Ten years ago, five aspiring singers were grouped together by Simon Cowell to compete as a boyband on the then-popular reality show, The X-Factor. After initially auditioning as solo artists, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne became One Direction. While their potential for success was noted by many at the time, no one could have predicted the phenomenon they would become.
Over the course of five studio albums, “the boys” made music history on multiple occasions, smashing industry records previously set by The Beatles and achieving that rarest of feats: breaking America. They have sold 200 million records worldwide, and as recently as 2019, achieved 3.6 billion streams across Spotify, YouTube and other platforms. They won more than 200 awards, including seven Brits, four MTV Music Awards, seven AMAs and six Billboard Music Awards. Yet after five virtually non-stop years, it was clear that even these energetic young lads were beginning to run out of steam.
In March 2015, it was announced that Malik was quitting the group. “I wasn’t 100 per cent behind the music. It wasn’t me,” he told Fader later that year. “It was music that was already given to us, and we were told this is what is going to sell to these people. As much as we were the biggest, most famous boyband in the world, it felt weird. We were told to be happy about something that we weren’t happy about.”