“One Direction changed the course of my life. I’m a mixed-race Muslim musician from Bradford. And by a stroke of fate or luck or whatever name you want to label it, I was blessed to spend five years in a band that had a hundred number-one records, 100 million album sales and gigs playing to around 10 million fans. One Direction was my bridge from being a crazy, lazy, teenager with a creative passion, to embarking on an insane adventure in a world I never thought I’d know. My name is Zayn Malik and this is my story.”
March 25th, 2015.
A day that will live on in the One Direction fandom for the rest of time. The day when none other than Zayn Malik, left an old chapter to begin a new one.
There was confusion, heartbreak and angriness that filled the air that day. Not only because the biggest boy band in the world had lost a member, but because the fandom didn’t know the real reason as to why. What we were given and what had actually happened were coming from two different sides of the spectrum. But on November 1st, 2016, Zayn released a slim autobiography that contains honesty and authenticity. Something that is new to both us, and him.
“I feel like there has been a lot said about me and why I left One Direction. At times it’s been difficult to get across what was going on in my head at that point in my life. I guess that’s why I’m writing this now. Not because I think I’m so great or because the whole world needs to know about Zayn Malik… but so that if you’re all interested, you can understand a bit better why I did the things I did and where I’m at now.”
Right at the start of Zayn’s book, you can feel the sincerity behind his articulation. Presumably, most would think that this was something thrown together over night just for the sake of publicity – but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Everything inside this book has been well-thought out and said with purpose. Not for attention, and even less for guilt.
“I’m going to show you as much as I can so that you can judge me on my own terms, not on what the press or anyone else says.”
In hindsight, this is arguably the most personal thing Zayn has ever done. For those who know him better from his days spent in One Direction, you’ll know that interviews and public speaking never came too naturally to him. And because of that, he was often misconstrued as “the bad boy” or seen as ungrateful. Of course that was never the case, but it does portray just how misunderstood he really was.
When 1DHQ released the departure statement, fans had high hopes that Zayn was finally happy to be free of the weight that held him down for so long. Despite their broken hearts and the millions of tears that had fallen, they knew it was better to get out of something dangerous rather than remaining and paying the price later on. But as Malik expressed in his first chapter, it was nothing of the sort.
“You might think that leaving the band was this time of massive excitement for me because I was finally free to do what I wanted. But, if I’m straight with you, it didn’t feel that way. To tell the truth, I was pretty lost. I felt like I was adrift.”
As spectators, you don’t realize the extension of such decision. Zayn didn’t have much of a clue either. All he had known for the last 5 years was being part of the biggest boy band in the world – and with that, comes the stress of living up to the bar of expectation that’s been set for you. But what are you supposed to do when that bar doesn’t necessarily fit your style?
“If I suggested singing a line or a hook in a more R&B way, that would get soothed out into a more poppy approach because that was the music that was expected of us. Even as we matured and the other lads began to develop their sound a bit more, I found that it wasn’t in sync with my own. To be honest though, it was a struggle for me… the fact that we didn’t share the same musical taste. It felt a bit like being forced into a mould I would never fit. I wanted to be in the studio singing lyrics that resonated with me, not just repeating someone else’s lines.”
“Whenever I saw a window to write I’d grab it, even if it meant working really late into the night and even if I knew it wasn’t material that we would end up using as a band. It’s important to say though, that this wasn’t part of some big master plan to break away and go solo. I wasn’t thinking about a solo career, I was just being expressive in my own style and using the downtime we had to do what I love doing most. It was only towards the very end of my life with the band that I actually started visiting studios by myself… just to mess about and experiment.”
This served as a fairly pivotal moment. Not because he worded it in such a way that you can inevitably feel your heart clench, but because he’s trying his hardest to be honest. As he explained, he didn’t have some grand master plan to pick up his things and jet set off on his own – these were real struggles that he was faced with. Daily. And not only did he stick it out for the four other boys he considered his brothers, but more so for the fans. He’s desperately trying to encourage the fact that he doesn’t count his time in One Direction unjustified, but rather a learning experience that isn’t taken for granted; no matter how many news outlets claim the opposite.
“Being in One Direction opened up an insane new level of opportunity for me, but it also sent me headfirst into a world that I never experienced before. And that was very daunting.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t fun at times. It was. All five of us would hang out, play football and genuinely have a laugh. At that moment, our lives felt so exciting and that shared excitement created a real bond between us. Whenever we made a new track together, even though it wasn’t my kind of music, I would still enjoy the experience of it.”
In addition to Zayn opening up about the more quiet side of One Direction, he also took a moment to confess his struggles with intense anxiety; something that is fairly common nowadays.
Not only did we find high appreciation in his confession but it was something that provided a lot of us with the reassurance of normalcy. More often than not, people tend to view celebrities as a different kind of species – in the way they live their lives and such. But what most of them fail to remember is that just because they’re in the limelight, doesn’t mean they’re any less of a human being. At the end of the day we’re all the same; each to our own struggle.
“I’m no stranger to anxiety. For the most part, I like to think I’ve learned to cope with it.
But sometimes I put too much pressure on myself and that’s when the anxiety takes over.”
We really empathize with Zayn. The transition from performing with four of your best mates to being on stage by yourself is never easy. Especially when there’s already a standard pressure that comes with any given performance. Whether it’s in a tiny coffee shop or to 80,000+ people, you’d be lying if you said your nerves didn’t kick in.
“I take my craft seriously. I don’t want to just go onstage and dick about, I want to give the best performance I can. I love what I do. That’s what I want people to understand. I love performing and I love making music. I love it so much that it sometimes affects my health. Even if I rehearse a million times, sometimes I still just don’t have that confidence.”
It takes a lot of courage and bravery to be able to stand up and admit to having something that most people are fearful of sharing. In hindsight, Zayn knew he couldn’t bare to carry on with a hint of false identity. “Even when you know you want to do something, know that it will be good for you, that you’ll enjoy it once you’re doing it, the anxiety is telling you a different story. It’s a constant battle within yourself,” he writes.
Strategically, Zayn chose to leave his anxiety for the mere end of his book – where his improvement and more developed confidence, is evidential. We found it to be a smart move.
So, what’s next?
Well… in the midst of writing his book, he shares that he’s also been working on his second studio album! Although he has no insight on when it will be finished, released, or even the specific sound he’s aiming towards – he expresses his happiness for finally being in control of his own career.
“Making the next solo album’s going to be a weird experience because with the first one, the plan had just been to get some tracks together for a laugh. I had zero expectations about what would happen when it was released. In the end, I found producers and self-financed the making of the record before I was signed to RCA. It’s great to have that label support but for the first album, doing it off my own back, that felt like a big achievement. Next time around people are going to have their own expectations of me. But my attitude is pretty relaxed.”
Zayn has evidentially come a long way – from his time spent being part of the biggest boy band in the world to now, this autobiography proves simply that. We not only commend him for agreeing to put his heart on display for everyone to see, but also immensely appreciate the fact that he wanted to share this side with us. Even if you’re not a huge lover of One Direction and or still remain slightly bitter for Zayn’s leaving, we highly encourage grabbing his book and giving it a read.
Everyone deserves a second chance.
I make music for me and that’s not going to change.