Not long ago, it felt like One Direction was the biggest band in the world — and it didn’t even win The X Factor UK. Even though the boy band only ended up coming in third place after Simon Cowell plucked its members from obscurity in 2010, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, and Niall Horan were destined for success. One Direction’s debut single, « That’s What Makes You Beautiful, » was certified double platinum in the United States less than a year after its release. According to The Telegraph, the band sold more than 50 million records in six short years — but it wasn’t without a cost.
By the time 2015 rolled around, stress had taken its toll on the band. Malik flew home in the middle of One Direction’s massive On The Road Again tour, which reportedly worried his then-BFF Tomlinson. The boys of 1D went on a hiatus shortly after, and by 2016, it turned into a seemingly permanent split.
Ever since One Direction broke up, its members have continued to garner fame for two things: their solo projects and alleged ongoing feuds. It’s not the first boy band to experience post-fame drama, but there are a number of other reasons the members of One Direction haven’t always seen eye to eye.
Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson kicked off One Direction with a power struggle
Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson might be friends these days, but when Simon Cowell first put the boy band together, the pair couldn’t stand each other. In a September 2019 interview on Hits Radio, Payne admitted that they butted heads over who should take the lead in One Direction.
« When we were in the band it kind of felt like, because he was the oldest and because I’d been singing for quite a bit of time, we both got put in a weird position, » Payne explained (via The Sun). 1D fans may recall that, in addition to the slight age difference, Payne had already auditioned for The X Factor in 2008 (Cowell ultimately sent him home, claiming he wasn’t ready to compete). He added, « [Tomlinson] was wanting to be the leader and I was doing my thing and wanted to. »
The tension was apparently so thick that Payne went so far as to say they « absolutely hated » each other at the time, though they somehow hid their mutual distaste. Over the years, it seems like these two have managed to foster a legitimate friendship (chalk it up to being trapped backstage with someone for a few years). Germany’s Bild Magazine (via Hello!) reports that these former One Directioners have remained in touch and that their sons even occasionally hang out.
Zayn Malik did not make a graceful exit
Years after Beyoncé left Destiny’s Child and not long before Camila Cabello decided to quit Fifth Harmony, Zayn Malik made his less-than-graceful exit from One Direction to go solo. By Mailk’s own admission, none of the boys wanted him to leave, but the singer officially quit in March 2015 after stress sent him packing mid-tour. Though 1D’s official Facebook statement said his former band members sent Malik « all our love for the future, » it seems like there was some bad blood bubbling up underneath the surface — or at least some very real pain.
During an interview on The Late Late Show with James Corden two months later, Liam Payne admitted Malik’s former bandmates were « a little bit angry, » but claimed there were « no hard feelings. » But this seems like a major understatement when you factor in what Malik candidly told British Vogue in 2018. Even though it had been nearly three years since he left, the singer appeared to have many hard feelings. « I ain’t spoke to any of them for a long time, to be honest with you, » Malik said. « That’s just the way it is. There’s things that happen and things that were said after I left … Snide things. Small things that I would never have expected. »
Considering the boys of One Direction came of age under the watchful eye of Simon Cowell, who pretty much made snide remarks his personal brand, would you really expect any less?
These two One Direction members were apparently never friends
Though Zayn Malik has a well-documented (former) friendship with Louis Tomlinson, he was apparently never friends with Harry Styles (despite the fact that they share matching tattoos). In a 2017 interview with Us Weekly, Malik admitted he didn’t really ever have a relationship with the Met Gala’s reigning prince of mesh jumpsuits. « To be honest, I never really spoke to Harry even when I was in the band, » he said. « So I didn’t really expect that much of a relationship with him. »
Imagine how awkward that backstage area must have truly been. What’s a bandmate if they can’t even lend you a single pearl earring while you discuss breaking down gender barriers in fashion? Though we can’t prove the extent of the boys’ possible feud, Teen Vogue points out that Styles teased a new single on the second anniversary of Malik’s exit, and also appeared to catch some shade from Gigi Hadid on Snapchat years before her headline-making split from Malik. It’s all highly suspect.
Regardless of Malik’s supposed non-relationship with Styles, the singer still admitted to Us Weekly that he was on a « civil level » with all of his former bandmates … but it’s pretty safe to say that no relationship in history has ever been described as « civil » if it’s actually going well.
Who ghosted who?
It’s obvious that One Direction suffered from some kind of communication breakdown when Zayn Malik left the band. The only question is: Who’s at fault for its fractured relationships? It depends on which member you ask, but Malik seems to think he was ghosted by his former bandmates, who allegedly dug the knife in even deeper by lying about it to the press.
