What Makes You Beautiful

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"What Makes You Beautiful"
Single by One Direction
from the album Up All Night
B-side "Na Na Na"
Released 11 September 2011
Format
Recorded 2011
Kinglet Studios and Cosmos Studios
(Stockholm, Sweden)
Genre Teen pop
Length 3:18
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Yacoub
  • Falk
One Direction singles chronology
"'Heroes'"
(2010)
"What Makes You Beautiful"
(2011)
"Gotta Be You"
(2011)
Music video
"What Makes You Beautiful" on YouTube

"What Makes You Beautiful" is a song by the English-Irish boy band One Direction. It served as their debut single and lead single from their debut studio album, Up All Night (2011). Written by Savan Kotecha and its producers, Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk, the song was released by Syco Records on 11 September 2011. After recording it at Cosmos Studios and Kinglet Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, the band felt relieved to have a song that they were happy to release as their first single. The track is an uptempo song which interpolates pop genres teen pop, power pop and pop rock. It features a prominent guitar-based chorus and riff, and the middle eight consists of a "na na na" hook. The song's opening guitar riff is similar to that of the classic song "Summer Nights" from the musical Grease and its 1978 motion picture adaptation.

The song was generally complimented by contemporary music critics, who highlighted the appeal to the teenage audience and the pop sensibility. It debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, after setting a Sony Music Entertainment pre-order record and selling 153,965 copies in its first week. The single also topped the Irish and Scottish Singles Charts, and reached the top ten on the Australian and New Zealand Singles Charts, Flemish Ultratop 50, Canadian Hot 100, Japan Hot 100 and the United States Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over four million copies in the US by January 2013.

The accompanying music video was directed by John Urbano and depicts One Direction spending time on a Malibu, California, beach. The clip garnered the group three MTV Video Music Awards on 6 September 2012, including Best Pop Video. One Direction performed the song live on televised shows, at awards ceremonies, and on two of their major concert tours: Up All Night Tour (2011–12) and Take Me Home Tour (2013). Artists including Boyce Avenue, Parade, Rita Ora, the Piano Guys, and Josh Groban have covered "What Makes You Beautiful", and it was performed on an episode of Glee, "Prom-asaurus". "What Makes You Beautiful" won the BRIT Award for Best British Single at the 2012 ceremony. This song is the third track on Now! 80. As of late June 2014 the accompanying music video for the song remains sixteenth most viewed YouTube video of all time.

Background and production[edit]

After being formed and finishing third in the seventh series of The X Factor in 2010,[1] One Direction were signed to Syco Music, a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment.[2] "What Makes You Beautiful" was written by Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk and Savan Kotecha, and was produced by Yacoub and Falk. Instrumentation was completed by Falk and Yacoub. Serban Ghenea handled the audio mixing, Tom Coyne the audio mastering, and John Hanes the mix engineering, for which Phil Seaford served as the assistant.[3] After recording the song at Cosmos Studios and Kinglet Studios in Stockholm, Sweden,[3] the band felt relieved to have a song that they were happy to release as their debut single. Band member Liam Payne called the song "perfect",[4] and Harry Styles said, "When we were recording in the studio we knew instantly that we wanted this track to be our first single."[5] Styles spoke to MTV News, "I think for us we wanted to release something that wasn't cheesy but it was fun. It kind of represented us, I think it took us a while to find it but I think we found the right song." Payne added, "We always wanted [the single] to be something that people didn't expect and then when we heard it, it wasn't what we expected either so it kind of fitted perfectly."[6]

Release and promotion[edit]

"What Makes You Beautiful" premiered on BBC Radio 1 on 10 August 2011,[5] and was released by Syco Music in Europe, Australia and New Zealand via digital download on 11 September 2011.[7] A CD single was released in the United Kingdom on 12 September 2011,[8] and followed in Australia and Germany on 25 November 2011 and 2 December 2011, respectively.[9][10] In North America, the single was released in Canada via digital download on 31 January 2012.[11] It was issued 14 February 2012 in the United States[12] and was sent by Columbia Records to US contemporary hit radio (CHR) playlists on 28 February 2012.[13]

