg Virginia I love one Direction they’re so sweet boys because I love them my aide Payton Johnson went to one Direction concert at Salem but they’re sweethearts
  • Harry Styles from Uk I wnat to go to London to see one direction and get A heart attack to see Harry styles and niall horn
  • Lauren from Fife, United KingdomBeen with 1D since torn. and will be there until i die. Loved there first single and love them!!!!!!!
  • Katie from Ocala, Flofficially my new favorite song. <3 <3 <3
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