When the guys in One Direction teased that they were doing something special to celebrate the group’s 10th anniversary this month, fans around the world started speculating that it was a big reunion announcement. Instead, the group announced that they would be releasing a trove of archival content, including music videos, artwork and behind-the-scenes footage that highlights their time together. Hopes for a new album or a reunion tour (a la the Spice Girls) were quickly dashed.
Still, while Harry, Louis, Liam, Niall and Zayn won’t be appearing together on stage anytime soon, Directioners haven’t given up hope for a reunion, whether as a one-off single release or a one-night-only concert (like Harry did to celebrate the release of his album, Fine Line, last December).
“I don’t actually think that fans necessarily want a reunion album or music, more so a tour or to just see them together again, says Ella Dunham, the 22-year-old co-founder of the @1Dneews Twitter account. “I think, individually, they have strayed so far from their original sound as a boy band that many fans would feel uncomfortable seeing them have to change their own style to go back to that ‘boy band’ feel they had. If new music was on the cards [though],” Dunham says, “it would be interesting to see what type of music was produced.”
Dunham has a point about the boys outgrowing their boy band ways, but part of the fun of celebrating #10YearsOf1D on social media and IRL is wondering “Will they or won’t they?” and dreaming up what it would look like if they did reunite. The boys themselves have even weighed in and they don’t seem sure of when a reunion would happen or what it would consist of — but none of them have totally ruled out a return either.
With that in mind, we’ve put on our best Vegas oddsmakers hats to calculate the chances of One Direction getting back together. Our rankings are based on the willingness of each member to participate (as vocalized in interviews and on social media) and where they are at in the current moment with their solo careers and personal lives. Below, in no particular order, are our findings.
We’re kicking off our list with Liam, who’s been the most vocal about getting the boys back together. In a recent interview just this past May, the singer said he was “hopeful” about a reunion, adding, “I’m starting to think it’s gonna happen at some point. So it’s exciting.”
Though each of the guys have released music on their own, Liam could be ready to step back into the group. His solo career started off super promising with the R&B hit, “Strip That Down” (featuring Quavo). Since then, Daddy Directioner has stripped down himself, for a sultry Hugo Boss underwear ad that even had his mom calling him in mock horror. The provocative pics garnered plenty of attention for Liam, but his music unfortunately hasn’t made the same impact.
Liam’s oft-delayed debut album was finally released last year but failed to make a dent on the charts (it barely made the Top 20 in the U.K. and debuted at number 111 in the U.S.). It was the lowest-charting debut album from any 1D member, though it had less to do with the songs — the synthy, Ryan Tedder-produced “Say it All” deserved to be a single — and more with the timing. The album had been in development for three years before it finally came out.
On a personal note, Liam has been keeping in touch with Harry, Louis, and Niall recently, which makes the chances of a One Direction reunion actually seem pretty possible. He joined Niall for an Instagram Live chat in April, where the two confirmed that the four members have a regular Whatsapp thread going on. In another IG Live, this time with his “Midnight” collaborator Alesso, Liam revealed that the guys were trying to arrange a group call to discuss reunion plans (though he also admitted to being told off by Louis for “revealing too much”). And just last month, Liam teased fans with a TikTok video of him FaceTiming Harry, though the video cuts off just after Harry (listed as “H” in Liam’s phone) picks up. Was it just a friendly catch-up call, or is Liam setting the stage for something bigger?
Liam has always assumed a leadership role, both in terms of writing a number of the band’s songs, but also acting as the de facto spokesperson for the group in a number of interviews. If there’s a reunion happening, you’re likely to hear about it from Liam first.
Chances of joining a 1D reunion: 80%
Niall just released his sophomore album, Heartbreak Weather, back in March, and had announced dates for a world tour. But the album came out just as COVID-19 was turning into a full-fledged global pandemic and promotion for the album stalled. Weeks later, he announced that the tour was cancelled. And while Harry was able to push his tour back to 2021, Niall has yet to announce make-up dates, leading fans to believe the tour may have been cancelled indefinitely. With his album promotion cycle over and no tour in sight, it just might be enough to convince Niall to join the rest of the guys for a (virtual?) reunion soon.
That being said, Niall has arguably had one of the most successful solo careers from the group (aside from Harry), with a Number One song on pop radio (“Slow Hands”) and well-received collaborations with Maren Morris, Julia Michaels, and Ashe. In our opinion, Heartbreak Weather was also one of the most cohesive and melodic new releases of the year. If 1D were to record another album, Niall’s solo pop-rock style could actually be one direction the group moves towards (no pun intended). They’ve teased a similar sound with songs like “Story of My Life” and “Fool’s Gold” (the latter of which Niall covered on his “Flicker World Tour”).
Niall has commented on reunion rumors before, telling an interviewer this past May that “We’ve been chatting about it, little bits and pieces that we can do.” Still, he added, “[there’s been] nothing in terms of getting the band back together, so for now, no.” Niall always openly talks about 1D but is a little more neutral on a reunion compared to Liam or Louis. His recent quotes make it seem like he wants a reunion, but it’s not going to happen as soon as fans think.
Chances of joining a 1D reunion: 60%
Louis recently announced that he was leaving Syco, the label he’s called home since the start of One Direction. As a free agent, now’s the perfect time for him to revisit the possibility of a reunion. Louis also admitted in an interview that he was taken aback when the group decided to go on hiatus, proving that he wasn’t exactly ready for 1D to end in the first place. “It surprised me to a certain degree, so I didn’t have any plan in place or anything like that,” he said.
