I know what you’re doing, One Direction.
Y’all think you’re so slick, but I see you. As rumours swirl about your impending ‘hiatus’. As the media try and spin it as the potentially permanent dismemberment of your shitty pop group that everyone still in possession of ears has been longing for since Simon Cowell sold his ever-loving soul to the devil himself in exchange for you all to have a career. As a great and devastating tsunami of 12-year-old tears grows ever larger, roiling off the coast of Twitter at this news, surely to destroy us all. I know exactly what the fuck you’re all doing.
You’re trying to be the Avengers of music, and don’t you even dare insult our intelligence for a second to pretend that you aren’t.
Oh, the logic is simple enough, even for a group so thick that they can’t even be counted on themselves to write lyrics better than ‘Oh, I just wanna show you off to all of my friends / Making them drool down their chinny-chin-chins’ or ‘Tell me with your mind, body and spirit / I can make your tears fall down like the showers that are British’ or, and I wish I was fucking kidding here, ‘Now she’s feeling so low since she went solo / Hole in the middle of my heart like a polo’.
I don’t know who came up with any of these and I don’t care, I just sleep easier at night knowing that, upon their passing, they’ll be taking the swiftest route to somewhere between the fifth and sixth circles of Hell for hate crimes against the written word. The five of you could have smashed your faces into a bank of keyboards without ‘e’s on them and the resultant print would have been less nonsensical than rhyming ‘mind, body and spirit’ with ‘showers that are British’, for actual fuck sake.
But I digress, despite your apparent lunkheadedness, you and the people in charge of your careers know exactly what you’re doing. You see, back when supergroups like the Avengers and the Justice League were first teaming together on their respective pages, the writers behind them wised up and realised pretty damn quick that these get togethers should be treated as only the special-est of occasions. That there was infinitely more money to be made from each Avenger continuing to have their own comic book with their own adventures, their own sidekicks and their own lesser supervillains to deal with. It was recognised as good for business that they should only team up when some ridiculous and pissed off interstellar douchebag worthy of their combined attention like Thanos or Darkseid happens upon Earth.
Didn’t matter that this flew in the face of logic and created a universe riddled with plot holes and contradictions, those comic book fans didn’t care. They gobbled. This. Shit. Up. That hasn’t changed since these characters all made the leap from the pages to the silver screen, each new solo superhero movie becomes a separate part of the construction of a mega-movie and fans absolutely lose their minds with ecstasy over it.
And your fans will too.
These guys. The ‘can I lick your eyeball’ guys.
Oh those wacky Directioners may cry and threaten to hurt themselves and deal out death threats like they’re Yu-Gi-Oh cards and then cry some more now, but mark my words they will come right the fuck back around. Like comic book creators before you, you know exactly how clownshit insane your fanbase can be. You know that the existence of your group has sustained and defined some of their nutcase tweenage lives ever since the X-Factor shat you all out of its dank, star-creating bowels, and you’re going to take full advantage of it, aren’t you?
You’re all just rubbing your hands together and cackling evilly over there in your huge English mansions while it drizzles down pissy rain in the last fading gasps of your shitty pretend summer, aren’t you???
You’re trying to cough the remaining One Direction members like individual plague spores out into the universe. You’re all going to go solo, you’re all going to release your own albums that you expect your fans to light their own money on fire for, flog a bunch of #TeamHarry and #TeamNiall shirts or some shit (#TeamLiam shirts more pointless than the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Champions 2015 shirts you just know are out there) and then you’re going to have your big ‘reunion’ tour, answering the prayers of all of your fans who never wanted you to go on this hiatus in the first place and raking in even more from long-suffering parents who are scratching their heads and wondering where they went wrong raising their child.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. You’ll trot out together for a new album and tour every couple of years and just go solo in the meantime. Can’t you just smell all that paper?
You even have your own little ‘prodigal son’ story arc you can go on too. Let’s not even sit here for a second and pretend like Zayn Malik isn’t coming back at some point. He might be enjoying the solo life right now, possibly working with Tyler, The Creator and telling Calvin Harris he’s a dickhead, but if people like the remaining members of NWA can patch things up (Ice Cube once told MC Ren that he enjoyed anal sex without the aid of lubricants and they’re totally buddies again now) then I’m pretty sure the buckets of money up for grabs from a potential reconciliation will make the rest of you and Zayn conveniently forget whatever hissy fit it was that forced him out in the first place.
Shit like this does work occasionally, I’ll give you that. The Wu-Tang Clan might be the masters of it, becoming stars as a group, then all becoming stars as solo artists and returning as a group with transcendent levels of star power and all the hype in the world behind it. They masterminded their own entire universe, branching off from the original Wu-Tang tree again and again. Same for the aforementioned NWA, though their reunions since have all had just a little something missing without Eazy-E. The Beatles too had enormous success as individual solo artists and also Ringo was… you know, he was something. You’re Ringo, Liam.
