You can’t have a big interview with one of the five past or current One Direction members before the big question comes up: Do you think you guys will ever get back together?
1D aren’t even technically broken up — officially, they simply remain on hiatus — but with all five members now in the midst of successful solo careers, no plans to reassemble are on the immediate horizon: “We haven’t even had a conversation about how long we think the break will be,” Niall Horan insisted in his latest Billboard cover story. It seems close to certain that by the time the group performs together again, it’ll have been long enough to be considered a reunion.
So, how long are we talking about? And, how’s it going to come off once it happens? Well, we can’t predict for sure, but we can look back at boy band history for examples of how the other biggest groups have done in their second time around, since their first breakup or extended hiatus. Here’s five of the most obvious precedents:
The Jackson 5
How long did it take? 3 years (1980-1983)
What were the circumstances? The Jackson 5‘s longest layover came in the midst of brothers Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson both embarking upon one of the most successful stretches of their respective solo careers — particularly the former, who was catapulted into a previously unvisited pop stratosphere with his best-selling Thriller album. Jermaine, who had been out of the fold since the group left Motown Records in the mid-’70s, rejoined with Michael & Co. for the famed Motown 25 TV special in 1983, then stayed around for 1984’s Victory album and a subsequent national tour.
How’d it go? Great in some respects, and not so good in others. Motown 25 was a triumph, though the Jacksons’ group involvement was overshadowed by Michael’s solo moonwalking. Meanwhile, Victory sold well and spawned a couple hits (including the Hot 100 top 5 Mick Jagger duet “State of Shock”), but the ensuing tour was a disaster, as was the “Torture” video shoot, and Michael left the group by the end of ’84.
How long did it take? 6 years (1990-1996)
What were the circumstances? After a well-earned victory-lap performance at the ’90 VMAs — one in which three of the six current-and-former New Edition stars played their solo hits (if you count Bobby Brown‘s soon-aborted “Tap Into My Heart”), the other three played their Bell Biv DeVoe world-beaters and all six played NE classics — the group stayed apart for a half-decade. By ’96, however, their individual commercial fortunes had taken a downturn, and all six members reconvened for the highly modernized Home Again.
How’d it go? Really well, at least at first: Home Again debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 400,000 copies in its first week, spawning the group’s biggest Hot 100 hit to date in the No. 3-debuting “Hit Me Off.” The good vibes were short-lived, though: The ensuing Home Again Tour was marred by warring egos within the group members, and exploded into gunplay and members leaving the tour before it wrapped. The group would not perform together again until 2002.
New Kids on the Block
How long did it take? 14 years (1994-2008)
What were the circumstances? The New Kids on the Block broke up in the mid ’90s, after the adult reinvention of 1994’s Face the Music album proved mostly unpalatable to the general public, and Jonathan Knight’s departure from the group led to the rest of the group ultimately calling it quits. By 2008, though, bygones had become bygones and renewed nostalgia in the ’80s and early ’90s led the group to re-band, releasing the The Block album and embarking upon the New Kids on the Block: Live reunion tour.
How’d it go? Pretty OK, all things considered. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, while lead single “Summertime” marked the group’s first top 40 hit since 1991. And unlike the Jacksons or New Edition, NKOTB stayed together on their second go-round, releasing another moderately successful album in 2013 and continuing to tour — both on their own, and as a part of packages with either fellow boy-banders or contemporaneous pop stars — to this day.
How long did it take? 3 years (2001-2004)
What were the circumstances? Well, Backstreet Boys never really broke up or even went on official hiatus — as made clear by the title of their 2005 comeback album, Never Gone. But in fact, they were gone for most of the first half of the ’00s, as the bubble bursting on the TRL era and members Nick Carter and A.J. McLean attempting solo careers effectively shelved the group for several years’ time. But by ’04, they were ready to record and tour together, playing a successful string of dates in Asia that helped motivate their full-fledged return the following year.
How’d it go? Not bad: Never Gone debuted in the top five and went platinum, and the No. 13-peaking “Incomplete” was their biggest Hot 100 hit since 2000’s “Shape of My Heart.” It wasn’t peak Orlando days and never would be again for BSB — and the group took a hit a couple years later with the departure of original member Kevin Richardson — but Kevin rejoined in 2012, and the group has stayed on a consistent live and touring presence since, currently enjoying their own Vegas residency, Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life.
How long did it take? 10 years (2003-2013)
What were the circumstances? Two years after releasing its third album Celebrity in 2001, *NSYNC unofficially dissolved following a Bee Gees tribute performance at the ’03 Grammys. As Justin Timberlake became one of the biggest solo stars in the world, the group showed no meaningful signs of reassembling until a full decade later, when the group reformed at the 2013 VMAs to play a medley of ’00s smashes “Girlfriend” and “Bye Bye Bye” — though, tellingly, it was as part of a larger JT solo performance, as he was celebrated with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award.
How’d it go? Fine in the moment, but if fans were hoping it would lead to a new tour, album, or really much of anything at all, they’d be disappointed: Four years later, and it’s still not clear if anything else from the group is coming in either the immediate or distant future.