Vaccine frontman ‘sells out’ collaborating with One Direction

Max Eshraghi

Vaccine frontman Justin Young’s recent decision has sparked a question not unlike their first album title: What did you expect from the Vaccines? Well, not a collaboration with X-Factor rejects-turned-biggest-boy-band-on-the-planet, One Direction.

The Vaccines have spearheaded a retro-revivalist trend that has seen a surge in popularity since they broke out just three short years ago. Tongue-in-cheek toe-tappers like ‘Post Break Up Sex’ and Ramones-esque rock’n’roll like ‘Do You Wanna’ catapulted their album to the number one debut album of 2011.

But this announcement seems to throw a curveball into what is already a crucial and seismic transitory period for the band. Accusations have flown that this marks the band’s loss of musical integrity before their first trans-Atlantic headline tour. As if The Vaccines have forgotten their modern rock’n’roll-with-an-edge roots at the first sight of American Dollars.

But this is not a ‘Bob Rock of Metallica’ level of ‘selling-out’. To make such a comparison would be hyperbolic. Rather this marks the move of a band at a crossroads. On the cusp of their American break-out, the Vaccines don’t seem to have decided what kind of band they want to be.

Following a slew of interviews where Young has championed his group’s evolution, this pop collaboration seems less like The Vaccines ‘selling-out’ and more like a band unsure of their direction. “We don’t want to be an indie band any more, we want to be a rock band” Young declared proudly in a recent interview. A few months later and he seems to have forgotten this completely. ‘I’ve always said I love pop music and how much I want to write pop music’ were his words taken from the post-announcement interview.

Their latest album ‘Coming-of-Age’ was criticized for being ‘confused and incoherent’, its best songs those that comfortably aped the success of the first album. It seems The Vaccines are currently stuck in their lucrative but limited wheelhouse. While not poorly received, ‘Coming of Age’ did not provide the thrust needed to skyrocket them to the next level.

But this most unusual of collaborations seems to have them drifting further from their roots. One Direction’s style of upbeat, inoffensive, disposable pop is the prevailing current of the mainstream while The Vaccines are the up-and-coming poster boys of British Indie rock. I can’t imagine many fans wanting them to move towards the style of Britain’s favourite boy band. Or God forbid the derivative hard-rock of Nickelback.

Young seems pretty upbeat about the experience. “It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that,” assuring sceptics that One Direction “do indeed contribute” to the song writing experience. “It was a very different world and very different process – that was one of the reasons I wanted to do it. I really enjoyed it.” A good time, it seems, was had by all.

But One Direction are no flash-in-the-pan one hit wonders. If anything, they have become an almost inexplicable overnight musical phenomenon. A jump into the boys’ pop world would be an undoubtedly shrewd career move for any artist. Even a collaboration with Gary Glitter would reach obscene levels of popularity. Those sceptics point out that Young is undoubtedly aware of this.

Nevertheless, true to their name, One Direction have cleft a clear and successful path, bolstered by a strong, definable identity. Perhaps the best thing Young can take away from this experience is a lesson in finding The Vaccines’ own character. Because this particular creative collaboration sounds like a line from ‘Coming of Age’ opener ‘No Hope’; “The whole thing feels like an exercise in trying to be someone I would rather not be.”

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  • Hi, just to let you know that the song’s called “If You Wanna” not “Do You Wanna”. Interesting article!