One Direction (or 1D) has recently broken the hearts of thousands of fans by announcing that they will go separate ways after the release of their fifth album. However, they quickly attempted to mend those broken hearts, insisting that they are not actually breaking up, but rather going on a hiatus to pursue solo careers. In any case, the pop phenomenon that is One Direction will soon be history for at least a few months, so it’s time to look back on their marvelous careers and make a few predictions concerning the possible solo careers of the members.
Harry Styles (21), Liam Payne (22), Louis Tomlinson (23), Niall Horan (21), and Zayn Malik (22) auditioned for the UK talent competition “The X Factor” in 2010. They were not successful as soloists, but after being united by the show’s creators to form a band, they captured countless teenage hearts and eventually finished third on the show, behind Rebecca Ferguson and winner Matt Cardle.
Pop behemoth Simon Cowell – always the first in line when there’s a promising band to promote – quickly signed One Direction, and their first single, the annoyingly catchy uptempo track “What Makes You Beautiful,” became a massive hit, topping the UK charts and reaching certified 4x platinum in the US. A string of equally annoying – sorry, catchy – singles, interspersed with some obligatory love ballads, followed. There was a brand new album each year from 2011 to 2015 (Rihanna’s not the only one with busy songwriters, you see), and even the sad news of Malik’s departure from the band in early 2015 doesn’t seem to have affected One Direction’s success negatively.
Now that album number five has been announced and its lead single “Drag Me Down”, a rather intelligent ode to fans of the band, has matched the success of their former hits, let’s look back on the musical and, of course, subjective highs and lows of One Direction’s career.
Career Highlights of One Direction:
The lows: The phase in 1D’s career characterized by a series of lows was 2012-2013, when they released their second album Take Me Home. The record sold well, but looking back on the music, Take Me Home was not a highlight. The lead single “Live While We’re Young” was a boring upbeat pop song, best described as ‘safe’. The second single, a successful ballad titled “Little Things”, was incredibly cheesy and so blatantly an Ed Sheeran song that the boys singing it just seemed unbelievable.Single number three, “Kiss You”
was another fast-paced, hectic power pop song devoid of any substance. Unfortunately, no other track on the record was a real highlight, making the Take Me Home era by far the most boring phase of 1D’s career.
The highs: While Take Me Home can be described as a low for 1D, the songs on their 2014 album Four are truly remarkable in comparison. The lead single “Steal My Girl” was rightly criticized for depicting girls as mere possessions, but it had one of the best pop beats and chorus melodies of the 21st century. The second single “Night Changes” is still the best 1D song – a lyrical masterpiece about growing up that never got the recognition it deserved. Moreover, the promotional single “Fireproof” is the kind of timeless pop gem that the Olly Murs’s and
Robbie Williams’s of this world would kill for. All in all, Four was on a much higher level than other 1D releases.
The hidden gem: The song that truly stands out on Four is track six, a slow ballad called “Fool’s Gold” with haunting, melancholic verses and a fantastic, anthemic chorus. Officially co-written by 1D, “Fool’s Gold” shows that their songs can have substance and that the boys are actually pretty good vocalists. Without a doubt, this should have been Four‘s third single.
What is going to happen to One Direction?
So, what is going to happen to the 1D boys in the future?
As a band, there are two likely scenarios, which I refer to as the Take That Scenario and the Girls Aloud Scenario.
The former, the Take That Scenario, sees the boys reuniting after more or less successful and rather short solo careers – maybe as a four-piece, maybe even with Zayn back onboard – and entering a second imperial phase of their career with more amazing pop bangers and impressive record sales.
The Girls Aloud Scenario, on the other hand, sees the boys reuniting after many years – possibly for their tenth anniversary in 2020 – for a single best-of compilation with three or four rather mediocre new songs. One of these will be released as a final and comparatively unsuccessful single, and then 1D will part ways for good.
Both scenarios seem possible and even likely, though, of course, the band might surprise us with a completely different route that has never been seen before. Next, let’s predict how their individual solo careers may develop.
Harry Styles: There’s little doubt that Harry will be the most successful solo musician. He’s got die-hard fans, he’s considered the best singer, and he has the most unique style. He’ll probably release a highly successful first album that’ll be marketed as an indie-rock album, although it’ll really be pop with a few more guitars. His second album will be proper indie-rock and still pretty successful, then he’ll become even more indie and a little less successful with each following record. It’s fair to say that he’ll become 1D’s Robbie Williams, the charismatic and musically talented superstar that everyone likes.
Liam Payne: Here we have the Gary Barlow of 1D. Liam’s success as a solo singer will depend on how good his singles will be, mainly because he doesn’t seem to have a lot of personality to win people over with. If he’ll release one or two massive, timeless, Barlow-style pop bangers at the beginning of his solo career, he’ll be able to match Harry’s success. If not, goodbye Liam, it was nice to know you.
Niall Horan: Niall will turn into 1D’s very own Mark Owen. He’ll release an album every other year, critics will like it, a few people will actually buy it. But even though everyone will consider him a likable guy, he’ll never have a massive hit.
Louis Tomlinson: Who? (he may try acting or have some kind of talk show – or spring a surprise.)
Zayn Malik: Since Zayn has already had time to work on his solo material, he’ll be the first to release a single. Will it be uptempo power pop? Unlikely. Will it be rock-influenced? Maybe. Will it be a “What Do You Mean?”-style, mid-tempo pop/EDM hybrid? Possibly. And most importantly, will people buy it? Yes. But in the long run, he’ll turn into the singer that’s featured on countless tracks of DJs and producers, but never really releases a true solo. Truth be told, though, Zayn is the hardest member of 1D to rate, so let’s just wait and see. One thing is sure, however: after having ended his engagement with Little Mix star Perrie Edwards, they will no longer be able to release a heartfelt love duet. Which really is good news.