Which One Direction member had the best solo single? Was it Harry, Zayn, Niall, Liam or Louis? Check out our definitive ranking here.
About a year and half after their announced hiatus, UK-based boyband One Direction are more active than ever. Not as a group, however, each of the members have released songs in efforts of making a solo career. Both Zayn Malik (who exited the band in 2015) and Harry Styles have full-length albums, while members Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson have singles anticipating upcoming albums.
Even though One Direction together mostly made music that was pop, the members individually have swayed to other genres, such as rock, R&B, and EDM. They may have gone in different directions, but some stand out more than the others.
1. Harry Styles, “Sign of the Times”
Styles’s first single, “Sign of the Times”, was released last April, debuting at number one on UK charts and at number 4 in the United States. The song is a epic, soft rock ballad about welcoming grief and pain during difficult times. Styles employs much more mature lyrics than the songs of his One Direction days, and the song is more rooted in classic rock and roll, similar to Elton John and the Beatles. Both the music and lyrics are committed and profound but still entertaining, making his solo first release the best out of the other group members.
2. Zayn Malik, “Pillowtalk”
After his controversial departure from One Direction in March of 2015, Malik wasted no time getting back in the studio to start working on his own release. His debut single, “Pillowtalk”, gained a lot of attention from both fans and critics for its explicit lyrics and the change in genre from One Direction. This song was edgier than anything he’s ever done, incorporating elements of R&B, rock, and electronic music. Even though both the music and lyrics combine to make a stellar track, Zayn’s soulful vocals are really what makes the song great, proving that he’s the greatest vocalist to come out of One Direction.
3. Niall Horan, “This Town”
Niall was the first of One Direction to release after the band’s hiatus, releasing “This Town” in September of 2016. The song is an emotional, acoustic folk-pop song that displays his talent and shows how good of a voice he has, which wasn’t always the case in the group. “This Town” is a great ballad for Horan; however, it doesn’t really stand out enough for a first release.
4. Louis Tomlinson, “Just Hold On”
Probably the most unique of any of the band’s individual releases, “Just Hold On” is a dance-pop/EDM song that Louis Tomlinson collaborated on with popular DJ Steve Aoki. The song is very catchy and has uplifting lyrics, and Tomlinson’s smooth vocals fit perfectly with the upbeat rhythm. It’s a feel-good track, but it sounds far too similar to other EDM top 40 songs to really make an impression.
5. Liam Payne, “Strip That Down”
The last of the members to release a solo single, Liam Payne dropped “Strip That Down” featuring rapper Quavo from Migos. The song is influenced by both R&B and hip hop genres, with heavy bass and pop beats. This song is definitely catchy enough to dance to and to earn a spot on the charts, but it has no substance and is almost a waste of Payne’s talent. He has one of the strongest voices in One Direction, but his vocals are not at the forefront of the song; they are overshadowed by the accompanying music and production. Altogether, this is a disappointment from Payne because he had the capacity to do so much more.