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Liam Payne Celebrates The 6-Year Anniversary Of His X Factor Audition

See his sweet message to fans and revisit his amazing audition

Six years ago, Liam Payne was a shaggy-haired student with dreams of becoming a superstar. He came close in 2008, when he auditioned for The X Factor and made it all the way to the Judges’ Houses before being sent home prior to the live shows. Two years later, though, Liam returned with a vengeance for his second audition, a milestone he and the rest of the One Direction fandom are celebrating today.

Along with Liam’s sweet, thankful tweet, loving messages have been pouring in from around the world as fans reminisced about how far he’s come.

In honor of Liam’s big day, let’s stroll down memory lane and relive the magic of Liam’s audition.

The then-16-year-old showed up wearing baggy jeans and a white v-neck tee, his entire family in tow and his mom looking equal parts proud and terrified. When he took the stage, Simon Cowell clearly recognized him from two years before, and welcomed him back, his eyes clearly full of skepticism and cold judgment.

Liam announced he was singing “Cry Me a River,” and everyone assumed he was talking about Justin Timberlake’s biting 2002 ballad. Nope — throwing everyone for a loop, he busted out his best Frank Sinatra impression by opting for Arthur Hamilton’s jazzy '50s tune. He made a lot of goofy but adorable singing faces.

Cowell was shook by his utter failure to recognize Liam’s talent the first time around, and gave him a standing ovation. The judges (including, interestingly enough, his current girlfriend, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini) called the performance “impressive,” “powerful,” and “confident,” and sent him through to the next round. Louis Walsh also compared him to Justin Bieber, but we’ll ignore that part. Mama Payne started crying like any mom would, and Liam said his face hurt from smiling so much. Everyone was smitten with him, and the rest was history -- he was later eliminated as a solo artist, got grouped together with One Direction, and went on to, as he says, a life of “amazing adventures.”

Happy six years, Liam!