Evaluating the Solo Careers of One Direction After the Split

Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson have all moved on since One Direction's split in 2015: here's how they are faring

By Tierney Bricker Dec 14, 2019 1:00 PMTags
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What a time to be a One Direction fan.

Despite the band going on hiatus almost five years ago, all five of its members—Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne—have released solo music. Each former member has had the chance to express their individuality after spending five years together making music, with their singles and albums all sounding (and performing) drastically different. 

Harry's highly anticipated second album, Fine Lines, was finally released on Dec. 13, just one week after Liam finally dropped his first album. Louis, meanwhile, will be the fifth and final member to debut his first solo album in the new year. Plus, Niall is releasing songs off his second album and Zayn has been busy dropping collabs after becoming the first member to leave the band and release his own music.  

With all five bandmates releasing new music at the same time and the five-year anniversary of their hiatus looming, it felt like the right time to compare Harry, Niall, Zayn, Louis and Liam's post-1D trajectories (both professionally and in their personal lives), even if they probably totally don't want us to. C'mon, Harry actually ate a scorpion to avoid ranking his former bandmates' solo music while guest-hosting The Late Late Show earlier this week. And we can't say we blame him.

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Fortunately for us, we're not staring down a date with a giant water scorpion if we take an in-depth look at the five One Direction members careers since the band officially went on hiatus in 2015…

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Harry Styles
Age: 25
Instagram Followers: 25 million
Twitter Followers: 33.7 million

Career: Did you know it was Harry who suggested while they were in the studio in London that One Direction might want to take a break?

"I didn't want to exhaust our fan base," he told Rolling Stone. "If you're shortsighted, you can think, 'Let's just keep touring,' but we all thought too much of the group than to let that happen. You realize you're exhausted and you don't want to drain people's belief in you."

After the band's hiatus, Harry hit the studio to begin working on his solo music, ultimately releasing his 10-song debut album, Harry Styles, in May 2017. It went on to become the ninth global best-selling album of 2017 and earned rave reviews, and the first single, "Sign of the Times," was ranked the best song released that year by Rolling Stone, while Billboard deemed it the best rock song of 2017.

The single debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, and hit No. 1 on the iTunes chart in record-breaking time, taking just 19 minutes. 

"I didn't want to write 'stories,' " Harry told Rolling Stone working on the album. "I wanted to write my stories, things that happened to me. The number-one thing was I wanted to be honest. I hadn't done that before."

When his first solo tour after Harry Styles' release concluded in July 2018, selling almost 1 million tickets between 89 shows, it turned out that between a portion of his proceeds and contributions from promoter Live Nation and GLSEN PRIDE campaign, $1.2 million had been donated to various charities.

Throughout the tour, Harry showed his support for the LGBTQ, including helping a fan come out to her mom by reading aloud a sign she made, waving a rainbow pride flag around and attaching it to his mic stand after it was thrown on stag, and at a concert in London, audience members held up their phones and used colored light filters to create a giant light-up rainbow Pride flag display.

As for Harry's latest album, it immediately hit No. 1 on the iTunes albums chart, and the three released singles, "Lights Up," "Watermelon Sugar" and "Adore You" have all performed well, with "Lights Up" being called "a bisexual anthem" and the music video attracting over 40 million views. 

Dubbed one of the best dressed man in the world by GQ UK, Harry proved to be a fashion industry darling when he was selected to serve as one of the co-chairs for the 2019 Met Gala, along with Lady Gaga and Serena Williams

"What's feminine and what's masculine, what men are wearing and what women are wearing – it's like there are no lines any more," he told The Face of his gender-fluid style choices.

Will Heath/NBC

Aside from music and fashion, Harry is the first (and so far only) member of the band to head to the big screen, beginning his acting career in a major way, earning solid reviews for his role in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, which was nominated for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. (Remember the meltdowns that were had over Harry cutting his hair for the role?)

Harry, who was in the running to play Elvis Presley in an upcoming biopic (the role ultimately went to Austin Butler), "respectfully declined" the change to play Prince Eric in Disney's upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid

But Harry has also been slowly building his resume behind-the-scenes, serving as an executive producer on CBS' short-lived sitcom Happy Together, which was loosely inspired by his life. 

