One Direction’s Solo Efforts By Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, And Niall Horan: Where Is 1D Headed Musically? [Videos]

One Direction’s solo efforts began with Zayn Malik. Malik left 1D, suffering from anxiety that for a while made him want to quit music. Then, after recovering a bit, Zayn decided he would create a solo album filled with the musical side of himself he was unable to showcase because of creative limitations put on them by management. 1D members were stifled creatively because of the boy band genre they were expected to conform to.

One Direction’s Harry Styles and Zayn Malik have spoken out, each in their own way, describing a need for improvement in the 1D style and complexity. For Zayn’s 1D boy band image was so far from his preferred style, it seemed hopeless. Harry just needed a considerable block of time to develop musically under better conditions than were afforded by constant tours and fast paced writing and recording.

Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson never complained publically. None of them want to seem ungrateful, but in order for the band to achieve longevity, they will have to grow as musicians.

One Direction’s Harry Styles is quoted on NME, from a February 2014 interview expressing the bittersweet nature of being famous for music that could be better.

“We all sat and watched the film of The Beatles arriving in America. And, to be honest, that really was like us. Stepping off the plane, the girls, the madness. It was exactly the same as when we got there – just 50 years earlier. But none of us think we’re in the same league as them music-wise. We’d be total fools if we did. Fame-wise, it’s probably even bigger, but we don’t stand anywhere near them in terms of music.”

Zayn Malik told The Fader in March of 2015, One Direction’s music just wasn’t him.

“There was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band. If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version… Whenever I would suggest something, it was like it didn’t fit us. There was just a general conception that the management already had of what they want for the band… It wasn’t me.”

Harry Styles and Zayn Malik were speaking to the same problem but in very different voices. Often Styles and Malik echo each other in overall meaning but diverge in the way they explain various situations. They are both pointing to a situation where talented young musicians want to create authentic music, but someone else is telling them what is marketable within a restrictive genre.

Niall Horan and Liam Payne never said anything publicly to reveal their feelings about any restrictions or problems with 1D music, but considering their new solo work, it is obvious they too wanted to explore other genres.

One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson has never expressed an opinion on improving 1D, nor has he released any solo material during the hiatus.

For Zayn Malik, the problem encompassed genre, style, and lyrical content. Zayn grew up listening to rhythm and blues, commonly referred to as R&B. Rhythm and blues, jazz, folk, and country are all inspirations at the root of rock and roll, from which most present day music evolved.

The R&B Zayn Malik loves is soulful, emotional, often sad and characteristically sexual. The tempo is variable and the instrumental element can be extremely complex.

One Direction’s Harry Styles was never satisfied with the overall quality of 1D’s songs. Harry loved the band and the fans, but even for Harry, the rapid and formulaic production of albums didn’t leave enough time for 1D to develop any unique styles or grow as artists. Styles has been busily developing his own talent during the hiatus.

One Direction’s solo efforts produced by Liam Payne and Niall Horan speaks for itself. Liam Payne had some R&B artists in his studio that are very divergent in style from 1D.

Niall Horan has alternatively produced a beautiful folk ballad. Folk also played a role in the development of rock as well as American country music.

One Direction’s solo efforts are each drinking from the deep wells that were used to derived rock music. While Zayn Malik and Liam Payne study the various R&B elements, Harry Styles studies classic rock and Niall is exploring folk.

Niall Horan’s newly released “Our Town” is a lovely folk ballad. Though one would expect Horan’s music to be Irish Folk, “Our Town’s” similarities to Smokey Mountain and Blue Ridge folk music seem palpable. Folk ballads were also extremely popular in the 1970s, as rock evolved.

Could One Direction’s solo efforts be an attempt to systematically reinvent music from the roots up? It certainly looks as if that could result from their separate explorations.

  • Niall Horan – Irish and American Folk
  • Liam Payn – Rhythm and Blues
  • Harry Styles – Classic Rock and Irish Folk
  • Zayn Malik – Rhythm and Blues
  • Louis Tomlinson – Unknown?
One Direction's Harry Styles by Jason Merritt r
One Direction's Harry Styles [Image by Jason Merritt/One Direction's Harry Styles by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

One Direction’s solo efforts could be seen as unrelated and random, but when one looks at the evolution of music in the twentieth century, it suddenly appears to make sense. The relationship between these musical influences is very clear.

Niall Horan’s folk music is age old, carried from Ireland to the new world early in American History, and also found within many European cultures. Folk was developed gradually and thrived within a spirit of community, wherever small, more or less isolated communities thrived over centuries. Folk was a major influence of both country music and rock.

Zayn Malik and Liam Payne’s R&B explorations are not all that different. Rhythm and blues evolved in the African American communities along with its closely related cousin Jazz. Even British rock musicians, like The Rolling Stones, derived their music heavily from R&B and Jazz.

Niall Horan by Christopher Polk c
Niall Horan [Image by Christopher Polk/Getty Images]

Harry Styles solo research seems to include very early rock artists including the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, then Elton John and the more recent Red Hot Chili Peppers.

One Direction’s solo efforts are going back to the beginning. They are reexamining the history of music. What are Harry Styles, Niall Horan and Liam Payne looking for? What is Louis Tomlinson really doing?


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Maybe Louis Tomlinson too is learning about some secret ingredient to One Direction’s future music. It is very easy to imagine Louis studying some ancient origin of music while hidden away in his home and taking care of his baby son.

Harry Styles, Liam Payne, and Niall Horan are starting to reveal their own musical tastes and offer up a flavor of what they have been working on. Zayn Malik is putting the finishing touches on his second album. He’s already revealed his sexy, sultry R&B sound. Louis Tomlinson is the only remaining wild-card. What is Tomlinson up to?

One Direction’s solo efforts are designed to come back together, with each revealing their discoveries. Fans will find, when the group reunites, that 1D music will be something completely groundbreaking in musical development.

One Direction’s Solo efforts, from Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik and possibly Louis Tomlinson are soon to be revealed.

[Featured Image by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images]