Now that Zayn, Harry, Niall, Liam and Louis have gone on different directions (pun intended), it’s time to rank and compare their debut efforts. Everyone’s a winner, except in this list. I love them together. Apart, some more than others.
Luckily, none of them seem to be destined to replace Joey Fatone or Chris Kirkpatrick in the realm of relevance. Even comparing today’s climate where reception of boy bands is relatively lukewarm, they don’t need as much help as Nick Carter did back when he ventured on his own. If their first singles are any indication, their trajectories seem brighter than any of the fallen members of N*Sync (save for Justin Timberlake) and the Backstreet Boys.
Now, to the list!
5 – Strip That Down by Liam Payne featuring Quavo
Let me begin by saying that in my opinion, Liam Payne is the hottest member of One Direction. Just look at that thumbnail and tell me his sexy eyes do not lure you in. But I digress.
Strip That Down gives us a flavor of the mature and sexy sound he is going for. The single is not reminiscent of One Direction. But, and that ‘but’ word being the conversation ender for all compliments, it doesn’t do much in making his music stand out from the rest of the pop radio. After all the hotness that he is oozing of, and the heat his music can exude, what’s next?
I have to give him credit. His effort is more discreet and it has class. My benchmark has to be JC Chasez’ All Day Long I Dream About Sex. Okay, but what could NOT be more discreet than that?
4 – Just Hold On by Louis Tomlinson and Steve Aoki
If Coldplay and Lana del Rey could not escape EDM’s invasion, it would only be a matter of time when members of One Direction had to surrender. At the end of last year, it was Louis Tomlinson who first succumbed to its power.
What did we all expect? Some generic electronic song, amplified heavily by synthesizers and a climactic build up that would obliterate the dance floor once it reaches its peak. What we got instead was a subdued, uplifting and magical collaboration, heavily reliant on Louis’ vocals, and immune from cheap gimmick. The dominant sound was that of Louis, and not of Steve.
It was a snapshot of his future solo career. But it wasn’t all Louis. We’ll have to wait and see but for now it’s sufficient.
3 – This Town by Niall Horan
Many mistake Niall’s debut single as Slow Hands. But he was actually the first to break away from One Direction, post Zayn’s departure, with the release of This Town. If Slow Hands was one of the choices, it’d easily top this list.
With This Town, we get a glimpse of how stripped down his music will be. There are no heavy guitar riffs. There’s no flavor of bubblegum pop. Instead, he relies on an acoustic guitar, lyrics he co-wrote, and his voice. Think Philip Phillips without the hint of country. Think Night Changes.
Others say he’s the safest by sticking with his guns, ones that worked well for the group. But there is something to be admired by staying the course. That in itself is a risk. But it is a welcome one. After all, we still crave for One Direction and his music is probably the closest we have of filling that void.
He conveys longingness and desire for a love that escaped him. We all imagine it to be our stories put into word but let’s stop this madness.
2 – Pillowtalk by ZAYN
If any of the members deserve appreciation (or hatred) for the five songs we currently enjoy, it’d have to be ZAYN. Okay fine. Let’s be realistic. He was simply accelerating the inevitable. As Nelly Furtado once put it, “Why do all good things come to an end?”
On to his debut effort, which to date, has to be the most commercially successful among all. It introduced us to ZAYN. He seemed the most mysterious and his departure allowed us to take a piece of himself, one that is aligned with how he wants the world to see and understand him. That sounds sexier but it really is just metaphorical.
It was vocal power we’ve never gotten to hear while he was operating in a boy band. After all, he couldn’t simply belt out high notes and outshine the rest. It was infused with R&B and he wasn’t trying to be cute. It was him growing out of puberty, and us realizing we are on the same path of adulthood that he is in.
1 – Sign of the Times by Harry Styles
If you heard it without knowing it was sung by Harry Styles, you would probably think it’s epic. It’s the sound of rock music built for stadiums to sing along to. It’s within striking distance of Queen and in the same league as Fun.
But you know it to be from a boy previously associated with One Direction. He was Taylor Swift’s ex. And that washes away all his artistic credibility down the drain.
We know better and we will drown out all that noise. It’s the same thing as Dunkirk! If we could do it with a movie, we can do it with a song.
Not all risks pay off. But in my books, this one did.
How would you rate their debut singles?