What can new artists learn from the former One Direction star?
Love them or hate them, One Direction are massive. And love it or hate it, when Zayn Malik left everybody heard about it and knew about it. A year later, Malik (who has adopted the simple monikor of Zayn) has finally released his debut solo album. And, believe it or not, it’s a golden lesson for new musicians.
The art of Zayn’s debut album Mind of Mine comes from two core factors: change and maturity. The change is the most glaringly obvious: this is not, by any means, a one-man One Direction album. This is so far removed from the poppy reaches of 1D that it barely even qualifies as being pop, sounding much more at home in the RnB camp. You would never hear 1D knocking out tracks like PILLOWTALK, iT’s YoU or lUcOzAdE.
It’s a big change of direction, but Zayn pulls it off flawlessly — if anything, he pulls it off far better than anything he did with 1D. Zayn took a risk to make music that he enjoyed and would actually listen to, and the risk paid off. It’s a risk few artists dare to take for fear of alienating their audience — who know what would happen if more followed in the footsteps of Zayn?
Then there’s the maturity. Zayn dropped off the face of the planet after leaving 1D and has returned, apparently, a much more mature person (ignoring the really annoying way he titles the majority of his songs). That’s not to say that 1D wrote immature songs, but they weren’t on this kind of level. The maturity on Mind of Mine strafes to the darker side of topicality, presumably in a conscious effort to distinguish himself from his former band, but it doesn’t degrade itself by falling into immaturity. Zayn delivers lyrics about getting high and having sex in a very beautifully fragile and sophisticated way. In a sense, the vocal is at stark odds with the lyrics — and strangely that makes it even better.
So what can new artists learn from Zayn? Don’t be afraid to switch up your sound or to follow a musical path you are passionate about. It might end up being a process of trial and error, but in the end you could find a sound as good as this.
Also, probably worth bearing in mind that if you’re going to write a song about cheating on your (former) partner, you should probably do it a lot more subtly than SHE DON’T LOVE ME does…