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Avid One Direction fan ranks each member’s solo debut

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

In August 2015, hearts all over the world were shattered by the news that British boy band One Direction, better known as 1D was taking a “short hiatus.” This came only a few months following the departure of member Zayn Malik who would be leaving to pursue a solo career in music. From their inception at X-Factor to touring the globe together and becoming pop sensations, 1D is one of the best-selling boy bands of all time, having sold a total of 70 million records worldwide and collecting nearly 200 awards as of 2022. Naturally, with this abundance of success came millions of adoring fans, such as myself — and I even have an insanely cringey stan account from middle school to prove it.

One of the most difficult and dreadful tasks you can ask of a One Direction enthusiast is to rank the lads in any shape or form. Whether it’s their singing abilities or them as people, it’s hard not to feel bad when reducing them down to a list. However, with that said, I am regretfully putting myself to the test by attempting to rate the boys’ debut solo albums from worst to best. The albums include Zayn Malik’s Mind of Mind (2016), Harry Styles’ Harry Styles (2017), Niall Horan’s Flicker (2017), Liam Payne’s LP1 (2019) and Louis Tomlinson’s Walls (2020).

5. LIAM PAYNE: LP1 (2019)

Sadly, at the bottom of the list is Liam Payne’s LP1. There are probably some folks out there that would contest my last two placements, but hear me out first. 

He just hasn’t done enough to certify himself as one of the best vocalists in the group. I had high expectations leading up to the release of LP1, yet the music is decent at best — and that’s spoken out of generosity. Simply put, the tunes emanated 2015 vibes for something that came out nearing the end of the decade in 2019. It also doesn’t help that the album was surrounded by a surfeit of controversy upon its delivery. Payne was accused of biphobia with “Both Ways” and left fans disappointed in “Strip That Down” with lyrics insinuating he didn’t enjoy his days at One Direction. It seems as though he was overcompensating for his clean-cut boy band days by trying to prove that he was now an adult. I mean, seriously, it was a huge adjustment to see him go from cute, teddy-bear Liam to drowning-in-chains, raunchy “Payno” on stage. Although he’s been embroiled in controversy for much of the past year as well, I’m still rooting for him.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some catchy songs off of this album (mostly fitting for a club setting) but I was genuinely excited for Liam’s debut and ultimately felt unimpressed by this lacklustre project.

Favourite songs: Remember, For You, Familiar


From my experience, people often overlook Louis Tomlinson and don’t give him the recognition that he deserves. Credited as a writer on many 1D bangers, such as “Strong,” “Alive,” “Spaces” and “Steal My Girl,” he’s essentially responsible for half of their discography. He even tweeted “And remember if it’s by one direction and it’s a banger I probably wrote on it,” on their 8-year anniversary, as a lighthearted reminder to give credit where credit is due. 

Despite being praised by fans for penning some of their favourite songs, it seems as though he’s still attached to the group’s style. This is especially clear with the track “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart.” Take a listen and tell me it doesn’t make you nostalgic for the good ol’ days. 

While fans had high hopes for Louis’ debut album, only real supporters would prove patient enough for the prolonged process and delayed release. Louis went through the tremendous heartbreak of losing both his mother and sister in 2016 and 2019, respectively. Still, he was able to channel his grief into music and remedy his trauma through the emotional “Two of Us.” 

I absolutely adore Louis. He’s a ray of sunshine and has such a strong spirit. Yet I have to admit that I haven’t been able to keep up with him as much as the others because of his inconsistency. He remains the least-streamed member of the group on Spotify but still has a group of dedicated admirers that support him through everything.

Favourite songs: Defenceless, Too Young, Habit

3. NIALL HORAN: Flicker (2017)

I have two words when it comes to Niall Horan: criminally underrated. I think it might have something to do with the fact that he doesn’t necessarily have the same heart-throb status as Harry and Zayn (even though he’s beautiful), but I think people fail to notice Niall’s intrinsic aptitude for music. I find his lyrics and rhythm exceptionally breathtaking, and dare I say it, I think he has the catchiest songs of the bunch. Despite his slight inclination towards country-esque tunes (which I’m not particularly invigorated by), he makes solid bops, so I can’t complain. 

