Fans of One Direction were understandably excited to hear what Liam Payne's debut solo single sounded like. However, when the song was finally released on Friday, they were surprised discover that Payne's "Strip That Down" lyrics contain a cheeky reference to the boy band that felt a little controversial. So much so, in fact, that the singer has had to respond to accusations that the "Strip That Down" lyric about One Direction was a negative one that was disrespectful to his old bandmates and to their fans. But, before we get to that, let's take a look at what the actual lyric is.
Expressed during the pre-chorus of the song, Payne sings the lyric, "You know, I used to be in 1D (now I'm out, I'm free)/ People want me for one thing (that's not me)." I'll admit that, without any context, it doesn't come across as being altogether very positive about his past experiences as part of One Direction. Nor does it seem like a positive reflection of how he feels about what the band represents compared to his own current identity.
One of the main reasons for that is that the song actually doesn't provide much context for the line before it's even first dropped, making it feel odd and unexpected. After all, prior to the first appearance of the lyric is a verse that sets the track up as being a love song, where Payne sings about having his "eye on the prize" of a woman's affections and talking about how "hard" her love has "hit" him.
To then immediately follow those sentiments up with a One Direction reference feels, well, a little strange, like a guy randomly complaining about his old job in the middle of a love letter.
However, regarding the lyric in question, on Friday Payne told The Sun that he "never wanted it to be taken in a negative light," and instead provided a positive statement regarding the current status of One Direction, and their future. He explained:
With this in mind, the lyric, and the song as a whole begins to make a lot more sense. Knowing the context of the line also manages to remove any negative connotations from it. Clearly, Payne isn't talking about how happy he is to be separated from One Direction, but is simply celebrating the opportunity of being able to expand his horizons and define himself beyond the band.
liam: 'used to be in 1d now i'm free'— jasmine 🥀 (@winchesteruin) May 19, 2017
also liam: 'we'll always be one direction that's who we are' 🤔
With that in mind, "Strip That Down" is a love song about a woman, but it's also a love song about personal growth and freedom. It's about being able to express yourself fully, party as much as you want with whoever you want, and lose yourself with a lover who feels right for you.
I'd argue that Payne isn't denouncing One Direction with the song, but is instead demonstrating the positives that came out of the band's hiatus. And he's done so by demonstrating his own sound, growth, and perspective with "Strip That Down."