Last month, Liam claimed that Simon Cowell built One Direction around him as group leader – to a very mixed reaction from 1D fans, including Lizzo.
It was the claim heard, debated and disputed in One Direction fandom until “The X Factor” set the record with unreleased footage celebrating the boy band’s 12th anniversary.
Everyone knows that the five members of the Juggernaut group were compiled in the UK 2010 edition of The X Factor, finishing third before being signed by Simon Cowell and becoming the world’s greatest.
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What they didn’t know exactly was what exactly was going on in that deliberation room as the judges decided what to do with all the candidates they had, deciding which of them should go ahead and which of them should be dropped.
This was the first season in which they made the surprising decision to group Solo contestants right on the show. The franchise had similar success with girl groups Little Mix and in the US with Fifth Harmony.
During a podcast appearance with Logan Paul last month, Liam Payne proudly claimed that One Direction was actually formed around him as part of a promise Simon had made to him two years earlier.
When he was 14, Liam auditioned for the show’s fifth season, but Simon told him he felt the young singer wasn’t ready. Two years later he came back and tried again and found himself in this boy band.
Liam said he promised to “make this work for you,” referring to the show. Immediately, however, 1D fans were skeptical at best about the claim. Some were downright hostile.
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Even Lizzo, who is a self-confessed fan of the group, didn’t believe it. In a TikTok reply, she said: “I don’t know who lied to that poor boy but he did Not the frontman.”
In Liam’s defence, he wasn’t entirely claiming that, just that the group had formed around him. So is that true? Well, the video seems to be telling the Taie. Released for the group’s anniversary, it’s not clear if it was dropped to give truth and context to Liam’s claims.
In the clip, it actually looks as if guest mentor Nicole Scherzinger got the ball rolling with this idea of grouping some of the male candidates together. And she didn’t start with Liam. Instead, it was Niall Horan’s image that separated her from the rest.
Louis Walsh then commented that they also liked Harry Styles, with Nicole suggesting they set him up 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 who pushed the idea of the show starting a boy band.
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However, Simon appeared to have behind Liam, which actually suggested that Liam should continue as a solo artist. But again, Nicole interjected, saying if he was “the standout,” as Simon put it, then “maybe he could be the leader.”
Simon countered that LIam “thinks he’s better than anyone on this list,” Louis agreed, but didn’t see that as a problem. And so 1D existed as a foursome for a few moments, until Louis also threw Zayn Malik into the mix, to everyone’s delight.
The rest, as screaming fans around the world would say (loudly), is history. Fulfilling his wish, Simon mentored the groups throughout the show’s season and then signed with One Direction in what would become a life-changing deal.
So there is truth in Liam’s words as Simon definitely stood up for him. He even wanted to push it through as a solo artist. But it doesn’t seem entirely true that One Direction was built around him or for him.
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Instead, it looks like Nicole came up with the idea of building 1D around Niall and Harry. Liam was the fourth name added to the group, although everyone saw him as a leader. It may be that they even intended him to be the rock of the group, but took over the group dynamic and, as Lizzo noted, he didn’t become the frontman (if there was one at all).
Notable for any boy or girl group, each member of One Direction has had solo success, again suggesting there may not have been a single leader for the group, a la Nicole herself with Pussycat Dolls, Beyoncé with Destiny’s Child, or Justin Timberlake with *NSYNCH.
If you have an hour or so to kill, you can check out Liam’s entire podcast appearance below: