More than six years ago, international pop culture was forever impacted by the formation of pop quintet One Direction. This isn’t exactly an exaggeration—since 2010, the boy band continuously topped the charts in over 30 countries, sold out four international album tours, plastered their faces and logo on every possible commodity and cultivated a wild fan base rivaled only by that of Justin Bieber. The extent to which One Direction hysteria spread across the globe led to a fairly accurate—and controversial—comparison to the popularity of The Beatles.
All good things must come to an end, but the fate of One Direction isn’t completely confirmed. Their “hiatus”—officiated in January—is a kind of ambiguously dressed letter of resignation. Now-soloist Zayn Malik left the group in March 2015, leaving the remaining four members to carry out their last album release and tour without him. The hiatus is scheduled to end after 18 months, but since Malik’s departure—and public feuds between him and member Louis Tomlinson—it finally feels like time to pull the plug.
Malik infamously took the first steps toward distancing himself from his former band mates with his solo album Mind of Mine, humorously released on the one-year anniversary of his departure from the band. Although Malik emphasizes his independence from the band—exemplified by tense, if not non-existent, interactions with the remaining four—his album wouldn’t have been as popular without dedicated One Direction fans. The album itself wasn’t enthusiastically praised by outside listeners, proving that Malik’s solo transition is still haunted by his boy band past.
Niall Horan, Harry Styles and Liam Payne have since slowly—and somewhat discreetly—followed in Malik’s footsteps while maintaining their One Direction ties. Horan was the first after Malik to release his own music with a surprise release of his stripped-down single “This Town” and an accompanying music video on Sept. 29. Styles and Payne both signed solo contracts in the summer with the promise of future music careers.
Styles seems to be having the best time out of all of the former band mates during this period of transition and mental convalescence. The singer was cast in award-winning director Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film Dunkirk, a World War II historical piece that allows Styles to explore a more creative and serious art form. And from the explosive reaction from fans about leaked on-set photos, there is no doubt the film will benefit from some revived One Direction publicity.
Tomlinson had a scandalous final year with the boyband, as the singer had a child in January with a previously unknown Los Angeles socialite. Fans were in an uproar over rumors and conspiracy theories about the relationship. Tomlinson lucked out—Malik’s solo album eventually overshadowed the scandal. He has been able to stay out of the spotlight to work on his own independent music label during the hiatus.
It must be difficult to enjoy down time and to pursue personal interests when you’re some of the most recognizable young celebrities in the world. But public interest in One Direction will inevitably fade—if it hasn’t started to already—and the five pop stars will someday wear a B-list or C-list celebrity label.
For now, I’m ready to enjoy the sappy acoustic love songs and golf Instagram photos that have come to define this hiatus. But if all the members decide to permanently part ways, it would be for the best; pursing independent goals and dreams is exactly where they belong.