Ex-One Direction Members' Solo Careers: What We Do (and Don't) Want to See

Charley Gallay/AMA2014/Getty Images for DCP
Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne of One Direction attend the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Nov. 23, 2014 in Los Angeles.

Much to Directioners' dismay, One Direction did the unthinkable in 2015, announcing an indefinite hiatus -- reassuring fans they would get back together, but giving no indication as to when. If boy band history tells us anything, this isn’t a promising claim, but we remain hopeful.

In the year and a half that's passed since that rather heartbreaking day, big things have happened for every member. First solo material, first children (for two of them!), big collaborations... all proving that the One Direction guys are using their alone time to really establish themselves as individual artists.

While Zayn Malik is the only one who has released a full album just yet, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan also dropped their first solo efforts in recent months. With Harry Styles teasing what Billboard has been told is his debut solo single for April 7, our curiosity for what's to come from Styles and his fellow 1D dudes. So we’ve broken things down, member by member, establishing what we do know and what we hope will happen.

Louis Tomlinson

What We Know: After One Direction announced its hiatus, Tomlinson underwent possibly the biggest transformation… he’s a dad! When he’s not cuddling up to 14-month-old Freddie Reign, though, he's clearly hard at work on his solo career -- Tomlinson released his first single, a collaboration with Steve Aoki titled "Just Hold On."

What Should Happen: As the noted bad boy of 1D, we think inking a solo deal wouldn’t be the worst move for Louis. As for now, we’re happy he’s focusing on his son and career goals, whether it's collaborating with other artists or guest-judging on the UK's X-Factor. Perhaps personality-based work is where Tomlinson will excel.

Niall Horan

What We Know: Initially, Horan really took the hiatus time to take a gosh darn break, playing golf on a regular basis and enjoying himself out and about in London and L.A., as evidenced by several Instagram posts. But amidst all the fun, Horan was taking care of solo business -- he simultaneously dropped his first single, "This Town," and announced he'd signed a deal with Capitol Records on Sept. 29.

What Should Happen: If his first song is any indication, Horan is going to take the more singer-songwriter route sound-wise in his solo ventures, which is a rather brilliant move for his voice. Also, he and Shawn Mendes have teased a potential collaboration... that should definitely be a thing.

Liam Payne

What We Know: Since One Direction called it quits, Payne has been pretty busy -- teasing us. At the end of 2015, he co-wrote the song “The Night We Met” for an Irish boy band Hometown. A few weeks later he teased a solo song, a little R&B ditty he shared in a 15-second Instagram clip. Around the same time, Payne was spotted in the studio with rapper Juicy J and producer TM88 of 808 Mafia. It seemed like Payne was going to route of Zayn Malik, a sexier, more mature sound. A few months later a collaboration between Payne, Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa surfaced, something Payne would later call a demo, not a single. Fast forward to July 2016 and Payne has signed a solo deal with Capitol. Come March 2017, Payne's teases still haven't amounted to anything official -- but he did just welcome his first child with girlfriend Cheryl Cole, sharing a picture with his newborn on March 25.

What Should Happen: Well, Payne is clearly going to get to work on a solo album sooner rather than later, and we’re stoked for it. He loved songwriting while in One Direction, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he attempts to co-write most of the tracks on his first solo effort. One thing we do know -- this is definitely going to be more R&B/hip-hop than 1D.

Harry Styles

What We Know: If you want an in-depth account on Harry’s present and future, we’ve broken it down for you here. When One Direction announced its hiatus, everyone sort of assumed heartthrob Styles would be the first to pull a *NSYNC/Justin Timberlake and launch an uber successful solo career within the music umbrella. Instead it was Malik who made that move, and Styles went on to write tracks (which haven’t been released, but have been registered to the publisher ASCAP). Beyond that, our boy H is filming the Christopher Nolan World War ll drama Dunkirk. However, Harry has inked a solo deal with Columbia Records, and his first single is reportedly on the way April 7.

What Should HappenDunkirk will likely be a success. Even if you’re not a history buff, chances are your dad is and with Harry in the picture, could there be a more perfect family date? We think Styles will probably pursue acting and music simultaneously, the World War ll drama getting his feet wet. As for the kind of music his solo career will allow, we think Styles is going to go the classic rock a la Fleetwood Mac route. There’s a reason “What A Feeling” on One Direction’s last album, Made in the A.M., was such a Harry song.

Zayn Malik

What We Know: Zayn was the only member of One Direction to voluntarily leave the band -- 1D didn’t announce its hiatus until sometime afterward. In the beginning, the reasoning Zayn gave for his departure was that he wanted to be a “normal 22-year-old;” only to later announce his R&B career. He released his solo debut full-length, Mind of Mine, last year, and is currently working on his second effort, which he give a little taste of with a new single/collaboration with PartyNextDoor, "Still Got Time," on March 23.

What Should Happen: Zayn will probably release more solo material and we will enjoy it (Malik has grown up and who are we to stop him?). The only cause of concern are the extracurricular activities. Malik has said some damning things about his band in the past, and his autobiography (released Nov. 1) and 1D-based television show that's in the works could cast a long shadow. Don’t throw our beloved boy band under the bus, Z! 


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