They may have already made history stateside -- debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart -- but unless you're a teenage girl, you may find yourself asking "North, south, east or west?" when you hear the words "One Direction."
One Direction, the latest British export to cross the pond, has even knocked Adele off of her record-high horse. Garnering a Twitter following already in the millions and drawing a killer turnout at their "Today" show concert in New York, One Direction has American teens captivated by their dreamy accents and sophisticated style -- hoodie-clad pop stars are so two years ago (we're looking at you, Justin Bieber).
So how did the group's members find one another and what are their stepping stones toward world domination? The story begins backstage at a little-known talent competition called "The X Factor."
FIVE IS BETTER THAN ONE
One Direction is comprised of five members, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson, who made their first appearances as solo acts on the U.K. talent show "The X Factor" in 2010.
But the stars didn't align during their singular performances and each of the members of the group were booted from the solo-acts category of the show. What quickly looked like the end of the road for each of the hopefuls was soon turned around by a guardian angel in black eyeliner and leather -- "X Factor" guest judge Nicole Scherzinger.
Scherzinger suggested to fellow judge, show creator and overall superstar sculptor Simon Cowell that the five castaway boys unite in an attempt to qualify for the "groups" round of the talent competition.
Harry Styles: Best Looking
If it hadn't been for "X Factor," there's no doubt that Styles would be holed up in a library, hitting the books. At 16, the floppy-haired cutie was busy planning a career in law, sociology and business, singing in a school band called White Eskimo and working in a bakery on the weekends.
"Winning 'Battle of the Bands' and playing to that many people really showed me that's what I wanted to do," Styles told "X Factor" cameras of his own school's competition show. "I got such a thrill when I was in front of people singing."
But Styles soon had to freeze out his jamming schoolmates when he earned a spot on the talent show with his rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?" (and wasn't he?). But the 18-year-old may have been singing to someone other than the judges. In November 2011, Styles was spotted out with 32-year-old U.K. TV host Caroline Flack, igniting paparazzi to document every step of the odd couple's romance.
Liam Payne: Most Talented
After auditioning for the talent competition to less than stellar reviews in 2008, Payne was at it again in 2010, hoping that two years of practice would make all the difference -- and it did.
"I know what it's like to get thrown out and I just don't want to have that feeling again," Payne said before auditioning in front of Cowell for the second time, armed with a powerful rendition of Ella Fitzgerald's "Cry Me A River."
Now with superstardom knocking at his back door, Payne proves that second time's a charm -- and now he may finally get the attention of his celebrity crush, Miley Cyrus.
Zayn Malik:The Ladies Man
Zayn Malik stole the words right out of the mouths of his adoring fans with his rendition of Mario's "Let Me Love You" for his 2010 audition. Malik scored a go-ahead from all three judges, placing him among the male solo acts that would eventually become One Direction -- a group that's poised to blow even Justin Bieber out of the water.
And how do we know that Malik is ready for the hectic world of showbiz? He's quite the multi-tasker. Malik admits that his first romance was with not one, but three sisters (triplets!), whom he dated at the same time.
"I'd probably take you out for something to eat, maybe go to the cinema to watch a nice film, then just chill out," Zayn tells Now Daily of his idea for a perfect date.
That's got to be quite the bill when you're feeding three.
Niall Horan: The Quiet One
Horan brings a bit of diversity to the group, hailing from Ireland. At his 2010 audition, the bleached blond boy-bander touted comparisons to a fellow pop prodigy with similarly side-swept bands.
"I've been compared to [Justin Bieber] a few times and it's not a bad comparison," Horan said. "I want to sell out arenas and make an album and work with some of the best artists in the world."
But the judges weren't singing Bieber-worthy praises when it came to Niall's first "X Factor" audition, describing his performance as "unprepared." However, Horan's charisma landed him a ticket to what would be a life-changing competition.
Louis Tomlinson: The Class Clown
Louis isn't the only ham to come out of his family. Two of Tomlinson's four younger sisters appeared as babies on a U.K. television show, often dragging their big brother along as an extra. Although his sisters beat him to the punch, Louis certainly has the last laugh.
Tomlinson seemed to fall flat when it came to his "X Factor" audition rendition of "Hey There Delilah," but the judges saw through his pitchy performance and gave the hopeful passing marks.
THE NEXT BIG THING
After saying goodbye to their solo acts, the boys began to assemble an army of fangirls, who connected with the group after watching them sing for their supper since the very beginning. The group released their first album, "Up All Night," in the U.K. in November 2011, but keept their sights set on cornering the American market.
Now, the fellows have not just become the most anticipated group to emerge from the talent competition, but could be the biggest U.K. export since Adele stole the hearts of Americans in 2008.
The fivesome recently booted Adele and Bruce Springsteen from their respective spots on the Billboard charts, and are the first U.K. group to debut at No. 1. With their history-making stateside debut, the group also beat out the Spice Girls, who previously held the record at a No. 6 chart debut in 1997.
But soon the sweet smell of adolescence (their first single is titled "What Makes You Beautiful") won't only be wafting from your radio -- according to the network, the gang just landed a Nickelodeon show and a North American tour.
If you haven't heard of these guys yet, then you're certainly headed in the wrong direction.
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