Grammy Watch: Will a One Direction Member Finally Earn a Nomination?

One Direction performs at Civic Hall Wolverhampton, Britain on Dec. 21, 2011.

One Direction performs at Civic Hall Wolverhampton, Britain on Dec. 21, 2011. 

In the months leading up to the 59th Grammy Awards this January, Billboard will be featuring Grammy Watch, a weekly column looking at the artists, music and trends likely to to feature heavily at this year's ceremonies. This week: Jason Lipshutz analyzes the chances that the five current and former members of One Direction may have at getting solo Grammy recognition in 2018, and in which categories they might end up striking.

Earlier this month, sleeping pop giant One Direction notched a rather remarkable chart achievement, despite being on hiatus for over a year: all five members of the mega-selling British group have now earned at least one solo top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Louis Tomlinson was the final member to join the club when “Back to You,” featuring Bebe Rexha and Digital Farm Animals, recently debuted at No. 40 on the chart. Liam Payne and Niall Horan each have current Top 20 hits with “Strip That Down” and “Slow Hands,” respectively, while Harry Styles and Zayn have each entered the Top 10 on their ownm with songs like “Sign of the Times” and “Pillowtalk.”

All five of the 1D lads are doing quite well for themselves, and all five have released new music since the start of 2017… and thus, would be eligible for the 2018 Grammy Awards. However, history's working against the quintet of burgeoning stolo stars: Over the course of their five albums and six Hot 100 Top 10 hits together, One Direction received exactly zero Grammy nominations.

Yes, the biggest pop group of the last decade never earned any Grammy love, even in the genre categories. Of course, you might hear that and wonder when have the Grammys ever deigned to ackonwledge a boy band's existence. But there is precedent: Backstreet Boys showed up in three of the four major categories during their peak, including Album of the Year in 2000 for Millennium. So can the 1D guys at long last snap their cold streak, now as solo artists?

Right now, with six weeks or so before the end of the 2018 eligibility period and three-and-a-half months before the nominees are revealed, the answer appears to be: maybe. There are no locks among the output of Harry, Niall, Liam, Louis and Zayn — nothing that would be shocking if it was overlooked when nominations are announced on Nov. 28. Yet there are a handful of potential spots that the OneDirection lads could still reasonably fill, based on the general reception to some of their projects and the way they are being submitted for Grammy consideration. Who knows? Maybe Grammy night will finally be circled on the calendars of diehard Directioners.

Let’s break down the chances of each One Direction member of securing a nomination at the 60th annual Grammy Awards, to be held Jan. 28, 2018:

Liam Payne

Liam’s debut solo track, “Strip That Down” featuring Quavo, has served as a solid introduction to his solo career, and has been surging on the Hot 100 chart as of late. Meanwhile, his Zedd collaboration “Get Low” was recently released and has cracked the Hot 100, although it may be getting off to a slower start than Zedd’s previous single “Stay” (feat. Alessia Cara).

Payne's best shot would be a surprise nod in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category for “Strip That Down” -- although “surprise” is the operative word here; the single has been a commercial success, but has been treated by critics as a frothy dance track instead of a statement to be taken seriously. While “Strip That Down” signals a promising solo career for Liam, his best shot at Grammy gold will likely come beyond 2018.

Louis Tomlinson

Although “Back to You” is now Tomlinson’s highest-charting hit and is still settling in at radio, his best chance at a nomination may be with his first solo outing, the Steve Aoki collaboration “Just Hold On.” Although the dance track did not cross into the U.S. pop mainstream this spring, it did perform well across Europe, and Louis enjoyed some high-profile festival appearances alongside Aoki promoting the track.

That visibility could lead to a nomination in the Best Dance Recording category, which is often dotted with tracks by A-list dance artists and their featured vocalists (The Chainsmokers and Daya won the category last year). “Just Hold On” is not as obvious of a nominee as a stateside smash like “Don’t Let Me Down” was, but it helps Louis to be potentially competing in a category outside of the crowded pop field. Speaking of which…

Niall Horan

After striding forward with the earnest acoustic track “This Town” late last year, Niall threw a curveball with follow-up single “Slow Hands,” and scored. The stomping, surprisingly sexed-up solo track has become a Top 20 hit and enduring radio song, which bodes well for a sustained pop career prior to the release of Horan’s debut album and start of his first headlining tour. “Slow Hands” will certainly be vying for the Best Pop Solo Performance shortlist — but unfortunately for Niall, that’s typically one of the hardest categories to infiltrate, and will be again in 2018.

