Are One Direction going in different directions?

Liam’s having trouble smiling, Zayn’s having trouble turning up and Harry is said to be flying solo? What is happening to our heroes?

“I will never understand, and you will never understand, what this does to somebody,” tweeted One Direction’s Liam Payne over a picture of a sea of fans outside his hotel back in April. “Why?” he wondered reverentially. “No one could deserve this.”

Fast forward to a Sydney awards ceremony last week, and we see a young man moving along a line of fans, smiling for each selfie. There is barely one step between cameraphones, but during that moment the smile falls off Liam’s face like a landslide, before being restored so robotically fast that it appears more horrible with each reappearance. Hats off to whoever shot the clip, which is as hypnotic as it is hilarious, and easily surpasses the Story of My Life video as the benchmark of 1D synthetic emotion.

Quite what has happened to Liam in the seven months between the tweet and the Vine – God, that really is a May to December for our digital times, isn’t it? – must be set against a sense of gathering clouds around Earth’s most powerful pop quintet. Whispers of bitter factionalism abound – Harry has a separate private plane from the others, some say, while others report that each band member insists on a separate car even for 15-minute journeys. Simon Cowell, the Karaoke Sauron who forged them, hints at the struggle to control his creation – they have become sentient, he knows, and may sunder within a couple of albums. Elsewhere, a US breakfast TV host blithely asks the other four on air whether Zayn’s absence that morning his anything to do with drugs, while perplexing new tattoos are inked in to our heroes’ skin, seemingly each day. What does it all mean? Are they clues – epidermal riddles whose secret intricacies could offer clues to the single most unavoidable question facing early-21st-century humanity: WHAT’S UP WITH ONE DIRECTION?

Only time will show – and show it soon, so it is warranted – but what we can say, without any doubt, is that the One Direction story has officially entered Act Two.

Powered by article was written by Marina Hyde, for The Guardian on Thursday 4th December 2014 17.53 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010