On March 19, the members of Fifth Harmony announced that the pop quartet — who met as contestants on The X Factor in 2012 and formed a group under the direction of Simon Cowell — would be taking a breather to pursue solo endeavors.
Immediately, distraught Harmonizers flooded social media with their sadness and reluctant support of the decision as the heartfelt note from Ally Brooke, Dinah Jane, Lauren Jauregui and Normani Kordei went viral. Assurances were made that this was to be a hiatus, not a breakup, with the foursome stressing that they were taking this time apart from each other to “gain new experiences, strengths and perspectives that we can bring back to our Fifth Harmony family.”
Directioners can undoubtedly relate, as news of the Fifth Harmony hiatus came with a hefty dose of déjà vu. When One Direction — who were also assembled with Cowell’s guidance on The X Factor in 2010 — announced that they were going on hiatus in December 2015, the motivation for the (supposedly temporary) split was also rooted in a mutual desire for members Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and Niall Horan to flex their solo wings and tackle their own projects.
This fate isn’t an uncommon one amongst popular groups, but the parallels don’t stop at Fifth Harmony and One Directions’ shared origins and the promises of temporary time-outs. Between their mutual penchants for massive collaborations across genres, their similar industry foundations (both are signed to Sony Music Group subsidiaries), the parallel circumstances of Camila Cabello and Zayn Malik’s departures from each group and the staying power of their particular forays in pop, this hiatus is just another reminder that One Direction and Fifth Harmony continue on nearly identical trajectories. Here’s a closer look at their journeys, from those first auditions to future plans.
The Life-Changing Launch Pad of The X Factor
In 2010, Styles, Payne, Tomlinson, Horan, and Malik all auditioned for The X Factor individually, and were offered a second chance at the competition when Cowell saved them from elimination by grouping them together as One Direction. In 2012, Cowell did the same thing for Brooke, Jane, Jauregui, Kordei and Cabello, combining their talents to create Fifth Harmony. Both bands made it to the top three for their respective seasons, and both bands placed third. From there, it was off to the races for each act, who put out their recorded debuts — One Direction’s Up All Night (2011) and Fifth Harmony’s Better Together EP (2013) — within a calendar year of their X Factor finals.
And Then There Were Four
Before they temporarily brought production on the group-level to a halt, One Direction and Fifth Harmony each dealt with an internal schism when an original member made their exit. One Direction announced that Malik was venturing off on his own after five years with a joint statement in March 2015, in which he said he had “to do what feels right in my heart” before revealing he wanted “to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.” He praised his bandmates, calling them “friends for life,” and the remaining four went on to tour and record their fifth album, Made in the A.M. Malik’s deviation from the spotlight was brief — almost exactly a year, actually, as Mind of Mine, his solo full-length, saw its release in March 2016.
Fifth Harmony and Cabello’s split wasn’t as clean a break. Fifth Harmony tweeted in December 2016 that Cabello wasn’t the one to break the news of her plans to leave to the rest of the group: “After four-and-a-half years of being together, we have been informed via her representatives that Camila has decided to leave Fifth Harmony. We wish her well.” Like One Direction before them, Fifth Harmony assured fans that they were moving forward with a smaller ensemble: “We are four strong, committed women who will continue with Fifth Harmony as well as our solo endeavors.”
Cabello was “shocked” by Fifth Harmony’s statement and contested their version of how things went down: “Saying that they were just informed through my representatives that I was ‘leaving the group’ is simply not true.” Subsequently, Camila set off on her solo path, releasing her debut LP, Camila, a little over a year later in January of 2018.
Even their toughest moments made for mirrors, as Malik and Cabello are foils: They both put five years (or close to it) into their bands, and they both dropped solo debut albums a year after they moved on. And, for what it’s worth, they both hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with singles from their debut LPs — “Pillowtalk” from Mind of Mine and “Havana” from Camila) — something that neither solo act’s former group had previously managed.
How They Eased Into Hiatus
After they got in their four-piece grooves, both One Direction and Fifth Harmony released one album post-change-up and pre-break: One Direction dropped Made in the A.M. (2015), and Fifth Harmony put out their self-titled third LP (2017).
From start to non-finish, One Direction and Fifth Harmony worked within the same frame, too: From One Direction’s formation to the start of their hiatus, that was a six-year window (2010-2016); Fifth Harmony’s formation-to-hiatus arc extends over a six-year period as well (2012-2018).
Keeping Busy With Collaborations
As a unit, One Direction wasn’t one for working outside the group in a high-profile capacity; as independent musicians, the guys were all for teaming up with other artists. Malik, in particular, proved to have a knack for duets with pop powerhouses, like Taylor Swift (2016’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever”) and Sia (2017’s “Dusk Till Dawn”). Horan put a duet with Maren Morris, “Seeing Blind,” on his debut album, Flicker; Tomlinson and Payne haven’t dropped their solo efforts yet, but have enjoyed Hot 100 runs with their collabs alongside Bebe Rexha (“Back to You”) and Rita Ora (“For You”), respectively. (Payne’s debut single, the top 10-peaking “Strip That Down,” also tapped Quavo for support.)
Fifth Harmony, meanwhile, found success in bringing more voices into the fold, and the ladies sought out projects in between their commitments with the group. “Work from Home,” their historic 2016 smash that spent nine weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, offered a cameo for Ty Dolla $ign; “Down,” the lead single off Fifth Harmony, benefited from Gucci Mane’s bars as well. Cabello teamed up with Shawn Mendes for 2015’s steamy “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and Machine Gun Kelly on “Bad Things” shortly before she left the outfit. As they neared hiatus, the rest of Fifth Harmony popped up in various collabs, from Normani and Khalid’s “Love Lies” to Jane’s banger “Boom Boom” with RedOne, Daddy Yankee and French Montana.
When it comes to featured players, One Direction and Fifth Harmony continue to share: Both Jauregui and Tomlinson have teamed up with Steve Aoki, and Mendes has been known to jam out with Horan from time to time.
“Certain” and Hopeful Futures
Both One Direction and Fifth Harmony are adamant that this isn’t the end: Though the 1D guys are crushing it in their lanes and continue to book full schedules with their own pursuits, a reunion is “100 percent certain,” at least according to Payne. So far, the Fifth Harmony hiatus seems as civil as can be, making a reunion entirely plausible.
Only time will tell, and who knows? In a dream world, a wholly united One Direction and Fifth Harmony would hit the road together for the reunion tour of the century. (Crazier things have happened, and hey — both acts were signed to Sony subsidiaries, so they’d essentially be performing alongside a labelmate every night.) There’s no reason to keep from holding both bands to their word, so cross fingers, Directioners and Harmonizers. Good things come to those who wait.