Zayn Malik Quits One Direction

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The only direction Zayn Malik is going in is out the door.

The One Direction singer announced on Wednesday that he will be parting ways the music group, leaving bandmates Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Niall Horan as a four-piece ensemble to complete their current international tour and fifth studio album.

“My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined. But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologise to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart,” Malik said in a statement released on 1D’s official Facebook. “I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”

The rest of the band also penned a joint statement regarding Malik’s departure, reading:

We’re really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future. The past five years have been beyond amazing, we’ve gone through so much together, so we will always be friends. The four of us will now continue. We’re looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour.

One Direction was formed on the seventh season of U.K’s The X Factor. Guest judge Nicole Scherzinger was first to suggest putting together a boy band after all five boys failed to make it through as individual singers. Simon Cowell eventually signed them onto his record label after the group placed third in the competition.

“I would like to say thank you to Zayn for everything he has done for One Direction. Since I first met Zayn in 2010, I have grown very, very fond — and immensely proud — of him,” Cowell said in a statement. “I have seen him grow in confidence and I am truly sorry to see him leave. As for One Direction, fans can rest assured that Niall, Liam, Harry and Louis are hugely excited about the future of the band.”

Though whispers of a break-up have been circulating for years, rumors of Malik quitting One Direction began swirling when DJ Naughty Boy hinted that the British crooner was working on some solo material.

On March 19, Malik announced that he was taking a break from touring amid accusations that he had cheated on his fiancée, Perrie Edwards.