Although Zayn Malik leaving One Direction cannot really be compared as a musical apocalypse on par with Lennon bidding adieu to McCartney, Jim Morrison dying in a Paris bathtub, or Ian Curtis hanging himself, Malik’s shock departure does leave the other four members of One Direction’s future hanging precariously in the balance.
Just like the Doors and Joy Division did in the wake of their respective front men’s untimely departure, One Direction will have to regroup and take it to yet another level if they’re to bounce back from the loss of one of the more talented members of this world-beating boy band.
To compound Harry, Liam, Louis, and Niall’s loss and aggravate an already raw situation, Zayn could decide to do a “Robbie Williams” and literally destroy One Direction overnight. In much the same way Williams did when he left the mighty Take That and forged a solo career that terrified the world in its all-encompassing longevity.
It’s difficult to remember that when a drug-addled Williams first left Take That in July 1995, the overweight and belligerent chancer was considered something of a joke in a red tracksuit who used to hang around Liam and Noel Gallager in a desperate bid for reflected glory.
Yet the pork pie and ale-guzzling clown who loomed large during the Brit-pop era had the final laugh. As Gary Barlow and the other lads from Take That faded into obscurity, Williams went on to become one of the best-selling artists of all time, with seven number one albums to his name.
Of course, Williams later re-joined and left Take That, but the old magic had gone, tarnished by the portly crooner’s initial departure.
Now the question on the lips of everyone who has made it their business to seriously study the history of boy bands in regard to existential despair and cultural nihilism is: Will Zayn Malik do a Robbie and send the rest of One Direction scurrying to the job centre like a gang of hormonal X Factor hopefuls?
Not only would the demise of One Direction be aesthetically devastating for the world as a whole, the damage it might inflict upon popular culture might well be irreversible. If, that is, one takes the philosophical stance that like the Beatles, One Direction are the keepers of an elusive once-in-a-lifetime musical ideal.
Fortunately, no less an authority than Simon Cowell, who perhaps knows more about music than any other person alive, has wasted no time in protecting his “investment” and took to Twitter to reassure One Directions fans that this is not the end, before wisely proclaiming like a modern day Friedrich Nietzche, “Sometimes strength is not defined by numbers.”
Yet Harry Styles obviously failed to take comfort in simple Simon’s words. The One Direction star was so cut up about Malik’s departure and no doubt the potential demise of the band that made him a household name, he began to cry unashamedly on stage in Jakarta during One Direction’s On the Road Again Tour.
In a touching onstage gesture, Louis Tomlinson even reached out to put his arm around an imaginary Zayn, but alas his brave buddy wasn’t there to lend his unique high-pitched vocals to a band that will no doubt struggle without their heartthrob.
Despite saying in a statement that he knows “Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall will continue to be the best band in the world,” the key passage in Malik’s statement is the fact that he wants to have “some private time” out of the spotlight.
“Some private time” would indicate that Zayn is planning on laying low, recharging his batteries, and bouncing back to deliver a sucker punch to his old bandmates in the form of a best-selling solo album.
Boy bands by their very nature have a very limited shelf life. He who usually jumps ship first laughs the longest and has the longest career to boot. For One Direction, Zayn Malik’s departure may very well spell the end of the road, as the biggest boy band ever runs into a complete dead end.
[Images courtesy of Christopher Polk/Frank Micelotta/Matthew Horwood/ Getty Images]