The group enjoyed global success and racked up millions of dedicated fans across the world, but things took a turn in March 2015 when Zayn sensationally quit the group.
“I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight,” he said in his statement at the time. “I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”
Despite calling his former bandmates “friends for life,” the tension between Zayn and the rest of the group quickly became obvious, and it spilled onto Twitter just three months later when Louis and Zayn got embroiled in a social media fight.
It all began when music producer Naughty Boy shared a photo of himself and Zayn with a cartoon filter on it. Louis tweeted in response: “Remember when you were 12 and you used to think those Mac filters for your pictures were cool haha ! Some people still do HA!”
Naughty Boy replied at the time: “@Louis_Tomlinson and some people can't even sing...but who's complaining when there's auto tune eh,” to which Louis said: “@NaughtyBoyMusic Jesus forgot you were such an in demand producer . . . How does it feel to be riding on the back of someone else's career?”
It was at this point that Zayn waded in, tweeting his ex-bandmate: “@Louis_Tomlinson remember when you had a life and stopped making bitchy comments about mine?"
Then, in November 2015, Zayn came under fire when he called One Direction’s music “generic as fuck” and admitted that he “never really wanted to be there in the band.”
But the following year, he began to extend olive branches to Louis. When Louis posted the first Instagram photo with his son, Freddie, in January 2016, Zayn was caught liking the post.
He later explained: “Obviously, I wish him the best of luck. His kid is cute as fuck so obviously I favorited it... We're not talking on friend terms obviously, so that's as far as I can go, by favoriting his picture.”
Louis then suffered tragedy in December that same year, when his mom, Johannah Deakin, died shortly after being diagnosed with leukemia. Zayn tweeted his condolences at the time, writing: “Love you bro! All of your family is in my prayers. proud of your strength and know your mum is too.”
But in March 2019, Louis admitted that Zayn had “really bugged” him in the days after his mom’s death as he told the Sun: “I had a couple of calls with him after I lost my mum, and all the boys had agreed to come to my performance on the X Factor finale and he didn’t show, so that really bugged me.”
Later that year, he suggested that he couldn’t ever forgive Zayn for his past actions as he told Metro: “I just don’t think I am mature enough, even in my own head, to give that a real answer. At the moment, I am still pretty mad about the whole thing. I don’t think he [Zayn] handled it very well. But never say never.”
And it seems as though Louis was right to not entirely rule out reconnecting with Zayn in the future as Liam’s recent appearance on Logan Paul’s Impaulsive podcast appears to have triggered a show of solidarity.
In case you missed it, Liam came under scrutiny at the end of last month when he made a series of controversial comments while on Logan’s show.
He shared a story about an unnamed bandmate throwing him up against a wall and claimed that he warned them: “If you don’t remove those hands, there’s a high likelihood you’ll never use them again.”
Liam also called Louis “rowdy,” adding: “In the band, we hated each other. Like, come to blows hate each other, it was close.”
He later insisted that Louis is his “best mate now,” but Zayn was not given the same redemption, with Liam stating that he dislikes Zayn for “many reasons,” before seemingly taking aim at the singer’s family.
“There are many reasons I dislike Zayn and there are many reasons why I’ll always be on his side,” he said. “If I had had to go through what he went through, through his growth and whatever else. My parents are overly supportive, to the point where it’s annoying at times, and Zayn had a different upbringing in that sense.”
“You can always look at the man for where he is and say, ‘That guy’s a dick’, but at the end of the day what you understand what he’s had to get through to get to that point and whether or not he wanted to be there, I can’t dick on him,” Liam continued. “I don’t agree with his actions, I can’t be on his side. I understand and hope that one day the other person on the end of the phone wants to receive the help.”
Liam also seemingly referenced Zayn being charged with harassing his ex-girlfriend Gigi Hadid’s mom, Yolanda Hadid, as he recalled Gigi branding Zayn “respectful.” “That one didn’t age very well,” he quipped to the shock of the rest of the podcast guests.
Finally, Liam came under fire from listeners when he claimed that One Direction was formed around him being the lead singer, and he insisted that he’d enjoyed the most success as a solo artist than any other member of the group.
Discussing his debut single “Strip That Down,” Liam bragged: “I think it outsold everybody within the band, and I was the last to go [solo]. And I never expected that.”
It was later pointed out that Harry’s Grammy-winning “Watermelon Sugar” is the most-streamed solo single from a member of One Direction, followed by two more from him, and three of Zayn’s tracks. “Strip That Down” actually places seventh, and Liam’s 2019 solo album, LP1, also didn’t enjoy the same amount of success as his former bandmates’ debuts, peaking at No. 111 on the Billboard 200.
Despite Liam’s comments, none of One Direction publicly reacted to what he said on the podcast. But on Saturday, Zayn seemingly responded in the most subtle way possible as he posted an eight-second video to his Instagram page.
In the black-and-white clip, Zayn is standing in front of his many awards as he sings what used to be his high note in One Direction’s hit single “You And I.”
Zayn very rarely acknowledges his time in the band, and Liam famously took over singing that line on tour after Zayn quit. As a result, fans immediately saw Zayn’s post as his way of putting Liam in his place after the podcast.
“Zayn really posted a 10 second clip of him singing the ‘You And I’ high note for first time in SEVEN YEARS just to prove that One Direction was NEVER built around Liam Payne. This is truly the pettiest thing i’ve ever seen and I love it,” one person tweeted.
“Ultimately Zayn Malik could sing Liam Payne’s number 3 chart hit ‘Strip That Down’ but Liam Payne could NEVER hit Zayn Malik’s high note in ‘You and I,’ and that was made very clear today,” another wrote. Someone else said: “Zayn singing the ‘You And I’ high note after Liam trashed him and said he was supposed to be the front man of 1D is such a beautiful thing.”
One more pointed out that at 14.6 million views, Zayn’s secondslong Instagram post had already been streamed more times than Liam’s most recent single, “Sunshine,” which was released last year and has been listened to 13.8 million times on Spotify.
As if Zayn actually acknowledging his time in One Direction wasn’t enough excitement, it was quickly noted that none other than Louis had liked his post.
Fans saw the like as Louis’s way of showing that he was on Team Zayn over Team Liam, and that it suggested that he was willing to bury the hatchet after more than seven years.
"OK BUT THE SHADE.THE TEA. LOUIS LIKING ZAYN’S VIDEO AFTER LIAM HAD THE AUDACITY TO SAY THAT LOUIS IS HIS BEST MATE NOW I’M 💀💀💀,” one tweet read.
Another claimed: “Zayn dmed him right after Louis liked his post and they talked shit about Liam don't ask how I know.”
“Louis liking Zayn’s post after everything that happened with Liam clearly means he’s taking Zayn’s side and therefore they are going to reconcile and be best friends again,” someone else theorized.
Liam has not reacted to Zayn and Louis’s recent Instagram activity, but previously defended the comments that he made about Zayn on the podcast via Twitter.
“They mentioned a specific incident involving Zayn which I responded to - but listening back maybe I didn’t articulate myself as well as I could have,” he wrote at the time. “I was saying that there will always be things we disagree on but that I will always, always be on his side. That’s family. Zayn is my brother and I will stand by him forever.”