It’s been over a year since fans heard the first One Direction member go solo with the premier of Zayn Malik‘s “Pillowtalk.” But since that time, listeners have heard the four other One Direction members begin their solo careers, saying goodbye to the former group of Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson.
Although the guys created the perfect harmony for their One Direction pop hits, each member has gone in different directions in terms of creating their own material. Malik’s single was a nice mixture of pop and R&B, Horan brought an acoustic vibe to the stage, Styles took a more classic rock-inspired path and Payne and Tomlinson’s hits can be heard in any dance club.
While it may be a little strange to see One Direction members flying solo, they’re definitely bringing their own style to the music industry. Let’s take a look at each of their solo careers so far and maybe get a glimpse of who has proven to be the most successful on their own.
1. Zayn Malik
Malik was the first to split from One Direction back in March 2015 and fans were literally crying over the departure. Many people showed their unfiltered sadness to the world, including Harry Styles, who was caught wiping tears on stage in the first show post-Malik. His debut solo album, Mind of Mine, debuted in 2016 with an R&B vibe that took the world by storm. More confident and aware of his fame, the singer branded himself as ZAYN. The star’s first single, “Pillowtalk,” topped charts at number one in multiple countries including the United States and the United Kingdom. The video for the single highlighted his new scandalous side featuring his girlfriend, model Gigi Hadid, and racked up 150 million views within the first 30 days of release.
Across various platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pandora, Malik has roughly 47 million followers. He just released a new single this year called “Still Got Time,” featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR. The single is gaining momentum, but still hasn’t surpassed the popularity of “Pillowtalk.”
2. Harry Styles
Styles’ self-titled album was released by Columbia this year and debuted at the top of Billboard’s latest album chart, with approximately 230,000 sales in the United States. That number includes 193,000 copies sold of the album, plus about 40 million streams. As mentioned earlier, Malik also reached number one with his album, but his sales during the first week only reached 157,000. That gives Mr. Styles some bragging rights. Although Malik took the R&B road, Styles surprised fans by going in the classic rock direction.
The tables turned when Styles’ single “Sign of the Times” only managed to get 8.8 million streams compared to Malik’s “Pillowtalk” receiving 13.3 million streams in the same amount of time. So, in a battle of the two former One Direction members, Malik takes the first place prize. But these numbers do include the Spotify glitch on the day of Styles’ release that didn’t allow streamers to search for the new single, which may have contributed to the lower number of plays.
3. Niall Horan
Horan launched his solo career with a single entitled “This Town” last year, much to the surprise of his millions of fans. He seems to have stayed closest to the One Direction roots as the single debuted as an acoustic, black-and-white video which has been viewed over 38 million times. The single made it into the Top 20 on Billboard’s “Hot 100” list, but the highest was on Billboard’s “Dance Club” chart peaking at number three.
Horan recently released a single from his upcoming solo album called “Slow Hands,” which goes for a more muted sound. It has proven to be more successful than “This Town” so far as it’s taking over iTunes and Billboard’s trending charts and can definitely put up a strong fight against his former bandmates’ music whereas his first single couldn’t match up. Horan was also seen performing recently alongside Ariana Grande at the One Love Manchester benefit concert after the tragic arena attack.
4. Louis Tomlinson
The oldest former band member, Louis Tomlinson, has only released one single as a soloist so far last year following his mother’s tragic death after a long battle with leukemia. Despite the circumstances, Tomlinson returned to The X Factor stage, where he originally rose to fame, to debut “Just Hold On.” The song is upbeat and heavy on electronics with powerful lyrics having to do with his mother’s passing.
The emotional performance had the single soaring up the charts hitting number five on iTunes. He’s on his way to releasing a new album with exciting collaborations with ROZES (Elizabeth Mencel) and Steve Aoki. The album has yet to be titled, but it seems as if Tomlinson’s solo record is going to be very personal to him. Hopefully, fans will have more information soon on when his new music will be released. Will Tomlinson stack up to Malik and Styles?
5. Liam Payne
Payne was the last One Direction member to release music as a soloist releasing his first single “Strip That Down” last month. The song was co-written by Ed Sheeran and Steve Mac. Although the track is relatively new, it has received a lot of praise from One Direction fans. Just a few short hours after the release, the video had 300,000 views on YouTube. Today the song has racked up millions of streams and sales.
Payne is now working with hip-hop group Migos on his new album. He stated in an interview that he wants his album to sound like a mixture between Justin Bieber and Drake. Like Tomlinson, the public is still awaiting more news about the release of the upcoming solo album.
What’s the verdict?
All five former members of One Direction are just as talented solo as they were together. Since they are all taking different musical genre paths, it’s difficult to compare, but the boys have all impressively taken their personal stories and turned them into hit music. With the massive following One Direction had as a band, there was absolutely no doubt that Malik, Styles, Horan, Tomlinson and Payne would flood the top charts of the world as soloists.