Why Zayn Malik's Solo Career is Back on Track
As recently as six weeks ago, Zayn Malik’s solo career appeared to be in a precarious position. Songs and remixes featuring Malik’s vocals were being released by people who were not Malik. Reports surfaced that the 22-year-old was not allowed to officially release solo music for another two years for legal reasons.

With a new label and management deal, the former 1D member finally puts his best foot forward.

As recently as six weeks ago, Zayn Malik’s solo career appeared to be in a precarious position. Songs and remixes featuring Malik’s vocals were being released by people who were not Malik. Reports surfaced that the 22-year-old was not allowed to officially release solo music for another two years for legal reasons. Naughty Boy, the producer he had been recording with following his One Direction departure, was publicly dismissed by Malik as a “fat joke.” This was after 1D’s Louis Tomlinson engaged in an awkward Twitter feud with his former band mate, and One Direction diehards panicked over their allegiances.

Malik’s decision to go solo last March made international headlines, and his debut was always going to generate enormous attention. From an outside perspective, however, Malik’s first few months post-1D were a professional mess, full of half-finished songs and unanswered questions. With a first step this clumsy, could Malik be seriously expected to stride toward stardom without his band mates?

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Fortunately for fans, Malik’s career looks to be back on track. This week’s back-to-back signings with Turn First Artists management and RCA Records signals the proper first snap of Malik’s solo career following months of false starts. There’s no time frame for his solo bow, but Zayn stans can rest easy knowing that it will likely be handled the right way.

Malik’s partnership with Turn First, which follows his time with Modest! Management as 1/5th of 1D, underlines a dedication to genuine artist development. The London-based company headed by Sarah Stennett has used the financial backing of Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge as a means of slowly growing its roster of pop talent, which includes Iggy Azalea andEllie Goulding.

Azalea has had a messy 2015, but her phenomenal 2014 represented the culmination of years of patient evolution and mixtape buzz; similarly, Goulding has turned into a U.S. pop force over a four-year period of gradually increasing popularity. Stennett and her team are about the long game, not the quick fix; with Malik, expect a campaign that positions him as a career artist instead of That Guy From One Direction.

Meanwhile, the RCA Records signing makes perfect sense for Malik. The absorption of Jive, Arista and J Records by RCA in late 2011 turned the surviving label into a juggernaut under the Sony banner, with over 100 artists both large and small under the watch of CEO Peter Edge and label president Tom Corson. Aside from a few recent exceptions, RCA is not known as a label that helps smaller artists grow into household names, partially because its roster is just so massive. For every Tinashe or Walk The Moon, there’s a Brooke Candy or Smallpools that has yet to reach full potential in the States. However, the label has an impressive track record of maximizing the success of artists with some semblance of name recognition — in other words, turning stars into superstars.

For instance, look at what the RCA brain trust has done with Miley Cyrus’ music career: after splitting with Hollywood Records upon the disappointment of 2010’s Can’t Be Tamed, Cyrus reinvented herself on the new label and became an A-lister with 2013’s Bangerz. P!nk re-upped with RCA last year for a multi-album deal, after the label turned the singer-songwriter into a top-line artist with her last two albums. The RCA team turned Justin Timberlake’s 2013 comeback into an international enterprise, helped Usher continue cranking out radio hits as he interminably finishes his next album, kept the Foo Fighters rolling as one of rock’s biggest acts this decade, and morphed Sia from a songwriting star into an in-demand artist with a No. 1 album. There have been high-profile misses (Shakira’s last album noticeably underperformed), but over the past four years, RCA has consistently proven itself to be a solid home for big artists looking to become even bigger.

This is the position Malik is in, as he embarks on a career as a known entity with no official solo songs to his name. Malik’s team (which also includes Simon Cowell’s Syco Records in the U.K.) has been smartly assembled, and one can already see the relative wrongs committed by Malik over the past few months being righted.

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The animosity between Malik and the remaining One Direction members appears to have evaporated, with Malik recently tweeting his “bro” Liam Payne on the group’s five-year anniversary. The rift with Naughty Boy may be irreparable, but in an exciting creative development, Malik recently logged studio time with Malay,Frank Ocean’s creative partner and producer. And the RCA signing effectively puts the “two-year wait” rumor, which was never confirmed, to bed. Malik will now have his own team at RCA, it’s been confirmed to Billboard, and since the label and One Direction’s home, Columbia Records, are both under the Sony Music banner, there’s no ill will between Malik’s past and present homes. (Reps for RCA and Turn First could not be reached to comment for this story.)

