The One Direction solo trajectories have been strange. In terms of a group splitting and then releasing solo music at coinciding times, few groups have done so so closely. In recent British pop history, the likes of Westlife and Girls Aloud have seen all their members release solo material, but with a little more time between releases (other than perhaps Cheryl’s Messy Little Raindrops vs Nadine’s Insatiable battle – but when one is a Tesco exclusive, it’s a little clearer who is going to win that battle). This weekend sees Niall Horan release a new single Put a Little Love on Me from his yet to be announced second album, Harry Styles release Adore You another track from his sophomore album Fine Line, and Liam Payne release his debut solo album LP1. Meanwhile ticking along in the background Louis Tomlinson gears up to release his debut solo album Walls in January, and Zayn casually drops singles every so often – the most recent being November’s Flames.
Yet none of these solo careers have gone quite the way anyone imagined: artistically and commercially. Louis Tomlinson has slid into the nostalgia-infused pop-rock sound wearing his influences like Oasis on his sleeve. His lead single from Walls, Two of Us, stalled at #64 in the UK charts. Whilst subsequent releases from the upcoming album have not bothered the charts – despite the most recent Don’t Let It Break Your Heart receiving promotion on the The X Factor Celebrity version. With Tomlinson never quite being “the star” of One Direction, despite a vocal fanbase (still present seen in a sell out tour), perhaps this limited success is expected.
Zayn found immediate success with his debut solo LP, Mind of Mine, hitting #1 on both sides of the Atlantic – with stellar success for its lead single Pillowtalk across the globe. Yet its sprawling ninety minute follow-up Icarus Falls – a curious hodgepodge that received no promotion from the star himself and was undoubtedly not a smooth release between artist and label – limped to #77 in the UK charts, despite some quality songs hidden within it. Perhaps given a bit of a promotional push, a third LP from Zayn would be met with success. Outwith Icarus Falls, standalone collaborations with R3hab and Shaed haven’t bothered the singles chart in the UK.
Similarly to Tomlinson, Irish bandmate Niall Horan was not the likeliest candidate for solo stardom and the singer has defied most expectations. His debut LP Flicker performed steadily worldwide, reaching #3 in the UK and topping the US Billboard charts. His sophomore album will see the real test of his staying power with its lead single Nice To Meet Ya peaking at #22 in the UK and #63 in the US. Its follow up Put a Little Love On Me has racked up 1.3 million views in a day and could perhaps surpass the success of its predecessor. Horan’s lasting impact as a solo artist will be revealed in due course.
Horan’s bandmate Harry Styles undoubtedly had the biggest likelihood of solo stardom – attracting the most attention from fans outside the band. This was confirmed with his chart topping 2017 debut album and its platinum selling lead single Sign of the Times. Yet the album found no further success in any of its follow-up singles which limped onto the charts. Perhaps benefiting from the biggest star profile, masked the mediocrity of Styles’ musical output. Again like Horan, the test of his staying power as an artist lies on his sophomore release, Fine Line. With a more distinct, less beige sound than its predecessor so far, Fine Line, has shined through lead single Lights Up which peaked at #3 in the UK and #17 in the US. Follow-up Watermelon Sugar had a wistful soft rock vibe and was met with mediocre chart results, yet latest release Adore You, sounds like it has the potential to be a hit.
Arguably another quieter member of the band, Liam Payne, releases his debut solo release. The singer has found steady success with streams of tracks released following 2017’s Strip That Down which peaked at #3. Whilst he has been yet to surpass that chart position, the singer has hovered around the Top 20 with most of his releases. As he geared up for his album release this week, the singer released Stack It Up – two years after his debut single (yet both released on the same album) – which limped in at #84 in the UK charts. Unfortunately this does not bode well for the album’s release which has been met with a plethora of scathing reviews for its lack of personality and misjudged lyrics. Payne has even resorted to getting the six pack out for the latest release from the album – Live Forever.