For the North American release of Up All Night on 13 March 2012, Columbia Records executives used social media to shape its marketing campaign. Columbia Records co-chairman Steve Barnett and his team decided to reverse the usual pattern of releasing a single on radio. Instead the label mounted a four-month marketing campaign aimed at building a fan base through social media before a single was ever released or played on the radio. The social media campaign asked fans to sign petitions and to enter video competitions to win a concert in their town. The campaign was a success as One Direction's Facebook followers in the United States rose from 40,000 to 400,000. As a result, "What Makes You Beautiful" sold more than 131,000 copies in its first week, even though it had yet to be played on the radio. Radio programmers were flooded with calls from fans. Johnny Wright, who managed New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, said: "Now they are calling the radio station, and the radio station is scratching its head, saying, "We don't even have that record yet". It's almost like the return of The Beatles. I call it hype, but it's positive hype because it's all real. It's not manufactured. No one paid these kids."[14]

Composition[edit]

The song has a guitar-based chorus and riff

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"What Makes You Beautiful" is a teen pop, pop rock and power pop song,[15][16] with electropop influences.[17] Running for three minutes and 18 seconds,[3] the song is set in common time with a tempo of 120 beats per minute. Written in the key of E major, it follows the chord progression E–A–B; vocal elements range from the note of B3 to G5.[15] James C. McKinley Jr. of The New York Times compared its chord progression to "La Bamba".[18] The opening guitar riff has been noted as similar to that of Grease single "Summer Nights".[19] "What Makes You Beautiful" has a guitar-based chorus; Digital Spy's Robert Copsey likened it to a cross between Pink's "Raise Your Glass" and McFly's "All About You".[19] It also contains cowbell instrumentation,[20] and the middle eight consists of an "oh na na na" hook.[21]

Critical reception[edit]

The song received generally positive reviews from music critics. Robert Copsey of Digital Spy gave "What Makes You Beautiful" four out of five stars, praising its catchy melody and summarising it as "adorable, completely innocent and bound to cause a stir amongst your mates".[19] Zachary Houle of PopMatters called the song a "nice get-up-and-go dance number."[20] Ailbhe Malone of NME commended the song's appeal to the teenage audience and its chord progression for being "simple enough to be played on an acoustic guitar at a house party."[21] Newsround called it "fun, upbeat and incredibly catchy."[22] AllMusic's Matthew Chisling called it an "effervescent and fresh tween love song", and chose it as one of the best tracks on Up All Night.[23] Sophie Goddard from Cosmopolitan called the single "ridiculously catchy".[24] Student's Jack Murray rated "What Makes You Beautiful" five out of five stars and called it "not only the best pop single of the year so far, but potentially of any X Factor contestant ever". Murray lauded the songwriting and light production.[25] Tanner Stransky of Entertainment Weekly awarded "What Makes You Beautiful" a B+ grade, calling the song "shallow but crushworthy" and writing that the song shows that boy bands are not dying out.[26]

Jason Lipshutz of Billboard characterised it as "the real deal", regarding the song as "endlessly playable" as 'N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye". Lipshutz opined that its "cheeky electro-pop twist" is its best attribute.[27] Stephanie Abrahams of TIME assessed, "The group takes cues from the boy bands of yesteryear with bubblegum lyrics about young love — “The way you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed” they croon in their breakout single – which any parent can get behind. That’s a far cry from a typical Nicki Minaj verse."[28] The Observer editor Kitty Empire wrote in an assessment, "With the exception of their persuasive No 1 single, "What Makes You Beautiful", their songs aren't wildly distinctive."[29] "What Makes You Beautiful" won the BRIT Award for Best British Single at the 2012 Brit Awards, which was held on 21 February 2012.[30] The song also won the Teen Choice Award for Choice Music: Love Song at the 2012 Teen Choice Awards.[31]

Chart performance[edit]

One Direction performing "What Makes You Beautiful" at their Up All Night Tour, 2012

With over 5 million copies sold worldwide, the song is among the best-selling singles of all time.[32] "What Makes You Beautiful" debuted at number 1 on the Irish Singles Chart on 15 September 2011; its B-side, "Na Na Na" also entered at number 27.[33] The single topped the chart for four consecutive weeks.[34] "What Makes You Beautiful" became the fourteenth best-selling single of 2011 on the Irish Singles Chart.[35][36] In the UK, "What Makes You Beautiful" received the highest ever number of pre-orders for a Sony Music Entertainment single.[37] It sold 82,000 copies in its first two days, a figure which rose to 100,000 by the third day.[38] It entered the UK Singles Chart at number 1 on 18 September 2011, shifting 153,965 copies that week—the highest first-week UK sales for any song in 2011 at the time.[39] "What Makes You Beautiful" also debuted at number 1 on the Scottish Singles Chart.[40] "What Makes You Beautiful" was the twentieth best-selling single of 2011, moving 540,000 copies.[41] The single was the ninety-second best-selling single of the 21st century in the UK by May 2012.[42] As of 8 December 2012, "What Makes You Beautiful" had sold 781,000 copies in the UK.[43]

