This day has been a long time coming for Liam Payne.
When One Direction called it quits in January 2016, heading out on an indefinite hiatus to pursue projects outside the group that had propelled them to global (and, some might say, all-consuming) fame in 2010 after forming on The X Factor, the assumption was that the race to release solo material was on. After all, Zayn Malik, who'd departed the group in dramatic and sudden fashion nearly a year earlier, had signed a record deal of his own and was putting the finishing touches on his debut solo album, Mind of Mine, released that March. Why should the former bandmates he'd turned his back on let him have all the fun?
Soon, record labels began snatching the lads up. First came Harry Styles and his deal with Columbia, announced in June. Niall Horan followed suit in September, signing with Capitol and releasing his first single as he did so. So it was no surprise when Liam, known as one of 1D's principal songwriters and credited with co-writing more than half of the songs on the band's final two albums, was snatched up by Republic Records in October. (As for Louis Tomlinson, a deal wouldn't be announced until July 2017. But that's a story for another day.)