But he’s already made it, you’ll say. Yes, Zayn has proven himself as a chart-topping solo success post-boy band fame but now that’s a feat two other of his One Direction bandmates have achieved. Both Harry Styles and Niall Horan’s solo albums hit No.1 on the Billboard 200. Zayn was the first to prove he could do the improbable but now that the others have done the same, there’s added pressure for his sophomore effort to do just as well, if not better. In a new interview with Billboard, Zayn takes us inside the making of the follow-up to Mind of Mine.
The headline-grabbing tidbits from this piece are details about how Gigi Hadid organizes their schedules and brings Zayn food in the studio or that he doesn’t talk to his One Direction bandmates anymore. These two things are the least interesting to me about this feature but let’s address them quickly. First, Gigi Hadid is a sweet, supportive girlfriend who cooks. That’s nice. They’re solid. Moving on, the fact that Zayn does not talk to the other former members of One Direction is being portrayed as some sort of shocking betrayal. This is what he told Billboard:
“Our relationships have definitely changed since we were in a band together, but I think that’s just life…Everybody grows up; two of the guys have got kids now. But no, I don’t talk to any of them, really.”
These kids were forced to be in a band together when they were teenagers. I played basketball in high school. I haven’t kept in touch with anyone from my high school basketball team. To me, this is an accurate comparison. It’s also similar to Kim Cattrall admitting she was never friends with the rest of the SATC cast. They were co-workers. Without the work, they have no reason to keep in touch and they drift apart. This is NORMAL. Also, Zayn has said that being in One Direction was a traumatic experience which contributed greatly to his mental health struggles. It makes sense that he’s chosen to veer into an entirely new direction (pun not intended but it did make me just laugh out loud at myself.) So, I don’t care if the 1D boys aren’t on a group text sharing bitmojis but I do care about Zayn’s work.
Zayn has been open about his anxiety and that because of it, he has cancelled shows and has yet to tour as a solo artist. So far, Zayn’s persona is one of mystery and artistic angst. He’s not your typical pop star and yet his music is, according to Billboard, “directly aimed at pop fans’ -pleasure centers.” Zayn says he doesn’t dance so some of his anxiety around touring came because he’s performing dance tracks.
“For a long time I’ve struggled with, ‘Where is Zayn as a performer?’ I don’t want [my show] to be too eccentric or out there, because I’m not that kind of ¬personality. I’m quite a reserved person, and I feel like [the vibe of that session] sort of fits me and what I want to do onstage.”
The session they’re talking about is one where he had a great backing band. Isn’t that ironic?
Aside from the music, Zayn hinted that he’s interested in acting. The last time I wrote about Zayn, I was laughing at his acting skills in the Dusk Till Dawn music video. Specifically, I wrote “he's no Harry Styles in Dunkirk.” The comparisons to his former bandmates are inevitable but I don’t think it’s going to help if Zayn starts trying to do “art movies.”
Zayn has been secluded in studios, one on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, working on his new album. I’m excited to hear it. Pillowtalk is still my jam. I still hate that I love I Don’t Want To Live Forever. But I’m worried about Zayn’s anxiety. The pressure of the sophomore slump will be looming over this record, especially now that Harry and Niall are right on his heels. The Billboard interview ends with an anecdote that is funny, sure, but it also may not bode well for this upcoming album’s impending press tour.
“Near the end of our time together, I gently float an idea: “If there are any songs you’d feel comfortable playing for me,” I suggest, “I’d love to hear them.” Malik seems totally into it. “Yeah, of course, man,” he says emphatically. “Cool. I’ll play some stuff.” He gets up from the sofa and heads to the studio door. “I’m just going to get the songs off my manager.” I tell him I appreciate it. “No worries, bro,” he says, before he disappears through the door. And then, in probably the most Zayn-like move of the night, he never comes back.