From left, in happier times: Singers Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik and Niall Horan of One Direction. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

It’s fairly routine to see One Direction trending worldwide on Twitter, but on Sunday night, it was the result of a heartbreaking reason for quite a few teens: Multiple publications reported that the group, one of the most popular boy bands of all time, will go on an “extended hiatus” in the spring.

“They are taking a hiatus so they can work on individual projects for a while but they are not splitting up. They will remain together and plan to work together in the future,” a “source” told E! Online. People magazine also confirmed the break, as did U.K. tabloid The Sun, which first reported the news.

Naturally, this sent some “Directioners” into a tailspin, even as those sources cautioned that this was just a break, not an official breakup. Still, you can understand why fans would have some trust issues. After all, Zayn Malik left the group earlier this year because he said he wanted to be a normal 22-year-old out of the spotlight … and then a few months later he signed a solo record deal. Harsh!

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A representative for One Direction did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier this summer, a publicist denied rumors of a potential split, saying that a fifth album and a tour were in the band’s future. Indeed, “hiatus” reports say the group will still release a new album, probably around the holidays; the debut single, “Drag Me Down,” dropped a couple of weeks ago. Then after some contractually obligated promotional stops, the guys will go their separate ways, forgoing a tour.

They are currently on a world tour that will wrap up at the end of October in England. In interviews, they seem tired of life on the road, where they have remained since they auditioned as solo artists for the U.K. “X Factor” in 2010 and the judges combined them into a super-group. “I think everybody just needs a little bit of a break,” Liam Payne recently told a radio program last month, adding that the band members could finally relax and “take in all the great things that have happened” over their career.

That’s an understatement: Let’s not forget that no matter what happens next, One Direction has unexpectedly cemented itself in music history. While the typical lifespan of the average boy band is about five years, it’s unusual that one remains so successful for so long — certainly not what their label executive Simon Cowell and his fellow “X Factor” judges could have predicted. Although the frenzy over groups such as NSYNC and Backstreet Boys calmed down a bit after their second albums, One Direction is still going strong with their fourth album this year. “Four” debuted at No. 1, making the band the only one in the United States ever to top the charts with its first four albums.

[Sorry, boy band haters: One Direction just might be unstoppable]

“One Direction proved to be the exception to the rule,” Billboard Assistant Editor Jason Lipshutz told The Washington Post last year. “They still put out a ton of successful music — part of that is releasing so much in such a little time frame.”

Billboard reports that One Direction has sold 6.5 million albums in the United States, with nearly 24 million song downloads over the past five years — and 65 million records worldwide. It’s an especially impressive figure given the difference in the music climate compared with when NSYNC and Backstreet Boys scored monster sales numbers, including NSYNC’s 2 million sales in 2000 for the first week of its sophomore album, “No Strings Attached.” In an era of declining album sales, One Direction’s buzz just grows. Its new single “Drag Me Down,” released in July, sold 500,000 copies in its first week.

Anyway, no word from the band about any impending break. So regardless of how it shakes out, here’s hoping that the most intense Directioners can take comfort in knowing that their beloved band already has made history.

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