A Definitive Guide to One Direction’s Solo Efforts

Harry. Liam. Zayn. Niall. Louis. These five names will send shivers down the spines of women everywhere, make young girls scream in pitches only canines respond to, and force boys to begrudgingly sing along to What Makes You Beautiful in clubs all over the UK. One Direction were a heartthrob boy band for the ages, but what became of their recent solo efforts? Don’t worry, we’ve covered it…

I recall sitting in my fresher’s room, aged 18 (and probably old enough to know much better), shrieking with my flat mate over the new 1D video. I hold my hands up high as I admit that I fully lost my shit over these five boys, larking around on a London bus in one of their early videos for ‘One Thing’. As I’ve grown older, so have the boys, and I was never too cool to sing along to their tunes when they came on in sticky-floor night clubs, or too proud to admit I actively took interest in their extra curricular love lives (Harry & Kendall was a BIG topic in my Whatsapp convos for longer than I would like to say).

When they announced their hiatus, I took it like a champ, and looked forward to fully critiquing each of their solo efforts with a fine tooth comb. Well, ladies and gentleman (if any gents are here, and admit it – you are), that day has come, so please sit back and relax…as we take you through a ranked guide of the One Direction solo stylings.*

*DISCLAIMER: WE ARE NOT HERE FOR DEATH THREATS. Please, 1D fans, don’t poo in our metaphorical letterboxes (aka leave us nasty messages on Twitter).

1 – The man, the myth, the legend. Ofc it’s Harry Styles.

I should probably add here that I am actively biased in this countdown due to my unwavering love of the Styles, however after discussing with other Chapter W writers (and ignoring their opinions) it has been unanimously decided that Mr. Styles has topped the list.

Whilst his ‘Sign of the Times’ failed to really set the charts alight (yes, it hit number one, but…), his debut album is a solid 10/10 effort for originality and authentic sound. His influences are clear throughout, and whilst some roll their eyes at his imitation of greats like Bowie and The Rolling Stones, others would argue his efforts should be applauded. Rather than churning out a soulless album of mediocre ballads written by mass media machines, he seems to have gone away to really ‘find’ that sound (which I’m sure is much easier to do when you’re given a tonne of cash to do it. But I digress), and he has succeeded. Blackbird-esque ‘Sweet Creature’ is a lovely acoustic ballad that you can’t help singing along to, and ‘Two Ghosts’ teeters on road-trip soundtrack turf.

Not only is his music a solid 8/10, Mr. Styles’ personal, ahem, style is one that has topped charts such as Elle, Vogue and GQ…all titles not to be sneered at. His considered manner in interviews and gracious attitude towards his boyband past makes him the kind of lad you’d take home to meet your mum, and your older brother would nod in approval at as they discussed songs of yesteryear on a vinyl player from Urban Outfitters. Yes it’s all a little pretentious, but it’s OK when you’re Harry Styles.

2 – The badboy from Bradford – Zayn Malik.

Ah, the one that got away. Literally. We can all remember those scary trends that popped up when Zayn left 1D in March 2015 (#Cut4Zayn was truly horrifying), solidifying the crazy status the band had hit. But instead of scuttling off to be a ‘normal 22 year old’, Zayn decided to drop the absolute banger ‘Pillow Talk’, getting with Gigi Hadid in the video and talking about ‘f**king & fighting’ in the bedroom. Suddenly, our vision of little Zayn dancing awkwardly in his X Factor audition evaporated, and a superstar was born.

Zayn has worked with Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Party Next Door, racked up a few appearances at the hotly anticipated Met Gala, and his mysterious approach to the media and scarce interviews have solidified him as somewhat of an enigma, which makes us want him more. His relationship with Gigi Hadid is #goals, and his musical style is genuinely quite good (the best British compliment of the year).

With his second album coming out very soon, and fashion campaigns under his belt as he smokes another joint, Zayn has shed his 1D skin and truly evolved into an R&B bad boy. Let’s hope that he does a Robbie and one day remembers his boyband roots, and a fantastic reunion tour follows (because who doesn’t miss that falsetto demonstrated in ‘Best Song Ever’?)