In Belgium, the song debuted at number 44 on both the Flemish Ultratop 50 and the Wallonian Ultratip; it peaked at numbers 8 and 19, respectively.[44][45] Accumulating twenty-two weeks on the French Singles Chart, it debuted at number 83 and peaked at number 38.[46] In Finland, the single debuted and peaked at number 20.[47] On the top sixty Swedish Sverigetopplistan, the single debuted at number 49, peaked at number 29, and spent twenty-four weeks on that chart.[48] It was certified quadruple platinum by the Swedish Recording Industry Association (GLF), denoting sales of 80,000 copies.[49] "What Makes You Beautiful" debuted at number 15 and peaked at number 7 on the Australian Singles Chart.[50] The single spent twenty-five weeks in the Australian Singles Chart top twenty.[50] "What Makes You Beautiful" has been certified six times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), denoting sales of 420,000 units.[51] "Na Na Na" also appeared on the Australian Singles Chart of 28 November 2011 at number 84.[52] On the New Zealand Singles Chart, the single entered at number 16, and peaked at number 2 in its fourth and fifth weeks. The song spent eleven consecutive weeks in the chart's top ten.[53] It was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ), denoting sales of 30,000 units.[54]

The single debuted on the Canadian Hot 100 at number 9, while bowing at number 2 on the Canadian Hot Digital Songs Chart with 19,000 downloads sold, the biggest debut for a first time charted artist since the Stereos's "Summer Girl" entered at number two in June 2009.[55] The single peaked at number 7 on the Canadian Hot 100 and has been certified quadruple platinum by Music Canada, denoting sales of 320,000 copies.[55][56] In the United States, "What Makes You Beautiful" became the highest Billboard Hot 100 debut for a British act since 1998. On 1 March 2012, the single debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 28, whilst bowing at number 12 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, selling 132,000 digital downloads in its first week.[57] On the week ending 21 April 2012, "What Makes You Beautiful" peaked at number 4.[58] As of 30 June 2012, the single had spent thirteen consecutive weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 top ten.[59] The song also became a chart success on other Billboard charts, reaching the top five on the Pop Songs, Adult Pop Songs, and Hot 100 Airplay charts,[55] whilst topping the Hot Dance Club Songs chart.[60] The track sold 3,881,000 copies in the United States in 2012, becoming the best-selling song by a boy band in digital history.[61] The song was certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 21 February 2013,[62] and it has sold 4,525,000 copies in the US as of March 2014.[63]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "What Makes You Beautiful" was directed by John Urbano. Filmed for two days in July 2011,[64][65] it premiered on 19 August 2011.[66] On each of the five days preceding the video's premiere, One Direction posted a teaser trailer of the video online. Each teaser showed footage from the video and behind the scenes, and one member of the band announcing how many days were left until the video premiere.[67] The video opens with One Direction spending time on a Malibu, California beach inter cut with scenes of them driving an orange campervan. During the second verse, a group of three girls joins the band at the beach; in Styles' bridge solo, he intimately sings to one girl individually. During the final choruses the band and girls are shown sitting around a fire, lighting sparklers and taking photographs.[6] On video sharing website MUZU TV, the video was the fourth most-watched music video of 2011 in the UK.[68] The video won two MTV Video Music Awards for Best Pop Video and Most Share-Worthy Video, and earned the group the award for Best New Artist on 6 September 2012.[69] As of March 2014, the music video has garnered almost 500 million Vevo views.[70] In 2012, a blogger at BuzzFeed noticed similarities between the video and pop punk band Blink-182's video for "All the Small Things" — the video was filmed on Santa Monica Beach and is shot from the same camera angle as in "What Makes You Beautiful", leading media outlets to joke that the band parodied One Direction eleven years prior to their formation.[71]

Live performances[edit]

Malik and Payne performing "What Makes You Beautiful" at the Rockefeller Center on 12 March 2012

