By Josh Schonfeld
It was a dark day when One Direction decided to break up, but now that all five former members of One Direction have each put out at least one single, I felt it appropriate to pit them against each other and rank them in a subjective list with the only criteria being “do I like it?” These opinions do not diminish the immense talent of each artist and is only to provide recommendations on how to navigate this post-1D world we are now forced to live in.
9. “Still Got Time” – ZAYN & PARTYNEXTDOOR
I hate to do this, because I love Zayn. I really do, as evidenced by the rest of these rankings, but “Still Got Time” is an embodiment of that Tyra Banks gif where she’s yelling, “I was rooting for you, we were ALL rooting for you! How DARE you!” I already spoke about it in a previous post, but “Still Got Time” is Zayn’s attempt at putting as little effort as possible, which is such a disappointment. Not only does he never get out of a two-note range, but he sounds exactly like his featured guest, PARTYNEXTDOOR, that you don’t even know who is singing when. It’s grown on me to the point where I won’t angrily lunge for the skip button when it comes on, but I refuse to voluntarily put this on any playlist I make this summer on principle alone.
8. “Sign of the Times” – Harry Styles
Ok, I get it. Harry Styles is an artist and doesn’t care about success, he just wants to make beautiful music. That’s fine, but don’t service the song to pop radio and do the pop music promo tour and expect me not to loathe it for being self-indulgent drivel. This morose dirge is basically the opposite of Zayn’s no-effort “Still Got Time,” as you can tell Harry put a lot of effort into making it. Unfortunately, it’s all too much yet not enough at the same time, which I didn’t even know was possible. The only reason it’s ahead of “Still Got Time” is because I catch myself singing the chorus, “Just stop your cryin’, it’s a sign of the times” on occasion, which is more than I can say about the former track. Also, pop songs over 5 minutes in length should be illegal. If I’m checking the time to see how much longer the song goes on, then it’s probably not the best.
7. “This Town” – Niall Horan
This song is a cute little diddy and nothing more. I appreciate the understated quality of the song, but it really just feels like an Ed Sheeran reject. It is very much in the vein of “Little Things” by One Direction, which is one of my least favorite singles by the boy band, so that isn’t helping matters. Overall, it’ a cute song that leaves me intrigued with what Niall can do, but does not have replay value.
6. “Just Hold On” – Steve Aoki & Louis Tomlinson
This isn’t really fair since it’s technically not Louis Tomlinson’s song, but it’s the only song he’s put out since One Direction broke up and it definitely showcases his underrated vocals, so it’s included. Why did we not hear more Louis on those One Direction tracks? The expert way he is able to yell with complete control on the lines, “The sun goes down and it comes back up” and “What do want them to say when you’re gone?” make me wish we got more than just one-liners from him. What holds the song back is Steve Aoki’s production, which is fairly generic and doesn’t seem to fit the feel of the lyrics. I would have loved a more rock production to fit with the killer vocals by Louis.
5. “Like I Would” – ZAYN
I always knew Zayn could make a killer club banger. “Like I Would” is a brooding and mysterious dance track that showcases all of Zayn’s best qualities. There’s his expert way of crafting a melody, his falsetto, and his troubled bad boy persona that makes this track work. This is a real turning point in the rankings as this song is really good, yet only made #5, so you know the ones above it must be something special.
4. “Slow Hands” – Niall Horan
Niall took the criticism from “This Town” and pulled a complete 180 with one of the sexiest jams of the year. The pseudo-country feel on “Slow Hands” is the perfect way to mask Niall’s fragile vocals and also works to make a more universal sound. The song suffers in the beginning with the incredibly annoying skipping in the production as well as the line, “like sweat drippin’ down my dirty laundry.” What does that even mean? Is your laundry literally that sweaty that it’s still dripping wet while on the floor? If you’re sweat that much during intercourse, you should probably go see a doctor.
3. “Pillowtalk” – ZAYN
The first of the post-1D singles, “Pillowtalk” was the perfect transition from boy band to bonafide solo artist for Zayn and broke the barrier for the other members to do what they wanted later on. It shows off his wide range (almost too much since he’s never been able to perform it live) and proves he is capable of holding his own. “Pillowtalk” is one of those car ride songs that everyone belts at the top of their lungs as you’re zooming down the highway. The use of expletives was also a daring choice that could have gone horribly wrong, yet works perfectly to create excellent alliteration in the chorus.
2. “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” – ZAYN & Taylor Swift
It’s this song that really make “Still Got Time” look like a stinking pile of garbage because of how perfect it is. While Taylor Swift is good in any feature she graces her presence on, Zayn is no slouch either. His falsetto is on full display as he moans over unrequited love, which works with his sensitive persona. I absolutely loathe the entire Fifty Shades of Grey series, but this track is so undeniable that I don’t even care that it’s attached to that filth. I actually spent an entire hour listening to this song on repeat while lying on a bath in the middle of the day last winter. No regrets.
1. “Strip That Down (feat. Quavo)” – Liam Payne
Looks like they saved the best for last. “Strip That Down” is the most recent of the post-1D singles, but it’s also the best offering by the former members. It’s got everything you could ever want in a pop song: fun sing-along lyrics, clear vocals, a hot feature, and a creepy man with a creepy deep voice telling women to “strip that down, girl. Love when you hit the ground.” What more could you ask for! Even the cringeworthy line, “You know I used to be in 1D (Now I’m out free)” is still so bad, it’s good. “Strip That Down” sounds like early-Justin Timberlake, which is very promising for Liam Payne, as we all know what happened to JT after *NSYNC broke up.