Billboard: After five years of nonstop 1D activity, it's no surprise that one of the five members needed a breather.

The members of One Direction are, in fact, moving in a bunch of different directions.

Last Thursday, the group announced that Zayn Malik was headed back to the United Kingdom during the group’s world tour, missing a handful of shows due to “stress.” “The band wish him well and will continue with their performances in Manila and Jakarta,” a statement from 1D’s rep read, causing Directioners across the globe to hyperventilate, clutch their pearls and brace for the downfall of the biggest boy band of the generation. (The breakup of Louis Tomlinson with girlfriend Eleanor Calder doesn’t directly impact the group’s future, but still, it’s bummer news during a bummer week.)

As of Monday, a rep for the group told Billboard that there was no news to report, and no timetable for Zayn’s return to the group able to be announced. There are four shows scheduled between the Mar. 25 performance in Jakarta and a two-month break that begins on Apr. 5 — Zayn may very well show up at all of them, or none of them. The rep for the group said that any rumors of the band’s impending breakup are just tabloid speculation; in reality, only a small group of people knows how bad (or not bad) the situation actually is.

Yet something like this was bound to happen. The sudden absence of Zayn from the group’s latest world tour may very well be the beginning of the end for One Direction’s phenomenal run of success. The only shock is that, considering all of the variables, this moment hasn’t arrived sooner.

Consider what has been expected of the five One Direction members ever since Zayn, Louis, Harry Styles, Liam Payne and Niall Horan were finalists on the U.K.X Factor in 2010. Since then, 1D has released four albums in four years while spending a half-decade traveling the world, graduating from arenas to stadiums and tirelessly promoting their many products. There have been two concert films, a dozen music videos, a countless number of award show performances and a flood of branded merchandise, during a stretch of time in which most kids their age are fumbling their way through college. There’s been a few minor controversies — weed was smoked, Duck Dynasty stars were inappropriately praised — but nothing legacy-threatening. There’s even been marked, impressive musical progression for One Direction, who have won over some critics with their recent arena rock stylings.

As a colleague reminded me today, the One Direction enterprise has seemingly operated with the intention of “beating the clock” — as in, squeezing out every last bit of commercial content as quickly as possible before the pop culture bubble bursts and the young core of their audience moves on to other musical interests. Boy bands possess notoriously short shelf lives, either breaking up or becoming significantly less relevant after a few years of dominance. At this point, One Direction has already released more proper studio albums than *N SYNC did, and their run to start the 2010’s mirrors the Backstreet Boys' ubiquity during the second half of the 90's, before that group's popularity fell off a cliff following their 2000 album, Black and Blue. One Direction's entire career (guided in part by Columbia Records and Simon Cowell's Syco Records) has included less downtime than any other musical artist working today, seemingly due to that short expiration date and the desire to capitalize on fleeting superstardom. Without that heightened time frame, One Direction could have gone the way of also-rans likethe Wanted; with that never-ending promotional cycle, the boys became superstars forever existing in a pressure cooker.

Zayn’s abrupt absence from One Direction is not without precedent. Jonathan Knight departed New Kids on the Block after battling panic attacks; Backstreet Boys’ A.J. McLean left the group multiple times to enter rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. Both times, the members addressed their personal issues during the tail end of spectacular runs of success — and both times, they eventually returned and performed with renewed vigor for years. Sometimes, things must slow down, regardless of where a band is in its current album cycle.

It’s slightly easier for solo artists to hit the pause button when they’re struggling to keep pace. Rihanna has taken a two-year break after releasing four albums in four consecutive years, and Ellie Goulding is in the midst of an extended rest periodafter professing last year, “I need to sort my life out. And if I don’t do it soon, I may as well just be forever on the road, because that’s what it feels like.” Zayn Malik doesn’t have the luxury of making that declaration without inviting rampant speculation from fans who can point to four other group mates who don’t need time off due to stress. If Harry, Niall, Louis and Liam are all fine, why can’t Zayn be, too?

