LONDON -- Zayn Malik is leaving One Direction. The singer says he is quitting so he can "be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight."
"My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined," says Malik in a statement posted to Facebook. "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."
Simon Cowell -- who signed the band to his record label after they finished in third place on the U.K.'s "X Factor" in 2010 -- says he's sorry to see Malik leave.
Even though the remaining One Direction members say the band will continue as a four-piece and that they are still set to release their fifth album later this year, fans aren't handling the news all that well.