« I did try to reach out to a couple of people and they didn’t get back to me, but then publicly, when they were asked questions about it, said that they’d spoken to me and that we were friends, » Malik told Italian Vogue in 2016. « But that’s not the case, I tried to reach out and be their friend but they haven’t even replied to any of my calls or texts. »
When Niall Horan guest-edited Dan Wootton’s « Bizarre » column for The Sun the following year, he told a totally different story. The Flicker singer admitted that he hadn’t spoken to Malik in a while, but not because he wasn’t trying. « Zayn’s Zayn, not a lot of people would be able to say that they get in touch with him, » Horan wrote. « He’s the hardest man to get in touch with. He is always changing his number. »
Wait a second: Are the members of One Direction fighting over not talking to each other enough? What kind of feud is that?
Zayn Malik’s trust issues affected his bond with One Direction
Part of One Direction’s ongoing feud with Zayn Malik might have been caused by … well, Malik himself. The singer has publicly owned up to some personality flaws that made it hard for him to form a deep bond with his bandmates. Mainly: he has some slight trust issues.
After spending five years traveling the world with One Direction, the Icarus Falls singer came to a heartbreaking conclusion in his 2018 GQ profile. « I didn’t really, like, make any friends from the band. I just didn’t do it. It’s not something that I’m afraid to say. I deﬁnitely have issues trusting people, » he said, before echoing a similar sentiment to British Vogue that same year. Again, Malik revealed he was a bit too guarded to really connect: « I have always been a bit like that, though — Always a bit of an island. I don’t like to confer with too many people. »
After Malik quit One Direction, it seems like he set himself up to go as off-the-grid as possible. According to his GQ profile, he left Los Angeles for New York, where he could be less distracted and more grounded, then bought a farm in rural Pennsylvania.
Did Zayn Malik ditch Louis Tomlinson after his mother died?
At the height of One Direction’s fame, it seemed like Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik shared an unbreakable bond (if only from the matching ink they got to commemorate the bus they shared on tour). Unfortunately, something happened along the way that severed their friendship for good. In a March 2019 episode of The Dan Wootton Interview podcast, Tomlinson finally opened up about what went down.
In December 2016, Tomlinson’s mother tragically passed away from leukemia at the age of 43. Days later, the star was set to perform on The X Factor, and since this was clearly going to be a difficult and emotional performance, his former One Direction bandmates flew in to support him — but Malik never showed up. « I had a couple of calls with him after I lost my mum and all the boys had agreed to come to that performance and he didn’t show so that really bugged me, » Tomlinson admitted (via The Sun), adding, « It was just seeing everyone there — Harry, Niall and Liam — that was what I needed that night, that support. »
Days after Tomlinson’s podcast interview aired, Malik made what appeared to be an apology. According to The Sun, he tweeted and then deleted, « I’d like [to apologize] for basically being a s**t person. » Now, there’s no way to prove Malik was subtweeting Tomlinson, but the timing was very suspicious.
A former band member publicly trashed One Direction’s music
Zayn Malik was anything but tight-lipped when it came to how he really felt about One Direction’s music. In a 2015 interview with the Fader, the star claimed his vocal lines were « generic as f**k » and the band didn’t make « music that I would listen to. » He added, « Would you listen to One Direction, sat at a party with your girl? I wouldn’t. » He went on to allude to the fact that 1D simply wasn’t cool, but Malik showed off his shadier side during his 2016 American Music Awards acceptance speech. According to Seventeen, the singer looked at his trophy and said, « This one has just my name on it, right? »
Obviously, these comments didn’t sit too well with his former bandmates. While Harry Styles told Rolling Stone he thought it was a « shame [Malik] felt that way, » Louis Tomlinson was a little bit more ruthless about his former friend’s trash talk. He admitted to Metro UK in 2019 that he wasn’t « mature enough » to even hypothetically entertain the idea of reuniting with his ex-best friend.
« At the moment, I am still pretty mad about the whole thing, » Tomlinson said. « I don’t think he handled it very well. But never say never. Who knows? He chatted a lot of s**t in the early days. I thought One Direction were pretty good. »
Louis Tomlinson talked smack about Zayn Malik
As fed up as Louis Tomlinson might have been with his former bandmate’s trash talk, it seems like Zayn Malik felt the same way when he first left One direction. In May 2015, the pair embarked on a very public social media spat which ended in Malik criticizing Tomlinson for running his mouth.