Niall is going to try to crack Best Pop Solo Performance this year, but so will Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Shawn Mendes, Julia Michaels, Halsey, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus… the list goes on and on. If “Slow Hands” doesn’t make it, its exclusion would not be a failing on the song’s part, but a testament to one of the toughest categories across the Grammy Awards. And unless it surges over the next month or two, Record of the Year or Song of the Year would be long shots for “Slow Hands.” Don’t be surprised if a hit single as likable as “Slow Hands” makes it onto the nominees list, but Niall is also likely to be an odd man out come Grammy season.


Zayn is the only member (er, former member, that is) of One Direction who has already been passed over by the Grammys as a member of the group and as a solo artist. The singer had a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 (“Pillowtalk”) and a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 (Mind of Mine) in 2016, but was shut out of the 2017 Grammys, much to the chagrin of 1D fans. Zayn has released music this year as a lead artist, with the tropical “Still Got Time” (featuring PartyNextDoor) previewing his yet-unannounced sophomore LP. However, that song effectively came and went on the charts, and while Zayn is expected to drop new music prior to the Sept. 30 eligibility cutoff, his Mind of Mine follow-up is unlikely to materialize before then, per sources.

The good news for Zayn: he’s still got a very solid shot at a Grammy nod this year, thanks to “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” his duet with Taylor Swift that headlined the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. Remember how Taylor Swift has earned an Album of the Year nomination for three of her last four projects? The Grammys love her, and “Forever,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, is now among her biggest hits to date. Meanwhile, the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance is practically made for an A-list team-up like this: vocal collaborations by Rihanna and Drake, The Chainsmokers and Halsey and Sia and Sean Paul were all among the nominees in the category last year.

The only thing hurting “Forever” is that it peaked relatively early, back at the top of 2017, and is not as fresh in the minds of Grammy voters as other pop collaborations. But the star wattage here, combined with the song’s commercial successm could very well lead to Zayn’s first Grammy nom later this year — and although it’s less likely, potentially even an appearance in Record of the Year or Song of the Year.

Harry Styles

And now, the hardest 1D member to predict at the Grammys. For Zayn, Niall, Louis and Liam, it’s relatively easy to figure out which genre categories they have the best shot at, but what to make of Harry, who made a well-received rock album that had a lead single admirably cross over to pop radio? Will rock purists recoil at the thought of a former boy band member crashing their categories? And is a pop nomination realistic for a song like “Sign of the Times,” which sounds more like Pink Floyd than Adele?

Sources tell Billboard that Harry is angling to appear in both pop and rock categories by diversifying submissions; Styles could be this year’s Twenty One Pilots, who earned a nomination in pop with “Stressed Out” and rock with “Heathens” last year. “Sign of the Times” could be submitted in the Best Rock Song category, and Styles’ self-titled debut, or another song from it, could be eligible in pop. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Styles is a lock for a Grammy nomination… but based on the reception to and success of Harry Styles, color us surprised if he doesn’t show up in some form or fashion.

Simply put, the Grammys love a good rock 'n' roll storyline to rally behind, as recent major nominees like Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys, Alabama Shakes and Jack White have demonstrated. Blame it on the age of Grammy voters, or blame it on the rock history that runs through the Grammy Awards; the fact is, the awards have historically been kind to projects where guitar is front-and-center. And Styles is the perfect type of interloper to rally behind — his debut contains odes to psych-pop, classic rock and the most accessible portions of hair-metal, but because of his pop past, the whole world was paying attention to the synthesis of those influences.

By nominating Styles, the Grammys get to anoint a new figure in rock music who is already immensely popular and heralded by critics. What’s the downside here?

A quick note about a major category that has been remained untouched in this dissection: Best New Artist. It is possible that one of the 1D boys (maybe Harry, or Niall) snags a nomination in the Big Four category, but more likely that Grammy voters classify them as not-new due to their earlier stardom within One Direction. Worth noting that even Justin Timberlake didn’t get nominated when he launched his post *NSYNC solo career; the stigma against former boy band members is unforgiving. Styles has the best chance at showing up here, but remains a long shot. More likely he’ll show up in a rock category, cause a bunch of grumpy responses from rock fans and help secure 1D member’s first Grammy nod. Six years after their debut album arrived in the U.S., it’s about time the boys participate in music's biggest night.



The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.