1D: ‘It’s not good-bye, just see you later’
‘IT’S NOT GOODBYE, JUST SEE YOU LATER’
With a high-profile hiatus after ‘Made in the A.M.,’ the destination’s unknown
Breaking up is hard to do — but taking a break may be even harder.
Four tours, five albums and almost 133 million Twitter followers later, One Direction is going on an indefinite hiatus starting next year. The decision has been the subject of endless speculation by entertainment media and fans ever since August, when the British-Irish boy band announced that “we are not splitting up, but we will be taking a well-earned break” after releasing new album Made in the
A.M., out Friday. But in the wake of member Zayn Malik’s highly publicized departure this spring, what will become of 1D’s last men standing (Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Niall Horan)? After all, everyone knows what happened when *NSYNC announced a “temporary hiatus” in 2002, only to see it cemented when Justin Timberlake’s solo career exploded. And even if they do reunite like the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block before them, the pop-rock heartthrobs may never reclaim their former glory.
“I don’t think anyone really knows the likelihood of One Direction getting back together, not even them,” Billboard senior editor Alex Gale says. “If one or two or three decide to go solo and are successful, then there’s less and less incentive for them to bring back One Direction. At the same time, they have promised they will be back, and people usually
don’t do that” without some incentive to return.
“There's just so much money — it'd be hard for them to walk away from millions of dollars,” Gale says. A.M. is projected to have strong first-week sales, despite the fact that Justin Bieber’s Purpose also hits shelves Friday. “Their fan bases obviously overlap, but it’s expected to be really, really close,” Gale says. (For comparison, 1D’s Four landed at No. 1 with 387,000 copies last year, according to Nielsen Music, and Bieber’s last album, Believe, started with 374,000 sold in 2012.)
Although they understand such skepticism about their future, the band is sticking to its comeback narrative.
“Whatever you say at any point, people are going to read it in different ways,” says Styles, 21. “All we said is we’ve been touring and making an album every year for five years, and that we’re just not going to do that next year. It’d be naive to expect people to not read into it, but we’re really focused on the album coming out. We haven’t really thought too much past that right now.”
MAKING THE ALBUM
Made in the A.M. is named, quite simply, for the early-morning sessions the band spent writing the album, which includes a cheeky bonus track called A.M. on the deluxe edition. “It’s basically about all the late-night conversations and laughs you have sitting around at 5 a.m. talking crap,” says Horan, 22. “They’re your favorite times. It’s quite relatable.”
Starting with 2013’s Midnight Memories, the guys have taken more active roles in co-writing their songs (primarily with producers Julian Bunetta, Jamie Scott and John Ryan), which allows for steady growth between albums without doing “something crazily outside the box,” Styles says. But unlike previous efforts, A.M. was written primarily in a couple-month break between touring, which made it less stressful when they got back on the road, “because you weren’t stressing about trying to find time to write. It was more about experimenting and finishing things off.” Malik hadn’t started working on A.M. before he quit, Styles adds, although the other members had to alter vocal arrangements in his absence.
The band’s first single of the post-Malik era was Drag Me Down, a pop-rock anthem whose staunch chorus proclaims: “All these lights / They can’t blind me / With your love, nobody can drag me down.” The song, which made its debut at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in August, was written as “a pledge to the fans, really,” says Tomlinson, 23. “We’re in a very lucky position where we have a very loyal fan base.”
AM’s latest single, Perfect, was written by Styles and Tomlinson, who explains its meaning as “not taking (relationships) too serious and just enjoying what you have on that night.” Of course, sharpeyed fans and writers were quick to dissect similarities between the song and another top 10 hit, Style, by Styles’ ex-girlfriend, Taylor Swift, who many believe wrote Style and Out of the Woods about their relationship. Viewed as a response of sorts, Perfect’s chorus sneers, “If you’re looking for someone to write your breakup songs about / baby I’m perfect,” while lyrics about midnight drives and “good girls” gone bad appear to hat-tip Style directly.
Asked what he makes of the speculation, Styles says, “I don’t really read it.” In general, “I’m never going to tell someone what it means to them, because there’s a lot of songs where I feel something completely different from what the writer intended me to feel. It’s obviously funny to see, but it’s up to everybody’s individual interpretation.”
