In 2015, Zayn Malik abruptly quit One Direction, broke off a fairy-tale pop-star engagement and overdid the hair dye. Now, as he wraps up his long-simmering creative statement, the boy band outlier aims to prove that he has been his own man all along.
Zayn Malik is standing in a dimly lit studio, spliff hanging from his lips and whiskey tumbler in hand.
“My fans are giving me shit every day,” he says. “Like, ‘Where the f— is your music? You’ve been at it for months. Give us something.’ ” It’s around 9 p.m. the Monday after Thanksgiving, and the 22-year-old is indeed about to give up something, though not to his adoring public – they’ll have to wait for a solo album due early this spring on RCA. The four others here at Los Angeles’ Record Plant are part of Malik’s team, and even they seem surprised at how little the slinky, propulsive music he plays has to do with anything recorded byOne Direction, the band he abruptly left eight months ago, setting off a convulsion of online lament including accusations of treason and upsetting hashtags like #CuttingForZayn. In fact, the beat of shadowy, au courant R&B track “She” drives so hard that Malik, grooving intensely, sloshes liquor onto his arm. He quickly grabs a tissue and self-consciously dabs his wrist.