Zayn Malik is leaving One Direction to 'be a normal 22-year-old'

(Zap2it) -- 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.
"I would like to say thank you to Zayn for everything he has done for One Direction," says Cowell. "Since I first met Zayn in 2010, I have grown very, very fond -- and immensely proud -- of him. I have seen him grow in confidence and I am truly sorry to see him leave. As for One Direction, fans can rest assured that Niall, Liam, Harry and Louis are hugely excited about the future of the band."
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.