A little teen-idol math: What do you get when you multiply Justin Bieber
by five, subtract the fancy dance moves and add British and Irish accents plus Simon Cowell
's seal of approval? One Direction, the new boy band taking over the playlists (and fantasies) of teens around the world. "A year ago," Harry Styles told PEOPLE hours after thousands of fans mobbed their outdoor Today
concert on March 12, "we would never have expected any of this."
As boy-band stories go, theirs has a modern twist: In 2010 all five tried out as solo acts for Cowell's U.K. X Factor
, but instead of being sent home they were turned into a group on the show. (The personality scorecard: Styles is the flirt; Niall Horan, the lone Irishman, trained as a jockey; Zayn Malik is the quiet one; Louis Tomlinson is the joker; and Liam Payne is the sensible one.) Though they placed third, 1D's Up All Night
(just out in the U.S.) was the fastest-selling debut album in the U.K. last year, and their "What Makes You Beautiful" video has had more than 69 million YouTube hits. "We sent Simon our dolls as thanks," jokes Styles. Their parents were luckier, says Payne: "We bought them cars."
As 1D takes the U.S. by storm (they just toured with Big Time Rush and will hit the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards March 31 and perform on Saturday Night Live
April 7), the guys confess to missing home cooking and hope to meet their idols, David Beckham
and Will Smith. Says Styles: "We just want to keep working hard and having fun!"