Watch Harry Styles Drink Sperm Instead of Telling Ex Kendall Jenner Which Songs Are About Her

In November, Harry became the first 1D member to host Saturday Night Live (and he was the first perform solo as the musical guest in 2017). And guess what? He crushed it, revealing he is a comedy superstar in most of the sketches, especially the Sara Lee one that went very viral.

And he continued to show off his comedic chops when taking over hosting duties on The Late Late Show, showing off his natural timing and cheeky sense of humor during his headline-making game of "Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts" with ex Kendall Jenner, which segues us nicely to...

Terence Patrick/CBS

Personal life: Of all the 1D boys, Harry's love life has arguably garnered the most attention, mostly because of how private he's managed to keep most of his relationships. During the band's run, Harry famously (and reportedly, as he never confirmed his relationships) romanced the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star, as well as Erin Foster,  Kimberly StewartX-Factor host Caroline Flack, and, most notably, Taylor Swift. (We'll always have bops like "Style," "I Knew You Were Trouble" and "Out of the Woods" to remember "Haylor" by.)

His post-1D dating history is just as stacked, including a PDA-filled reunion with Kendall on a yacht, a quick romance with blogger Tess Ward and a year-long relationship with Victoria's Secret model Camille Rowe that ended in 2018. 

In his Rolling Stone cover story, Harry revealed many of his songs are inspired by his relationships--"It's all about having sex and feeling sad"--though he never names his exes directly. But his friend Tom Hull did reveal Harry's relationship with Camille had "a big impact" on him, saying, "He had a whole emotional journey about her, this whole relationship."

And in the song "Cherry" off of Fine Lines, Harry actually plays a voicemail from Camille. 

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Niall Horan
Age: 26
Instagram Followers: 22.4 million
Twitter Followers: 39.4 million

Career: Out of all the 1D boys, Niall may have been the most underestimated when it came to predictions for their post-band life. (Every group needs a Joey Fatone, you know?) But then the carefree Irishman was actually the first member of 1D to release a solo single, dropping "This Town" off his first solo album Flicker in 2016 (with the album going on to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts). It performed rather well, reaching no. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.

But then came a little song that is likely still stuck in your head: "Slow Hands." After its release in May 2017, it sold one million copies in the US that year alone, reaching No. 1 on the mainstream Top 40 chart and No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

After the Flicker world tour in 2018, Niall has been working on his second album, releasing two singles so far. The lead single, "Nice to Meet Ya," which he co-wrote in less than day, has performed well on the charts, and he is set to embark on his Nice to Meet Ya tour in 2020.

After Harry, Niall is set to be the second 1D member to serve solo as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live on Dec. 14.

Splash News

Personal life: In 2018, Niall dated Oscar nominated star and singer Hailee Steinfeld for several months, with the two quietly splitting late in the year. "They really tried to make it work," a source told us of the split, blaming their busy schedules. "It definitely was 'young love.'"

Following his split with the Pitch Perfect star, Niall's friendship with Selena Gomez began making headlines, with fans speculating the two were dating after they were spotted together and posted about each other on social media. But earlier this month, Niall shot down the rumors, telling Brekkie Crew, "Do I have a girlfriend? I don't, no, I'm very much single. Very much single."

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Zayn Malik
Age: 26
Instagram Followers: 31.3 million
Twitter Followers: 28.5 million

Career: Of course, the pressure was on for Zayn to deliver after he was the member to initiate the band's end, announcing his departure from the group on March 25, 2015 (aka D-Day for Gen-Z). While he said in his statement that he was "leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight," he immediately went into the studio to work on his solo endeavors.  In fact, when he signed his solo deal, he said he was excited to make "real music."

Again, no pressure.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

His debut single finally debuted in January 2016, with "Pillowtalk" immediately going to No. 1 and becoming one of the biggest songs of the year. Two months later, his debut album "Mind of Mine" was released, immediately topping the Billboard chart.

His first single and album both debuting at No. 1 would make him the first British male artist to do so in both the UK and the US, and Zayn would win New Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards and Top New Artist at the Billboard Music Awards.

