Welp, I have a headache now.
It’s time to get down to business about “Strip That Down.” On May 31, Liam Payne appeared on Logan Paul’s Impaulsive podcast and claimed he believed that his 2017 debut solo single outsold “everybody within the band.” While he didn’t specify the capacity in which he “outsold,” many fans quickly objected to his claim and took to Twitter to voice their thoughts. (Elite Daily reached out to a representative for Payne to clarify his quote, but did not hear back in time for publication.)
Payne made a bold claim, considering how huge both Harry Styles and Niall Horan’s solo careers became. Still, Payne’s debut single “Strip That Down” was a certified hit, so I tried to fact-check his quote. Warning: It turned out to be much harder to do so than expected.
First, here’s his full quote. “We did the first song...a billion streams,” Payne said on the podcast. While Payne didn’t mention “Strip That Down” by name, it is his first solo song and he did say on the show the song with the “billion streams” was co-written by Ed Sheeran, who co-wrote “Strip That Down.” “I think it outsold everybody within the band and I was the last to go, and I never expected that,” Payne said.
Again, it’s unclear if Payne is specifically comparing every member’s debut singles, nor the platform on which he hit a billion streams. So, for the sake of this fact-check, I’m limiting my deep dive to each One Directioners’ debut single, as well as available Billboard and Spotify chart data I can find.
OK, Payne’s “Strip That Down” is up first. This one is easy to answer. According to a MTV News UK, the track surpassed 1 billion streams across all streaming platforms in January 2018. Payne released “Strip That Down,” which featured Quavo, on May 19, 2017.
Payne celebrated the song’s performance in a brief tweet on Jan 10, 2018. “1 billion global streams for #StripThatDown 🎉 A ridiculous number!! Thank you to everyone that has supported this track 🙌🏻🙏🏻,” he announced, attaching a nine-second clip of the groovy song’s first verse that amassed some controversy for mentioning 1D.
Clearly, the song was successful and hit the one billion stream marker that Payne claimed in under nine months. How does the song’s success compare to his fellow 1D members’ early releases? Here’s where it gets difficult to determine.
Zayn Malik had already dominated that billion album stream zone with his debut solo album, Mind of Mine, which dropped in late March 2016. Notably, Billboard coined Malik as “the first male U.K. solo artist to debut at No. 1 with their first album.” By June of the following year, the album had reached one billion Spotify streams, according to Pop Crave. (Part of the reason my fact-check gets tricky is because of the lack of verifiable information, so take these Pop Crave and Celeb Mix stats with a grain of salt.)
Still, Malik’s one billion album streams is super impressive. But it’s not the debut single number for “Pillowtalk” I’m looking for. According to Pop Crave, “Pillowtalk” reached one billion streams on Spotify on Dec. 2, 2021. That’s certainly a few years later, but it’s only Spotify data, and doesn’t consider Apple Music and other streaming platforms. Given this, I’m chalking up the date of Malik’s one-billion “Pillowtalk” streams across all streaming platforms to be unknown.
Next up is Louis Tomlinson. His first single was “Just Hold On” with Steve Aoki in 2016. According to Celeb Mix, he didn’t hit a billion streams on Spotify across his discography until August 2019. So it does appear Payne likely hit that solo single number sooner, though this is not definitive.
There are two One Directioners remaining. According to Forbes, Niall Horan’s solo debut Flicker, which was released in late October 2017, garnered “152,000 equivalent copies, with 128,000 of those being actual sales.” On June 16, 2018, Horan posted an Instagram stating his album had reached over one billion streams on Spotify. Again, that’s an album number, not specific to his debut single, “This Town.” Once again, I can’t definitely verify if “Strip That Down” hit one billion streams across all platforms before “This Town.” Sorry, Naillers.
Finally, there’s Harry Styles. His debut solo single “Sign of the Times” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 2017. Pop Crave reported in April 2022 the song had finally crossed the billion-stream threshold on Spotify.
Clearly as you can tell, it’s really hard to determine when, exactly, each of 1D’s solo singles reached the one-billion streams mark across all platforms. Most available information is specific to Spotify, and it’s worth noting that “Strip That Down” only has a little over 886 million Spotify streams.
All this to say, I can’t fully verify Payne’s claim. What is clear, though, is that my hope for a One Direction reunion seems less likely each day based on the other topic Payne discussed on Paul’s podcast: the “many reasons” he dislikes Malik. In Payne’s defense, he also said there’s “many reasons” he’ll always ben on Malik’s side. Now that’s a separate investigation I don’t have the heart for.