Zayn Malik‘s career is going in a different direction. On Wednesday, March 25, less than a week after news broke that he was leaving One Direction’s On the Road Again world tour, the band released a statement saying he had decided to quit the group altogether.
“After five incredible years Zayn Malik has decided to leave One Direction,” a message on 1D’s Facebook page read. “Niall [Horan], Harry [Styles], Liam [Payne], and Louis [Tomlinson] 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.”
Malik himself explained his decision in an accompanying statement. “My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined,” he shared with fans. “But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologize to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. 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 went on to acknowledge his bandmates, whom he met on The X Factor in 2010. “I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry, and Niall,” he said. “I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”
Tomlinson, Payne, Styles, and Horan responded in kind, writing on Facebook, “We’re really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future. The past five years have been beyond amazing, we’ve gone through so much together, so we will always be friends. The four of us will now continue. We’re looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour.”
One Direction has become one of the biggest bands in the world since finishing third on The X Factor. They rose to fame with songs including “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Little Things,” and “Story of My Life,” and also starred in a 2013 3-D concert movie, One Direction: This Is Us, which was produced by their mentor, Simon Cowell.
Cowell weighed in with his thoughts about Malik’s departure on Wednesday, too. “I would like to say thank you to Zayn for everything he has done for One Direction,” the former American Idol judge said in a statement. “Since I first met Zayn in 2010, I have grown very, very fond — and immensely proud — of him. I have seen him grow in confidence and I am truly sorry to see him leave. As for One Direction, fans can rest assured that Niall, Liam, Harry, and Louis are hugely excited about the future of the band.”
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