Teenage fans around the world are mourning the end of an era with the announcement that Zayn Malik has decided to leave British boy band One Direction.
“After five incredible years Zayn Malik has decided to leave One Direction,” the group announced via Facebook post. “Niall, Harry, Liam and Louis 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.”
News of Malik’s departure spread quickly across the Internet, with fans tweeting their sorrow accompanied by hashtags #zayngate and #byezayn.
One Direction has amassed a massive global following since forming under Simon Cowell on “The X Factor” in 2010. Four albums and two concert films later, the quintet loses its star tenor.
“My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined,” Malik said in the Facebook post. “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. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”
Malik departed the Asian leg of the band’s tour last week after photos surfaced of the singer with his arm around a woman who was not his fiancee, Perrie Edwards.
Cowell, spiritual godfather to 1D, added this to the Facebook announcement: “I would like to say thank you to Zayn for everything he has done for One Direction. 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.”