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Who’s Winning 1D? A Definitive Review of the Boy Band’s Former Members

One Direction announced their conscious uncoupling back in 2015, and have since been pursuing five very separate, very different, solo careers. They’ve gone, one could say, five directions — complete with individual sounds, serious film roles, and babies.

As a collective, they reached global success: One Direction had four No. 1 albums and 13 top 40 hits in the U.S., and even more impressive charting figures in their native U.K. But how are the boys faring on their own? The world’s still fresh from the (temporary?!) break up, and nobody’s forgetting the name Niall Horan just yet. But let’s face reality folks: in the long run, only one man can come out on top. Every boy band has its stand out: Justin Timberlake and NSYNC; Nick Carter and The Backstreet Boys; Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5.

Success isn’t a competition, but we’re making it one. Let’s see which former One Direction member is winning right now:

Louis Tomlinson: The Forgettable One

THE MUSIC: Congratulations are in order! He may be late to the party, but Louis Tomlinson has finally released his first single,”Back To You”.  The moody, mellow song features fellow pop star Bebe Rexha and DJ Digital Farm Animals, and frankly, the whole thing is a lot cooler than I think most people expected. The track doesn’t scream “banger,” and Louis’ vocals aren’t anything impressive, but nothing about the track or its corresponding video comes off as forced (*cough* Liam Payne.) Maybe he can remix it, add a verse with Nicki Minaj or something, and stumble on the biggest hit of all time. But, until then, at least he’s showing some surprising potential.

THE MAN: Louis always seemed out of place with the other boys. Maybe it was because he was older, or maybe because he was just never that likeable. Nevertheless, he’s had success with the ladies. With one lady, LA stylist Briana Jungwirth, he had a brief fling— and then she had his baby, a little boy named Freddie who is now 18 months old. Also, did you know that in March Tomlinson was arrested for battery after attacking paparazzi at L.A.X.? Probably not, because nobody really cares about Louis. The 25-year-old has even called himself, “forgettable, to a certain degree.” Maybe with his new song, things will change for the guy in the back.

THE FANS: 13.4 million Instagram followers / 25.6 million Twitter followers

PREDICTION: Louis will have other children, with other women, and he will be a really, really great dad to all of them. In 2025, BBC Two will produce a series following the former 1D member and his several children, and it will be titled Life with Louis. Unfortunately, it will be cancelled after 2 seasons, because nobody can remember who Louis is.

Zayn Malik: The Edgy One

THE MUSIC: Zayn’s music career has been the most successful of the groups. But let’s not forget: he was the one who left the band to kick of his own thing, so he got a head start. With his debut song “Pillowtalk,” Zayn became the only One Direction dude to score both a No. 1 album and song in the United States. His album, Mind of Mine, is full of moody and romantic R&B tracks — a definite leap from 1D’s boy band pop style. He hit No. 1 again with Taylor Swift, for his Fifty Shades Darker duet “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.”

THE MAN: Zayn has always been labelled as the “bad boy” or “mysterious” one of the group, and he’s maintained that whole leather jacket and tattoos aesthetic post-1D. Fun fact: his Twitter bio is “pathetically aesthetic.” Less pathetic aspects of Zayn’s personal life? His relationship with model-of-the-moment Gigi Hadid. As a duo, Gigi and Zayn are fashion’s newest #powercouple; complete with a Vogue cover and a campaign for Versus Versace.

THE FANS: 23.1 million Instagram followers / 22.5 million Twitter followers

PREDICTION: Zayn’s next album will be titled “Z-Day,” and after it’s released he will go into a prolonged period of hiding. Soon “Zayn Spotting” will become a viral Internet phenomenon. When he wins the Grammy for Album of the Year, Joe Jonas will step up to accept the award on his behalf.


Liam Payne: The Awkward One

THE MUSIC: Liam released a self-certified “club banger” back in May, but not even Migos rapper Quavos could save the track from its inevitable lameness. “Strip That Down” peaked at No. 42 on the Hot 100, just barely missing the top 40. If you’ve heard the song — you’ll know why. Liam was never the *~cool~* one in the group, and he should’t pretend to be now that he’s solo. The whole thing comes off as uncomfortable, which is kind of how Liam Payne has always made fans feel.

THE MAN: It’s totally okay that Liam’s single flopped, because the 23-year-old has other things going on that keep him in the headlines: like a baby with 34-year-old X-Factor judge Cheryl Cole. See? He’s just a normal guy.

THE FANS: 13.8 million Instagram followers / MIA on Twitter

PREDICTION: Liam will be the first to get his real estate license and, until an inevitable 1D reunion in 10 years, he’ll make a handsome living selling flats to the very women who used to swoon over him as teenagers. He’ll also open a failed curry restaurant.


Harry Styles: The Popular One

THE MUSIC: From day one, Harry was pegged as the Justin Timberlake of the group. He’s easy to notice, easier to like, and his voice is the one you heard the most. Many have said that a solo career has always been Harry’s destiny — and they were probably right. His debut album was a self-titled rock effort that earned him comparisons to David Bowie and Queen. The record has spun off one official single, “Sign Of The Times,” which kicked off its time on the Hot 100 at No. 4. In September, Harry heads out on a two-leg worldwide tour. And that’s not all…

THE MAN: If you can’t cash out $300 to see Harry Styles on stage, you can see him on the big screen instead. Styles no longer has a supermodel girlfriend keeping him in the headlines (RIP #Kenry), but he has the next best thing: a role in Christopher Nolan’s epic war film, Dunkirk. It’s a pretty serious gig for an amateur actor, and critics seem pleased with Style’s performance. We’re even hearing Oscar buzz?

THE FANS: 21.3 million Instagram followers / 30.9 million Twitter followers

PREDICTION: In 17 years from now, Harry develops a dad bod. But nobody cares because he’s HARRY STYLES, and he’ll never not be a teen heartthrob. He becomes passionate about environmental issues, and continues to date 22 year old models. After years of campaigning, he will take home an Oscar for getting beat up by a bear on camera.

Niall Horan: The Down-to-Earth One

THE MUSIC: What do they say about the quiet ones? While others took the edgy/cool/try-hard route, Niall became the simple/sweet/ authentic acoustic balladeer we always knew he could be. His debut single, “This Town,” was a top 20 hit, and went platinum with over one million units being moved between streaming and sales. In May, Niall broke top 40 again with  “Slow Hands,” a mature banger that Rolling Stones described as a “Sexy New Funk-Pop Song.” We want more Niall Horan, and less of whatever Liam’s doing, please.

THE MAN: As hard as you may try, you can’t hate the guy. His talk show appearances are always worth watching, he actually plays a musical instrument, and he seems to spend most of his free time at charity events and on golf courses. Oh, and he’s dating a model too (but like, she’s not a Hadid or a Jenner, so does anyone really care?)

THE FANS: 19.5 million Instagram followers / 31.3 million Twitter followers

PREDICTION: Niall is destined to become the token Randy Jackson of a televised talent show. He will be funny and pleasant and everyone will love him until the end of time. Later in life, he will move back to his hometown Mullingar, Ireland and be elected as mayor.


The Verdict…

Louis remains forgotten, Liam remains a loser, Harry remains lovable and Zayne remains a mystery. Niall wins at everything.


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