It will still be up to Malik to build upon his post-1D momentum and develop a project that establishes himself as an artist worth investing in. That’s a difficult task no matter which label or management team is behind an artist’s career. But having the correct team in place is undoubtedly a big boost, and Malik’s career is in a much healthier position now with Turn First and RCA as part of his bedrock. “I guess I never explained why I left , it was for this moment to be given the opportunity to show you who i really am!” Malik tweeted on Wednesday after the RCA signing was announced. The past few months have been inelegant for the former boy bander, but Malik is right to be excited.

I found Billbaord’s article about Zayn signing with RCA super interesting. 

First off it’s extremely positive. Most of the other articles I’ve read about it have something negative in them. It’s all about showing that Zayn going solo is on a good track. 

Second it makes sure to mention that there is no time frame for when Zayn will release music. I can’t remember seeing that in any other articles. None of them give a time frame but I don’t remember any of them pointing out there wasn’t one either. 

Third it doesn’t praise Simon or mention his tweets like alot of the other articles have. Also interesting to note when it talks about his team it says “which also includes Simon Cowell’s Syco Records in the U.K.” So he is still with Syco then.

Fourth it states that there appears to be no more animosity between ot4 and Zayn. It mentions the tweet Zayn sent to Liam by saying he recently tweeted his “bro”. Bro is once again in quotes. 

Fifth it notes that both Columbia and RCA are under Sony so there’s no ill will between his former and current record labels. 

Lastly there is no mention of the hashtags realme or realmusic. Though they do quote the tweet will #realmusic they don’t include that in the quote. 

This article stood out to me. It was overwhelming positive. I thought it was a great article and had some very interesting points. 

Billboard Cover: ‘Hamilton’ Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Questlove and Black Thought on the Runaway Broadway Hit, Its Political Relevance and Super-Fan Barack Obama:

Hamilton’s perspective on slavery is also really important. If in 2015 we’re watching the Founding Fathers in black and brown ­bodies, the elephant in the room from the first moment is slavery. And then, in the opening number…

Miranda: Third line.

…In the third line – “every day, as slaves are being slaughtered” – Daveed [Diggs, as Jefferson], who delivers that line, really hits “slaughtered.” That’s the first indicator for the audience: We understand what this was.

Miranda: I was very conscious of it. And ­having the show from Hamilton’s perspective is a ­blessing, because he was ahead of the other Founding Fathers. He grew up on Nevis and Saint Croix [in the Caribbean], which was one of the key points on the triangle [slave] trade, and so he saw the brutality. He wrote about the smell of the ships before they arrived on the island carrying slaves. So he was repulsed by the practice and got the importation of slaves banned in New York and co-founded the New York Manumission Society. So he’s morally on the right side of ­history – in contrast to Washington, and in ­contrast to Jefferson.

When we meet Jefferson in the play, people are scrubbing his floors. You have to hit it and you have to hit it early and often, because this was a part of their world. We originally had a third rap battle that was about slavery.


Miranda: Yeah, that we cut, and it was sort of our homage to “Hail Mary” [by Tupac Shakur]. There was a moment when there were two Quakers from, I think it was Pennsylvania, who tried to ban the importation of slaves and brought it to the house floor. And [James] Madison let them talk about it for two days and then set a gag rule – “We’re not talking about slavery until 1808” – basically saying, like, “We don’t know how to solve it.” They knew it was a problem. Even from the racist perspective, it was, “There’s going to be more of them than us!” But no one knew what to do about it, and they all kicked it down the field. And while, yeah, Hamilton was anti-slavery and never owned slaves, between choosing his financial plan and going all in on opposition to slavery, he chose his financial plan. So it was tough to justify keeping that rap battle in the show, because none of them did enough.

Right. You don’t want to have a fake moral hero.

Miranda: Right. I’m not going to say Hamilton was the anti-slavery crusader when he didn’t make his life about it. His friend John Lawrence [sic] was an ardent abolitionist trying to free slaves and raise battalions of armed free slaves, and was getting shut down at every turn. And then he died. So he’s the great “what if” of American history, because he would’ve been one of our Founding Fathers and that would’ve been part of the conversation. But he died in battle.

(To Black Thought.) When you first went to see Hamilton, did you know that the racial makeup of the cast would be what it was?

Black Thought: I had no idea.

How did that land for you?

