Going In Another Direction

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Zayn Malik

Do you have a favorite band or singing group? Do you listen to their music all the time? Most importantly, are they still performing together? That last question is the most important, because some of the most successful bands of all time have experienced breakup. When it does occur, group members may remain somewhat close and/or friends. Many times the departures are not amicable. Singing groups of today make news 24/7 because of social media. Think of teen sensation One Direction and their constant appearance in media outlets. When group member Zayn Malik decided to break from the group, it became international news. The remaining group members do not seem to be upset with Malik’s decision. In fact, they have stated their support for Zayn’s future endeavors. Nevertheless, this is a good opportunity to examine the reason for Zayn’s decision to leave One Direction, and if he will have a long successful career as a solo artist.

Zain Javadd Malik was born on 12 January 1993 in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. His father, Yaser Malik, is British Pakistani, and his mother, Tricia Brannan Malik, is English, and of part Irish descent; she converted to Islam upon marriage. He has one older sister, Doniya, and two younger sisters, Waliyha and Safaa. He was raised in a working class family, and grew up in a working-class neighborhood.

Malik grew up in East Bowling, located south of the Bradford city centre. He attended Lower Fields Primary School and Tong High School in Bradford. Malik has said that he did not fit in at his first two primary schools due to his mixed heritage of Pakistani and English. Malik has stated that he started taking pride in his appearance after moving schools at the age of twelve, and as a teenager he took performing arts courses and appeared in school productions. He grew up listening to his father’s urban music records, primarily R&B, hip hop, and reggae, as well as Bollywood music. He starting writing raps when he was at school, and sang on stage for the first time when singer Jay Sean visited his school.

In 2010, 17-year-old Malik auditioned in Manchester for the seventh series of reality-television competition The X Factor. He was eliminated before the final round of the competition, but judges Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell grouped him with fellow competitors Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson to form a new act for the remainder of the show, the boy band that would become known as One Direction. Interestingly, Simon Cowell seems to have a good eye for viewing performances of artists, and forming then into a working, successful unit. Remember the girl group Fifth Harmony? They were put together as a group after competing individually on The X Factor US edition, and of course now have great fame and fortune. Similarly, One Direction enjoyed international success right from the start.The group’s début studio album Up All Night was released in November 2011. It topped the charts in 16 countries. The lead single, “What Makes You Beautiful”, was an international commercial success, reaching number one in the UK and number four in the US; it has since been certified four and six times platinum in the US and Australia, respectively.  With their fourth album, 2014’s Four, they extended the record to four consecutive number-one albums. As of March 2015, the band has sold 6.49 million albums and 23.7 million singles in the United States. The group has sold more than 50 million records globally. At the point of great success, change would come to One Direction.

On March 25, 2015 Malik quit the band, citing his desire to live as a “normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight”, after signing off from the band’s On the Road Again Tour for an indefinite period six days earlier due to stress. At the time, the news of Zayn’s departure sent shock waves through the One Direction fan base. I did not fully understand the implications of Zayn leaving the band, as I was not a fan of One Direction music. However, as of today his decision not only affected the One Direction fans, but pop music overall.

Following his departure from One Direction, Malik alluded to the potential of a solo career, with the release of his first solo studio album to be released under the Syco label in 2016. Malik was seen at a London recording studio with producer Naughty Boy.  With Naughty Boy as his producer, Malik also worked with grime rappers Krept & Konan during this time, recording a song together with an unfinished music video, but the material was never released after Malik parted ways with Naughty Boy.

On July 29, 2015, Malik announced he had signed a recording deal with RCA Records. Finally, Zayn Malik’s début solo album Mind of Mine was released on March 25, 2016. I took time to listen to the entire album and found a very good listening experience. In fact, Zayn’s solo effort is quite different from the music of One Direction. There is definitely an R&B influence along with electronic and soul music woven into a fine album of songs. Once I learned a little about Zayn’s diverse background, I understood why his album had the feel long separated from the pop sound of One Direction. Mind of Mine just might define Zayn better than any music he recorded while a member of One Direction. That may bode well for the young star, as he might be ready to move musically in his own direction.

Zayn told Billboard: “once they [the fans] hear it, I feel like they will understand me a little bit more. For 10 years, this album has been in my brain, and it’s just been there, sat with me, needing to be out.” Make sure to listen to Zayn Malik’s personal musical offering. You may very well enjoy his musical direction.

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