At the end of 2016, he dropped his collaboration with Taylor Swift, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" off of the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. It would go on to win the 2017 MTV Video Music Award for Best Collaboration. 

After several hit collaborations, including "Still Got Time" with PartyNextDoor and "Dusk Till Dawn" with Sia, Zayn released his second album, Icarus Falls, in December 2018, which peaked at No. 61 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Most recently, Zayn was on the soundtrack for Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin, performing a cover "A Whole New World" with Zhavia Ward

Outside of music, Zayn also had a quick cameo in Ocean's 8, and he's  teamed up with several fashion brands, including Versace, Kooples and Giuseppe Zanotti, to release limited edition collaborations. 

Splash News

Personal life: Just five months after his split with 1D, Zayn had another breakup: After three years together, Zayn and Perrie Edwards, the Little Mix singer who he met while competing on The X Factor, called off their engagement (following rumors of infidelity on his part).

Several months later, Zayn was spotted to supermodel Gigi Hadid, though they wouldn't confirm their relationship until 2016, when she starred in his "Pillowtalk" music video. They'd go on to become one of young Hollywood's most popular couples, even posing for their own Vogue cover together. But in March 2018, the couple split, with Gigi saying in a statement, "I'm forever grateful for the love, time and life lessons Z and I shared."

However, the duo was spotted multiple times together in the following months and the last time they were reportedly spending time together was earlier in January of this year.

And after her brief fling with Bachelorette fan-favorite Tyler Cameron, Gigi and Zayn are reportedly back "in touch." 

"They went through a phase where they took time apart and weren't communicating at all, but they have been in touch recently," our source said. "She is supportive of him. They chat here and there but it's been casual."

The plot thickens...

Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Sony Picture

Outside of his love life, Zayn has opened up about his struggles with ADHD, anxiety and an eating disorder (as well as body image issues), first doing so in an interview with the Associated Press and eventually in his 2016 memoir, Zayn, which instantly became a New York Times Bestseller.

"People saw strength in that, and they didn't seem to expect it from a guy, but they expect it from a female, which to me is crazy. We're all human," he said. "People are often afraid to admit difficulties, but I don't believe that there should be a struggle with anything that's the truth."

He then clarified, "It wasn't specifically an eating disorder," but rather a "control thing" that helped him divert from his life with 1D that he described as "so regimented and controlled."

Zayn has also been vocal about not having a friendship with any of the four other members, saying he made no friends while he was in the band. 

"I ain't spoke to any of them for a long time, to be honest with you. That's just the way it is," he told British Vogue. "There's things that happen and things that were said after I left. Snide things. Small things that I would never have expected."

Liam later weighed in on Zayn's abrupt exit from the group, admitting to GQHype last month, "He didn't even say goodbye, if I am being honest. It was a really sordid scenario, from our side certainly. A bit strange. It's difficult."

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Louis Tomlinson
Age: 27
Instagram Followers: 14 million
Twitter Followers: 33.5 million

Career: After a five-year wait, Louis finally revealed his debut solo album was ready, announcing on Instagram he would be dropping the full-length EP, Walls, on Jan. 31, 2020, making him the fifth and final member of the band to release a solo outing.

"I'm really relieved to finally be here," he said. "Thank you very much everyone for your patience."

In March 2020, Louis will kick off his Walls world tour, with most of the dates already sold out around the world.

But in that five-year period, Louis dropped several singles, including "Just Hold On" with Steve Aoki in 2016, and "Back to You," a collab with Bebe Rexha. This past summer, Louis' song "Two of Us," won Choice Song at the Teen Choice Awards.

Louis joined The X Factor in its 15th season as a judge and mentor for the Boys category, eventually going on to become the first former contestant to become the winning mentor. Talk about full circle.

Personal life: Since the band's hiatus, Louis has suffered several tragic losses. In 2016, his mother Johannah Deakin passed away after a long battle with leukemia, with Louis going on to release "Two Of Us" as a tribute to her.

Then, earlier this year, his 18-year-old sister Félicité Tomlinson died of an accidental overdose. A month after the devastating loss, Louis broke his silence to thank his fans for their support.