Though he’s released a handful of solid singles (the Bebe Rexha-featuring “Back to You” was an underrated gem), Louis’ songs haven’t quite lit up the charts like some of the other members. He finally released his debut album, Walls, at the beginning of this year — the album “wistfully brings to mind One Direction’s glory days” read the Rolling Stone review — and proved that if the group were to release new music, the frequent songwriter on the boy band’s tracks could still create bangers that harness their signature sound. Louis also had a tour in the books that was postponed to 2021 because of the pandemic, which pushes any possible 1D reunion even further back.
Outside of music (kind of), he’s found success again back on reality TV, as a judge on the U.K. version of The X-Factor (the same show where One Direction got its start). Out of everyone, he’s been the most connected to his reality show roots, and seems most likely to assemble the guys together again for a nostalgic comeback.
Though he didn’t address a reunion specifically, Louis definitely still holds a soft spot for the group. “I fucking love the boys, and I love everything we’ve done together,” he told Rolling Stone this year. “I still miss my time with them.”
Chances of joining a 1D reunion: 75%
Harry’s career has soared since the band disbanded in 2016. Aside from two critically-acclaimed albums, Harry has also appeared in campaigns for Gucci, while establishing himself as the reigning pop prince of the music world (sorry Bieber).
His latest album, Fine Line, was released in December, and continues to hold strong on the charts, with the most recent single, “Watermelon Sugar” making a serious case for “Song of the Summer” honors. And though his “Love on Tour” was postponed due to COVID-19, Harry has already rescheduled dates for next summer — which doesn’t leave a lot of room for a reunion.
Harry has also made moves in Hollywood, with a well-received turn in Dunkirk. He was also rumored to be up for the role of Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid movie and reportedly auditioned to play Elvis in Baz Luhrman’s upcoming biopic.
“I think Niall, Liam and Louis are most eager to reunite,” says Dunham, “[but] Harry’s solo career has been so astronomically successful (and so different to the 1D era) that I can’t see it would be as beneficial to him as the other members.”
Still, we wouldn’t count Harry out of a reunion entirely. While some artists are eager to shed their boyband roots (ahem, Justin Timberlake), Harry has consistently covered One Direction songs on his tours, including a surprise performance of “What Makes You Beautiful” during his one-night-only show in LA to promote Fine Line last year. Add the fact that he’s on this not-so-secret 1D group text and well, to quote one of his lyrics, it may be time to “step [back] into the light.” As he told Rolling Stone in 2019, “I don’t think I’d ever say I’d never do it again, because I don’t feel that way. If there’s a time when we all really want to do it, that’s the only time for us to do it, because I don’t think it should be about anything else other than the fact that we’re all like, ‘Hey, this was really fun. We should do this again.’”
Chances of joining a 1D reunion: 50%
All illustrations by Matthew Chow
We’re including Zayn on this list because it wouldn’t be a true One Direction reunion without him and frankly, Zayn had some of the best features on the groups’ albums (that high note he hits in “Steal My Girl” still gives us all the gooseys, and “Night Changes” would not have been as strong of a song without his heartfelt lines in it). That being said, Zayn seems like he’s moved on completely from the group that gave him his start, having largely avoided any mentions of 1D or his fellow members in the years since he left the group. There’s no love lost either. The notoriously soft-spoken singer has generally avoided big interviews, but in a 2015 article, he said, “There was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band,” and called 1D’s music, “Generic as fuck.”
Zayn was the first member of One Direction to go solo, and “Pillowtalk” will still go down as one of the best debut singles of all time. But his career has gone through peaks and valleys since then — while he had a huge hit with his Taylor Swift duet (“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” from the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack), his sophomore album, Icarus Falls failed to crack the Top 60 in the U.S. or UK.
Unlike the other four guys, who are all reportedly working on new music, Zayn hasn’t teased any new projects coming up. The last we heard from Zayn, he was doing duetting on “A Whole New World” with Zhavia for the Aladdin live action film. He was also on a remix for Shaed’s “Trampoline” (a very underrated jam). These one-off song releases give us the impression that he’ll only make music when he feels like it, and only if it’s a song or project he’s truly passionate about. For now, that doesn’t look like it includes another go-around with One Direction.
And while the other four guys left things on a friendly note, Zayn told an interviewer in 2018 that “I didn’t really, like, make any friends from the band. I just didn’t do it. It’s not something that I’m afraid to say.” If he doesn’t think he’s friends with the rest of the guys, then he’s definitely not going to be game for a reunion.
Of course Zayn does have one very important upcoming release: a new baby with Gigi Hadid. The fact that he’s been open about not enjoying his time with One Direction, coupled with his impending fatherhood, makes us feel like Zayn’s chances of returning for a 1D reunion are basically zero.
Chances of joining a 1D reunion: 0%
Of course, circumstances can always change, and for every band that breaks up — like ‘NSync — there’s a band like the Backstreet Boys who are still holding on strong more than 27 years after they debuted. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from One Direction, it’s that you can never count them out. As the four sang in their final performance before separating, they’ve “got a whole lot of history” together, and they can definitely make some more.
Fans remain cautiously optimistic. “As much as my teenage self wants a reunion, it’s good to see them thrive individually,” says Dunham. “The boys have veered so far from the original sound of 1D that it’s important to support their solo albums as much as we would a reunion,” she continues. “I think if fans are pushing a reunion, we should push their solo albums to the same extent. That way, we get the best of both worlds – we get to reminisce on the 1D days but we’re still supporting them on their individual paths.”
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