7 questions you were too embarrassed to ask about Zayn Malik leaving One Direction

Published 8:06 am Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chances are, if you’re not having a candlelit vigil after the news that Zayn Malik has officially quit One Direction, you may be wondering how to process this information.

Allow us to help.

1. Seriously, who is Zayn Malik?

Malik, 22, is one of the five singers in One Direction, the hugely successful boy band that started back in 2010 when the guys auditioned separately for the U.K. version of “The X Factor.” The judges mashed them up into one supergroup. They had no idea the phenomenon they were about to unleash on the world, nor the glory that would be the band’s first big hit, “What Makes You Beautiful.” Malik, as The Washington Post has previously reported, is the “bad boy” of the group.

2. Why are there all these tweets about teen girls crying?

This is an understatement, but to put it gently, One Direction’s fanbase is … intense. They can start a worldwide trending topic with just a click of a button. To understand the extreme power of the “Directioners” around the world, just look at the epic Twitter war they started against Justin Bieber’s fans (“Beliebers”) over the MTV EMA Awards last fall.

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3. So for all this devastation, he must have been the Justin Timberlake of the group, right?

Actually, no! Harry Styles, the one with the great hair who dates pop stars, is the one with all the Timberlake buzz. While Malik has impressive musical chops (“Keep an eye on that guy,” The Post’s pop critic Chris Richards wrote in a review of the band’s show last summer, calling Malik’s voice “the smoothest and strongest of the bunch”), he’s definitively No. 2. To put it in terms you may understand, Zayn leaving is like:

If J.C. Chasez left NSYNC.

If AJ McLean left Backstreet Boys.

If Jeff Timmons left 98 degreees.

If Jordan Knight left New Kids on the Block.

If Posh left the Spice Girls.


4. Is this actually a big deal?

Logistically speaking? Perhaps; he can really sing, after all. The official Facebook statement on Malik’s departure emphasized no fewer than four times, though, that the remaining members will persevere. “Niall, Harry, Liam and Louis will continue as a four-piece and look forward to the forthcoming concerts of their world tour and recording their fifth album, due to be released later this year,” it read.

5. Did anyone see this coming?

Sadly, yes. The news recently broke, after the release of photos showing him holding hands with a girl who was not his fiancee, that Malik would take a break from the band’s current world tour due to “stress.” Like “exhaustion,” “stress” can be a euphemism for all number of celebrity ailments, but even taken at face value, it’s always a sign that things aren’t good.

6. How will boy-band history regard this?

An important question. Most likely, historians will look back and think it’s a miracle the group stuck together as long as they did — longevity is a rarity for boy bands, as the members are often eager to break out of the bubble and attempt solo careers. But One Direction defied the odds: Last year, they became the first band in history to debut with three No. 1 albums in a row.

7. What does this mean for the poor Directioners?

Well, they appear devastated. But there are still four other members, so something tells us they’ll pull through.

Caitlin Moore contributed to this report.