Before their hiatus, One Direction was the biggest band in the world and toured the world many times over, with their first four albums debuting at number one on America's Billboard 200 chart. One Direction's popularity was so big, in fact, that many compared their successful foray into the American market to the Beatles' famous 1964 America tour.
Of course, 1D's unprecedented success didn't make them any different to what had been before. They were still a manufactured pop act assembled by a commercially-minded record executive, so it was only a matter of time before one jumped ship and decided the music wasn't for them.
Zayn Malik, who left in 2015, was that person, and since his debut solo single was released in 2016, the other four- who remain in the band- have also released solo material following the band's hiatus, so we have listened to each debut single and ranked them from best to worst.
1. Harry Styles- Sign of the Times
Harry Styles was always the most popular member of One Direction, and despite being relatively quiet on social media, he remains the band's most followed member thanks to his charming mannerisms and northern English drawl.
He was also the best vocalist once Zayn Malik left, and his quirky take on fashion and love for all things rock n' roll quickly made Harry stand out from his more uniformed bandmates, and his much-anticipated debut solo single proved why he was held in such regard.
Titled 'Sign of the Times', the high crescendos and ambiguous lyrics (the song soon transpired to be about a baby entering the world) had many labelling the song 'Bowie-esque', and though that's a far-fetched assertion, such comparisons are certainly grounded in snippets of truth, and the Britpop vibe made a refreshing change from a music industry currently obsessed with uninspired RNB music.
2. Zayn Malik- Pillowtalk
Zayn Malik was always going to go down the more urban route when he left the band in March 2015 and soon revealed in subsequent interviews that his music taste was nothing like the songs he was asked to sing in the band.
What followed was spats with his former bandmate Louis Tomlinson and much-publicised rants criticizing the band's one-dimensional appeal until exactly a year after his departure he released his debut single, Pillowtalk. Unashamedly RNB, Zayn's raunchy lyrics about having sex with his partner, the supermodel Gigi Hadid (who also appears in the video), certainly marked a shift change from his days singing about first kisses in One Direction.
All in all, it was a scintillating debut and has racked up more views on YouTube than any One Direction video bar their hit, debut smash, What Makes You Beautiful.
3. Nial Horan- This Town
While Nial Horan's voice may not be as strong as Styles’s and Malik's, he had the kudos of being the only member able to play an instrument, with the Irish dandy regularly strumming his guitar towards the latter stages of the band's touring. That said, being able to come across as a respected singer-songwriter is a tall order when reinventing yourself after years of being known as the Blonde One From 1D, but with his debut solo offering, he almost pulled it off.
This Town, which was released last September, was a good attempt at writing a love letter to his humble beginnings in the small Irish town of Mullingar and his voice was better than I expected. Unfortunately, the song was relatively ephemeral because it was pretty boring, though his subsquent offering, Slow Hands, was a marked improvement.
4. Steve Aoki & Louis Tomlinson- Just Hold On
Louis Tomlinson was the least talented member of One Direction because his singing was nowhere near good enough yet he still managed to ride the gravy train and end up £40m richer.
But after years hiding behind the more stronger voices of the band, Tomlinson turned to EDM supremo Steve Aoki for help, and together the two came up with the single "Just Hold On." The only problem with that title is that I wanted to let go the moment my ears were forced to listen to it.
5. Liam Payne ft Quavo - Strip That Down
Liam Payne was the "Sensible One" of the band, and it appears his latest offering is that and little else. It's incredibly annoying, and the lyrics are bland and cringe. The frustrating thing is that Liam Payne, whose voice was one of the strongest in the band, could have done so much more than simply hire Ed Sheeran to write a few verses for someone he probably only hung out with when Harry Styles was away.
It's also bad management from Payne's team and with lyrics about getting wasted with girls in a club, ("When I walk into the club all girls on me") you secretly wish girls would be on him all the time so he never has another chance to make music as terrible as this.