December 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

Niall Horan, 19, has a question for his One Direction bandmates. “Do you remember in 2011 when we said, ‘This year has been unbelievable. It’d be amazing if we could get near outdoing it in 2012’?” The guys — Harry Styles, 18; Louis Tomlinson, 20; Zayn Malik, 19; and Liam Payne, 19 — say they do remember. “Then we came to 2012,” Horan continues. “And it’s been crazy.”

That’s one way to put it. In addition to inspiring mass hysteria among tweens, in March the lads became the first British act to top the Billboard 200 chart with their debut album, Up All Night. Then in November they did it again with their sophomore hit, Take Me Home. They’ve amassed merchandising deals; they’ve signed on for a 3-D documentary directed by Morgan Spurlock; they’ve fed the rumor mill (lately Styles seems to be auditioning to be the next Mr. Taylor Swift); and they’ve sold out every tour date in 2012 and 2013. Not bad for a bunch of blokes discovered by Simon Cowell on The X Factor in the U.K. two years ago. Looking ahead, the boys are thinking about which artists they would like to collaborate with. So far, the wish list includes Katy Perry and Bruno Mars. Says Horan: “That would be the ultimate, but it’s a far shot away.” Judging by their astonishing catapult to fame this year, it might be closer than he thinks.

SNL breakout: Cecily Strong (We’d start a conversation with her at a party anytime!)

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