Last month, Liam claimed that Simon Cowell built One Direction around him as the group leader — to a very mixed reaction from 1D fans, including Lizzo.
It was the claim heard and debated and disputed around One Direction fandom until “The X Factor” set the record straight with unreleased footage for the boy band’s 12th anniversary.
Everyone knows that the five members of the juggernaut group were put together on the 2010 edition of “The X Factor” in the UK, going on to a third place finish before getting signed by Simon Cowell and becoming the biggest thing in the world.
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What they didn’t know was exactly what went down in that deliberation room when the judges were deciding what to do with all the contestants they had and deciding which of them should move forward and which of them to cut.
This was the first season that they’d made the surprise decision to combine solo contestants into a group right there on the show. The franchise would find similar success with girl groups Little Mix and in the US, Fifth Harmony.
On a podcast appearance with Logan Paul last month, Liam Payne made the lofty claim that One Direction was actually formed around him as part of a promise Simon had made him two years prior.
When he was 14, Liam auditioned for the show’s fifth season, but was told by SImon that he didn’t feel the young singer was ready yet. Two years later, he came back and tried again and found himself inserted into this boy group.
Liam said that he’d promised to “make this work for you,” referring to the show. Immediately, though, 1D fans were skeptical of the claim, at best. Some were downright hostile.
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Even Lizzo, who is an admitted fan of the group, wasn’t buying it. In a TikTok response, she said, “I don’t know who lied to that poor boy, but he was not the frontman.”
In Liam’s defense, he didn’t quite claim that, just that the group was formed around him. So is that true? Well, the video appears to tell the taie. Released for the group’s anniversary, it’s not clear if it was dropped to put truth and context to Liam’s claims.
In the clip, it actually looks like it was guest mentor Nicole Scherzinger who started the ball rolling with this idea of combining some of the male contestants into a group. And she didn’t start with Liam. Instead, it was Niall Horan’s picture she separated from the others.
Louis Walsh then noted they also liked Harry Styles, with Nicole suggesting he be put with Niall. From there, Louis Tomlinson was added and Nicole declared them “the cutest boy band ever.” In other words, it certainly looks like Nicole was the one pushing the idea of the show creating a boy group.
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Simon, however, did appear to have Liam’s back, actually suggesting that Liam carry forward as a soloist. But again Nicole interjected, saying that if he’s “the standout,” as Simon put it, then maybe “he could be the leader.”
Simon countered that LIam “thinks he’s better than anyone else in that list,” to which Louis agreed, but didn’t see that as a problem. And so, 1D existed as a foursome for a few moments until Louis also tossed Zayn Malik into the mix, which everyone liked.
The rest, as screaming fans around the world would say (loudly), is history. Simon got his wish and mentored the Groups through that season on the show, and subsequently signed One Direction to the contract that would change all of their lives.
So there is truth in Liam’s words, as Simon was definitely advocating for him. He even wanted to put him through as a solo artist. But it doesn’t appear to be wholly accurate that One Direction was built around him or for him.
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Instead, it looks as if Nicole came up with the notion of building 1D around Niall and Harry. Liam was the fourth name added to the group, though everyone did see leadership potential in him. It may be that they even intended for him to be the rock of the group, but group dynamics took over and, as Lizzo noted, he did not wind up the frontman (if there was one at all).
Remarkable for any boy or girl group, every member of One Direction has gone on to solo success, suggesting again that there may not have been a singular leader for the group a la Nicole herself with Pussycat Dolls, Beyoncé with Destiny’s Child or Justin Timberlake with *NSYNC.
If you’ve got an hour or so to kill, you can check out Liam’s entire podcast appearance below: