Entertainment Music Reviews

Friday 19 July 2019

Life after One Direction: What are the odds of success for the members of the world's biggest boyband?

As Harry Styles prepares for his debut solo performance this weekend, Sasha Brady calculates the odds of his success and that of his ex-bandmates

2. ONE DIRECTION (musicians) €99.3m
2. ONE DIRECTION (musicians) €99.3m
Golf superfan Niall said the sport inspired one of the songs set to appear on his new album
Cheryl Cole and Liam Payne
Louis Tomlinson
Recording artist Zayn Malik attends Billboard Power 100 - Red Carpet at Cecconi's on February 9, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Billboard)
Liam Payne
Niall Horan
Zayn Malik

Harry Styles isn't destined for mid-level stardom. All eyes will be on the former One Direction star this weekend when he joins Saturday Night Live as its musical guest. By the time Monday rolls around, he'll possibly be promoted to the status of one-name celebrity, like Beyoncé or Madonna.

Harry will perform his debut solo single, 'Sign of the Times', live for the first time on the US comedy-sketch show. And, in case you didn't know, Saturday Night Live (SNL) is relevant again - skits going after Donald Trump and his wayward administration have wrought a ratings renaissance. People talk about SNL now. And, you can be sure, people will talk about Harry on SNL.

The 23-year-old is playing catch up with ex-bandmates Niall Horan, Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson - who have all released solo material in the past year - so his entrance needs to be loud and buzzy.

When One Direction announced their hiatus in January 2016 (later a permanent split) it was to a chorus of choked sobs, anguished wails and the crush of broken hearts. Teenage girls across the world went into collective mourning. The lads who had been designed to live in posters on bedroom walls were ready to cast off their boyband shackles.

After Zayn went rogue in 2015, it was only a matter of time before the others followed suit. Those who know their boyband history weren't surprised. There comes a time when every phenomenon, from the Beatles to the Backstreet Boys and Boyzone, decide they're fed up sharing the wealth of knickers amassed on stage and look for their own prize - one that can't be split five ways.

When they appeared on X Factor in 2010, nobody would have guessed that seven years later each member would be worth an estimated €58m. They cashed in from touring, penning hits for other pop stars, golf-related business ventures, smashing the Beatles' chart record by selling a ridiculous amount of albums and finding fame in the age of internet fandom.

But can they each be a solo success? Or are some of them fated to fall down the black hole of boyband oblivion like the Joey Fatones, Howie Ds and Mikey Grahams (who?) that trudged the road before them? We'll place our bets.

Zayn Malik

Gigi Hadid and boyfriend Zayn Malik

When Brian McFadden pulled an early runner on Westlife, he struggled to make it as a solo singer, and eventually resorted to forming a two-man 'super group' with Keith Duffy. It looks unlikely that Zayn will suffer the same fate. As soon as he left One Direction, he began carefully crafting a brooding new image by dumping his Little Mix singer fiancé and releasing his album Mind of Mine, which debuted at number one in the Billboard Hot 100, eclipsing One Direction's US chart peak at number two in 2013.

He's R&B. He sings in a sexy voice, about having sex with his sexy supermodel girlfriend Gigi Hadid. He even joined forces with Taylor Swift for the 50 Shades Darker soundtrack. Early troubles with anxiety and panic attacks haven't gotten in the way of his success - he's released an autobiography, landed a Versace campaign with edgy model-of-the-moment Adwoa Aboah and is already working on his second album.

The odds are in his favour.

Chances of success: 4/5

Niall Horan

Niall Horan

Niall has been reinventing himself as the Irish Ed Sheeran, plucking away at the acoustic guitar he's been hauling around with him throughout his entire One Direction career on solo single 'This Town'. But he's more than just an earnest pub singer in fancy shoes.

The Mullingar man also runs a golf management company and while he's yet to release an album, there's no chance that he'll while away his 20s playing golf with Rory McIlroy and Niall Breslin. He's got some of the biggest names in the industry to keep him afloat in the charts, including Sia and Adele producer Greg Kurstin.

Chances of success: 3/5

Harry Styles


All boy bands are built around a sparkling lead man and Harry was the shiny bauble of 1D. He's even a movie star now, like Justin Timberlake before him. He landed a role in Christopher Nolan's World War Two epic, Dunkirk, and co-star Cillian Murphy has been raving about his "terrific" performance.

When he released his first single, 'Sign of the Times', last week, the expectations were high. It drew comparisons to Bowie. With his Jagger swagger, falsetto voice and penchant for floral shirts, it was obvious that he'd go down the rock'n'roll route. And in a time of Brexit, when Britons are confused about their identity, Harry's classic Brit rock may find an audience.

Swooning fans were also delighted to find him stripping off for the cover of his upcoming self-titled album, due on May 12. Like in the teaser trailer he dropped last month, he's dripping wet, but even this cannot quench our thirst for more.

Chances of success: 5/5

Louis Tomlinson

Louis Tomlinson of One Direction performs during the Honda Civic Tour at Qualcomm Stadium on Thursday, July 9, 2015, in San Diego.

Louis was the first One Direction star to become a dad, and has been kept preoccupied with parenting and airport brawls.

We learned this week he will not be charged for his tussle with a photographer at LAX, and is free to work on his solo music.

Fans thought that Louis would be happy living off the success of One Direction and then he went and released an electronic-heavy number, 'Just Hold On', with DJ Steve Aoki. A heavily EDM-influenced album is surely in the pipeline, but our money's on Louis to have the bleakest prospects of the group - he'll likely be grasping for roles in West End musicals a few years down the line, while a gig on Strictly isn't out of the question either...

Chances of success: 2/5

Liam Payne

Liam Payne and Cheryl Cole attend the Chopard Trophy Ceremony during The 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 12, 2016 in Cannes, (Photo by Venturelli/WireImage)

Liam has yet to release any solo work, but he did just release a baby with Cheryl Cole so his priorities have understandably shifted. An album is expected in May and to keep fans keen, he recently posed topless for UK lifestyle magazine Rollacoaster. The message was clear: 'don't forget about me - and my tattoos'.

Along with Louis, he penned the most hits for One Direction. If all else fails, he can enjoy a Gary Barlow-esque career, writing songs for other people and popping up as a judge on reality TV contests, gagging for a knighthood.

Chances of success: 3/5

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