“If he’s the standout, then he could be the leader.”
The footage was released to mark the 12-year anniversary of One Direction — which was formed on the show after each member initially auditioned unsuccessfully as a solo act. However, the timing is especially relevant this year given Liam Payne’s recent comments about the formation of 1D.
It’s worth bringing in some important context here. Liam first auditioned for The X Factor back in 2008 and made it as far as the round in Simon Cowell’s house when he was just 14. However, Simon didn’t believe he was ready at the time — and told him to go back to school and re-audition for the show in another two years.
Speaking on Logan Paul’s podcast last month, Liam said, “From what I’ve heard, part of the reason One Direction was made because of Simon’s promise to me that, ‘In two years, I’ll make this work for you.’ So he started with my face, and then worked around the rest…I was the honorary member of One Direction. He told me that story himself at his house.”
The comments went viral, with even Lizzo chiming in on her TikTok by saying, “I don’t know who lied to that poor boy, but he was not the frontman.”
So, what does this new footage show? The 2010 clip starts with the judges sifting through a stack male contestants’ images, deciding which ones could be in “imaginary” groups together. Subsequently, we see Nicole Scherzinger move a picture of Niall to the top of the table.
“We liked him,” Louis enthusiastically says of a young Harry, to which Nicole suggests he be put with Niall.
“They’re the cutest boyband ever!” Nicole adds, as Louis’ picture is added to the pile. “The little girls are going to love them.”
“They’re just too talented to get rid of. And they’ve got just the right look and the right charisma on stage,” she continues. “They’re like little stars, so you can’t get rid of little stars — you put them all together.”
Then it comes to Liam’s photo. “He was the standout audition,” Simon begins, before pointing over at the group of boys selected to move forward as individuals. “You don’t think he should be over there?”
“I don’t think so,” Nicole replies. “If he’s the standout, then he could be the leader.”
To this, Simon responds, “He thinks he’s better than anyone else in that list.”
“No he does, Simon. He has the confidence. But he’s good, he’s consistent,” Louis Walsh says in turn, before all the judges marvel at how good the four boys look together.
Judge Louis then suggests Zayn for the group, which immediately everyone agrees with. In the words of Simon: “Now that is a good idea!”
“That’s the category I want, them,” he continues, which would end up being true — Simon acted as a mentor to the groups category that year (and would later sign them after the show).
So, what’s this mean for Liam’s recent claims? Well, the idea that One Direction “started with [his] face” doesn’t seem terribly accurate based on the clip — it’s Niall’s face, not Liam’s that’s the initial building block. However, I think we can still safely gauge two things: 1) Simon did have Liam’s back when it came to stay in the show, as per his earlier “promise.” 2) It appears that Liam was initially thought of as the band’s leader.