Zayn Malik: From One Direction To Another
In the history of popular music, the boy band has a long lineage.
Though it may often feel like boy bands are a creation of the 1990s and early 2000s, the fact of the matter is that they’ve been a formidable factor for well over 50 years. Such iconic groups as The Temptations, The Beatles, The Monkeys and The Jackson 5, first laid the foundation, establishing many of the elements the world continues to expect from such acts today.
The Beatles, for instance, mark one of the first bands in which every member boasted a distinct persona that became so universally known that we can identify them by their first names: John, Paul, George, Ringo. The Fab Four are also responsible for indelibly defining the boy band image: that of handsome, mildly rebellious youngsters playing sold out stadiums for the swooning teenage masses.
In terms of fan base, aesthetic and popularity, what’s the difference between The Beatles playing Shea Stadium in 1965 and One Direction playing the MetLife Stadium in 2015? What’s the difference between a Beatlemaniac and a Directioner? Honestly, very little.
And for nearly as long as boy bands have been around, so have select members defected to go solo, as they say, and pursue their own career and vision.
Consider Michael Jackson who got his start with the Jackson 5 in 1964 and would go on to release his first solo record, Got To Be There, in 1972. From then on, most agree that MJ’s best and most iconic work would be as a solo artist. And while he formally leave the Jackson 5 behind, the King of Pop eclipsed them entirely, cultivating his new sound and image to tremendous success. Unfair though it may be, looking in the rear view mirror, the Jackson 5 can appear as a mere stepping stone in Michael’s triumphant career, despite being the second highest-selling boy band of all time.
More recently, Justin Timberlake emerged from the ashes of *NSYNC, swapping his boyish, blonde curly hair and lax look for a suave, suit-wearing sex symbol, not even mentioning his remarkably successful crossover into acting. In 2012, when the boy band craze he emerged from was long over, Timberlake’s third solo record, The 20/20 Experience, quickly became that year’s best selling album.
But for the solo success of the few aforementioned there are countless examples of grown-up, down and out disappointments singing the post-boy band blues. Think of *NSYNC’s JC Chasez; once looked to have an enormously promising future as a solo artist, he quickly failed to catch on and is now primarily resigned to playing himself on the occasional random television show.
Enter Zayn Malik, that heartthrob formerly of the world-conquering sensation known as One Direction and an individual stepping into a new career as an all-caps SOLO ARTIST.
Whether he’ll reach new heights or sink to new lows remains unseen. I mean, we can’t predict the future! That said, “PILLOWTALK,” the lead single from his debut effort, suggests that ZAYN is taking the right early steps toward ensuring solo success.
If history has taught us anything, one of the most important things an artist like Mr. Malik can do at this pivotal point in his career is to wholly differentiate both his sound and person from that of his former group. To do otherwise would only leave former fans longing for the past. But tattooed to the nines, cursing like a sailor and sensually singing like he’s Chris Brown, he’s certainly distanced himself from his bashful boy band days of yore.
Moreover, following his earth-shaking departure from One Direction, ZAYN took a step out of the spotlight, wisely choosing mystery over what might have been an endless sea of controversy or overexposure. “I just didn’t want to get caught up in something that wasn’t real,” he recently told NME. “You can be the biggest band in the world for a certain time, but that ends.”
Regardless of whether this is the beginning of the end or the start of something bigger and better, we wish ZAYN well. Enjoy his debut solo album, Mind Of Mine, on TIDAL today.
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