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Thursday 26 March 2015 | Music news feed
Story of their Life: The rise and fall of One Direction
As Zayn Malik leaves One Direction to continue as a four piece, we chart the highs and lows of the X Factor\'s most successful creation
The X-Factor finallists have had a rollercoaster career since they were put together by Simon Cowell in 2010 Photo: Rex Features
Back in 2010, the country was lacking a band for teenage girls to throw their knickers at. Westlife had withered into their stools and the charts were dominated by female artists like Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. There was a gap in the market for a new boy band and, naturally, Simon Cowell had spotted it.
So, did he tirelessly trawl the dingy pubs and working men’s clubs of Britain, in search of a diamond in the rough? Of course not, he sat in a TV studio and waited for the answer to his prayers to come to him. He didn’t have to hang around long...
Wagner. Katie Waissel. Tesco Mary. These are just a few of the musical legends that X Factor 2010 presented us with. Sadly, though, their success was ultimately overshadowed by five young men who all auditioned separately but were manufactured into a group before our very eyes.
Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson (they may or may not be listed here in order of handsomeness; you decide) became One Direction, and a pop sensation was born.
Even at this early stage, some of the boys seemed more excited than others. In fact, Zayn Malik very nearly didn’t make the cut after refusing to dance at boot camp. Thankfully, Simon Cowell quickly persuaded him that he was a performing monkey after all, and the show went on. Even though 1D only came third in the series – after Matt Cardle and Rebecca Ferguson – Cowell signed them up in a reported £2 million deal which presumably covered a few dance lessons.
But this wasn’t the first time during those early days that Zayn seemed like a reluctant popstar – during the boy band’s first big interview with heat magazine, just days after X Factor wrapped up, he admitted that he didn’t like the idea of fame.
Auditioning for X Factor when you don’t like the idea of fame is a bit like going to Nandos for dinner when you don’t really like chicken, but 17-year-old boys aren’t known for their foresight.
The boys were extremely busy during the first few months of 2011. Sure, they spent some time in the studio, but they were mainly preoccupied with the fact that, in a matter of months, they had gone from being the most fancied boys in school to the most fancied boys in the country.
Before they had so much as released a single, they were adored by millions of young girls who had adopted their surnames on Twitter.
Zayn Malik got engaged to Little Mix member Perrie Edwards in 2013
But who wants a girlfriend your own age when you can learn the ways of the world from an older woman? 17-year-old Harry Styles’s fling with TV presenter Caroline Flack, 15 year his senior, grabbed headlines – which meant that 18 year old Zayn Malik’s comparatively reasonable relationship with his 23 year old X Factor colleague Rebecca Ferguson was relatively low-profile. It was also short-lived – by the end of the year he had traded her in for a younger model, Perrie Edwards from X Factor 2011 winners Little Mix. At the time, it reeked of a publicity stunt but, four years on, they’re still together… just about.
It’s simply a rite of passage for boy bands to deal with gay rumours. Sometimes, they’re true. Sometimes, though, fans get just a little bit carried away – especially in the terrifying age of fan fiction. When it comes to 1D, the most popular rumour has always centred on the relationship between supposed womaniser Harry Styles and his best pal in the band, Louis Tomlinson – or, as the fans like to refer to them collectively, Larry Stylinson.
The celebrity relationships can come and go – over the years, Harry has been linked with Taylor Swift, Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner and numerous other less famous but equally desirable women – but the Larry Stylinson obsession rages on. Google it at your peril.
• Louis Tomlinson tweet to Harry Styles overtakes Obama\'s in the popularity stakes
Comic Relief 2013: One Direction performed the official Comic Relief single
When they weren’t wooing girls – and, perhaps, boys - with lyrics like “I’m joining up the dots with the freckles on your cheeks” and “Should I put coffee and granola on a tray in bed, and wake you up with all the words that I still haven’t said?” (granola? You’re worth millions of pounds and you’re offering granola?), the whole music career thing was going quite well. Less than two years after forming, 1D were an international success story and one of the only British boy bands in history to truly crack America, with Billboard naming them 2012’s Top New Artist.
In 2014, the Sunday Times Rich List calculated their combined wealth to be over £70 million. And they weren’t just raking it in from albums, tours and merchandise – they were also making some canny investments, including a hefty stake in Australian boy band 5 Seconds Of Summer (that’s “pop punk group” if you ask them, but they happen to be reasonably handsome and male).
So, why were One Direction throwing money at rivals? Naturally, rumours started brewing that they were getting fed up with their own pop endeavours and were investing in the future…
If a pop star’s emotional well-being can be tracked by their hair – and anyone who’s followed Britney Spears’s various ups and downs will know that this is often the case – then Zayn started feeling a bit twitchy about being in One Direction towards the end of last year. Looking back, were his series of man-buns, top-knots and haunting Michael Jackson-esque soft waves (best observed in the official Band Aid promo shot. Merely a cry for help?
Zayn’s ever-changing hair wasn’t the only big 1D drama of 2014 – there was also the footage of he and bandmate Louis openly sharing what the tabloids like to refer to as a “suspicious cigarette” on tour in Peru. Men in their early twenties smoking a joint in a country where such antics are legal doesn’t sound like the scandal of the century, but these boys were supposed to be clean-living. Devoted fans on Twitter said they were “worried”, “upset” and, worst of all, “disappointed”. The shame.
By this stage in their career, 1D were on their fourth album – imaginatively entitled Four – which might not sound like much by, say, Bob Dylan’s standards, but is considered quite prolific for a bunch of young boys from a talent show. Even Take That, during their 90s peak, only made three albums. Was it time for 1D to go their separate ways, have a nice lie down and return a few years later in nice M&S suits?
The band during their final tour together
And then came the news every fan was dreading – after a fraught week, in which he’d flown home from the boys\' world tour amid rumours that he had cheated on fiancée Perrie, Zayn Malik announced that he was quitting Top Gear. Sorry, One Direction.
“My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined,” his official statement read. “But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I\'d like to apologise to the fans if I\'ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. I am 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. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”
This hurts the most “@BuzzFeed: One Direction wikipedia page pic.twitter.com/eBvPevseMX”
Some of his fans were a little less articulate. “One Direction is incompelet without you” [sic] wrote one on Twitter. “I felt the world stop turning” was also a popular sentiment, while others simply uploaded distressing Vine clips of them weeping in their bedrooms as they digested the terrible, terrible news.
Meanwhile, on stage in Jakarta, Harry Styles was crying too as he glanced at the empty spot where Zayn was supposed to be. The fans will get over it – after all, there’s no evidence that the thousands of women who called special phone lines when Robbie Williams left Take That twenty years ago are still in the grips of post traumatic stress – but what will the future hold for 1D without their moodiest, most mysterious member? And will Zayn really be able to “relax” like a normal 22 year old or will he actually release a bad hip hop album and indulge in some more experimental hairstyles? Time will tell.
FIRST AND LAST PIC OF ONE DIRECTION TOGETHER IM CRYING pic.twitter.com/MB1pdYCHxe
— we love u zayn (@MyTomlinsonArmy) March 25, 2015
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