All of One Direction’s X Factor performances, ranked from alright to pure, terrible chaos

Niall Horan’s ‘aaaaaaaaAAAA’ in Viva La Vida will live rent free in my mind forever x


Let’s get one thing straight: I am not a One Direction-hater. In fact I am the exact opposite. But no matter how much of a One Direction fan you are, there is one simple, inescapable fact in this world: Most of their X Factor performances were pretty bad and downright chaotic. Yes, the One Direction boys were all aged 16-18 then, and have obviously improved hugely in years since their X Factor days, but some of their performances were dire.

Across the series and 10 weeks of live shows, they sung 15 songs. Some are pretty decent, and some are pure chaos, but pretty much every single song One Direction sang on X Factor followed the same formula. Liam sings most of it; Harry and Zayn get a couple of solo lines each; and Louis and Niall are pretty much backing dancers who sing “aaa” or “ooo”, and occasionally (if they’re lucky!) join in with the chorus. Invariably at least one band member is wearing a very questionable scarf and half of them are in hoodies, and Louis Walsh says he thinks they’re going to be “the next big boyband”.

Here are all of One Direction’s X Factor performances, ranked from okay to just pure, terrible chaos:

15. Summer of ’69 – week eight

Okay but this is SUCH a banger. Summer of ’69 feels like the songs One Direction went on to actually release. There was some iconic dancing, and yes the boys may have been wearing several hoodies between them – but all in all it wasn’t that chaotic and actually quite fun.

Three hoodies and one scarf, classic 1D

14. Torn – Judges’ Houses

This was One Direction’s first X Factor performance, after being put together at the Bootcamp and going to Judges’ Houses. After a VERY dramatic start with Louis injuring his foot with a sea urchin and the rest of the 1D boys getting stressed outside A&E, Torn was a low-key banger. After Liam and Harry’s solos got it off to a solid start, the “oooooh”s from the other boys during the chorus might have been not quite on point, but Harry’s scarf is quite iconic tbh so that makes up for it.

13. Torn – final

For their performance where they could choose any song from the series to re-do, One Direction obviously had to go for Torn, which had been their first ever performance. There’s no two ways about it, this was obviously sung better in the final than it was at Judges’ Houses, and it has the added bonus of actually having backing music and staging.

But no one had just been stung by a sea urchin, and the first time they sung Torn it was just so iconic, so this rendition has to come just slightly below it in the ranking. Harry’s also upgraded his scarf for this song, and honestly I just miss his old long, skinny scarf.

12. Your Song – final

2010 really was the year of Your Song, after Ellie Goulding sang it and it was on the John Lewis Christmas Advert. Harry’s note at the end honestly gives me life and this song lowkey slaps. But did they really need the fake snow, just to add to the John Lewis advert vibes? Absolutely not.

11. My Life Would Suck Without You – week two

Was this possibly the first One Direction song with a Zayn high note? If so, week two’s My Life Would Suck Without You should go down in history. He was really going for it in this one. Everything about this song and performance absolutely screams 2010 but it’s just quite classic 1D feel-good vibes. You can tell they’re all having the absolute time of their lives.

10. The Way You Look Tonight – week six

Back in 2010 I would have given my right arm for One Direction to sing “there’s something about the way you look tonight” to me. The funniest part is the background images, which show black and white clips of the boys all looking dramatically at the camera. But then those classic X Factor sparks come flying down, and you know you’re on to a winner. They’re all in suits and you think their outfits are good, but then you notice Zayn’s inexplicably wearing a hoodie under his blazer. I wouldn’t expect anything less from 1D.

Check out those suits

9. You Are So Beautiful – week eight

Another song I probably would have done pretty much anything to have sung to me by One Direction, but looking back now I’m very much struggling to work out why.

Production brought back the iconic background clips of the 1D boys dramatically smouldering. Did Louis and Niall even do a single thing in this song?

8. All You Need Is Love – week seven

Fun? Ish. Forgettable? Yes. One Direction’s version of All You Need is Love is low-key a bit of a bop, though. It was Beatles Week, and Simon went a bit heavy-handed with the parallels he clearly wanted to draw between the Beatles and 1D. Did he really need to have a load of screaming fans run on stage at the end dance around the boys?

7. Nobody Knows – week three

With week three came One Direction’s rendition of Pink’s Nobody Knows. Cheryl did call the boys her “guilty pleasure”, which is quite jokes considering she went on to have a child with one of them.

This song was … fine. Just incredibly boring. Like, was there a single memorable moment in it? Thank u, next x

6. Chasing Cars – semi-final

Honestly, what is it with all the ballads? One Direction did sing this quite well and Dannii called it “classy”, but honestly any Coldplay song is just a giant snooze.

5. Viva la Vida – week one

This is quite frankly one of the most chaotic things I’ve ever seen.

Niall really carried this song in week one. Perhaps not vocally, but he displayed more energy whilst singing Coldplay’s Viva la Vida than I have ever been able to muster in my entire life. His monotone “aaaaaaaAAAAAA” in the chorus will live rent free in my mind forever. Who told him to do that?

And who made Harry wear the bulkiest leather jacket alive? He must have been sweating buckets under all the studio lights. Even Louis Walsh tells Simon he’s “not sure about the styling”, so that’s when you know it’s bad.


Towards the end of the song the “woah”s get slightly, uh, questionable. Is a single one of the 1D boys actually in tune? And then Harry steals the show with his weird shoulder-flick dance move which cracks me up every time. Someone tell Addison Rae, we should make that into the newest TikTok dance.

4. She’s The One (with Robbie Williams) – final

Remember when the most exciting part of the entire year was seeing what celebs they’d gotten to sing with the X Factor finalists? Good times.

One Direction got to sing with Robbie Williams, and everyone went positively wild for it despite Robbie not really singing and instead basically just speaking the words. Liam had a dodgy high note at the start, but this is possibly the only 1D X Factor performance where there isn’t a hoodie in sight, so they have to get bonus points for that.

3. Kids in America – week five

Harry brought his shoulder-flick back in a BIG way for Kids in America, and this performance somehow managed to be even more chaotic than Viva La Vida. Dannii Minogue said it wasn’t “vocally the best” and she’s very much not wrong. There’s about 100 cheerleaders on stage with them, and between that, the outfits, and the singing, there’s just … a lot going on here.

2. Only Girl In the World – semi-final

There’s no two ways about it: This song was not in tune or in time. It actually hurts my ears to listen to it. Big ol’ flop from One Direction here. Are they singing or just shouting? The jury’s still out on that one.

The backing track is absolutely POUNDING, only adding to the headache of having to listen to the singing. And the dancers are just absolutely chaotic. Cheryl called the song choice “dangerous” and said it didn’t “quite work”, but naturally Louis Walsh still called them “the next big boyband” after this song.

1. Total Eclipse of the Heart – week four

I’m not being dramatic when I say that this song haunts my nightmares. I know it was Halloween, and I know 2010 was peak-vampire craze, but the red eyeliner is quite frankly terrifying.

Make it stop

I think a genuine form of torture could be just being forced to listen to Niall scream “turn around” on a loop.

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