One Direction is taking a break for all of 2016 and it has fans panicked about what it means for the future of the band. Since the band’s inception in 2010, the boys haven’t taken a break for more than a few months and a year would give them a chance to recharge their batteries.
Except the lessons of boy bands past have taught the pop culture collective that a hiatus of that magnitude does allow the boys a lot of time to think about what they want to do outside of One Direction — and that includes solo careers.
Zayn Malik left the band in March and has already signed to RCA to get a jumpstart on his solo career. Rumors have begun that Sony is looking to set up Harry Styles’ first album as well. If Harry decides to pursue a solo album in 2016, it does make it seem more unlikely that One Direction will regroup afterwards. However, the band tells U.K. paper The Mirror that “no discussions about solo deals are happening with any members of One Direction currently” and “Sony are fully committed to all of One Direction and are looking forward to the release of the group’s new album.”
The Backstreet Boys took a two-year hiatus between 2002-2004 after promoting their “Black & Blue” album. They continue to tour worldwide and released their first independent album, “In a World Like This,” in 2013, meaning it is possible for a boy band to recover after time apart and various solo projects.
However, the counter example is *NSync, who took a “hiatus” after their third album “Celebrity” failed to perform as well as their sophomore effort “No Strings Attached” — which still holds the record for biggest selling debut week in Billboard 200 history with 2.4 million copies sold. At the time of “Celebrity’s” less-than-stellar performance, the band called the break a “temporary hiatus.” However, when Justin Timberlake released “Justified” in 2002, the writing was on the wall that *NSync was done.
As for One Direction, when Zayn left the band in March, the foursome continued a string of sold-out shows throughout the summer, and it’s unlikely that the success or failure of Malik’s album will have an impact on One Direction’s fate as a whole. Of all the One Direction members, Styles does have the best chance of “pulling a Timberlake,” as pointed out by Above Average’s satirical letter to One Direction from *NSync member Joey Fatone.
In contrast to the letter’s predictions, all of One Direction doesn’t have to fall into obscurity if Styles’ solo career happens and is a commercial success. They’ve each expanded their songwriting abilities on the One Direction albums, with mentors like Ed Sheeran, Teddy Geiger and Dougie Poynter (McFly). So if neither Niall Horan, Liam Payne nor Louis Tomlinson launch solo careers they still stand to make a lucrative living writing and co-writing songs for other artists. Not to mention Tomlinson will have his hands full with a new baby on the way.
It’s also the era of diversification with no successful artist staying in one medium. Outside of music there’s potential for fashion and acting pursuits (Timberlake has managed to pull off all three). If none of those pan out, after enough time apart One Direction can cash in the nostalgia card and do the reunion tour, making everyone very happy.
Any way it shakes out, the boys — and their fans — will be fine.