When placing bets on who would leave One Direction, to pursue a solo career first, most people had their money on Harry Styles, the fan favorite. When the news came that Zayn Malik would be departing the group in 2015, fans were devastated and surprised. Even more shocking was the hiatus of the group that soon followed. There were claims from management and some of "the boys" (as the members of One Direction are affectionately referred to by fans), that One Direction would get back together, the Telegraph reported at the time. However, all former members of the group have since pursued solo projects.

When One became Four

Malik, reinventing himself as ZAYN, released his debut album "Mind of Mine," in 2016. The remaining four members followed suit after the hiatus: Louis Tomlinson collaborated with Steve Aoki on the single "Just Hold On" in 2016, Styles released "Harry Styles" this May, Niall Horan, the only Irish member of the group, released singles "This Town" and "Slow Hands", and finally, Liam Payne released "Strip That Down" and "Get Low" (which features electronic music artist Zedd).

The boys have been embraced with mostly positive reception. Thus far, Malik has been the most successful, with Styles close behind. Horan comes in third, and though Tomlinson is technically last among the boys, Payne's lead is not too vast, and Tomlinson's last-place status may be attributed to the fact that he has only released one song.

When evaluating the music produced for an audience such as that of One Direction, it's important to remember that there is loyalty beyond the music. Payne was the last member of One Direction to go solo, and though he is one of the most talented members of the group, his attitude, music, and image thus far have arguably played a major role in his missing the mark.

(He didn't make it into the Top 40 with "Strip That Down").

How he may have alienated some fans

The mayhem started when Payne came out and stated that Style's debut single "Sign of the Times", was not his "sort of music," and "not something [he'd] listen to." Though he had originally tweeted support of the song, and even clarified in a statement that he thought Styles had done a "great job," it was interpreted by many as a diss.

The statement came in contrast to Horan's, which met Styles's debut with praise. A big part of One Direction's brand was the brotherhood between the boys, with fans even creating "ships" for their favorite bromances. Many "Harry girls," and fans who might have otherwise followed Payne's solo career chose not to.

In "Strip That Down," Payne sings "You know I used to be in One D, now I'm out free." This may have been perceived to be somewhat ungrateful by fans who agree that the boys of One Direction owe any opportunities they now have as solo artists to the band.

Quality over loyalty

There is a myth that One Direction's fans only care about their looks. While the boys of One Direction are definitely handsome, no one can deny their collective as well as individual talent.

Payne's X-Factor audition so many years proves his powerful belt and brilliant tone, and his solos in One D songs showcased his wide range. When Zayn left, he took over the infamous high notes. The fans of One Direction support talented young men, and appreciate good music.

"Strip That Down" however, leaves much to be desired. Though Payne's sultry falsetto rings through the song, you barely get a sense of his vocal agility and ability. The lyrics are generic at best, and the sampled elements show a lack of originality in penning the tune. It's not a terrible song - it's catchy, clever (which may be attributed to Ed Sheeran having co-written it), and its a song that makes you wanna dance. But it fades into the crowd of other catchy, clever, dance hits on the radio right now, and leaves fans wondering if Payne put any real creative thought into the single.

He's 'Daddy' to more than just teenage girls

Some of the backlash towards Payne seems to have also come from the fact that he has recently become a father. "Strip That Down" glorifies youthful debauchery, which, while fine for the image of an eligible, unattached bachelor, comes across as immature to those who know about his committed relationship with Cheryl Cole, the mother of his son, Bear Payne. His choice to include hip-hop artist Quavo on the track makes sense in terms of trying to take the single to the top, but coupled with the openly raunchy lyrics, fans are left with two confusing personas of Liam Payne: Wholesome father and former member of a relatively scandal-free boy-band, and decadent Dorian Gray-esque celebrity with the wealth and means to answer to only one person - himself.

Repairing the relationship

Since the rocky release of the song, Payne has released "Get Low," with electronic music producer Zedd. It is a major improvement on "Strip That Down" musically and vocally showcases Payne more than his previous single does. Though nothing short of explicit and slightly commercial, the song is romantic, as the singer croons that he knows the object of his affections is "fragile."

He has also reached out to Styles via Twitter, congratulating him on his acting debut in "Dunkirk," suggesting that there is no bad blood or hard feelings between the two. Payne is keen to release an album in the upcoming year, but only time will tell if he'll be able to get a better grip on his music, public image, and fanbase.