"Just wanted to thank everyone for their lovely words over the past couple of weeks," Louis tweeted. "Back in the studio today to vocal something I wrote a few months ago. Sending you all loads of love x."

Dymond/Thames/Syco/REX/Shutterstock, Instagram

Louis was the first member of the band to become a father, with E! News confirming in July 2015 that Louis was expecting a child with Briana Jungwirth, a Los Angeles-based stylist he was romantically involved with earlier that year. "Obviously it's a very exciting time, so I'm buzzing," Louis said on Good Morning America

While dating The Originals star Danielle Campbell, Louis welcomed his son Freddie in January 2016, tweeting, "He is healthy and pretty amazing :) I'm very happy!!"

Following the death of his mother, Louis and Danielle split after one year, with Louis ultimately getting back together with Eleanor Calder, his girlfriend of four years whom he previously split from in 2015. The two are still together.

David x Prutting/BFA.com

Liam Payne
Age: 26
Instagram Followers:18.3 million
Twitter Followers: 32.9 million

Career: Much like Louis, Liam took his time when it came to releasing his debut solo album, beating his former band member to the punch by only a few weeks with his album LP1, which was release on Dec. 6.

Interestingly enough, Liam revealed in a recent interview that Harry is the band member he'd most like to have a conversation with, explaining, "I was looking at some pictures of him the other day, and I just thought: 'I don't know what more I'd say to him other than, 'Hello' and 'How are you?' I mean, look at the stuff I put out and the stuff Harry puts out. Polar opposite. I'm like the anti-christ version of what Harry is."

And when you compare their music, it's sort of true, with Liam adding an R&B flavor to his pop music, collaborating with artists like Wiz Khalifa, Zedd and Pharrell Williams

His debut single, "Strip That Down" with Quavo (which was co-written by Ed Sheeran), was released in 2017 and reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming one of the most popular songs of the summer. It also helped Liam land two Teen Choice Awards that year: Choice Summer Male Artist and Choice Male Hottie.  He also teamed up with Rita Ora for a duet, "For You (Fifty Shades Freed)," on the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack. 

But his most recent single, "Both Ways," is facing major backlash, with #LiamPayneIsOverParty becoming a worldwide Trending topic on Twitter after its release earlier this month after people were outraged by the sexual lyrics, which revealed his girlfriend might be bisexual and accused him of "fetishizing" people's sexual identity.


Personal Life: Again, much like Louis, Liam was the second 1D member to become a father, welcoming a son named Bear in March 2017 with Cheryl, the Girls Aloud member who was a judge on X Factor when Liam was a contestant.

But in July 2018, after weeks of speculation, the couple announced their split, with Liam saying in a statement, "Cheryl and I are sad to announce that we are going our separate ways. It's been a tough decision for us to make. We still have so much love for each other as a family. Bear is our world and we ask that you respect his privacy as we navigate our way through this together."

The couple, who dated for two years, have worked to co-parent amicably since their split, with Cheryl telling The Telegraph, "Liam is a great dad. He's much softer than me. But it is what it is, and I'm OK about it. When you have a baby, you are not consumed with just thinking about yourself. It's your responsibility to keep things settled and happy, so you make the best of everything. And we have."

Ian West/PA Wire

After rumors of a romance with supermodel Naomi Campbell, Liam began dating Maya Henry, 19, in September, with the new couple making  their red carpet debut at the 2019 British Fashion Awards. 

But a date night out in late November ended up making headlines after Liam got into a heated argument at a Texas bar.

Like Zayn, Liam has opened up about his struggles with mental health after sky-rocketing to super stardom at such a young age.  

"I was on medication for a while, and it was something to do with epilepsy, but I was using it for something else," he told GQHype in November. "And it was to do with anxiety for me too, fully prescribed, but I didn't realize that [on the medication] certain lights made me forget, well, everything. I totally forgot who I was. And lyrics. It still happens. I have a fear of it now. It happens all the time. So we all have our little beasties in that sort of scenario. But this era of talent shows, it is dangerous and some people just don't know what they are getting into."