When did One Direction break up? Here’s when all the members left

One Direction: Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik and Harry Styles.
Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Like many a boy band, we remember the collective long after they’ve stopped performing together.

We root for (some of) them to make it as solo stars, while others we couldn’t really care less about. All the while, as the years grow on, fans hope for and even start to circulate rumors of reunions, trying to will them into existence, and it works sometimes!

What went down with the original five members of One Direction — Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson? After forming in 2010 thanks to an appearance on the X-Factor and being embraced by cohost Simon Cowell, the band went big time.

Now, with the once huge One Direction trending back into the spotlight recently, not for the best of reasons as Liam has caught fans’ wrath, all five are still quite active in music and beyond.

Let’s check back on when the band broke up, which they kept denying was coming all at once, but by virtue of it slowly coming apart, even though it kinda happened all at once.

It begins with Zayn

The very first member to leave the band, Zayn departed from One Direction in March of 2015.

Though he was the first member to leave the band behind, they continued on without him, performing as a four-piece act with no plans to replace the departed fifth member.

Keep in mind that he left during the middle of a world tour, departing the band seemingly without warning, and leaving the rest to keep going in the same direction to at least make it to the finish line of the tour. They appeared next on March 28, 2015 at a show in South Africa.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it seems the longer they’re apart, the more the bad feelings and old wounds come to the forefront.

Back in 2019, in an interview with GQ Hype, Liam even said that Zayn left them abruptly:

“I think with Zayn’s particular exit and the way he chose to go, we haven’t really heard from him since he left. 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,” he said.

Carrying on

There was even a fifth album announced, Made in the A.M., in the fall, with a single being released in September and another coming out in October.

The full album finally came just after the group completed their 80-show tour, the On the Road Again tour, on Halloween of 2015.

Made in the A.M. was released on Nov. 13, 2015, but there was no tour announced to support the album.

Aside from finishing up the 2015 tour, the guys appeared a few months later on The Late Late Show with James Corden, performing as a foursome in December 2015, as the quartet did “Carpool Karaoke”.

They performed a couple more times as the current quartet at the X-Factor season finale on Dec. 13, and again on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on, of course, Dec. 31, 2015. And then for all intents and purposes, the band vanished.  

Hiatus

In the aftermath of Zayn leaving the band, during their tenure as only four members, the rest of the band announced in August 2015 that they wouldn’t be breaking up, but merely going on hiatus the following year, in 2016.

It would turn out that the fateful New Year’s Eve show would be their last performance as a group though.

To start off 2016, there was a report that the hiatus was permanent, and the band was no longer going to be together, and that came to fruition. Maybe there will be an album someday called “Permanent Hiatus” should they reunite, even just to record, or release older material.

Meaning that the rest of the four members in essence left the band all together, in the same direction – toward solo careers.

In February 2017, One Direction won an award at the 2017 Brit Awards as the single “History” won for Video of the Year, but just half of the now four members, Liam and Louis, showed up in person to accept the award on behalf of the band, even though they were no longer a band.

By May of 2017, all five original members of One Direction had put out at least a single as a solo artist.

Who left next?

Technically, no other band member has “left” One Direction other than Zayn. Doubly technically, the other four members are still considered to make up the band, even if they aren’t currently making music together.

There are feuds aplenty and it doesn’t seem that any type of reunion is in the cards, but a permanent hiatus doesn’t technically (sorry, had to use it again) mean the band has broken up or the other four members left the band.

They kinda just stopped making music together, and started doing their own thing.

So, we could look at who went solo in order to determine who checked out on the group next, if that counts.

Even before the band split, Liam was already starting to do some work on the side. Or maybe 1D was the actual side project by this point.

In August 2014 he created the publishing company Hampton Music Limited, and he had a writing credit on Cheryl Cole’s 2014 album Only Human. It’s said that he started working with other artists in 2014 and 2015 as well, maybe laying the groundwork that he would be leaving the band sometime soon (even maybe sparking Zayn to preempt him?). By October 2016 he had his solo deal as well, but

Harry was the first to announce an official solo career (outside of Zayn) in February 2016, then he landed a role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk just a month later.

Although he launched a golf management company in February 2016, it wasn’t until September of 2016 that Niall reached his solo deal.

Louis launched a record label of his own, Triple Strings Ltd., in 2015 and released a single in December 2016, with a record deal in July of 2017.

By this measure, we see that Liam kinda wandered off first even if he stayed in the band, then Zayn officially left, then the hiatus hit, followed by solo deals signed by Harry, then Niall, and finally Louis.

Solo direction

Let’s go through their successes, one by one.

Niall — Released two solo albums to date. The first debuted at number one in the U.S. and in his homeland of Ireland, while his second album hit No. 1 in the U.K., Mexico, and again, Ireland, and made it as high as No. 4 in the U.S.

Liam — With one album, which came out in December 2019, Liam has actually gained more success the new-fashioned way, through the success of singles. The album made it to No. 3 in the U.K. and No. 10 in the U.S., but the sales and streams of his single material has stayed steadily high, as in nearly 4 billion streams and 18 million singles sales.

Louis — Another member who has relied heavily on the release of singles, Louis put out one album in 2020, Walls, which made it to No. 4 in the U.K. and No. 9 in the U.S.

Harry — Though the others have risen to musical success outside of the band, Harry has probably been the most noticeable member making it on his own. From acting to three album releases and several award wins, all three of his albums have reached No. 1 in the U.S. and the U.K.

Zayn — Still not considered a part of One Direction, even though they’re not currently a group, Zayn has also released three solo albums. The first one probably proved his move to leave the group was a sound one, as it debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. and U.K. The follow-up, though, only made it to No. 61 in the U.S. and No. 77 in the U.K., while his third effort got to No. 17 in the U.K. and No. 44 in the U.S.

Reuniting?

Though they published plenty of material, mostly in the form of social media posts and an anniversary website to promote the 10-year anniversary of their formation, nothing ever came of it other than a retrospective video and some concert footage and performances being released in July 2020.

In that same interview in 2019, Liam added this when asked if there were still grudges between them:

“Definitely in some part, yeah. We had our differences throughout the whole experience with some things. I still think about some stuff that was said and done that now I would do differently, but then that’s all part of growing up. Being in One Direction was such a schoolyard mentality somehow – the One Direction University, I call it. Everyone has stuff they’ve said at parties they wished they hadn’t but, for us, the difference was that it was all happening in front of the world.

Although it’s been a few years since then, there’s no traction toward them all pulling in the same direction for a reunion, it appears.