Since Zayn Malik left One Direction in March 2015, he's been extremely vocal about the music he's planning to release as a solo artist. Despite originally claiming that he wanted to have a normal life again after being engulfed by One Direction's crazy popularity, Malik quickly admitted that it was a different genre of music he wanted to be making. In an interview with The FADER in November 2015, of his burgeoning solo career Zayn Malik said that he wanted to "make music that I think is cool as sh*t." And now that 2016 is upon us, the solo artist machine has gone into hyperdrive yet again with his latest interview with Billboard. But is Malik hyping his new album too much? Until we can hear it ourselves to decide if it was well worth it, the singer seems to be setting himself up for a lot of high expectations on his first solo venture.
While we'll all have to wait a little longer to finally hear the 22 year old's debut album (according to Billboard, it's "due early this spring on RCA"), Malik sure has a lot to say about what his new sound will be like. But the real question is, can the album ever live up to its own hype? Will his album really be comparable to the work of Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, as it's claimed in his Billboard interview? Or is the hype, like, too much? Let's investigate.
Defending his reasons for leaving 1D, Malik says, “I genuinely enjoyed the band and did whatever I could to be myself within that, but it’s just not where I sit as a musician. The other boys’ taste was generally indie rock. It’s good music, but I don’t f*ck with it. That was never cool where I was from.” The former boy band member is very intent on distancing himself from the musical taste of each of his bandmates. With this statement, he's claiming that his solo music is superior for the simple reason that he likes it. Which is a fair claim to make, since music always sounds better when it's music that you're actually passionate about. It's clear that what we're about to hear from Malik will come from his heart and soul, and truly allow us to get to know him as a performer.
Billboard quotes RCA Chairman and CEO Peter Edge who, speaking of Malik's sound, says, “It doesn’t feel like choreographed pop. It’s widely rumored that Harry is working on a record, and I’m sure it won’t sound like 1D, exactly. But it feels like maybe Zayn’s further along, musically.” This is a smart move — distancing Zayn Malik from the music of his former band, and the new projects his former bandmates are allegedly working on. But is this description of the star's musical ability purely a marketing ploy? And considering that Harry Styles has written songs for the likes of Ariana Grande, is this statement even true?
Billboard is complimentary of the 22 year old's abilities as an artist, saying, "Malik’s voice gives each song its center. It’s a pleasantly rough thing, intimate and warm, but capable of striking falsettos." The pop star himself also pitches in with an anecdote from his One Direction days — "His bandmate Liam Payne 'would always give me credit in terms of vocal ability,' says Malik modestly." It's interesting to hear him reference his old bandmates with such fondness, especially since, when asked if he's heard One Direction's latest album, Made In The A.M. , he says, "Nah. I’ll be honest. I thought the first single was quite cool. I heard the second single and... yeah, I didn’t buy the album.”
Thus, instead of One Direction, Zayn Malik is being aligned with musicians of a different calibre. As Billboard says of the musician, "he’s poised to impress the dominant music geeks of the day, who care less about guitar-slingers than artful practitioners of beats and atmosphere, like Drake and The Weeknd." Pitching Malik as an artist akin to either Drake or The Weeknd is an interesting move concerning an artist best known for being part of a boy band. Surely, he has more in common with Justin Timberlake or Nick Lachey than he does either of these musicians?
The hype surrounding Malik's debut is real, and kind of scary. The people surrounding him are clearly convinced of his talent, and are expecting great things. But it would be better for everyone if the hype was dialed back, and we were all given some cold, hard evidence of Zayn Malik's musical abilities. This latest Billboard interview is just further evidence that there is huge expectation for whatever the former 1D member does next. But the hype may be too much. It's time that Malik put his money where his mouth is.