That’s an unfair question for a 22-year-old currently dealing with personal issues, and who clearly still has the respect of his group mates. When One Direction took the stage sans Zayn in Manila on Saturday night, they didn’t introduce themselves as 1D, but by their first names on stage, to prove that they were not whole. Zayn may very well stride past his stress and rejoin his band mates within a week or two, and have no public troubles through the tour’s conclusion on Halloween. This could all be a minor hiccup in what’s been another hugely profitable run of performances. But at some point — and the smart money is on that point being soon — more of these hiccups will occur, individual restlessness will set in, and the album-per-year streak has to be broken. Whereas other boy band members have taken leaves of absence in the past, there’s simply no model in which One Direction is sustainable for another three-to-five years without a breakup or steep drop-off in popularity — the latter of which might have already started to occur. Last year’s Four was, quantitatively speaking, not as big as One Direction’s previous albums, selling 938,000 copies to date compared to the 1.5 million sold of 2013’s Midnight Memories, according to Nielsen Music. Four was also 1D’s first album not to produce a Top 10 hit on the Hot 100 chart, and as of January, no new single from Four was planned to be worked by Columbia Records.

The One Direction breakup rumors currently swirling are probably false, and stadiums are still being packed. But Zayn’s sudden departure, no matter how long it lasts, is a reminder that boy bands suffer from a high mortality rate. The fact that 1D has been able to last this long without an incident like this independent retreat underlines how spectacular the group’s run has been. I’m rooting for it to continue, but fear that this type of stress will soon lead to a fracture.


Three days into a four-person tour, two hours after playing to a stadium of 43,000 fans in Jakarta and just eight minutes past ­midnight, One Direction made an announcement that would send millions of teenagers into hysterics. Zayn Malik was leaving the band “to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight,” as the singer said in an official statement on March 25.

Malik’s departure didn’t come as a complete surprise (he had announced a brief hiatus from the band’s current tour on March 19 due to “stress”), nor is it unprecedented (the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys both had members exit at the height of their popularity). But it’s a troubling sign that even 1D’s record-breaking four-year run may soon come to an end after its current stadium tour (it wraps in the United Kingdom on Oct. 31) and upcoming fifth album (expected in the fourth quarter through Syco/Columbia). It also brings into question Malik’s contractual status as one-fifth of the X Factor U.K.-born prefab group.

Richard Griffiths, One Direction’s manager at London-based Modest Management, confirms to Billboard that “nothing changes on the tour,” which will spend two months and 25 dates in North America starting July 9. That’s good news for promoters Live Nation and Creative Artists Agency, as 1D finished 2014 as the top touring act in the world with total gross ticket sales of more than $290 million and attendance of 3,439,560 from 69 shows reported to Billboard Boxscore. Reps for the band and labels Columbia and Syco declined further comment.

But while ticket sales remain sturdy, the group’s chart momentum has slowed since the release of Four last November. Although the set debuted at No. 1 on theBillboard 200 (making 1D the only group in the chart’s 59-year history to have its first four albums bow in the top slot), it has yet to generate a top 10 hit, with lead single “Steal My Girl” peaking at No. 13 and second single, “Night Changes,” petering out at 31 (a label rep says no further single releases are planned at this time). In total, the group has sold 6.5 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen Music; 2012 debut Up All Night is its biggest at 2 million.

Still, that’s a covetable track record — and Billboard’s forthcoming 2014 Money Makers list, an annual compilation of the top earners in U.S. recorded music and touring, will report One Direction at No. 1 for the first time, with a total take of $42 million. That’s why Malik’s label management team has already positioned him for a future as a solo act: Malik is signed to Syco as a group member and individually. A “leaving member clause” in the band’s deal allows the act to continue as a foursome, and it also offers the label the option to pick up Malik’s contract as a solo artist.

By Malik’s own admission to U.K. newspaper The Sun, a solo career looks to be in the cards and the singer is currently working with British producer Naughty Boy in a London studio.

The remaining 1D four-piece still owes two more albums to Sony as part of a three-album renewal inked in 2013. Beyond that, “the theory is, because there are fewer members in the group, the label should pay less [of an advance for future work] because they’re likely to be less viable,” explains attorney Doug Davis, principal at The Davis Firm, whose clients include Lil Jon and Swizz Beatz. “But if Zayn is properly represented, he will negotiate a more substantial solo deal than the percentage he’s entitled to as part of a group.”

Malik had been withdrawn from the band for months, suffering from what one source calls “terrible anxiety” (for which he allegedly took medication) and dropping out of a key promotional appearance for Four on NBC’s Today in Orlando, Fla., in fall 2014. “There have been rumors of substance abuse,” hintedToday host Matt Lauer of Malik’s illness excuse. Indeed, another source contends, “Zayn wasn’t sick when he missed Orlando … he’s had one foot out the door since then.” Offers a third, well-placed insider: “He just didn’t want to do it anymore.”

