After “1D” splitting up, it was relatively unclear whether any of the boys would find success as solo artists. Now that all One Direction members have released their own solo records, it’s quite evident that each one has potential to find his own niche in the music industry. Though on different levels, it seems as if all of them without exception have found success in what they’re doing. But when it all comes down to it – who delivered the best solo material so far?
Let’s break it down
Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times
Harry Styles’ solo debut is a relatively slow paced track and portrays itself as a very traditional ballad. Sign Of The Times was co-written and produced by Jeff Bhasker, who has worked with the likes of Ed Sheeran (Photograph), P!nk (Just Give Me A Reason), FUN. (We Are Young), Alicia Keys (Girl On Fire) and more. Thus, it is not very surprising that the track is slightly rock-influenced. The balance between Pop and rock is, next to Styles’ good vocals, probably what this song does best – it is definitely mainstream but still deviates from a traditional pop sound. However, Harry hasn’t managed to depart from his old One Direction image. Both musically and lyrically, Sign Of The Times does not really set itself apart from a standard One Direction song. However, the increased maturity in his new material is certainly going to help him maintain an audience.
Zayn Malik – Pillowtalk
Although Zayn’s release was much earlier than the other members (due to him leaving the band in 2015). Pillowtalk is much less pop, more RnB than 1D-music. It also seems the most appropriate and fitting genre for Zayn, therefore much more authentic than if he were to release bubblegum pop. The track can probably be best described as an RnB slow jam. However, its standout feature isn’t the production but Zayn’s vocals. With a relatively big vocal range and Malik’s somewhat smoky tone, the vocal delivery on the song is quite impressive. Whether you like Pillowtalk or not – compared to his 1D days, this musical direction is much more mature and authentic for Zayn.
Niall Horan – Slow Hands
Slow Hands is the second single off Niall’s debut solo album. With a more 80’s Rock and Funk-Pop influenced sound, Niall manages to depart from his old 1D sound quite successfully. The track is somewhat mid-tempo but features a sort of old-school stomp-and-clap beat that gives it some kick, despite its tempo. This more “raw” sound seems to fit Niall really well and opens him up to a new audience, an audience that previously rejected him in his One Direction-days. Even though Niall is probably not the best vocalist out there (or even out of the 1D Boys), his tone does complement this new sound of his. This type of genre also allows him to strip it down more easily – it works just as nicely with just Niall and his guitar. A quality that does set him apart from his old bandmates.
Liam Payne – Strip That Down
Meanwhile, Liam Payne delivers a full-on Pop banger. Strip That Down is one perfect example of a safely-constructed mainstream track – it perfectly sits within the boundaries of its genre and conforms to any possible norm. In a way, Strip That Down feels a bit manufactured. It is tailor made for radio – which can also be considered a quality, since the track does have to achieve a very broad appeal. The man behind this track is Steve Mac who has worked with numerous Pop stars (his most recent hits include Rockabye by Clean Bandit and Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran). Though the song is clearly meant to appeal to the masses, it also does it very convincingly. Strip That Down is the kind of song to become everyone’s guilty pleasure, the kind of song people hate to love. It’s extremely catchy and therefore fulfills its role perfectly. Liam Payne turns to pure pop, but still manages to create a sound that sets itself apart from standard 1D-tracks.
Louis Tomlinson – Back To You
Louis was the one One Direction member people probably had least faith in. However, with this track he proves his potential. Back To You is another example of very well polished Pop music. What was said about Strip That Down also partly applies to Back To You – tailor made for radio, relatively safe but extremely catchy. I do feel like Back To You, while still staying close to the Pop music genre conventions, has more of a unique sound than Strip That Down. It also has the advantage of being a collaboration with Bebe Rexha. Back To You is an extremely well-rounded track and Bebe Rexha contributes a lot to that. Not only does her voice fit really nicely, but the song also gains a lot from being duet-like, with both Louis and Bebe having their own verse and chorus each. Back To You is Pop music at its finest – and Louis delivers it really convincingly.
Five different artists, five different songs and five different career paths. In the end, Louis seems to be the one who surprised the most people. But from the looks of it, each 1D member seems to be on their way to build their own name and their own brand. Whether you like all of the songs or none, the transition from boygroup to solo artists has worked out relatively well for Harry, Zayn, Niall, Liam and Louis.