After four straight years of One Direction pandemonium, fans had to deal with quite the abrupt change of pace in 2016 when the guys decided to go on an “extended hiatus” that would last for at least 18 months. Of course, this was preceded by Zayn Malik’s shocking departure the year before, but nevertheless it’s been strange for Directioners to go from all 1D all the time to practically no 1D action at all.
Despite the lack of One Direction activity (at least as a group) as of late, Nov. 18 marked a special day in the 1D world: The five-year anniversary of the group’s first album, Up All Night. While there are certainly some die-hard fans who know the guys’ whereabouts despite their hiatus (someone made a Tumblr account that chronicled their every move from the break’s start through September), Billboard thought others might appreciate a little update on what the boys have been up to ahead of Niall Horan’s first American Music Awards performance without his 1D boys Sunday (Nov. 20).
As the Irish blondie promised when asked what he’d do during the band’s break, Horan filled his newfound freedom with a whole lot of golf, as documented on his Instagram. Seemingly not doing anything music-related and sticking to sports, Horan had Directioners in a frenzy when he shared a picture at a soccer game with his bandmate Louis Tomlinson (friendship!).
But shortly after turning 22 in September, Horan sparked another hysteria when he surprise-announced that he had signed a solo contract with Capitol Records and simultaneously dropped his first single, “This Town,” on Sept. 29. As the first One Direction member to begin his independent musical venture (well, other than Zayn Malik… but we’ll get to him later), Horan proved that maybe One Direction disbanding for 18 months isn’t going to bite them after all — “This Town” reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, and he even made history by becoming the first artist to debut at No. 1 on the Social 50 chart. And after a handful of late-night show performances of the single and a BBC Awards appearance, Horan will take the stage at the American Music Awards to perform the song, further showing the world that he’s able to hold his own.
Despite the thrill over Niall’s solo music, the excitement kicked off with the news of Styles signing a major solo contract with Columbia Records in June — one that’s reportedly worth $80 million. Styles has yet to release any music, but has managed to remain the talk of the band with his upcoming role in the Christopher Nolan wartime film Dunkirk, which is set to be released July of next year.
While that’s certainly news enough for the Styles fanatics, perhaps one of the biggest — or at least most shocking — revelations that occurred was his dramatic haircut for the Dunkirk role. After a sneaky reveal on his Instagram with a cryptic photo of his hand holding a long ponytail and captioning it “Whoops,” fans eagerly waited to see his new look, which he technically has yet to unveil himself aside from a photo shoot with Another Man magazine. Other than that, though, Harry fans really don’t know much about what their boy has been up to, as he remains rather quiet on social media and has yet to say anything about his solo deal. Hopefully that’ll change soon?
As the One Direction member who was the most adamant that the hiatus did not mean the end of the group for good, Payne has spent an awful lot of time in the studio seemingly working on solo projects in his free time without 1D. Since revealing that he had signed a U.K. recording contract with Capitol Records, Payne began posting more images and Snapchats from his studio time, including a picture with super-producer Pharrell Williams.
About three months after his Capitol Records reveal, Payne announced a second record deal with U.S. label Republic Records. Although Payne hasn’t disclosed any information about when his solo music will be released (or surprise-dropped a song the way Horan did), his Instagram is becoming more and more abundant with studio pictures and even teased a RB-inspired track on his Instagram — one that is much more racy than that of any 1D material — at the end of October. Aside from Payne’s musical life, he’s happily dating singer Cheryl Versini-Ferndandez… much to the dismay of Liam lovers.
Apparently the only 1D guy who isn’t super concerned with releasing solo music just yet, Tomlinson has spent this time focusing on his baby boy, Freddie Tomlinson, and his new girlfriend, The Originals star Danielle Campbell. Using a majority of his Instagram posts to share selfies and gush over his son (whom fans have speculated is a fake baby for reasons beyond us), Tomlinson appears to be simply enjoying life.
Before even going on the hiatus, Tomlinson had reportedly started up his own record label called Triple Strings Ltd, an imprint of One Direction’s label Syco. Tomlinson has yet to say anything himself about his endeavors as a producer, but without any solo deals signed or even any hints of solo material in the works, Tomlinson may be the sole One Direction member who doesn’t put out any of his own music during the band’s break. He also served as a guest judge on America’s Got Talent in July, which makes it even more clear that he’s more interested in helping others shoot to stardom rather than continue his own for now.
Some One Direction fans may have put Malik out of sight and out of mind since he abruptly left the band in March 2015, but we couldn’t not include him in our update (he was a member for four years, after all). But Malik may have pulled the ultimate burn on his former bandmates, releasing his debut solo album, Mind of Mine, on the exact day that marked the year anniversary of his departure (March 25). Clearly Directioners weren’t so upset with the rather spiteful move, because his album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, also reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his single “Pillowtalk” — a feat which his former band never achieved with or without him.
After reaching such heights on his own, though, Zayn didn’t really continue to ride the success wave in the way One Direction would have. He released two more singles, “Like I Would” and “Wrong” in subsequent months, but hasn’t put out another since June 7. Malik also backed out of several performances, citing a struggle with extreme anxiety. Aside from his music career, Malik’s high-profile romance with it-girl model Gigi Hadid has kept him relevant. They’re seemingly still going strong, but it’s unclear when Malik’s solo endeavor will pick back up again, if ever.