This particular celeb Twitter feud began when Malik’s producer, Naughty Boy, tweeted a photo of the singer with the caption, « Replace this. » On the surface, it seemed like a response to the false rumor that One Direction was seeking a replacement for Malik, according to People (either that or Liam Payne’s jokey Instagram karaoke video). Malik retweeted the post, leading Tomlinson to slam the producer: « Remember when you were 12 and you used to think those Mac filters for your pictures were cool haha ! Some people still do HA. » Naughty Boy fired back by making fun of Tomlinson’s singing skills, and Tomlinson accused Naughty Boy of « riding on the back of someone else’s career. »
It was messy, but it got even messier when Malik chimed in. « Remember when you had a life and stopped making b**chy comments about mine? » he tweeted out to Tomlinson. Those were, so clearly, fighting words. Tomlinson later told James Corden that he wasn’t very good at « biting [his] tongue, » adding that Twitter was great for « saying something you probably shouldn’t. »
Wait, what was Zayn Malik actually singing about?
While Zayn Malik publicly slamming One Direction’s music was decidedly uncool, he seemed to take it a step further in 2018 when he appeared to bash the entire experience.
According to The Sun, Malik may have bit the hand that fed him on his single « Good Years » from the album Icarus Falls (which probably didn’t do much to help Malik’s reputation). The chorus’ lyrics read: « I’d rather be anywhere / Anywhere but here / I close my eyes and see a crowd of a thousand tears / I pray to God I didn’t waste all my good years. » The singer also made reference to some sort of feud where neither party will apologize. Was Malik talking about his former bandmates?
While we can only speculate, it doesn’t look like the song sat very well with former BFF Louis Tomlinson. Shortly after Malik released « Good Years, » Tomlinson mysteriously tweeted, « Proper confused. What a hypocrite! » While no one can say for sure that this was a subtweet directed at Malik, fans definitely pointed out that it looked shady. It certainly seemed like neither party were very stoked on each other.
Liam Payne isn’t into this One Direction member’s solo music
We already know that Zayn Malik had clear creative differences with the rest of One Direction. In an interview with Beats 1, the star claimed he hadn’t wanted to be part of the former boy band since its very first year: « I realized the direction that we were going in — mind the pun — with the music, I instantly realized it wasn’t for me because I realized I couldn’t put any input in. »
As it turns out, Laim Payne may have been up there with him when it came to differences in taste, but it only showed when each bandmate started going in their own musical directions with their solo projects. In an interview with Music Choice, the « Strip that Down » singer admitted that he really didn’t like Harry Styles’ solo music, but he peppered it with some classic British politeness.
« I’ll be honest with you, it’s not my sort of music, so it’s not something I’d listen to, but I think he did a great job of doing what he wanted to do, » Payne said. « That’s the way I’d put it best, I think, » he added, while admitting he thought Styles would say the exact same thing about his hip hop-inspired style.
Fame pulled One Direction apart
It’s no secret that One Direction skyrocketed to fame faster than its members really had time to process. According to Insider, the band released five albums in just five years (which is almost unheard of in an era of EPs and two-year album cycles). Between 2010 and 2012, its members went from being non-famous reality TV show contestants to literally closing out the Olympics.
However, Malik has claimed that this whirlwind ended up tearing them apart. In an interview with British Vogue, Malik admitted that by the time he quit the band in 2015, he felt numb on stage in front of 80,000 screaming fans: « We went from theatres, to arenas, to stadiums — there was never any sort of bridge between. Just boom, boom, boom. I guess that kind of progression to any mind … it kind of affects you a little bit. People take it different ways — especially when there are five different personalities. » He added, « The relationships had broken apart. »
Malik wasn’t the only one who felt this way. In an interview with KISS FM (via the Evening Standard), Laim Payne revealed that he’d struggled with performing again after One Direction announced its hiatus, because fame had been so difficult the first time around. « It scared the living daylights out of me, » he said. « Because the last time it nearly killed me, frankly. »
Zayn Malik never said goodbye to the other members of One Direction
It’s pretty much impossible for any member of One Direction to do an interview and not be asked about their various grudges. However, at this point, most of the former group’s issues seem like water under the bridge. Liam Payne pretty much echoed this sentiment in a November 2019 interview with British GQ. Admitting that they’ve all had their differences throughout the years, and that he sometimes still thought about stuff that was said, Payne said that most of it didn’t really bother him anymore. Nonetheless, there’s still one thing he couldn’t seem to let go of: The way Zayn Malik quit.
« I think with Zayn’s particular exit and the way he chose to go, we haven’t really heard from him since he left, » Payne said of the « Pillowtalk » singer. « He didn’t even say goodbye, if I am being honest. It was a really sordid scenario, from our side certainly. A bit strange. It’s difficult. »