One Direction: The Post Zayn Malik Era

One Direction, Four © Columbia

Suddenly, there’s more significance to the album title Four.  What – too soon?

Highly successful British (and Irish) boy band One Direction was hit with a brick – better yet a gargantuan cement block. The band’s most ‘mysterious’ member, Zayn Malik announced he’s calling it quits. Zayn, how you gonna quit One Direction, the five-piece musical package with five ridiculously good looking guys meant to make pre-teen and teen girls swoon everywhere? You can’t just up and quit to be “a normal 22-year old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight!” What are you thinking dude? What is normal anyways? Huh?

Likely, Directioners everywhere are inconsolable at the loss of Zayn and the reduction of One Direction from quintet to quartet. Really, how does the avid fan deal with this sort of loss after four albums (especially those ‘Yearbook editions’), concerts/tours, and the band’s continual ubiquitous presence everywhere? How does such a catastrophic, cataclysmic event affect today’s “it” boy band? Well as Lupe Fiasco states, “The Show Goes On.” There is no way that Simon Cowell is about to let One Direction fade by any means – too much money would be lost. And for good measure, to quote Tyler Perry as Madea, “I play about a lot of things / but I don’t play about my MONEY!”

But let’s get serious about this thing without colorful quotes from Mable Simmons. The question becomes for One Direction, how does the sound change? Many folks might make the argument that One Directions featured three of its five singers most prominently: Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and the exiting Malik. Louis Tomlinson is featured at times, but his voice often seems to be saved for the highest parts that allow his tenor to shine. Niall Horan notably seems to be featured less as a soloist, but has his moments. Does Liam and the distinctly voiced Styles (he has a grittier sound than the others) carry the weight, or are there more efforts to evenly distribute to Tomlinson and Horan? Regardless, there has to be some change to the sound, right?

Piggybacking on a tweaking and change of sound, it isn’t unusual for boy bands to have the featured ‘stars.’ Sure, a band should be an equal entity and are considered that way on paper, but ultimately, they aren’t. Look over boy bands over the years and you can pick out the star and maybe another factor or two. While One Direction has come over as bit less distinct than some due in part to something of muted personality (no shade or disrespect), most folks know who carry the bulk of vocals. Zayn definitely added another color and was an important factor that songwriters must cover in the recording process for the quartet’s next album.

Zayn Malik’s exit from One Direction to the more impartial person – aka a non-Directioner – is by no means a shock. There has been too much nebulousness surrounding Malik as of late, whether it’s Matt Lauer’s question about potential drug issues as to why Malik wasn’t with the group, or the fact that before announcing his exit, Malik left the tour. No matter how defensive the band’s biggest fans might have been towards the heightened level of mysteriousness that Malik has show as of late, when the signs are there, they are ultimately hard to deny and ignore. One Direction will likely rebound given its following, but selling the band as a quartet as opposed to a quintet must be masterfully executed.

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