One Direction enjoys upward direction on Billboard's Nielsen BDS-based Pop Songs radio airplay chart, as the folk-inflected "Story of My Life" lifts 11-10. The song becomes the boy band's second top 10 at the format and first since its pure-pop debut entry "What Makes You Beautiful" reached No. 3 in 2012. In between, the quintet's next five chart hits peaked between Nos. 15 and 19 on the survey.
Why has pop radio gotten a better read on "Story" than One Direction's other recent offerings? Mostly, format gatekeepers say, because of the song's more grown-up sound. While "Beautiful" clearly connected, pop radio wasn't wholly accepting of sonically similar tracks like "One Thing," "Live While We're Young," "Kiss You" and "Best Song Ever," all of which sport a youthful, sugar-sweet bent that pop programmers have traditionally treated carefully for fear of alienating its target 18-to-34-year-old core audience; and, that despite the band's consistently strong sales and massive pop culture profile.
WKSE Buffalo, N.Y., program director Sue O'Neil is among those crediting the organic lean of "Story" for its newly minted top 10 pop radio status. "It's a new, more contemporary sound for One Direction. You find yourself singing and liking the song whether or not you normally like the boy-band sound, or even One Direction. It's a great song."
"'Story of My Life' is the evolution of One Direction," echoes WBBM Chicago assistant PD/music director Erik Bradley. "I felt, upon the first listen, that this was a new direction for the group. I hear that growth all over [parent album] "Midnight Memories" [which has sold 1.1 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan] and I love it. It feels like One Direction meets Mumford & Sons; a more mature vibe, but still with that expected killer hook. Some of One Direction's previous singles appealed only to core fans. 'Story' is a major exception."
KHOP Modesto, Calif., PD MoJoe Roberts also compares "Story" to the sound of a current hit folk act that's made inroads at pop radio. "Ed Sheeran is red-hot, so having his sound definitely adds more credibility to the song. I think ['Story'] is more relatable to adults than many of the band's other songs."
Jason Reed, program director of WAEZ Johnson City, Tenn., concurs, adding that the song's lyrical theme has also contributed to what has become a, well, success "Story." (The track has reached No. 6 on the sales/airplay/streaming-based Billboard Hot 100 and sold 1.3 million downloads.)
"The lyrics and production are both simply more mature than One Direction's previous singles."