But for every short-lived post-boy band solo project (Jordan Knight, Nick Carter,Joe Jonas), there’s plenty of success stories (Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake) to bode well for Malik’s next path. Johnny Wright, who currently manages Timberlake and has worked with Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, The Jonas Brothersand New Kids On The Block at various stages in their respective careers, says, “My advice to him would be always leave an open door with the band, so that there’s a time in the future for him to develop and find himself but always leave that door open so that he can come back.”

Jayne Collins, the creator and first manager of prefab British group The Wanted, adds, “I don’t think Zayn is going to hide under a rock — I think he’ll do his own solo thing. I would imagine he just wants to be in control of his own destiny.”

Taylor Swift's '1989' Has Outsold Her Last Two Albums

After just 19 weeks of release, Taylor Swift’s 1989 has now outsold both of her last two albums.

(It seems the pop music thing is working out just fine for the diva, eh? 1989 is her first all-pop album after four country sets.)

1989 sold another 44,000 copies in the week ending March 8, according to Nielsen Music, lifting the title’s total sales to 4.505 million. 1989 already surpassed the sales of Swift’s last album, 2012’s Red (4.160 million after 124 weeks), a few weeks ago, while 1989 now jumps past her earlier album, 2010’s Speak Now(4.480 million after 228 weeks) in the latest tracking week.

1989 was the top selling album of 2014 (3.661 million sold that year) and remains the top seller of 2015 so far (844,000). It famously debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with 1.287 million sold in its first week.

Selling millions of albums is nothing new for Swift, of course. The new twist to her sales story is 1989’s sales rate. In merely 19 weeks, it has surpassed the sales of what was her third-biggest seller, which has been on sale for 228 weeks.Next up on Swift’s personal hit list: her self-titled 2006 debut (5.492 million) and her biggest seller, 2008’s Fearless (6.909 million).

For those keeping score, Swift’s cumulative album sales (including her five her studio efforts, and other assorted live sets, EPs, etc.) now stand at 27.67 million. In terms of album sales, she is the seventh-largest selling female artist since Nielsen began tracking sales in 1991.


lmao thank you

One Direction

(a group of five lads) is One Direction (the international sensation) because of the unique personalities and voices each member brings to the table. Subtract one (don’t leave, Zayn!) and it’s just not the same.

But to be honest, everyone has favorites. And we’re no different.
So with great love to each member, we’re ranking One Direction’s five members from least to most favorite. And if you disagree (let’s be honest, you probably will), tell us your ranked order of 1D members. And don’t say you love them all the same. While that’s theoretically possible, it’s extremely unlikely.

As a fan of the band since before their first U.S. album dropped, here’s my list:

5) Liam Payne: Okay, as an actual songwriter, Liam is certainly one of the most talented members of One Direction. But personality-wise, it’s always been harder to get a read on Liam than the others. This means A) He’s probably the most normal one of them but B) He’s the hardest to identify with. But hey, he did get in a good Bieber burn recently.

4) Louis Tomlinson: The Larry Shippers’ conspiracy theory that Louis Tomlinson is secretly in a relationship with Harry Styles is probably the most interesting thing about him. And while Louis has the songwriting chops, he’s probably the weakest singer in the group. Nevertheless, what a smile!

3) Zayn Malik: When he’s focused, Zayn has arguably the finest voice in the band. Also, have you seen those eyes? Normal eyes aren’t supposed to sparkle like that! Also, he bought his mom a house, which is pretty adorable.

2) Harry Styles: It’s understandable why Harry is the international breakout of the band. Like John Lennon before him, he maintains a wry mystique. He’s always smiling as if he knows a secret he’d like to share with you — and only you! Plus, his name suits his strengths: He’s the most stylish member of 1D by far, and his hair is probably the best in the entire realm of pop music.

1) Niall Horan: Going by his fan interactions, it seems like there isn’t a more down-to-earth, considerate pop star these days than Niall. Also, Niall dressing up as a disgruntled security guard in One Direction: This Is Us (“Who’s your favorite?” “Darren”) is probably the band’s funniest moment. Additionally, Niall actually plays guitar and loves his Irish heritage with a passion. At the end of the day, Niall is the one you’d want to casually hang with.