One Direction performed "What Makes You Beautiful" for the first time on Red or Black? on 10 September 2011.[72] The performance started with hosts Ant & Dec announcing that the band was supposedly running late for their appearance, and cut to a video of One Direction boarding a London Tube carriage full of fans, as the studio version of the song began playing. Each fan on the tube was given a numbered ticket. The band and fans disembarked the tube and made their way to the television studio, where the remainder of the song was sung live. After the song, Styles caught a numbered ticket raining onstage. The number corresponded to a ticket held by a fan from the tube; the colour of the fan's shirt was the correct answer for the Red or Black? challenge.[72][73] The band performed "What Makes You Beautiful" after its B-side, "Na Na Na", at the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards on 9 October 2011.[74] The band also performed the song to open telethon Children in Need 2011 on 19 November 2011.[75] After "Gotta Be You" and "One Thing", One Direction performed "What Makes You Beautiful" at Capital FM's Jingle Bell Ball on 4 December 2011, at The O2 Arena.[76] They performed a medley of "She Makes Me Wanna" and "What Makes You Beautiful" with JLS on the The X Factor's eighth series final on 10 December 2011.[77] The group performed "One Thing" and "What Makes You Beautiful" on Dancing on Ice on 5 February 2012.[78]

In Italy, the band performed the song at the 2012 Sanremo Music Festival on 14 February 2012.[79] In France, they performed "What Makes You Beautiful" and "One Thing" on Le Grand Journal on 22 February 2012.[80] In the United States, One Direction performed the song along with "More than This" and "One Thing" for the first time on The Today Show at the Rockefeller Center on 12 March 2012. An estimated 15,000 fans descended on the plaza. Melissa Lonner, senior entertainment producer for The Today Show, said: "One Direction is relatively unknown with no hits yet. They basically exploded, and all the adults are saying, 'Who are these people, and how do they know about it?'".[81] They also performed the song at the 2012 Kids' Choice Awards on 31 March 2012.[82] One Direction performed "What Makes You Beautiful" and "One Thing" on the NBC comedy television show Saturday Night Live on 7 April 2012, and also appeared in a comedy sketch with Sofía Vergara.[83] In Australia, they performed "One Thing" and "What Makes You Beautiful" at the 54th Logie Awards, where they also presented an award for "Most Popular New Female Talent" on 15 April 2012.[84] On 12 August 2012, One Direction performed "What Makes You Beautiful" at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in London, which represented the handover to Rio de Janeiro as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics.[85] It was included on the set list of the group's headlining sold-out show at Madison Square Garden on 3 December 2012.[86] One Direction performed the song on two of their major concert tours: Up All Night Tour (2011–12) and Take Me Home Tour (2013).[87][88]

Cover versions[edit]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download and CD single[7]
  1. "What Makes You Beautiful" – 3:18
  2. "Na Na Na" – 3:05

Credits and personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[130] 6× Platinum 420,000^
Belgium (BEA)[131] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[132] 5× Platinum 400,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[133] 2× Platinum 60,000^
Italy (FIMI)[134] Platinum 30,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[135] Platinum 250,000^
Mexico (AMPROFON)[136] 3× Platinum 180,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[137] 2× Platinum 30,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[138] 7× Platinum 70,000*
Sweden (GLF)[139] 4× Platinum 160,000x
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[140] Platinum 30,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[141] Platinum 890,000[43]
United States (RIAA)[142] 4× Platinum 4,525,000[63]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Australia[7] 11 September 2011 Digital download Syco Music
Belgium[143]
Czech Republic[144]
Denmark[145]
Finland[146]
France[147]
Germany[148]
Ireland[149]
Italy[150]
Netherlands[151]
New Zealand[152]
Norway[153]
Portugal[154]
Romania[155]
Spain[156]
Sweden[157]
Switzerland[158]
United Kingdom[159]
United Kingdom[8] 12 September 2011 CD single
Australia[9][160] 4 October 2011 Contemporary hit radio
25 November 2011 CD single
Germany[10] 2 December 2011
Canada[11] 31 January 2012 Digital download Columbia Records
United States[12][13] 14 February 2012 Digital download
28 February 2012 Contemporary hit radio

Uses in popular culture[edit]

  • One Direction will sing "What Makes "U" Useful" for their appearance on "Sesame Street" for the 45th season. This song is a parody of "What Makes You Beautiful".[161]
  • Benjamin Stockham (playing for the 11-year old character Marcus Bowa) performed that tune in his school talent show on the pilot episode of NBC television series About a Boy broadcast on February 22, 2014.[162] On May 13, 2014, in the first season finale of the same show, the lead character David Walton in the role of Will Freeman sang the same song with his "band" that includes Marcus' mother Fiona Bowa played by Minnie Driver.
  • This song is on Just Dance 4 and Just Dance Wii U.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]