Just two years after Simon Cowell plucked five young solo performers from the U.K.’s “X Factor” and grouped them together to form One Direction, the quintet has almost single-handedly revived the boy band phenomenon, set several sales records and has left countless teenage girls swooning across the globe.
Cowell wasted no time signing the boys to his Syco Music label and getting them a Stateside deal with Columbia Records — a smart move given that One Direction’s album, “Up All Night,” became the first debut from a U.K. band to top the U.S. Billboard chart. The album’s lead single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” scored the highest Billboard singles debut for a U.K. act since 1998 when it charted at No. 28. It has since sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, putting it among the best-selling singles of all time, while the album went on to reach No. 1 in 17 countries.
“We never expected any of this at all,” Liam Payne told British entertainment magazine Heat in July. “We thought that we would do a little bit in the U.K. after the end of the show. Now it has gone all over the world and more things have happened to us than we would ever have imagined.”
The band — Payne, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson (ages 18-20) — will play a handful of high-profile gigs leading up to their 2013 arena tour, including a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden in December. Teaming up once again with a team of hitmaking Swedish songwriters, the band will release the first single from the forthcoming album Oct. 1, and it’s a safe bet 1D-mania won’t subside anytime soon.
Impact: Credited with reviving the boy band phenomenon, the British quintet set numerous sales records this year.
Next: A partially sold-out spring 2013 world arena tour and the November release of an eagerly anticipated sophomore album.
Causes: Greenpeace campaign to protect the Arctic from oil drilling; Help for Heroes; children’s charities including Rays of Sunshine and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.