In the new documentary, This Is Us, One Direction takes us behind the scenes on their recent world tour and opens up about who they are as a band. However, This Is Us isn’t the first time the boys have had the cameras following them.
Most everyone knows that One Direction started out on the UK version of X Factor, but unless they watched that reality show as obsessively as we (and most Directioners) do, they might not have picked up on some really weird and fascinating parts of the boy band’s origin story.
Did you know that a sea urchin almost destroyed the group? Or that One Direction was this close to having a Welsh member? Or that One Direction might never had existed if not for the benevolence of Katy Perry?
1) Katy Perry Might Have Given Us One Direction
The key to any insanely successful boy band doesn’t come down to looks or singing ability, but pure chemistry. Every member plays a key role and the effervescent Niall Horan may never have even gotten passed in his first round audition if Katy Perry hadn’t indulged a generous whim.
An adorably cocky 16-year-old Niall did okay on his audition, but it was clear that the judges all thought he was too inexperienced and undertrained. Cheryl Cole and Katy Perry were particularly harsh when it came to his lack of experience. Louis Walsh, who has a penchant for choosing charming people, fought for Niall and Simon Cowell relented. Cheryl Cole gave him a “no.”
It came down to whether or not Katy Perry would change her mind about the kid. Though Katy was reticent, she acquiesced and let Niall through to bootcamp because he had “a seed” of talent.
Speaking of the importance of chemistry, one of the members of One Direction almost became a successful solo singer on X Factor…twice. Oh, and it wasn’t Harry Styles…
2) Liam Was Supposed To Have Gone Solo…Twice
Sure, Harry Styles is the one in the band who gets all the headlines and Zayn Malik is the one whom pop music critics like to think will have the biggest solo career, but Liam Payne was the one who was supposed to have been the big solo star.
Not once, but twice, Liam was groomed on X Factor UK for a possible “British Bieber who sounds like a baby Bublé” arc.
In 2008, he auditioned for the first time by singing Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” and he made it to Bootcamp. Then Simon Cowell brought him to Judges’ Houses to audition for a final time before the live shows. Ultimately, Simon thought the 14-year-old crooner was still a bit too immature for the spotlight–but he openly admitted to the show’s host that Liam came this close to making the cut. Simon advised Liam to take two years, get his GSCE (Britain’s version of a GED or basic high school diploma), and come back.
Liam did just that and produced what was thought to be one of the best auditions that year:
There’s always a sense on X Factor that they aren’t just auditioning guys as solo acts, but as potential members of a boy band, and you can’t help but think that from the earliest auditions that guys like Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan were marked as “boy band material.” Throughout bootcamp, a kid from Wales who was clearly tagged early on as “boy band material” kept hustling and was performing neck-and-neck with Liam. Ultimately, the judges decided to put the other kid through as a solo act, and cut Liam (to eventually bring him back in One Direction).
So basically, Liam wasn’t supposed to be in One Direction. He was supposed to compete as a soloist, but this other kid, who was meant to be in a boy band, outshone him.
So who was the lost member of One Direction?
3) Meet Tom Richards: The Lost Member of One Direction
Now, clearly there will be people who will say, “You can’t know he was supposed to be in One Direction,” but based on the judges’ comments and the producers’ edits, he totally effing was!
Throughout each of his auditions, Tom Richards was both praised and criticized for being too much like a “boy band” singer. Which pretty much means they kept him in the competition because they hoped to maybe put him in a boy band.
Except… once he got to the final round of bootcamp, he wowed and impressed the judges enough that he won the final Boys spot to Judges’ Houses. The final spot that would have gone to Liam…or Harry…or Zayn…or Niall…(or possibly Louis but based on the camera edit nope.)
Which means that if Tom Richards has half a brain and realizes he was set up as Liam’s competition for solo spot vs. boy band spot, he’s probably kicking himself today. If only he hadn’t worked hard to overcome Simon’s prejudice that he belonged in a boy band, he could have been in the biggest boy band in the world!
Of course, Tom probably wouldn’t have fit in because as Simon constantly pointed out, he had the poise and moves of slick boy band member from a decade ago, and what makes One Direction so modern is that its a boy band without overwhelming poise or choreographed dance moves…
4) Dancing Almost Derailed Them
Well, dancing almost derailed Zayn.
Honestly, one of the weirdest things about One Direction is that they don’t dance. They just skip and run and bounce. Sometimes with the beat!
That being said there’s a reason they don’t really dance and that’s because they can’t really dance. Which hasn’t seemed to hinder them, except Zayn almost quit X Factor over it.
For some reason, the producers that year decided that all of the contestants at bootcamp had to dance a choreographed routine in front of the judges. Zayn, being a 16-year-old boy who was embarrassed about his lack of dancing skills, threw in the towel.
In a rare moment of humanity (or in a desperate attempt to keep his vision for a perfect boy band alive), infamously curmudgeonly Simon Cowell slipped backstage to bolster Zayn’s spirits in what I now refer to as Simon’s “Boy, why are you crying?” moment.
Zayn went on stage, and like Niall, did a piss poor job of moving in time with music, but he did it. So, he couldn’t be disqualified. Oh, and it’s not like they were even cut after dancing, either. It was just something the producers did that year to make the teenaged boys and old women with arthritis feel uncomfortable.
But anyway, Zayn almost flat out quit X Factor because he couldn’t dance. Which would have meant he would have never been in the group.
5) A Sea Urchin Almost Destroyed Them
So, after the group was formed, they had to go to Simon Cowell’s “Judge’s House” and compete against seven other acts for one of three slots in the live shows. Is that confusing? We didn’t write the rules of X Factor. We only obsessively watch clips of it on YouTube.
Unlike most of the other groups, the boys had never performed together so rehearsal time was crucial. Unfortunately, they didn’t get much time to rehearse because Louis got stung by a sea urchin and had to go to an emergency room in Barbados.
That’s right. A sea urchin almost destroyed One Direction. Could you imagine if Louis was held up at the emergency room or flubbed his harmonies because of the pain? They wouldn’t have been passed to live shows! There would be no One Direction!
Well, there is One Direction and they are a global phenomenon and have been a major part of many girls’ hormonal transitions to womanhood.
And for fun, lets compare who the boys were then with who they are now.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images and ITV]