One Direction has a passionate, opinionated fandom. They’ve taken on British GQ, driven radio personalities off Twitter, and dealt with their share of online harassment. 

Earlier today, they united against the Who. 

It all started with a review on the site Click Music, which assessed One Direction’s new song, “Best Song Ever,” from the soundtrack of their upcoming tour documentary, This Is Us. The reviewer gave it one-and-a-half stars:

“Since Sony decided to recruit some of the most creatively barren songwriters in the industry, we find the 1D team resorting to plagiarism once again as The Who's 'Baba O' Riley' is sterilised and repackaged for fans who probably don't know any better.”

Baba O’Riley” is the lead track from the Who’s 1971 album, Who’s Next, written by guitarist Pete Townshend. He claims he wrote it about the aimless generation of kids at Woodstock, but its refrain about a “teenage wasteland” went on to be co-opted by several generations that followed. 

1D fans, many of whom have likely never heard the song, didn’t seem to pick up on the criticism that producers simply took the Who’s melody and reheated it for a quick pop hit. Possibly they thought the writer was implying they plagiarized the song, and that the video, which now has more than 65 million views, should be removed from Vevo. Rumors spread that the Who would sue 1D. And that’s when the hashtag mob formed. 

1D fans quickly created #DontTouchBestSongEver hashtag on Twitter, and there were a lot of feelings. There was even an unlikely alliance between 1D fans and Beliebers. 

Eventually, Pete Townshend responded with a light-hearted statement, to clear up this whole misunderstanding: 

“The chords I used and the chords they used are the same three chords we've all been using in basic pop music since Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry made it clear that fancy chords don't mean great music – not always.”

He goes on to say he has no problem with 1D:

"One Direction are in my business, with a million fans, and I'm happy to think they may have been influenced a little bit by The Who. I'm just relieved they're all not wearing boiler suits and Doc Martens, or Union Jack jackets."

Still, the refrain of the song Townshend wrote 40 years ago has never been so bittersweet. 

Screengrab via OneDirectionVEVO/YouTube