With One Direction's post-Made In The A.M. hiatus looming, many are wondering which member of the world's biggest boy band will outlast the collective and become huge in his own right. Which boy, or boys, will be the next Justin Timberlake? Looking at each member's past history, interest and talents, we rank who's got the best shot to break out.
With a solo deal signed this summer with RCA Records (home to Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Sia, etc), Malik's solo venture is already underway. The powerhouse vocalist has a solid team in place, with a superstar manager Sarah Stennett (the woman behind Iggy AzaleaIggy Azalea) and cool producers (Frank Ocean producer Malay said Malik is "pure genius" and "an artist's artist"). Plus, Tyler, the Creator has already given his co-sign. OF1DKTA!
There are a few factors that could potentially hold him back: apparently Malik was unhappy with One Direction's pop sound, and is now making a "soulful" solo record. That sounds intriguing, but his style may change so drastically that Directioners won't have any interest. Plus, Zayn has gotten in ugly, public feuds with Naughty Boy and Calvin Harris since departing 1D, and allegedly broke up with fiancee Perrie Edwards over text message. We're still bullish on Zayn's solo career, but a bad attitude can distract people from the (promising) music.
Likeliness of a Successful Solo Career: 8.5
While he first emerged as the cute, non-threatening member of the group, Niall Horan has consistently proven his importance to One Direction and now stands as one of the more likely members to find solo success. The 22-year-old filled in for a few of Zayn's solo parts after Malik's departure, and showed that he can easily hit the big notes. But where we think his sweet spot will be is in Ed Sheeran territory: sweet, simple, acoustic-leaning pop jams.
Plus, Horan has friends in the industry. He's written past 1D material (including Midnight Memories standout "Don't Forget Where You Belong") with Tom Fletcher, Danny Jones and Dougie Poynter, a.k.a. members of beloved U.K. pop-rock act McFly. Plus, he's close with Bessie (the chart-topping Irish singer who's also a coach on The Voice in Ireland) and Ellie Goulding, who could all lend a hand for their boy.
Likeliness of a Successful Solo Career: 8
Before you start screaming at us for rating 1D's resident hunkasaurus lower than Niall and Zayn, let us explain. True, Harry seems to have the world in his palm right now, and that cultural dominance could continue well past One Direction. But how much of it will have to do with solo music?
There are rumors that Harry wants to try the acting world, he's been honored for his fashion, and he's found success writing songs for other pop stars (Ariana Grande's underrated "Just a Little Bit of Your Heart"). Styles may not even want to try out a full-fledged solo career, with everything else he's bringing onto his plate.
We could see Harry's career panning out a little like Victoria Beckham's: She did release successful solo material, but she is the only Spice Girl member to not have a No. 1 single in the U.K. She's still wildly successful with her many outside ventures, but not a pop phenom decades after her girl group broke up.
Likeliness of a Successful Solo Career: 7
We honestly don't see Liam Payne making it as a huge solo superstar, but we do see him being very successful in some form or fashion within the music industry. Alongside Louis Tomlinson, Payne is the member with the most writing credits on One Direction albums, and we know the dude has a knack for swoon-worthy lyrics. In fact, he's already tried lining up writing gigs on Little Mix's and Olly Murs' new albums.
Not only does he possess a knack for writing songs, but remixing 'em, too. Under the guise Big Payno, the 22-year-old has crafted reworks for the likes of Cheryl Cole and, of course, One Direction. Right now, getting your song reworked by a 1D member means that Directioners will flock to listen—and what artist wouldn't want that attention?
Likeliness of a Successful Solo Career: 5.5
Before news broke that he was expecting a baby, we might have expected Louis Tomlinson to be a breakout solo star; after all, he's been visibly stepping up his presence in 1D following Zayn's departure. His parenting plans may put a bit of a wrench into his future plans, but we do see the singer writing for other artists (alongside Liam, he has the most writing credits on 1D albums), especially if he lives in a music-industry hot spot like Los Angeles or London.
We also think we'll hear more about Tomlinson's business ventures. The dude is a big sports fan, and in 2014 was an owner of England's Doncaster Rovers soccer team until the deal fell through last-minute.
Likeliness of a Successful Solo Career: 4.5