That low-pitched keening noise you heard from the 11-year-olds in your neighborhood can mean only one thing: One Direction is going on hiatus, beginning in 2016.
As is tradition with boy bands, breakup rumors have long plagued the British group. The whispers have been relatively tame compared to other groups — their '90s precursors Take That had a whole mess of drug rumors and drama that kept tabloids going for years — but the constant speculation on 1D's demise is still a media blood sport.
The rumors only intensified when the brooding and beautiful Zayn Malik left in March, citing exhaustion and a desire to pursue solo projects. So when British tabloid the Sun reported on Sunday that 1D were about to "disband" for solo projects, and even when People set a March 2016 date for the hiatus, it wasn't quite cause for panic yet.
No — that privilege was saved for the next day, when the report was confirmed by none other than One Direction themselves.
What we know
On Monday, August 24, the members of One Direction (minus Harry Styles) took to Twitter and devastated their millions of ravenous fans by informing them the rumo(u)rs are true: They are, indeed, planning to take a break:
Ok so Lots of rumours going round. We are not splitting up, but we will be taking a well earned break at some point next year— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) August 24, 2015
Thank you so much for everything you have done for us it's been the most amazing five years and there's so much more to come— Liam (@Real_Liam_Payne) August 25, 2015
Your support is truly indescribable! It's just a break :) we're not going anywhere !!— Louis Tomlinson (@Louis_Tomlinson) August 24, 2015
Don't worry— Louis Tomlinson (@Louis_Tomlinson) August 24, 2015
Whom can we trust?!
Questions linger, of course. For one, what exactly constitutes "a break"? For another, how temporary is this temporary hiatus actually going to be? While all the tweets make a concerted effort to soften the language of a break with smiley faces and constant assurances that they are definitely not, never in a thousand years, breaking up, 1D's producer slash songwriter Julian Bunetta was a little less specific with Entertainment Weekly earlier this month:
"They’ve been doing something that no band has ever done — five albums, five tours, and a movie in five years. It’s pretty prolific and incredible. It’s up to them. They might take a year off and miss it. They might take a year off and say you know what, I need another year off."
As if to twist that knife, Bunetta told Billboard that One Direction recorded their upcoming fifth album "knowing it would be their last for a while."
When does burnout become a breakup?
There's no question that One Direction have produced an astonishing amount of music, not to mention toured pretty constantly, since they formed in 2010 on the UK's X Factor. The Verge's tally of One Direction's history counts five studio albums, 15 music videos, and a stunning 329 live shows. The group's members could probably use some time to sit down for some tea and a jammy dodger or five. The question is are they actually going to keep the band together? Or is this "break" a way to prime their passionate fans for the inevitable?
After all, One Direction are far from the first boy band to pull the "it's just a break" card.
NSYNC announced their "temporary hiatus" in 2002. They got back together for a reprise performance at the 2013 MTV Music Awards, but otherwise, they have firmly gone their separate ways.
It's hardly a coincidence that 2002 was also the year 21-year-old Justin Timberlake released his first (and best) solo album, Justified. A nervous but excited Timberlake told Barbara Walters that the group supported his solo efforts, that if definitely wasn't the end of NSYNC, and "even if he is a big success as a solo artist, he says he would like to do another album with the group."
Justin Timberlake lied.
98 Degrees (1995–2002, 2012–??)
2002 was a rough year for boy band fans, as earnest crooners 98 Degrees also announced they would be calling it quits but — wait for it — "the future is unclear." The next 10 years were a roller coaster for the good men of 98 Degrees. Nick Lachey's widely publicized romance and eventual marriage with Jessica Simpson went down in flames, and he consoled himself by marrying TRL host Vanessa Milano and taking over hosting duties on NBC's a cappella competition show The Sing-Off. His brother Drew won Dancing With the Stars. Jeff Timmons (apparently) released two solo albums. Justin Jeffre ran for mayor of Cincinnati.
To be fair, 98 Degrees did reunite; it just took 10 years. In 2012, they performed on the Today show. In 2013, they released a new album (2.0) and joined a tour with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men.
Still, if you think One Direction fans are willing to wait 10 years for a reunion, you've obviously never been on Twitter.
ONE DIRECTION ARE NOT BREAKING UP UNTIL THEY GIVE US AN ACOUSTIC ALBUM AND A CHRISTMAS ALBUM— Kat. (@cityburnstyles) August 23, 2015
The Jonas Brothers (2005–2013)
Though the Jonas Brothers took a hiatus from 2009 to 2012, it wasn't until 2013 that they took a bigger step back. Eight years after emerging from the Disney Channel's bubblegum pop world, the JoBros went through a series of cataclysmic events. First, they called off their tour right before dropping a new album. Next, they cited "a deep rift within the band" as the cause. Finally, they just admitted to People that they were calling it — "for now." It was a "unanimous decision," insisted middle brother Joe (the one with the perfect eyebrows).
But while youngest brother Nick conceded that they were taking a break, he left the door open by refusing to call it a formal breakup. "It's really hard to say forever," he said. "We're closing a chapter, for sure."
That's all very well and good, but we can probably go ahead and call the Jonas Brothers a formal wrap now that the very same Nick is currently in his "surprisingly great solo work" chapter.
[Note: The "surprisingly great" claim was made before we watched this video, which is mostly just weird.]
The Wanted (2009–2014?)
Oh sure, Brit band the Wanted wanted to be One Direction. They even went so far as to start several Twitter feuds, though 1D was so unimpressed that they dropped the most devastating clapback of all: "We're too busy" to care.
Eventually, the Wanted's success with singles like "Glad You Came" wasn't enough to sustain their interest in boy-banding, so they left it to the professionals and announced that they would be "tak[ing] time to pursue personal endeavours" in 2014.
Unsurprisingly, their parting statement was unwilling to write off a reunion for good: "The band wants to stress to their fans that they will continue on as The Wanted and look forward to many successful projects in the future." The closest The Wanted has come to a reunion since was band member Nathan Sykes coyly saying, "Never say never," but we know this game, Nathan. We will not be burned again.
The hardest part of breaking up is telling people you're breaking up
This isn't to say that all hope is lost. The men of 98 Degrees seem pretty serious about this reunion, though it's hard to say who exactly was clamoring for it. The Backstreet Boys are touring through Brazil and on EuroCruises alike, and even came out with a behind-the-scenes documentary this very year. Even Blink 182 took a hiatus, but the group released a new album in 2011 and stubbornly marches on through pop punk festivals today, even without founding member Tom DeLonge.
The sad case is that these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Reassuring fans that "solo projects" aren't going to derail the group and/or taking a "temporary" "hiatus" "to pursue other projects" are classic boy band moves. They keep panic at bay while the band members quietly move on.
We get that pulling the plug on a successful group is hard, especially when you've got a fan base that lives and dies by your word. But as anyone who's ever been ghosted on knows, getting dumped is easier when you actually know you've been dumped.