One Direction’s Solo Music: Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan and Liam Payne Individualizing As Musicians And As Men

One Direction’s Solo music is being treated as if it is some rival to the group’s continued success as a unit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Without space to grow, these artists could not mature or retain their current status. They need this break, and their solo work, to stay on top of their game.

Harry Styles, Liam Payne, and Nial Horan need this hiatus and their solo work. It is impossible for them to explore their next move, musically speaking, while on a tour bus doing 20 shows a month. This solo work will give each member career longevity, both separately and together. That would not have happened without a substantial break from touring.

Zayn Malik was absolutely right to leave One Direction, and it may have left room for Harry, Liam, Niall, and Lewis to renegotiate their contractual obligations. For all anyone knows, Zayn’s departure was a group plan and decision. It has become kind of noticeable that Styles, Horan, and Payne are fleeing Syco records. Zayn’s departure was likely instrumental in their new found freedom, considering the clause about members going solo.

One Direction wasn’t meeting Zayn’s needs as an artist, but he never said it was Harry Styles’ fault, or Liam’s or Niall’s, that he couldn’t get space to create. He laid the problems squarely on management. MTV’s Anne T. Donahue expresses Zayn’s position in her recent editorial, with an accompanying hashtag #FreeZayn.

“I say this in full confidence that we know plenty about the singer [Zayn Malik] and his band of brothers. We know he didn’t feel like his creative self within the 1D enterprise.”

The One Direction enterprise does not mean Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson. It means Syco Records, Modest Management, and Simon Cowell. Before Niall Horan fled Cowell’s grasp, Simon had a vision of turning Niall into the next Justin Bieber. The problem with that is that Bieber is struggling like mad to transition to something more adult. Justin cannot stay the same little boy who was discovered from YouTube over a decade ago. People grow up.

As for Zayn Malik, leaving One Direction was fully justified in that last quoted sentence. If an artist can’t create within a certain framework, he has the obligation to himself and his fans to move forward alone, but Zayn has said that he wouldn’t mind participating in a reunion with Styles, Horan, Payne, and Tomlinson when the time is right. He’s not in any way rejecting them. He would actually welcome a phone call according to the Sun.

“I had every intention of remaining friends with everybody, but I guess phone numbers have changed and I haven’t received calls from a lot of people. I’ve reached out to a few of them and not got a reply. Certain people have pride issues, but it’s stuff you overcome in time.”

One Direction Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan,
One Direction [Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

One Direction’s Harry Styles, Niall Horan, and Liam Payne are producing solo material under different labels because of their own career needs. They also have artistic reasons. They are flourishing outside the confines of the management system Zayn spoke of.

Zayn Malik’s Pillowtalk didn’t fit within the parameters of One Direction, and neither will the solo work of Harry, Niall, and Liam. MTV commentator Anne Donahue says Zayn’s courage is admirable.

“[Zayn Malik is] allegedly hesitant to begin touring due to panic attacks and anxiety. Most importantly, we know that to admit the latter is super brave — and that Zayn’s tendency to live and express himself so freely is nothing short of admirable. Zayn is complex. He is trying his best. But it’s high time for us to recognize that he doesn’t need to be a part of everything — especially not any more conversations about One Direction.”

One Direction needed artistic freedom plus solo experience to continue their careers either as a group or separately, and the best way to gain artistic freedom is to break with Syco, Modest Management, and Simon Cowell, and the only way to get solo experience is to take a break from touring and a break from each other.

Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik are often said to be brothers, but even brothers, once they are grown men, develop separate lives. They each have their own families, separate interests, and unique personalities.

Harry Styles
Harry Styles [Image by Helga Esteb/Shutterstock]

The One Direction guys have been jammed up in a tour bus for five years. They need room to breath,e and they need to individuate musically and personally. Harry, Niall, Liam, Zayn, and Louis have been writing the same kind of music together, under the same strict supervision for five years. How can they develop without taking a break from that and learning how others create.

Harry Styles, Niall Horan, and Liam Payne have each spent time with other artists, learning from a variety of sources. They have had time to develop their talents in different directions. For example, Niall is currently working with producer Greg Kurstin according to the Sun. Harry has consulted Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, Zayn Malik is often criticized for perceived slights to One Direction. Zayn is already suffering from social anxiety disorder, and these constant critiques of every little thing he says and does are not helping him recover.

One Direction is not being slighted by Zayn Malik, but rather the way Zayn expresses himself is being colored by his disorder, and people who pick over things like word choice, failure to comment, and what they post on Twitter are going to find plenty of material from anyone suffering from social anxiety. Anne Donahue of MTV conveyed the idea perfectly.

“By treating Zayn as his own person, we can give all past One Direction members enough breathing room to express and to challenge themselves in more creative ways. When we focus on their reactions to one another, we keep the 1D alums in a box and confine them to behaviors and actions and personas they’ve been stuck with since they were teenagers.”


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Harry Styles, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson all congratulated Niall Horan on his solo single, but Zayn Malik didn’t say anything about it. It is quite possible he didn’t even know. 5SOS were completely blown away in an interview days after because they knew nothing of Niall’s new single. Five Seconds of Summer are closer with Niall by far than Zayn is lately. Niall didn’t inform Zayn before releasing “This Town.”

One Direction will get back together when the time is right, but right now they are individuating from each other and developing their talents separately. They don’t need to be reminded to say thank you or nice job to each other at every turn. They are adults.

One Direction’s Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, and Zayn Malik are producing solo music because it is vital to their careers, whether they continue together or separately.

[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]