Black Thought: It’s something that I kind of processed after the fact. It was a complete ­after-thought. I was like, “Wow, yeah, that was the whole cast.”

Questlove: It’s so seamless and you’re so ­entertained. For me, it wasn’t until the third time the king came out when I was like, “Wait a second…”

Miranda: (Laughs.) He’s the only white guy!

Questlove: The casting is a bold decision that works, that totally works. I went on a night when Lorne Michaels was in the audience and ­[playwright] Tracy Letts was there and I just kept looking at their faces, and they were so energetic and entertained by it. And I was like, “OK, so maybe this isn’t as controversial as I thought it would be.” From a hip-hop head perspective, it was thumbs up. And then I was wondering: What will a history buff say? Who’s going to snark in The New Yorker and say, “You know, this is not at all an authentic portrayal”?

Fact check: Jefferson wasn’t black.

Miranda: A lot of his kids were, though. (Laughter.) In terms of the casting, for a long time we were thinking about it as an album. So we were dream-casting artists and were never looking at color – we were thinking literally of voices. One of the characters that still kills me that I couldn’t get in the show – the governor of New York when Hamilton was there, and an enemy of his – was named George Clinton.

Black Thought: Ha! Oh, shit.


In a new interview with Billboard, Jake Mcelfresh (Front Porch Step) admits to ongoing claims that he partook in sending and receiving naked photographs from minors. Though he admits to this, Mcelfresh insists that he is NOT a pedophile, stating,

“I just want to say, on paper: I’m not a pedophile. I’m not a rapist. I’m not a monster.”

Mcelfresh also wanted to clarify that the girls he was texting WANTED to be texting him. Although he was sexting with minors, the conversations were consensual! And plus, he didn’t understand child pornography laws, so… what’s the big deal?

“I did say that,” McElfresh admits to Billboard. “It does make me sound like some freak that’s going to go attack this girl. That was a mutual conversation, that’s something that she wanted to do, that she wanted to happen. Let’s put it this way: None of these girls were like, ‘Hey, Jake, I don’t want to text you like this, I don’t want to do this.’ It was always consensual. If anybody told me, ‘Hey, you are going too far,’ or ‘This is really inappropriate,’ I’d be like, ‘Oh, sorry, I’ll stop.’ ”

Good thing Jake is not victim blaming! Good thing his treatment has made him a better person!

I’m going to puke.

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More Azoff Connections.

Jen ( zenlikejen) and I were talking about the radio interview snippet that aired on Z100 the other day. Finding out that it originally aired during Elvis Duran made me curious, so I went searching about iHeart Radio. Irving Azoff sits on the board of directors for Clear Channel/iHeart Media. The CEO of iHeart is Robert “Bob” Pittman.

Let’s talk a bit about Bob Pittman’s history, shall we?

Pittman founded MTV in 1981. It rode off of a concept for “Music Video Television” initially introduced by Gary van Haas in 1974 ironically, in Billboard magazine. Pittman became the CEO of MTV Networks and helped grow it into a dominant cable entity, advancing other networks such as VH1, Nickelodeon, and Nick at Night along with it. 

He then founded Quantum Media with MCA and went on to sell MCA to Warner Communications, accepting a position as an adviser to the CEO as Warner was merging with Time Inc (the company that publishes People Magazine), in 1990 he became the CEO of Time Warner Enterprises, Time Warner’s business group.

He had a stint at Century 21 Real Estate where he met Steve Case and joined the board of directors for AOL (America Online), and in 1996 he became the president and COO of AOL. AOL merged with Time Warner in 2001 and Pittman was the COO of AOL Time Warner until he left in 2002.

Time Warner is arguably one of the biggest -if not THE biggest- media conglomerates in the world, and they certainly control most of the American media we see. Azoff has history with Time Warner, too. (He left MCA around the same time Pittman bought them out for Warner Music at Geffen Records behest). 

Irv and Bob have so many connections, it’s insane. They’ve got a working relationship, and I think Bob Pittman is a major link to the media coverage we’ve been seeing lately. Irv isn’t the only one making phone calls, he’s got other people doing it, too. All it takes is a simple, “Hey Bob, I need a favor. I need you to make a phone call.” It’s really as simple as that. 

Don’t tell me it’s not all purposeful. Because it absolutely is.


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Billboard has premiered our new single “Keep In Mind, Transmogrification Is A New Technology.”

Listen to our first single now and get it tonight along with pre-orders on Apple Music at 9pm PT // midnight ET.