In Billboard’s new fall preview issue, we take a look at One Direction’s highly anticipated new album. Here’s what we know about the 1D’s follow-up to Four:
In March, Zayn Malik departed One Direction; in July, Louis Tomlinson announced he was going to be a father. In between, the best-selling boy band — which has released an album every year since 2011 — focused on recording a full-length they saw as their last for the foreseeable future.
“There was a feeling of, ‘Well, we’re going to take a break, and anything in the world can happen during that time off,’” says Julian Bunetta, a longtime producer and co-writer for 1D. “It’s the first time of there being some uncertainty, of not having things planned out beforehand, since they were 16 years old. There was definitely a vibe of making [the album] the best it can possibly be, and knowing it has to last as long as it needs to until we make another record — if we make another record.”
One Direction Producer: Hiatus ‘Wasn’t Decided Just Yesterday,’ Impacted Upcoming Album
That freedom yielded a looseness in the studio, with Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson taking part in a string session at Abbey Road Studios with a 24-piece orchestra, as well as writing a song that is “a little more sexually charged,” according to Bunetta. There’s also a song about losing someone (but not Malik), another about the band being on shaky ground (likely because of Malik) and others that are inspired by 1960’s pop, in contrast to the arena rock One Direction explored on 2014’s Four.
Some of the new album was written before Malik opted out of the group, although the 22-year-old (who signed with RCA Records as a solo artist in July) will not appear in any of the credits. The absence of Malik certainly has not slowed the group commercially during the album’s lead-up: One Direction’s tour has featured multiple sold-out stadiums during its current run of North America, and new single “Drag Me Down” started at No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart earlier this month, the highest debut of 2015.
“If a basketball team that won a championship loses a player that helped them win a championship, they keep playing next season,” says Bunetta. “Your focus has to go away from what you don’t have to what you do have, and make the most of it.”