Zayn Malik announced he was leaving One Direction today, which has sent plenty of tweens and teens into a state of mourning. But as someone as who survived that dark day in 1998 when Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell announced that what she really really really wanted was to get the hell out of her girl group, I’m here with a message for the youth of the world: not only are you going to survive this grim chapter in pop music history, but there are also many, many reasons to carry on.
Here are a few things to consider that may help soften the blow of his departure:
He’ll probably be back one day. The departure of a bandmate or the dissolution of an entire group really just sets the stage for an inevitable reunion tour. After quitting the group at the height of their fame, Ginger Spice was back on board for the Spice Girls’ 2007 reunion tour. Kevin Richardson quit the Backstreet Boys in 2006 (with a statement not unlike Malik’s) only to rejoin the group a few years later after admitting he missed it. So it’s safe to say One Direction will probably have Malik back whenever he decides he wants to stay up all night and jump around again. That may not happen until the after the rest of the bandmates have gone their separate directions, for better or for worse: Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake aren’t against getting their bands back together when the time is right, but if Beyoncé’s solo career ever starts going south, you know she’s calling up Kelly and Michelle faster than she can spell out the word “nasty” in the “Naughty Girl” pre-chorus.
The music will be fine. Judging by the band’s statement about Malik’s departure, it’s going to be business as usual for One Direction, who assured fans that they’ll carry on as a foursome and still release the album they’re currently working on later this year. In other words, his absence won’t be too palpable unless you’re a die-hard Zayniac. That wasn’t the case with the Spice Girls, who took a few years to regroup before releasing their final album, Forever. Produced largely by Destiny’s Child beatmaker Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins instead of the team responsible for their first two albums, the album’s sleeker, more contemporary sound lost some of the spirit that made the band so much fun to begin with. The record wasn’t a complete misstep, however, thanks to songs like the appropriately titled “Goodbye” and the slinky R&B workout “Holler,” so there’s bound to be a silver lining in whatever the boys cook up in the studio.
Just look at Nick Jonas. Geri Halliwell’s solo career was largely forgettable, though her cover of “It’s Raining Men” and its accompanying music video are quite something. The odds for boyband members members breaking out on their own are just as perilous — for every Timberlake, there is a J.C. Chasez. But if Nick Jonas can graduate from being a squeaky-clean, purity ring-wearing JoBro to getting remixed by Tinashe, almost-opening for Iggy Azalea and scoring some unlikely musical legitimacy with “Jealous,” Malik’s prospects aren’t doomed. Or, given Malik’s love of R&B, what about Carly Rae Jepsen, who’s getting out of the shadow of “Call Me Maybe” and gaining some cool cred by recording with former Solange collaborator Dev Hynes? The thing is, Malik may not want to try at all — he did say he’s quitting the band so he can be “a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.”
You’ll always have his smiling face — sort of. When Ginger Spice quit, the only thing I had to console me was a VHS tape of their 1997 Istanbul concert. Today in the era of social media, the access fans (and haters) have to their pop idols is greater than ever — and that’s not always a good thing, as Daniel D’Addario writes for TIME. But there’s an upside to Internet fandom that can help heartbroken Directioners cope with today’s news: He’ll still croon to you fro the back of your Etsy One Direction iPhone case. Or your Etsy One Direction earrings. Or on your Etsy One Direction shoes. Every possible muscle twitch in his face has probably been immortalized in GIF form. He’s the subject of more than 12,000 works of fanfiction. Malik’s desire for privacy isn’t coming out of nowhere — he, like his bandmates, have already given their fans so much. The advantage of being a One Direction fan in 2015, then, is that it’s easier than ever to pretend he never left.