One Direction members' solo report cards: Who's most likely to be the most successful?

Members of One Direction have gone their own ways, releasing solo music one after another. Here is a report card on each of them

Many boybands have notoriously short shelf lives, and the biggest boy band in the world in recent times, One Direction, were no different.

The hearts of teenage girls around the world broke when 1D announced that six years, five albums and countless hit singles after they met on The X Factor in 2010, they were going on hiatus starting from January last year.

From awkwardly navigating their first steps as a group to taking third place in The X Factor, their stratospheric rise continued until the band went on to become one of the best-selling artists in the world.

The beginning of the end came in March 2015, just weeks after their March concert at Singapore's National Stadium: Zayn Malik, the handsome, tattooed "bad boy" of the group, went sentient and announced he was leaving the group.

From there, their label honcho Simon Cowell had a hard time keeping his charges in check and, while the remaining four carried on, it was all over within the next nine months.

One Direction have all gone in different directions on their own, but who will come out tops?

There is always a Beyonce in the group, the one who becomes so successful that the other members are just dust in the wind.

Other famous examples are Justin Timberlake from 'NSync and Robbie Williams from Take That, who went on to stellar solo careers.

With 1D's members releasing solo material one after another in the past few weeks - first it was Niall Horan with the single Slow Hands, then Harry Styles' album, and an upcoming single by Payne this Friday - it seems like the boys are being pitted big-time against one another.


Niall Horan, 23

The vanilla one

Music style: Folk-pop, and uninspired, Michael Buble-type swing.

Aesthetic: Page-boy caps, flannel and whatever your dad wears to the golf course.

Discography: In September last year, Horan stunned fans as he was the first of the boys (other than Zayn Malik, who had already left the group) to release a single, This Town. Most expected Liam Payne or Harry Styles to be the first out of the gate.

As the only one in the group who actually played guitar, and played frequently while on tour with One Direction, perhaps it should not have come as a surprise.

On May 4, he released his second solo single, the unexpectedly funky Slow Hands. He confirmed at a concert in Los Angeles that he will be dropping his album this fall.

Back-up career options: Professional golfer or sportsman of some sort. He is more likely to make appearances on the golf course with his professional golfer buddies Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose than appear on stage.

Love life: Last year, he was linked to Belgian student Celine Helene Vandycke,23, and American model Jessica Serfaty, 26. He appears to be single at the moment.

Most likely to: Take a backseat from music after a few years and become a professional golfer.

Grade: B+

He worked on his debut single, This Town, with producer Greg Kurstin, who is most famously known for co-writing and producing Adele's Hello. With those kinds of chops, you can see that he is taking the music seriously, but it might be a miscalculation for him to go down the acoustic-folk road at a time when dance-pop and hip-hop beats are the flavours of the week. Horan will probably not get any critical acclaim.


Harry Styles, 23

The Mick Jagger wannabe

Music style: Soft rock and pop, with a whole lot of Jagger-esque swagger.

Aesthetic: Gucci, Gucci, Gucci. 1970s flare and pouffy hair.

Discography: Critically acclaimed self-titled album, released last week. He is getting ready to head out on his sold-out world tour, including a stop in Singapore on Nov 23 at The Star Theatre.

Filmography: Styles can now add acting to his credentials. He appears in the upcoming Christopher Nolan period film, Dunkirk, alongside Tom Hardy and Kenneth Branagh. The director says that Styles beat thousands of others to win the part of a soldier in the story about British soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle Of Dunkirk.

He also has a 50-minute Apple Music documentary titled Harry Styles: Behind The Album.

Back-up career options: It is hard to imagine Styles doing anything other than music.

Love life: A string of model ex-girlfriends allegedly including the Kardashian clan's Kendall Jenner, 21, Taylor Swift, 27, and now, Tess Ward, a 27-year-old chef and author.

Most likely to: Achieve Robbie Williams-level success. Like the former Take That member, he will probably have a string of hit albums, No. 1 radio singles and a reputation for debauchery.

Grade: A

Rolling Stone magazine gave his debut solo album a four-star rating, describing it as "superb". Billboard is confident that Styles will be crowned King of the UK album charts. Styles, who has been plying the morning television, radio and late night talk show circuit, also has a residency on James Corden's The Late Late Show this whole week, where he is expected to perform songs off the album and be a part of the British talk-show host's sketches.


Zayn Malik, 24

The D'Angelo wannabe

Music style: Urban and R&B.

Aesthetic: Clothes in various states of ripped to reflect his cool nonchalance. Malik is all about the sexy appeal. He is moody, he is edgy and his tattoos are as much a part of his style as his ever-changing haircut.

