Is Boy Band Baggage Holding Back One Direction Solo Success at the Grammys?
The Recording Academy never recognized One Direction with a Grammy nomination when they were together, which is unfortunate but not shocking. On one hand, 1D produced arguably the most substantial album catalog from a boy band in history (especially if we're not counting Boyz II Men). But then again, 1D was a boy band created by a reality TV series – hardly the kind of act that historically earns Grammy nominations, much less wins.
But when the boys of the band broke out and began forging individualistic solo careers, it seemed like their Grammy fortunes might change. There was 2016 buzz that Zayn – who went solo before the group's hiatus – could earn a best new artist nod in 2017, but that was quashed by the Recording Academy, which argued he was far too well-known to be considered a 'new artist.' (Fair enough: It's not like you would have called Paul McCartney a 'new artist' in 1970 when he started his post-Beatles career.) Even so, Zayn got no love for his No. 1 album Mind of Mine or his Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song "Pillowtalk" that year.
Now, with the 2018 Grammy nominations revealed, it's looking like the 1D Grammy drought continues. For Zayn, although his Taylor Swift duet "I Don't Want to Live Forever" was nominated for best song written for visual media, he didn't get anything – that category only rewards songwriters.
In fact, none of the solo efforts from the now-quartet earned Grammy love.
Okay, Liam Payne's "Strip That Down" was never gonna get a nod -- sure, it's a bona fide hit, but a club-oriented pop&B track is not the Recording Academy's cup of tea. But both Harry Styles' debut album and Niall Horan's hit "Slow Hands" are rooted in '70s rock influences (David Bowie and Pink Floyd for the former, Eagles and Fleetwood Mac for the latter) that the Recording Academy typically celebrates. While Horan's Flicker album came out after this year's eligibility period (which ran through Sept. 30), "Slow Hands" could have received some attention in the pop categories. Same with Styles: It's easy to imagine either the "Sign of the Times" single or the Harry Styles album getting love in rock categories.
And yet, nothing. The reason is pretty easy to guess: In many voters' minds, they're still the "What Make You Beautiful" boys, more deserving of teenage adoration than Grammy gold. If 1D's move toward adult fare on their last two LPs didn't move the Recording Academy, why would these solo efforts?
In the Recording Academy's defense, you could argue that Harry Styles and "Slow Hands" just weren't strong enough – and some critics would back that up. But it's hard not to feel that if Styles or Horan had emerged in 2017 without any boy band baggage, at least one of them might've scored a nomination.