Reflecting on the boyband “On the Outside” and their message of true beauty through the #HowBeautifulChallenge
~Joshua Grimes, News Editor~
Note: The following story is part of a backlog from April 2021. This was since updated.
Those who heard of OTO, otherwise known as “On The Outside,” may recognize the guys from TikTok. They are a country-pop boy band, and their playful energy is consistent on and off the stage. The boy band is made up of five members: Andrew Bloom, Dawson Huckabee, Devin Hayes, Jon Klassen, and Sam Jenkins. According to their website, managed by The Frequency Music LLC, this group, formed in 2019, has been best described in the press as “if One Direction had a love child with Dan+Shay.” Some may remember three of the five from the 2017 ABC summer reality show “BoyBand” and a different three on the 14th & 15th seasons of the Fox reality show “American Idol.”
During On The Outside’s early days, before quarantine happened, they started a Youtube channel with getting to know OTO videos; they released four songs and a Christmas EP with an additional two songs and a cover, most with music videos; three covers; and a concert. The songs the band released include “How Did You Know?”; “Like Yeah”; “Forever”; “As Long As I’m With You”; “Only Thing On My List”; “Snow Angel”; and a cover of “White Christmas.” The covers the band did include Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber’s “I Don’t Care”; Brett Young’s “In Case You Didn’t Know”; and Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber’s “10,000 Hours.”
About a year ago, when I first installed TikTok on my phone, “On the Outside” came up on my For You Page. I immediately fell in love with their personalities and tone quality. I also had a flashback of asking myself if a few of them look familiar. It wasn’t until a month later when I became an Outsider. “Outsiders” are a community of OTO fans from all over the nation and around the world. Early on, via Instagram, the outsiders started #NoOutsidersStandAlone.
During the quarantine period, the Outsiders fandom grew exponentially. OTO started what they call “Music Monday,” which allowed fans to share what song the band should cover; “What Up Wednesday,” which is when they go on Instagram live to interact with the outsider’s community; they had many themed zoom parties with the outsiders; and they posted an incredible amount of TikToks, using it as one of the main platforms to share their new releases, challenges to the outsider community, new covers, and simply to have fun.
The first OTO cover I witnessed was “What A Man Gotta Do” by the Jonas Brothers. The first single I witnessed was “Why Me,” which was, at the time, the song that grew the fandom and the number of followers on social media as their most successful song to date. According to the information underneath the music video, the song celebrates the best elements of pop, a touch of country, all through their unique, signature harmonies.
Between May and October 2020, the band released several more covers. It includes Hunter Hayes “Wanted”; One Direction’s “You & I” on One Direction’s 10th anniversary; and Why Don’t We’s “8 Letters.” OTO also held their first virtual concert on August 25th, where they gave outsiders a sneak peek at their unreleased single at the time called “How Beautiful.”
In early October, OTO released a single, written before the pandemic called “Just Keep Driving.” What makes this song special is the magnetic meaning behind it. According to the information under the music video, the message behind the song and the title morphed into an anthem for perseverance and optimism in a dark time. Something that came out of the song was a TikTok dance, which happens during the song’s chorus. One thing that makes the song special to me is how I was able to start feeling like I was part of the community. Not much later after this, I was able to meet Jon and Sam, along with my best friend Isaiah, while the band crashed at different Zoom listening parties for the single. This energy only encouraged me to attend more virtual events, so later on in the year, during the late days of October, I went to their second virtual concert. I was able to meet and greet the band afterward!
By the end of the 2020 year, OTO released another original called “My Star” around the holiday season as part of their Christmas EP “The Top of My Tree”; had a Christmas themed concert with special friends and guests, which some of the guests had been asked for by the outsiders; had a Toy Drive benefiting the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHCC) as part of the #12DaysofOTO, which those who donated were able to join a zoom party; and participated in a New Year’s eve virtual event called “First Night Boston.”
So far the new year brought two new covers, which were Justin Bieber’s “Anyone” and John Legend’s “All of Me,” and the newest single outsiders were waiting on since they heard it for the first time back in August. Late February was the right time OTO was waiting to release their single that now, in April, the most successful release since “Why Me.”
“How Beautiful” was a song, “inspired by today’s comparison culture,” that the band first recorded when they formed but added new flavors as the years progressed. It was an idea that producers had ready to go for the band.
Here is the song’s background from the music video’s biography:
“With the beauty bar set impossibly high on social media and in contemporary advertising, the unfortunate outcome is often anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem, and even suicide. ‘How Beautiful’ lyrically attempts to refocus the lens of what beauty is and how it can be found in everyone. In the verses, the lyric asks the listener to stop apologizing for not living up to these unattainable standards and ‘take some time to learn what’s inside’. This song builds with the pre-chorus plea of ‘I wish you could see what I see’ suggesting perhaps that oftentimes the glare of our own mirrors hides what makes us shine. Finally, the chorus is almost mantra-like in its simplicity posing the simple, yet often difficult question… ’do you even know how beautiful you are?’
The sincere hope behind “How Beautiful” is to help reshape how we see ourselves and encourages everyone to find what makes them uniquely beautiful. If you look a little deeper, it exists in all of us.”
The #HowBeautifulChallenge, which OTO teamed up with the Jed Foundation, has a mission of helping teens and young adults protect their emotional health. The challenge is simple and inspiring: on Instagram, Outsiders nominate friends, family, and loved ones explaining what makes them beautiful. When someone is nominated they then do the same for their friends, family, and loved ones to help pass the message forward. The last part of the challenge is to add the hashtag #HowBeautifulChallenge and tag both @ontheoutside and @JedFoundation.
What makes On the Outside unique is how they interact with the outsiders fandom, which keeps the band’s motivation going. Not only that, but how their music impacts the outsiders daily, how they were able to grow, spread their music, create their music, and expand their fanbase fast in the midst of a pandemic. What makes this group unique to me is the familiarity of the guys, their bond with one another, how each individual brings something unique to the band, how genuine they are, how you can talk with them about anything, and the connection of everyone being around the same age as your closest friends you went to school with. This band was something that I found on my own. I use their music as an outlet to get to know more about myself and as a way to get through times where I need a boost.
This band is one that I highly recommend. This past year was a year of growth and it wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t found the guys through TikTok.
Since this article was written in April 2021, the band had a conversation on Mental Health on Youtube; released “When Two Lips Collide”, their newest single; another cover (“Tequila” by Dan + Shay); moved from Los Angeles; performed in-person at their homecoming show in Nashville; and announced more upcoming in-person shows.
Here’s what “When Two Lips Collide” is about, according to the music video’s biography:
“The confessional love song takes the listener on a journey of vulnerability while crescendoing to an epic finale. As the band sings “we could be everything you’ve ever wanted…when two lips collide”, On The Outside showcases the song’s intimate lyric while the band’s infectious harmonies sing a hock-laden melody that takes hold and won’t let go.”
You can find them on their website (https://www.ontheoutside.online/), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube.