Where They Are Now: The Aftermath of The One Direction Breakup

  • One Direction started its career in The X Factor and quickly became a singing sensation worldwide.
  • When Malik left the group suddenly, the remaining four continued on for only 5 months before going on an indefinite hiatus.
  • During their ‘hiatus,’ each member has gone on to make noteworthy solo careers of their own and do their own thing. 
  • Fans wait for a reunion, but aside from a 10-year anniversary website, there are still no plans for the boys to reunite. 

The Beatles, The Jackson 5, NSYNC, New Kids on the Block….Boy Bands are nothing new, and we have been fascinated by their charm for generations. One Direction may have only been around for five years, but in their short tenure, they made a huge impact on the music world and created lifelong fans. Their solo careers are breaking records and making headlines. 

Here is how it all started…but also how it all crumbled! 

The Beginning of One Direction’s Career

When the 2010 season of The X Factor began, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson signed up as 5 individual contestants. They had already captivated audiences with their charisma, good looks, and great vocals but failed to advance in the competition after the bootcamp stage. 

However, seeing their potential as a group, Simon Cowell encouraged them to unite and continue their X Factor journey in the “Groups” category. Thus, One Direction formed and joined the ranks of boy bands. Coming from different upbringings, they were not even friends, much less bandmates. They quickly became fan favorites in many different countries and ultimately took third place in the competition. Despite not winning the competition, Cowell believed in them and got them a record deal with his production Syco Records at the season’s conclusion. 

One Direction’s Rise to Fame

Their meteoric rise to fame was unprecedented. The world had not gone boy crazy to this extent since the Osmonds. The debut album Up All Night highlighted hits such as “That’s What Makes You Beautiful,” earning them the best British Single at the Brit Awards (an award equal in status to the Grammy’s). 

In 2012 the album hit the American market and sold over a million copies. It was official – the world was in love with One Direction. In 2012 they had their sophomore release “Take Me Home”. Their third album, Midnight Memories, came out in 2013, and Four the following year. Harry Styles led the way with his cheeky comments on the X Factor to give them just enough edge to be irresistible to the teenage demographic and still have moms in carpools humming along to their tunes.

The Peak of Their Success

During their fourth album, Four, some tensions arose in the group, which were noticeable by fans as well. The lyrics were layered with innuendos that could apply to a girlfriend or to the rising dissatisfaction amongst the boys, particularly with Malik. But they owned the pop music industry regardless with their fun and upbeat songs fans could not get enough of. 

There were dolls made in their likenesses and a host of other fan memorabilia. They used social media and YouTube to promote their popularity. Their epic albums had cemented their place in rock and roll history. But their unusual beginnings were about to lead to their unravelling.

It seems like the world can’t get enough of its boy bands. Every decade, a group of guys dominate the music stage with their performances and cheeky characters. It started with the Beatles and now, BTS is the current boy band of the world (need we talk about BTS net worth?). But in the middle of these two bands was another boy band that stole many hearts and broke them when they separated.

We’re talking about One Direction and their breakup.

How long has it been since One Direction got together?

Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik — these five boys were a force to reckoned with when they were formed in 2010 by Simon Cowell during an episode of “The X Factor.”

They didn’t win the show, placing in third during their run. But that didn’t stop One Direction from enjoying a fruitful career that produced five albums (with memorable hits like “What Makes You Beautiful” and “One Thing”), sold-out world tours, hundreds of TV show appearances and numerous musical awards.

The Turning Point

Everything seemed rosy for the British boy band until in 2015, Malik announced his departure from the band, triggering the beginnings of One Direction’s breakup.  The loss was devastating to the group, both in terms of morale and in a practical sense. After Zayn Malik left the band, the loss of his impressive falsetto, the others were forced to perform out of their vocal range to cover the loss. Although their final album, Made in the A.M., marked a defining moment in their career with its more sophisticated sound, this would ultimately be their final album together The remaining four members continued their musical journey until in 2016, they announced their indefinite hiatus.

The boys may have called it a “hiatus,” but the fans knew it was a kinder term to describe the inevitable One Direction split. To this day, fans are haunted by the lyrics of “History,” a song meant to book-end One Direction’s time together.

The lyrics “We can live forever” were meant to leave a final sentiment to their fan base after Malik left. When One Direction broke up, it was pretty scary stuff as the public mourned their loss. Also, many Directioners lost sleep over the breakup, which would ultimately break tons of hearts in the process.

The official press release explanation for their separation was the boys wanted to venture down different paths in their careers but is there more to that? Why did One Direction break up in the first place really? And what happened to the members of One Direction after that?


Why Did One Direction Break Up? The Real Reasons

A trip down the One Direction memory lane (Photo from Cosmopolitan)

There is no single reason behind One Direction’s breakup. It’s a patchwork of exhaustion, different dreams, and the fight for creativity. One of the many reasons for the split band members also cite their fan base, indicating they didn’t want to disappoint those who believed in them most. One Direction fans are amongst the most loyal and fervent, and after five epic albums, it’s no wonder the pressure to perform would overwhelm Direction’s success. 

Here are some of the reasons behind the separation of the “Night Changes” singers.

They Wanted Solo Careers

The “I Want a Solo Career” reason may sound like a cliché reason for every boy band split. But in the case of One Direction, it was one of the pressing reasons behind their separation. During the first few weeks of One Direction’s initial hiatus, a source told Us Weekly that the members were “exhausted and wanted solo careers.”  News on the hiatus becoming permanent was further fueled by an E! News article that confirmed Harry, Louis, Niall and Liam wanted to extend their hiatus to focus on their individual projects.

The internal tug-a-war for creative expression had become tiresome. Malik’s departure was caused by his desire to pursue an R&B career. He was the first member to leave, but as indicated by their solo albums, the other members had different paths they wanted to follow. The four members felt cornered by the record label because it led them in the direction of indefinitely producing the same music.

Everyone Was Exhausted

Apart from the desire to pursue their solo careers, One Direction was also exhausted. Since their rise to fame in 2010, the boys accomplished much. So, it’s no surprise that their performances wore them out. One Direction was always working, touring and performing. On top of that, they were always away from their families and loved ones. Eventually, the grueling schedules become too much for them to handle.

Horan said the experience was incredible but they were exhausted. In his words, they were “not tired of it, just tired out.” The members got so tired that they would end up arguing excessively and aggressively. In a separate interview, Payne seconded his remark, saying the tiredness of it all caused the band’s demise. They felt they were wearing a Disney costume, all smiles, and enthusiasm on the outside while balancing a fine line of as much anger as they could bare underneath.

In terms of creative exhaustion, Malik was the first one to voice out its reality in his life; hence, he was the first one to leave the band. During his cover interview with Fader, he said that one of the reasons he left was because he had no room to “experiment creatively.” He wasn’t a big fan of their band’s “generic” pop tunes and wanted to try something new. He would try to add his R&B verses to potential songs and he would get rejected by the producers.

At the same time, Malik experienced anxiety during his time in One Direction. Despite his amazing talent, he reached a point where he didn’t want to step on the stage.

With that, Malik decided it was finally time to depart from One Direction — without even saying goodbye, as Payne told GQ. After five epic albums and four world tours, all the boys were a bit bitter, and fans were absolutely gutted. 

Everything Was Becoming Too Toxic

When you’re performing for hundreds of concerts in front of thousands of people and singing the same 22 songs every day, it can be draining. Payne describes it as if they put on Disney costumes every day, despite being tired and annoyed. Although they had fun for most of their journey, some parts became “too toxic.” In another interview, he admits that during his time with One Direction, he experienced many “erratic highs and lows,” which caused him to turn to alcohol and drugs for comfort.

There was just a general conception that the 5 were best friends, but this was far from reality. Not only was dealing with fame a crazy time, but their working relationships were struggling. They had to deal with accommodating a different upbringing amongst themselves and commercial success as dictated by their record label. Liam Payne describes his relationships with his bandmates as synonymous with those in an office – there were rocky relationships and closer friendships, but they were by no means as close as many thought or hoped they would be.

They Needed Time Off

After years of concerts, touring and endless lines of screaming fans, One Direction needed a break. After the announcement of their hiatus, Styles told Entertainment Tonight that he was excited to finally have some alone time, saying that he’ll spend his break traveling around the world — minus the concerts.

No one was ready for One Direction’s breakup, not even members Louis and Niall. Tomlinson wasn’t ready for the break since he finally built up his confidence in the band while Horan had become so used to their life together, he couldn’t imagine life without the band.

Of course, Malik felt differently. Despite his anxiety struggles, Malik was passionate about the music and wanted to create something he felt was true to himself.  He was vocal in admonishing the band and told Rolling Stones “Would you listen to One Direction at a party with your girl? I wouldn’t. To me, that’s not an insult; that’s me as a 22-year-old man.” Relationship tensions and lack of creative freedom were the perfect storm for him. 

Styles was very proud of his time with the band and never renounced their accomplishments or diminished their success, having won so many awards. However, having reached their peak moment, the members felt a bit lonely in their success.

But the end came and eventually, each member lived his own life.

Where Are They Now? What Happened to the Members of One Direction?

It has been more than five years since One Direction’s breakup shocked the entire world. But since then, they’ve proved that individually they are talented and capable of producing music the way they want it. Generally, when a band splits apart, you can expect maybe one or two to break off and pursue solo careers. They have each surprised fans to produce top-rate music on their own Apart from their careers, some of the members have also become fathers. Every member has been living in the moment.

Here’s how every One Direction member has been since the split:

Zayn Malik

Nearly a year after he left One Direction, Malik released his first solo album called “Mind of Mine,” which was an alternative R&B record. It featured his first hit track “Pillowtalk.” In November 2016, Malik releases his official autobiography, which detailed his life post-One Direction.

In 2017, Malik released a duet with Taylor Swift. The single “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” was part of the official soundtrack for the movie “50 Shades Darker.” The next year, he releases his sophomore album “Icarus Falls,” which included collaborations with singers Nicki Minaj and Sia.

Over the years, Zayn became infamous for publicly expressing his disdain at One Direction’s music and saying that he didn’t make any “life-long” friends in the band, which contradicted his departure post where he said he had “four friends for life.”

In 2020, Malik welcomed his first child with supermodel girlfriend Gigi Hadid. He also dropped his third album “Nobody is Listening” last February 2021.

The couple are enamored with their little girl, Khai. Unfortunately, an altercation with Gigi’s mother, Yolanda Hadid, resulted in a separation for the pair.  According to former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star, Malik struck Yolanda. Malik did not admit to the charges of harassment but pleaded no contest and was ordered probation, anger-management classes, and to stay away from Yolanda. Currently, Malik and Hadid are focusing on co-parenting their daughter. They have a notoriously on-again-off-again relationship, and those closest to the pair believe they may eventually reconcile.

Louis Tomlinson

In 2016, Tomlinson released his first single post-One Direction called “Just Hold On,” which was a collaboration with DJ and producer Steve Aoki. That same year, he had his first child, Freddie, with Briana Jungwirth, an LA hairstylist. On a sadder note, he also lost his mother Johannah Deakin to aggressive leukemia in 2016.

After the passing of his mother, Louis performed a concert in her honor. All of his former bandmates were there except for Malik. The absence once again highlighted the deep separation between Malik and the other four bandmates.

In 2017, Tomlinson dropped “Miss You” and “Back to You,” the latter being another musical collaboration, this time with singer Bebe Rexha. A year later, he appeared as a mentor and judge on the US version of “The X Factor.”

In 2019, Tomlinson dropped “The Two of Us,” a song he dedicated to his late mother. Tragedy struck again in 2019, as Tomlinson also lost his 18-year-old sister to cardiac arrest due to a “perfect storm” of narcotics and anti-anxiety drugs In 2020, he released his first studio album called “Walls” which debuted at number 4 on the UK Albums Chart and number 9 on the Billboard 200 chart. More recently, Tomlinson fell at Irving Plaza after a performance in New York City and broke his arm in several places. Subsequently, he had to cancel planned album signings. 

Liam Payne

In 2016, Payne fell in love and started dating “X Factor” judge and musician Cheryl Cole, who just happened to be one of the judges present during his 2008 audition in the same show. A year later, the couple welcomed their first child, a son named Bear. Payne also released his first single “Strip That Down in 2017.

In 2018, his relationship with Cole ended. But a month later, he released his first EP “First Time,” which included a collaboration with singer French Montana. By October, he released another song, this time with Jonas Blue and Stella, titled “Polaroid.” Like Malik, he also recorded a song for the “50 Shades” franchise. He recorded a duet with Rita Ora for “Fifty Shades Freed.” He wrapped up 2018 by releasing “Familiar” with J. Balvin.

In August 2020, Payne became engaged to two-year long girlfriend Maya Henry, who is a model, before ending their engagement in June 2021. Although they did give it another try and get re-engaged, they ended things for good in May 2022. Liam has since been seen with an influencer by the name of Kate Cassidy, and they were publicly together as recently as February of 2023, making an appearance at the BAFTAs.

Payne spent 2020 and 2021 sharing YouTube videos and live streaming with fans.

Niall Horan

Similar to his former bandmates, Horan pursued a solo career after One Direction’s split. In 2017, he released his first solo album “Flicker” and started his first international tour as a solo artist, which ended in September 2018.

Since then, he has released notable singles like “What a Time,” “Put a Little Love on Me” and “Nice to Meet Ya.”

In 2020, he released his sophomore album “Heartbreak Weather.”

In 2023, Horan joined The Voice and lent his talents as a coach and a judge for the 23rd season. He also released his third album titled “The Show.”When it comes to his love life, he dated actress-singer Hailee Steinfeld in 2018, but before the end of the year, the two split. He has been with Amelia Woolley since 2020.

Harry Styles

Styles is probably the busiest among the five. In 2017, he broke into the acting scene by being part of the war drama “Dunkirk.” In the same year, he released his first album “Harry Styles,” which nabbed the top spot on the Billboard 200 charts. By the end of the year, he was performing at Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In 2021 he also had a cameo appearance in the Marvel hit Eternals, and in 2022, he starred in Policeman.

He started 2018 by going on his solo world tour, which ended in July.

In 2019, he released his sophomore album “Fine Line,” which featured top hits like “Watermelon Sugar,” “Lights Up” and “Adore You.” He is also set to star in a thriller film titled “Don’t Worry Darling.” His Fine Line” album is famous for leading him to win his first Grammy Award in 2021 with the quintessential summer hit “Watermelon Sugar”. 

The third album, “Harry’s House,” won him two more Grammys in 2023, winning album of the year. His No.1 hits “Sign of the Times” and “As It Was” have helped him get a total of 7 top 10 hits in the UK.

He has also made a name in the fashion scene for his authentic fashion styleHe is the first man ever to have a cover photo shoot on Vogue, in which he graced the pages in a ballgown complete with a hoop skirt. 

Styles’ relationships have been as dynamic as his singing and acting career. He has dated celebrities like Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner, and Olivia Wilde. He even costarred in Don’t Worry Darling, a film that Wilde directed. Wilde and Styles have not been together since November 2022.

Will 1D Get Back Together in 2023?

Since their breakup, people have been wondering and asking if there is a chance One Direction will reunite. The boys haven’t been quite clear on whether there will be a reunion, but some of the members are eager to do a reunion in case a reunion does happen.

In 2019, Payne said that at some point, they would get back together. In his opinion, if there were a reunion, it would take two years since everyone was busy promoting their songs.

Considering that it has been two years since Payne said this, fans are wondering if a One Direction reunion is within sight. So far, there is no news on whether the band would reunite this year, but fans can still hope for a One Direction reunion in the future. After all, the “Friends” cast took more than a decade to reunite. Who’s to say the same won’t happen for One Direction?.

10 years of One Direction were celebrated on July 23rd, 2020. The band launched a website to celebrate the commemoration. The interactive website offers features such as a mixtape generated by your website and never before seen content. As of yet, there is still no plan for a One Direction reunion.

One Direction’s breakup was one of the most heartbreaking moments in Boy Band History. Despite living their separate lives, Harry, Niall, Louis, Liam and Zayn will forever be part of the list of boy bands that stole and broke hearts. Plus, keep your chin up and continue hoping for a reunion!

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