We never got to find out whether The Beatles would have succeeded in a reunion after John Lennon was tragically gunned down though. I think it probably would have worked for them, given that they made some of the best music of all time together as that group. This does not describe you in the slightest, One Direction. Catpiss is what describes you. If you want to be able to stand on your own two feet as solo artists you actually have to be, you know, good on an individual level. And you aren’t. You have to stand out and each have your own distinct sound. And you won’t. Zayn might be a poor man’s Iron Man and Harry might be an even poorer man’s Thor, and what are the rest of you?
This backwards-ass fool bringing a bow and arrow to a Tesseract fight. This is who the rest of you are.
The list of groups who tried going solo and it didn’t work for runs so very long, and I’m very confident I’ll be able to add your names to it in capital letters.
If you think anybody bought the Peter Criss solo album when KISS tried this same bullshit in the late 70s then you’ve probably been talking to Peter Criss’ mother. You’re Peter Criss, Liam. KISS quickly realised nobody gave a tuppenny fuck about them unless they were a full band and those simultaneous solo projects never happened again.
Similarly, has anybody seriously enjoyed ANY of the solo projects of anyone from actual good bands like Mötley Crüe or the Ramones or Blink 182 or the litany of other bands whose members got too big for their own britches? No, because they were all utterly godawful and nowhere near as good as the originals.
The results are even worse when it pertains to boy-bands such as yourselves, who usually go solo because it’s a good career move for one of them, only for it to be seppuku for the rest. The Backstreet Boys did it and it failed. Nick Carter kind of did ok, but Brian’s solo album sold less than 100 000 units in 2006 and they didn’t even bother to keep statistics for Howie D’s solo album because you can count the units sold on two hands. Your Irish forebears in Boyzone did it and it also failed worse than a non-alcoholic pub in Dublin, with the exception of Ronan Keating and that dreadful country cover song he did that people who hate the fact that they’re getting married still play at their weddings.
And what about your other musical forefathers, and a bunch of dudes who look like a Hells Angels chapter next to you and your wussiness, in N*SYNC? A group who, had Twitter been around when they were at their peak, would surely have surpassed you in terms of fanbase. Their music, while mostly dreadful, was still infinitely better than yours. Sure, one of you might become the superstar that Justin Timberlake did (it will probably be that prat Harry if anyone, let’s be real) but how many of you are going to be JC Chasez? Because you’re both looking mighty like JC Chasez right now, Niall and Louis.
And you’re Joey Fatone, Liam. You are absolutely Joey Fatone.
You know why your little solo jaunt will likely be a flop? Because you’re starting out already a group, something music history says is more often likely to result in mostly abject failure unless you’re as cool as the Wu-Tang Clan (and uh… you are not). If you’d all established yourselves as solo artists from the get-go then maybe you’d have a chance, but you didn’t make it as solo artists on the X-Factor and I doubt you’re going to in real life.
As far as I’m concerned there has been one successful ‘Avengers of Music’ ever and that was The Traveling Wilburys. All with their own distinct talents and sound they established as successful solo artists, coming together to create magic. And even they were never greater than the sum of their individual parts, not by a long shot.
Our best chance at this today might be the one waiting patiently in the wings, Black Hippy.
Their story arc has largely run the same as the Avengers, a group of individual heroes who help each other out here and there as friends but who largely go it alone. They’re all primed and at their peaks, ready to team up and blow us all away. Kendrick Lamar has shot to stardom quicker than the Apollo 11 and Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul have all released stellar solo records themselves. If and when they team up it will be for the right reasons and it will likely result in music that will be absolutely, ridiculously good and stand the test of time.
You won’t be the Traveling Wilburys or Black Hippy though One Direction, and you may be employing their marketing tactics but you certainly won’t be the Avengers of music anytime soon. Because none of you are any good. You don’t have a Roy Orbison or a Kendrick Lamar. And you certainly don’t have a Hulk. You have a Liam. Sure, it might pay off in the short-term because your fans right now will lap up anything you do as though they can’t tell that it’s burnt excrement. This is the same fanbase though that largely isn’t going to stick with you past puberty and definitely isn’t going to grow once you’re older and have lost the youthful good looks that are your only real selling point. For them, you will be a memory they cringe about in years to come as they dance ironically to What Makes You Beautiful in a dive bar and future generations will simply line up for the next mob of feathery-haired young gits masquerading themselves as artists. You’re a manufactured boy band whose music is going to age about as well as an unflushed toilet, what the bloody hell do you expect?
You’re going to split up temporarily to try to turn future One Direction albums and tours into ultra-marketable ‘special events’ the way Marvel has with the Avengers movies and DC is trying to do with separate Justice League and Suicide Squad productions? What you’re really doing is just squandering the precious few years left you all have to be relevant, playing to your strengths as an already-established group, and before you know it you’ll find yourselves embarking on the same, sad old reunion tours that groups like the Backstreet Boys and Boyzone do right now.
So go solo if you must, One Direction. Just don’t expect it to work the way you might be envisioning.