The question “Where were you when Zayn Malik left One Direction?” will soon start being thrown around in conversation after one of Britain’s famous five (or should we say four?) left the group last week. I was in the pub with one of my friends, and after finding out the news on Twitter, I made a rather exasperated cry and brought it up another three times over the course of the evening. Other reactions ranged from indifference to despair, but I don’t think that Zayn’s departure is a milestone in music that can be easily passed over.
When Robbie Williams left Take That in 1995, exactly 20 years ago, there was a similar outcry. Fans were distraught and phoning into radio stations to express their disgust. The only difference now is the rise of social media, the instrument used by the fans to vent their anger. Had Take That been popular during this era of Twitter, I doubt there would have been much of a difference in reactions. We are feeling the same emotions as the older generations, and One Direction will not be the last ones to provoke them, thus to all those dismissing the reaction as teenage hysteria; you were there once. Nevertheless, they are an emblem of music in the social networking era. Their beginning was on a highly popular television show, every member each has their own Twitter account, and various fan pages litter social media outlets.
For One Direction fans, it isn’t just about the music and the songs, it’s the fact that they feel that they have a greater interaction with the band through online. Gigs no longer become just a way to see the band, but also to meet friends. The dedication is admirable, and these young fans are the driving force of the band and the constant support system. As a disclaimer, I haven’t been a One Direction fan for as long as some. It started off as mild indifference, then liking a few singles, and now suddenly I’m going to see them in June. Despite this, in a way we can all sympathise with the Directioners, since I know many people who are committed to going to see specific bands, making friends through them and sharing memories. Some of my best friends I’ve met through my Vaccines fangirl days of 2011, some of whom travel even across country borders to see them. Because of this, losing Zayn might feel like losing a member of a close friendship group, therefore the outcry is nothing to be scoffed at or dismissed. It’s easy to dismiss Directioners as a bunch of gaggling teenaged girls, but in my experience, nothing limits teenage girls from being enthusiastic and dedicated consumers of music. There’s a real sense of belonging and camaraderie between the younger fans of One Direction, and to have one of their figureheads leave is incredibly likely to leave a great impression on them. As for myself, I’m sad, as I’ll be seeing only the four of them in June, but not too sad, because I’m a Harry girl.
While I don’t doubt that Zayn will still be in the public spotlight at times (there are rumours of a solo career), it’ll be strange not seeing his face on posters, in the videos, on merchandise. The main argument is that he left due to stress, and wishing to be “a normal 22 year old”. It’s difficult to be one fifth of the world’s biggest boyband, but I can’t imagine that this was an easy decision to make. As for what will yet happen to the rest of One Direction, whose tour is still underway, I’m just hoping they can hold out as a four piece, with the fans sticking with them through thick and thin. I’ve heard Jeremy Clarkson being touted as a replacement after his recent ejection from the BBC, though I don’t think he could quite hit the high notes. Regardless of what happens, to paraphrase a recent popular hashtag, Zayn Malik will always be in our hearts.