While such blunt lyrical hints may seem to suggest he is calling out an ex, Styles insists he writes only “from personal experience. It doesn’t always have to be so literal, in that you say, ‘This is a love song about a girl I used to see.’ ... Not every love song is necessarily about a person. It could be about a place or time or something where it touched you and you feel you can personify that in a song.”
Of A.M.’ s still-unheard songs, History is sure to be the one that gets fans talking. Bemoaning rumors, fights and the trappings of fame, “we always find a way to make it out alive,” the stomping singalong cheers, then declares in the chorus, “This is not the end.”
“It’s about how we’ve all been through so much together,” Styles says. “It’s kind of saying, ‘No matter what happens, we’re always going to have this.’ We felt like it was the right way to end the album.”
THE ‘SHOCK’ OF MALIK’S EXIT
At the very least, History should be a reassuring antidote for 1D fans, who have been put through the wringer this year starting with the departure of Malik, Seemingly out of nowhere, Malik announced on the band’s Facebook page in late March that “it is the right time for me to leave,” citing his desire to be a “normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.” Many of the band’s Twitter followers posted pictures and videos of them in tears, some even threatening suicide.
For the band, “it was obviously a shock,” Horan says. At the time, there were “no disagreements, he wasn’t making any music. We had a few conversations, and then he made his decision.”
“It was kind of a decision made there and then,” Tomlinson adds. “I’m sure he had been thinking about it for a while, but in reality, he wasn’t happy, and that’s fine. It was actually a really strong time for all of us, as crazy as that sounds. Of course, it’s a very traumatic time, in any field of work, when someone loses a member of the team. But it was important that we banded together, and actually, we came out better for that. Our relationship as a four has been so strong since.”
As for a new album, “that’s something you can never really wish for or hope for at that stage,” says Payne, 22. “You kind of think it’s going to end there when somebody leaves. But we’ve definitely grown closer.”
In the days and weeks to follow, much was made in the media about Twitter interactions between the remaining members and Malik, who signed a new deal with RCA Records this summer. One of the most notable spats happened in May, after U.K. producer Naughty Boy leaked a solo track he made with Malik, and Tomlinson accused him of “riding on the back of someone else’s career.” Malik hit back at Tomlinson, tweeting, “Remember when you had a life and stopped making (expletive) comments about mine?”
Months later, the guys insist there are no hard feelings. “We know what happened,” Horan says. “I don’t think it should be read into too much. Everyone’s moved on.”
As for whether any of the remaining members ever considered leaving, Tomlinson shrugs. “No, not really. In reality, there’s dark days for everyone, where everyone kind of contemplates everything. There’s a lot of times where you’ll feel a little down, and you’re not seeing your friends and family for so long. Then you go onstage at night, and that’s
what motivates you.”
REST WILL BE WELCOME
Although fans were shocked and saddened when 1D announced its hiatus this summer, the time off really should come as no surprise. After all, since coming together on the U.K.’s The X Factor in 2010, the band has released five albums, including A.M. —a prolific, almost unheard-of tally for most pop stars.
“Obviously, we’re not digging trenches or anything, but ... it’s been a lot,” Styles says. For his part, Styles says he just wants to spend time with family and friends and catch up on some sleep. It’s a sentiment echoed by his bandmates, including Tomlinson, who is expecting a baby with American stylist Briana Jungwirth.
During the break, he and Payne “will definitely put some time aside to write together,” Tomlinson says. The guys have also “said we’re going to go on a little holiday. Any time we even take a little break, even if it’s just two weeks, by the end of that two weeks, you’re looking forward to seeing everyone again. ... So of course we’ll meet up.”
Now that they have played the last show of their world tour on Halloween at England’s Sheffield Arena, the hiatus is “starting to hit home,” Payne says. “It is definitely really sad for us. But obviously, we’re going back into it. So it’s not goodbye, it’s just ‘See you later.’ It’s like what Tigger used to say: ‘Ta-ta for now.’ ”
Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles and Liam Payne, top, have come a long way since the early days.
Horan, Payne, Styles and Tomlinson have said they are not walking away entirely.
Zayn Malik announced his departure in late March.