When the Guardian tailed One Direction around the US in 2012, we compared the scenes of fan hysteria to Beatlemania. Five years on, the British boy band have now equalled the Fab Four’s once seemingly unassailable record of having three members rack up US No 1 solo albums.
Being dubbed “Radio 2 filler” by the Guardian hasn’t stopped Niall Horan’s Flicker joining Zayn Malik and Harry Styles’s earlier US chart-topping debuts, matching George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s solo No 1s in the 1970s.
Alarmingly for the surviving Fabs, this is not the first time that modern acts have challenged their once vice-like chart domination. In 2000, Irish popsters Westlife’s otherwise forgotten My Love single became a record-breaking seventh British chart-topper in a row. Other longstanding Beatles records have fallen to everyone from Justin Bieber (most songs in the US top 100 – 17) to the cast of Glee, who in 2010 notched up more US top 100 hit singles than any other non-solo act (75, to the Beatles’ 72). Rihanna’s singles have spent most weeks at the US No 1 (60, to the Liverpool quartet’s 59).
Equally serious damage has been done by the modern pop phenomenons of Adele and One Direction. Adele has matched the Fabs’ feat of two singles and top albums in the UK top five, and done the same in the US charts (as has rapper 50 Cent).
Meanwhile, in 2012, 1D became the first British group to enter the US charts at No 1 with their debut, besting the Beatles’ US-only Introducing … the Beatles, a first-week No 4 in 1964. Salt was rubbed in that wound when One Direction’s 2015 single Perfect became their fifth consecutive new entry in the US Top 10 (beating the Fabs’ four).
Still, should McCartney and Ringo Starr cry into their beer, the Beatles still have some two dozen entries in the Guinness World Records, and their particularly astonishing 1964 feat of sweeping the entire US top five singles chart has never been repeated. Meanwhile, with 270.8m certified sales, they are still comfortably the biggest-selling music artists of all time, while those cheeky 1D upstarts are yet to figure in the top 50.