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What I Learned About Spirituality and the Universe from One Direction's Cover of "Torn"

They may look and sound better than they did when they first performed the song as a group in the Judge's House in 2010, but are they happier? Are we?

by Sam Wolfson
Nov 13 2015, 1:30pm


Screenshot of One Direction performing "Torn" in 2010, via YouTube

This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.

Yesterday, One Direction were in Radio 1's Live Lounge. They performed tracks from their album, which is out today, and a cover of "FourFiveSeconds" so horrifyingly bad that, if he ever heard it, iwould make Paul McCartney regret ever becoming a musician, despite everything he's achieved, just so he couldn't write that song, just so they couldn't cover it.

But in between all that, they performed a cover of Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn," and watching it I had a profound spiritual awakening that I would like to describe for you now. But first, a video embed!

As any true Directioner will know, this is not the first time One Direction have performed this song. It was in fact, the first song they ever performed together as a group. Back at Judge's House, during the 2010 series of X Factor when they had just been put together by Simon Cowell. Here they are, before the stylists and the STIs and the branded pencil cases. Just five young lads, performing for a man and his ex-girlfriend he still hangs out with all the time:

The new performance from yesterday is more accomplished. In the early video it looks like they arrived at Stansted airport butt-naked and were give 40 seconds to buy all their clothes for the trip in a single branch of Fat Face Express. In the latter, they are perfectly coiffured River Island mannequins, the very embodiment of post-basic masculinity. Their voices are improved, the harmonies are in tune, and they've all got two in-ear loop-back headphones just like Michael Stipe.

But they are also worse, in the sense that it's plain this now means nothing to them. In 2010 they were fighting for their lives to be changed forever. Now their lives have changed forever, but they look sadder and more distant, and they have lost one of their number because he literally "couldn't take it anymore," he says, and now the rest of the band agree, having told the world that their hearts are no longer in this. They seem hollow.

What gets me is that today's One Direction are basically unrecognizable from the One Direction of five years ago. They have grown up, and they have grown real. But I have also lived through those five years. So have you. So has everyone you know. So has the universe. I don't feel that different than I did in 2010, but sometimes the pace of change is so gradual that you barely notice it, until you're staring two completely different versions of One Direction in the face.

What I'm saying is, we are all Liam's perfectly crafted "rugged" facial hair, we are all Niall's Sunday-casual desert boots, we are all Louis doing the best we can with what god gave us, we are all Harry's presumed inability to get it up for anything other than a foursome in a cage full of panthers, having been anethetized to all arousal after four years of being able to sleep with literally anyone in the world.

As I watch this new version of "Torn" I think of the people I cared about when they first performed that song and the people I care about now, and I am so grateful that there are some with whom I could live through both versions of One Direction's "Torn." That is true friendship: someone who is there for you in the Zayn times and the not so Zayn times.

Of course, because Directioners are all fucking mental, there are already a bunch of amazing videos melding the two performances together like Boyhood only this shit could actually win an Oscar.

I wonder how much will have changed the next time One Direction perform "Torn," in 2021, on an ITV special celebrating their reunion, hosted by Laura Whitmore and Keith Lemon. In a "Torn" from now, will we feel older, or will we stay the same? What will have changed about our hopes and fears, ourselves, our cities, our planet? Will we have reached beyond the stars, or fallen in ourselves? Of course we can't predict the "Torn"s of the future, we can only appreciate the "Torn"s of today, to look at how far we've come, who we've come with and how much better our hair is now.

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