Story of Song The stories behind the hits Novellic
Lyric Music

What Makes You Beautiful

One Direction

Album Up All Night

Story of Song

In an interview with Sugar Magazine, songwriter Savan Kotecha explained how this song came about: “I had the melody of the chorus in my song for about a year until I was in a hotel room in London with my wife and she was having a bad morning. She was like, ‘Oh, I feel so ugly’ and I was like, ‘No, you look beautiful. You don’t know how beautiful you look.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, crap! That’s a good song! Hold on!’ And I wrote that down. I actually wrote the song for my wife, so I went to the studio and it took a process of a couple weeks to really tweak it, but the core of it was written within two days and then tweaked a few things here and there over a couple weeks, but I mean, I still have the text message from Harry. When he heard the demo, I was in Miami on my way back to Sweden, and he sent me a text message saying, ‘I think you got it. I think you got the one here.’”

Co-writer Carl Falk told that this was the first tune that this songwriting team did for 1D: “It was the first song we did for One Direction. It was hard at first for us to be convinced that a boy band like One Direction would work. How do you do this without sounding outdated or copying someone else? What we thought and what was clear about ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ was we had a vision of going back to the ’90s, and bringing a little bit of that sound from 1999, like the sound choices and instruments, and just do an updated version of that. If you look at the One Direction fans who are between 10 and 14 years old, they haven’t grown up listening to music that I did when I was growing up, like ‘I Want It That Way’ from the Backstreet Boys or ‘Bye Bye Bye’ from N Sync. So we started to experiment with sounds and riff and everything. It didn’t take long. Savan had the title already. We all loved it. It’s kind of cool to say, You don’t know you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you beautiful.’ That takes it from being a beautiful title to a really smart concept. So everything just clicked. The same thing happened with the production. It didn’t take long before we had a really good demo of the song. If you listen to the first demo we did of the song, that’s kind of the direction the song took.”

Release date

Released August 11, 2011


Rami Yacoub – Carl Falk – Savan Kotecha


Syco – Columbia

Chart Rankings

UK – 1



In the UK, ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ received the highest ever number of pre-orders for a Sony Music Entertainment single. It topped the Official Charts Company and was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for sales over 1 million copies. In the US, it topped the Dance Club Songs, peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, reached number 3 on the Mainstream Top 40 and peaked at number 5 on the Adult Top 40 charts. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it Quadruple Platinum for sales over 4.75 million copies. The song reached the top 10 charts in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand. It topped the charts in Ireland, Mexico, and Scotland. In Australia and Norway it was certified 7 times Platinum, in Canada 5 times Platinum, in Sweden Quadruple Platinum, in Mexico Triple Platinum, and Double Platinum in Denmark and New Zealand. In Italy, Japan, and Switzerland, it was certified Platinum.

Artist’s age on release date

The Irish pop boy band had been active for 1 year when this song was released.

Cover Versions

Boyce Avenue – CIMORELLI – Before you exit – Tyler Vivian & Mike Lake – The Piano Guys (piano cover) – Megan Nicole – Alex Goot & King The Kid – MattyBRaps – Skyler Dayne – Tiffany Alvord – lilcdawg & Jason Chen – The 1975 – Vichy Ratey – Anthem Lights – Rumor Has It – DannyFinDrums (drums cover) – Fearing Farewell – Other amateur artists covered this song on Youtube.


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