His vocals on this project really allow his talent to shine through, bidding farewell to the days of him being known as one of the weaker singers in One Direction. Don’t worry, Niall, they won’t be shutting off your mic anymore.

If I had to offer one piece of criticism, I would’ve loved to see Niall test his artistic boundaries in order to really differentiate himself after his departure hiatus from the group. Unfortunately, my attachment isn’t as strong to his songs as it is to the lads below, so I had to put him smack dab in the middle. I definitely believe he shows a lot of promise, though; his newest album Heartbreak Weather (2020), is an evident step up from Flicker. All in all, Niall makes perfect radio melodies for summer drives, and I’ll blast the speakers every time without fail.

Favourite songs: This Town, Mirrors, On the Loose


Picking the second-place spot was particularly difficult, but I had to breach objectivity and position my Pakistani king here. Following Zayn’s premature egress from One Direction, he released this stylistically divergent compilation, branching out from the band’s music which he admitted to not being the biggest fan of. Clearly, he’d been yearning for a different sound, which we finally got to see with these rousing R&B tracks. 

Alongside his unbelievable vocals, his lyricism and play on words are equally as impressive. One of my favourite lyrics is from “BRIGHT”: Though she is the kryptonite / She stays in my crib tonight” where he illustrates himself to be quite the wordsmith. He continued to incorporate additional features and themes with Kehlani on “wRoNg” and a cultural touch on “Intermission: fLoWer,” composed of Urdu lyrics, an homage to his native tongue. 

Although we were blessed to hear more of his range on this project, followers were dispirited by the news that a tour was off the table due to Zayn’s long history of anxiety until 2019, when he announced he was ready to get back on stage. Nonetheless, his devotees remain unwavering in their support and he secures the spot as the second most streamed member of the band on Spotify, falling right behind Harry. 

Favourite songs: BeFoUr, LIKE I WOULD, rEaR vIeW

1. Harry Styles: Harry Styles (2017)

While the remainder of this rundown was laborious to confirm, Styles was the obvious first choice. Perhaps I got a little swayed by my deep-rooted love for him, but I also believe that his album is impartially the best collection of debut work any of the boys have come out with. Predominantly written and recorded in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Harry Styles is a versatile hybrid album that integrates sounds from pop and rock genres, capable of evoking sentiments of happiness, sadness and everything in between. 

Every single day I regret not purchasing tickets to his first tour because if there’s anything Harry has (other than good looks, perfect curls and intoxicating charisma…) it’s stage presence. He has shared that performing has always been his favourite component of working in music, and it definitely translates on stage. He creates this wonderful, exhilarating atmosphere for his fans, and I was fortunate enough to get last-minute pit tickets to Harry’s House in 2022. The energy he generates is contagious. His performances are elevated by his outstanding vocals—one of the best in the group, in my opinion—and this fusion project does a fantastic job of showing off his talent. Overall, it’s a wonderful debut, and Harry deserves every ounce of success that comes his way.

Favourite songs: I could honestly just put his entire album because they’re all bangers, but if I truly had to choose: From the Dining Table, Ever Since New York and Carolina


Prior to sitting down and navigating through the ranks, I didn’t know how I would go about deciding my arrangement. I’ve been an ardent One Direction fan for nearly a decade, having gone through phases where I branded myself as Mrs. Styles, Mrs. Malik or Mrs. Horan, depending on who I was currently infatuated with (embarrassing, I know). I wasn’t sure what it would say about my loyalty as a supporter by ranking their solo projects, but I’ve come to realize that speaking on your opinions doesn’t make you any less of a fan if done so respectfully.

I’m proud of each of the boys’ success, regardless of numbers or accolades. I adore watching them evolve as both artists and individuals, and I am extremely excited to see what they have in store for the future. 

In a perfect world, however, I wouldn’t have to rank the boys individually, and they’d be working in harmony to create their newest One Direction album. The hopeful and naive fan in me will never stop waiting for their “18-month hiatus” to end.

Aishah Ashraf is a fourth-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University whose hopes to pursue a career as a talk-show host are fuelled by her passion to remedy the absence of female Muslim representation in the entertainment industry. When she isn’t writing, you can find her rambling on about pop culture, watching football, or binge-watching shows on Netflix like the television fanatic she is.