Discography: As the first to kick off his solo career, he has laid down the most groundwork. Pillowtalk, the first single off his debut album Mind Of Mine, was released in January last year and shot straight to No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. He was on the Fifty Shades Darker (2017) soundtrack alongside Taylor Swift with the song, I Don't Wanna Live Forever.

Back-up career options: Drawing, doodling and art. In the 1D documentary This Is US (2013), he took the cameras to his private graffiti room. "My mum wouldn't let me spray paint my walls... so I bought my own house," he says.

Love life: He was engaged to Perrie Edwards, 23, of girl group Little Mix, also of The X Factor fame. But the engagement ended in 2015, after which he got together with supermodel Gigi Hadid, 22. The A-List couple and their public displays of affection are well chronicled in tabloids and on social media. Most likely to: Continue to make edgy, urban music as well as make beautiful babies with Hadid.

Grade: A-

He will stay on the radar for a while, given his constant output of fresh music. He continues to keep it edgy by working with producers such as British electronic music duo Snakehips and Canadian rapper PartyNextDoor.


Liam Payne, 23

The baby daddy

Music style: To be determined, but possibly R&B and Future House.

Aesthetic: White rapper. Payne has gotten buff since the band went on hiatus. Recently, he has been spotted wearing a massive gold chain, prompting BBC Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw to dub it the "Payne Chain".

Discography: Payne is the last of the lot to release new music. He has been teasing his new single Strip That Down, due out on Friday. He is going for chart success, having employed rapper Quavo of American hip-hop group Migos, who are responsible for chart-topping Bad and Boujee. Payne really is a tease, considering the snippets show him shirtless and totally jacked.

Back-up career options: Songwriting and producing. He has done remixes, became a director of a music publishing company and has songwriting credits on a song by his girlfriend, singer Cheryl Tweedy, 33.

Love life: Payne dated secondary school sweetheart Sophia Smith, 23, for two years, but after they broke up, he started seeing Tweedy, who was on The X Factor judging panel when he was a wee contestant. They had a baby, Bear, in March this year. Most likely to: Be the Gary Barlow of the group. Like the Take That frontman, he was the sensible one in the group and the leader. Perhaps his career will take the same trajectory as Barlow's, with failed, initial solo albums and then a massive comeback and an OBE (Order of the British Empire). If anyone would orchestrate a 1D reunion, it is Payne.

Grade: B -

He has yet to prove himself. He has been spotted in the studio with rappers such as Juicy J, and released a demo with Wiz Khalifa. He is going for a more mature sound, but with no track record in that genre, it is hard to predict how he will fare.


Louis Tomlinson, 25

The troublesome one

Music style: While it is not entirely clear what direction Tomlinson will take musically, he has dabbled in electronic dance music (EDM). Aesthetic: Athleisure. He has been spotted far too frequently in sweatsuits, like a man who has given up on life.

Discography: He has only one single under his belt, namely his joint single with American DJ Steve Aoki, Just Hold On. The uplifting track, which was released in December last year, peaked at No. 2 in Britain.

Filmography: He is rumoured to be joining America's Got Talent as a replacement judge for Spice Girl Mel B, who remains out of the spotlight following the breakdown of her marriage.

Back-up career options: Football and getting in trouble with the law. At one point, he tried but failed to buy his hometown football team, Doncaster Rovers FC.

In 2014, a video of Zayn Malik and Tomlinson smoking marijuana surfaced. While on tour, the Philippines' Bureau of Immigration required them to post bonds of US$5,000 each, which they would forfeit if they were caught smoking marijuana while performing in the country.

In March, Tomlinson was arrested by the police at Los Angeles International Airport after a scuffle with a paparazzo. He was charged with simple battery before being released on US$20,000 (S$28,000) bail.

Love life: Tomlinson is a father of a boy, Freddie Reign, one, with stylist Briana Jungwirth, 25. He dated Disney channel actress Danielle Campbell, 22, for a while, and is currently with on-again off-again girlfriend Eleanor Calder, 24. Most likely to: Release more middling music, but have a successful career in reality television. He will probably be the first member to end up on Big Brother.

Grade: C

His joint single with Aoki did well on his home turf of Britain, hitting the No. 2 spot, but he had much less success in the United States, reaching only No. 52 on the Billboard Top 100 charts. The single seemed more a vehicle for Aoki to enter the pop music realm than it was for Tomlinson to break out. Perhaps Tomlinson would do better to carefully pick his collaborators for his next venture.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'Different directions'. Print Edition | Subscribe