On Feb. 17, 2016, former One Direction member Zayn Malik (who shortened his stage name to Zayn) did his first TV performance as a solo artist by singing the ballad “It’s You” on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” The show is televised in the U.S. on NBC. In addition, the show revealed the cover art of Malik’s first solo album, Mind of Mine, which will be released on March 25, 2016: the one-year anniversary of Malik announcing his departure from One Direction. The cover of Mind of Mine is a photo of Malik as a child with this adult tattoos Photoshopped on his arms. The cover is already getting comparisons to Lil Wayne’s albums Tha Carter III (released in 2008) and Tha Carter IV (released in 2001), which featured photos of Lil Wayne a child, but with his adult tattoos Photoshopped on his face.
Malik’s solo career has gotten off to a spectacular start. On Jan. 29, 2016, he released his first solo single, “Pillow Talk,” and it became an immediate smash hit with fans and critics. With official chart figures for several countries now rolling in, “Pillow Talk” has debuted at No. 1 in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada and Australia, and is a Top 5 hit in other countries, such as Italy, New Zealand, Germany and Hungary. In the U.K., “Pillow Talk” is the fastest-selling single of 2016 so far (with 112,000 sales in the U.K. in the song’s first week), according to the Official Charts Company.
“Pillow Talk” reached No. 1 on iTunes in more than 60 countries in the first day of its release and No. 1 on Spotify’s Global Chart, according to RCA Records. The “Pillow Talk” music video (directed by Bouha Kazmi) also premiered on Jan. 29, 2016. The video features Malik embracing and kissing model Gigi Hadid, whom he is reportedly dating. However, the song is reportedly about Little Mix singer Perrie Edwards, who dated Malik from 2012 to 2015 and was engaged to him during the last two years that they were together.
Critics are also raving about “Pillow Talk.” Almost all the major media outlets that have reviewed the song have given “Pillow Talk” positive reviews. Time magazine noted: “If the rest of the album delivers on this first taste, we won’t be talking about his 1D ties for much longer.” Meanwhile, Spin’s review said, “Malik demonstrates a master of R&B within seconds.” Rolling Stone called “Pillow Talk” a “smooth, sexy pop song.”
Malik famously left One Direction in March 2015 while the group was in the midst of a world tour. He is currently signed to RCA Records.
One Direction was formed on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2010, when Simon Cowell and other decision makers put together five contestants (Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan) who originally auditioned for “The X Factor” U.K. as solo singers. One Direction came in third place on the show in 2010, Cowell signed One Direction to his Syco Music company, and One Direction went on to become the world’s biggest-selling act from “The X Factor.” After Malik left the group, One Direction announced that group would continue as a quartet but would be taking a hiatus as of March 2016. One Direction’s fifth album, Made in the A.M., was released in November 2015.
In a recent interview with Billboard, Malik said: “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— with it. That was never cool where I was from.”
Malik has always cited hip-hop and R&B as his favorite music, and his solo music is in that style.
RCA chairman/CEO Peter Edge commented on Malik’s solo music: “It doesn’t feel like choreographed pop. It’s widely rumored that Harry is working on a record and that’s probably the other one there’ll be some anticipation for. When Zayn was in the band, he had all these songs he was writing, and plans to do his own music. It just feels like maybe he’s further along than the others.”
As for his relationship with his former One Direction group mates, Malik admitted in the Billboard interview: “The truth of it is, you can think one thing about a situation and the total opposite can happen. I had every intention of remaining friends with everybody, but I guess certain phone numbers have changed and I haven’t received calls from a lot of people. I’ve reached out to a few of them and not got a reply. Certain people have pride issues, but it’s stuff you overcome in time.”
In a Beats 1 podcast interview that aired on Jan. 27, 2016, Malik said of his time in One Direction: “I think I always kind of wanted to go. From like the first year really, I never really wanted to be there in the band. I just gave it a go because it was there at the time and then when I realized the direction we were going in with the music, I instantly realized it wasn’t for me because I realized I couldn’t put any input in; I couldn’t give my opinion on this or that because it didn’t fit the grain of what we were as a band or what we represented. So that’s when it became frustrating for me, that’s when I had to be like, I’ve got to start thinking about myself.”