The life of a pop act can be pretty tough, and no one probably knows that more than Brit/Irish pop sensation, One Direction. In the span of four years, the quintet has secured a heavy fan base, sold-out stadiums and arenas all around the world, and have had all three of their albums; Up All Night, Take Me Home and Midnight Memories, debut at the top of the charts. Just days ago, it was announced that they would be headlining another tour in Australia for 2015, interestingly titled On The Road Again Tour. It should be noted that the band has just started a tour; the Where We Are Tour, in support of Midnight Memories. On top of that, One Direction is currently recording the follow up to Midnight Memories, although that album was just released back in November, only six months ago. Also, a rumored sequel has been planned for their documentary/concert film, This Is Us. Pop acts can be fickle and they always have to evolve in some way, but are the boys of One Direction going in too many directions too quickly?
Coming together on the UK version of the X-Factor back in 2010, group members Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson received an early warning from their soon-to-be-manager, Simon Cowell, on just how crazy things would get if they succeeded in winning the competition. Although they did not (they placed third), they were still propelled into the spotlight, partially due to being signed by Cowell. It seems as if they have not had time to look back since. In their movie This Is Us, Karen Payne, the mother of Liam, wistfully looks upon a cardboard cut out of him while mentioning that her young son has not had much downtime since One Direction came into fruition.
“I always knew he would make it big”, she says, “but never like this.” Her smile in that moment holds momentarily before she breaks down in tears. “He goes away for so long.” The sentiment is repeated seconds later by Robin Twist, the stepfather to Harry Styles. “Harry went to an audition and he never came home again,” he admitted.
While the boys may be living grand lives that have taken them in so many directions, it has also reaped many rewards for them. Just recently, the Sunday Times exposed that One Direction has become the richest boy band in British history, taking in around £70 million (or $118 million, in American currency). Their fan base, affectionately called “Directioners,” have helped the young men along a high-powered journey and stronger still, they have been instrumental, and sometimes, not so instrumental, in allowing the group to have lives that most could only dream of.
Along with the second movie and their fourth album, the band recently signed a contract in 2013 to extend their deal with Syco Entertainment, a joint production company owned by Cowell and Sony Music. The details state that over the next three years, the group will release three more albums – two of original material and one compilation album. However, there is also a clause that expresses that if one member chooses to walk away at any time, the pockets of all five members will suffer. “If one of them walks away before [the contract expires], then all five miss out on the money,” an insider revealed to The Sun.
The “on” button seems to be stuck in its position when it comes to the group. While other artists take breaks with no excuse needed or required, it is easy to realize why it was such a surprise when Liam Payne revealed at the 2014 BRIT Awards that he had not been around the other members in nearly three months. Rumors began to swirl that the group was on the verge of a break-up when truthfully, they only had some time off. Be that as it may, there are some very obvious cracks beginning to show in the foundation of One Direction.
In early April, the fivesome released the video for their current single, You and I. Although it was simplistic at best, it was hard to ignore that some of the young members of the group looked a bit haggard in their personal appearances. In some behind-the-scenes clips of the video shoot, the location where the video was filmed, Clevedon Pier in Sommerset, England, as well as the cold weather, is blamed for the shoot being uncomfortable. Also, the boys are aging and one would not expect them to look the same way they did around four years ago. However, the change has been so drastic, it is almost a bit frightening to truly take hold of.
It is probably the very first view that things in the world of One Direction are turning a bit manic. Although the group has always seemed grateful with the success they have obtained, it is questionable if that success would continue if they took some much needed downtime that lasted longer than a few months. Of course, it makes sense that it would, so there should be no issue if the boys had somewhat of a break, right? Sadly, probably not.
The world is a place where the faces and popularity of pop acts change at a heavy pace. Just last year, the Aussie pop-rock group, 5 Seconds of Summer, were nearly unknown to the public outside of their home continent. Now, following their roles as the opening act in One Direction’s Where We Are Tour, they are poised to have a major breakthrough of their own with their first studio album being set for release in late June.
In truth, musicians who have so much against them must work even harder than most to even get to play a little. But how much work can five young men go through without being able to take a much needed rest? It is easy to see One Direction are going in too many directions for the sake of remaining popular. However, the scary notion is that one day, they may actually burn up as opposed to burning out.
Opinion by Jonathan Brown