3 – The luck of the Irish, little Niall Horan.

You would be forgiven for almost forgetting Niall, the blonde, Irish, cheeky chappy from 1D. His first audition was…well, lads down the local pub on a Friday singing Wonderwall after 6 JagarBombs would be more in tune. But he got through, and as 1d progressed he stepped out of the background and into the fore with his guitar skills, and genuinely seemed like one of the chaps you’d actually have a decent conversation with.

His first effort ‘This Town’ was slightly mediocre, a small town pub singer attempt at an Ed Sheeran weepie, but it did the job, and after a while we all were humming along to it as it played on LOOP on Capital FM. We smiled and clapped for Niall, so I don’t think any of us were expecting the absolute POP BELTER that is ‘Slow Hands’. With a sexy guitar, hand claps, and breathy vocals, Niall swept us all away and made us think more of him than ‘the blonde one from 1D’.

With Niall’s debut album on the way, and numerous TV appearances under his belt (including an impressive performance at the emotional One Love concert), little Horan has come into his own over the past few months, making us shed a tear for his 17 year old audition. What a lad.

4 – Who’d have thought it…Louis Tomlinson.

Now, we only have one song to compare Louis to, with his recent music on its way… and our hands are held up as we admit openly that it’s still not our favourite track. But hear us out.

Louis Tomlinson has openly admitted that he knows he was more ‘the one in the back’ during his 1D days, never given solos and never really understanding what his ‘thing’ is. Tomlinson reminded me of the lads I went to school with more than any of the boys, not quite having that star charisma shared by Styles and Malik, a little more rough and ready, the kind of boy you’d find smoking outside Revs on a Friday with Purple Rain cocktail spilt down his River Island V Neck . But despite this admission, Tomlinson released ‘Just Hold On’ with Steve Aiko late last year, with a very emotional performance on the X Factor following his mother passing away.

The song got generally positive reviews, and gave Tomlinson the confidence boost he needed. He’s not the strongest singer, but neither was Robbie Williams, and look where that got him. With the right mixing, Louis will do just fine. And his business savvy mind makes him stand out from the other 1D boys.


We are fully preparing to be tracked down and chopped up into tiny bits at this, but honesty is the best policy ladies and gents (if you’re still here, lads). Liam Payne had the most potential in the beginning, those early 1d days where he was the voice, with his GHD fringe and army boots driving the girls wild. Then, the world realised Styles’ charm and smile, and Payne was somewhat sidelined (despite an awkward stage where stylists tried to curl his hair almost to confuse the audience. What was that about).

Liam is the last of the lads to release a solo effort, being busy making babies with the nation’s sweetheart Cheryl Cole, and it was somewhat hotly anticipated given his change of style…I’m talking the chain necklaces, huge hoodies, the tattoos. And then we heard it. Strip That Down was released to us, and I like to think I wasn’t the only one completely overwhelmed.

A song co-written by Ed Sheeran (which we imagine was a first, drunken cut for ‘Shape for You’), lyrics that rhyme bacardi/ferrari, telling us how Payne just ‘wants to get rowdy’… it was all very 2010 Magaluf. It all just…didn’t quite fit. Liam’s voice is certainly very very good, almost too good to be coasting along in a song that largely requires two notes. He reminds us of lads on Tinder with a close up, black & white selfie taken on an Android phone, with a bio full of emojis saying WORK/PARTY/REPEAT and one more pic of him in BEEFA WITH THE BOIZZ wearing wavey shirts and bum bags.

We await Payne’s other efforts, but for us, he’s failed to top the 1D list. Sorry Payneo, better luck next time (we are rooting for you, we promise.)

What do you think of this VERY VERY IMPORTANT SUBJECT? Tweet us at @ChapterW__ (but plz. no death threats). 

Written by Louisa Davies.


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