It soon became clear that he was not looking for a break from music--he was looking for a break from One Direction. A few weeks passed and a song called "I Won't Mind" appeared on the Internet. It was a Malik original, a soulful tune produced and released by Naughty Boy. The message was clear: Zayn was making music, and it would sound like nothing like 1D.
Naughty Boy would drop another Malik tune, a cover of Rae Sremmurd's "No Type." It led to a falling out between the pair. It's safe to say these jams will not make the album, but point to a certain sound Zayn is flirting with.
In early March, Malik shared the cover artwork for Mind of Mine at the beginning of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he'd make his solo TV debut. It shows the former One Direction singer as a baby with his current-day tattoos...very Lil Wayne! See it above.
Now, we might not even have Mind of Mine yet, but Zayn is already working on his sophomore release. "I gotta go, I gotta go to the studio," Zayn told fans during a live Periscope session. "I gotta get working on the second album." Apparently he hasn't lost that 1D work ethic.
Before Naughty Boy and Zayn Malik severed ties, NB went on the record about Zayn's new sound: He’s making a "very soulful record,” he told Capital FM. "He’s writing, himself, on it as well. ... I think it’s worth the wait...it’ll all make sense soon. Zayn’s his own man, no one can tell Zayn what to do, especially me!” He is currently working with James "Malay" Ho, who was instrumental in producing Frank Ocean's Channel Orange album.
It's unsure if that's the case. We do know the record will sound a lot more R&B and hip hop-influenced than anything Malik has done before. He told the Fader:
"There was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band. If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop, generic as fuck, so they could use that version. Whenever I would suggest something, it was like it didn’t fit us. There was just a general conception that the management already had of what they want for the band, and I just wasn’t convinced with what we were selling. I wasn’t 100 percent behind the music. It wasn’t me. It was music that was already given to us, and we were told this is what is going to sell to these people. As much as we were the biggest, most famous boy band in the world, it felt weird. We were told to be happy about something that we weren’t happy about.”
Malik told English pub The Sunday Times that his record will deal a lot with sex. He's growing up! We also know it's definitely going to be more R&B--Zayn went as far as to tell Beats 1 Radio host Zane Lowe that his love of the stuff is well documented...In his One Direction days, the other guys would try to give him the most R&B-leaning verses to keep him happy. Awe.
On January 29, 2016, Zayn dropped his first single, "PillowTalk." It's nothing like 1D!
"Befour" - Before Zayn's Fader cover story hit the 'net, a video short was shared. In it, Malik road a motorcycle and outlined his new endeavor: "Life experiences has been the influence for the album, stuff I've been through especially in the last five years with being in the band and everything. It's quite a personal album. We recorded a lot of it out in the woods and stuff...I used to listen to a lot of Bollywood, being a kid and stuff, that definitely influenced the music a little bit." In the background of the conversation, we were given a tease of "Befour." On March 17, however, Malik dropped the song in full. Listen here.
"I Got Mine" - In the same Fader story, we learn about a new song that is an "upbeat jam...with freshly recorded trumpets and a beat that’s almost U.K. garage." Zayn explained: “There’s so many people in L.A. that have a story to tell, but they never got to tell the story. “Every line in the pre [-chorus] of that song is a different person’s perspective. So, it’s like, 'Talk is cheap but we still talk it / Road is far but we still walk it / Writing chalks or change the story.' At that point, that could be like a teacher writing on the chalkboard, writing a story, but they can change it. 'Keep it moving when it’s boring.' The dustbin man, putting the garbage out, whatever. 'Thoughts come out just like they’re pouring.' An alcoholic guy who’s, like, a super creative dude. It was all different perspectives.”
"My Ways" - All we know about this one is that it's written from Malik's father's perspective.
"She" - This song is the first mentioned in Zayn's Billboard cover story. It's described as a "shadowy, au courant R&B track." On Beats 1, Zayn told Zane Lowe the tune is a "party song."
"Wrong" - This song was first mentioned in Billboard, but Malik gave Beats 1 more a description saying "I wrote that originally as a rap. I do rap sometimes...it's all about looking in the wrong place for love."
"Pillowtalk" - The official title of Zayn's first single! He shared the news on Twitter, and the single dropped on Friday, January 29. It's very The Weeknd-esque. He dropped the video the same day starring girlfriend/Taylor Swift BFF Gigi Hadid (the same from Calvin Harris' "How Deep Is Your Love" video.)
"Like I Would" - On March 10, Malik dropped his most club-ready song to date, "Like I Would." The best part? Homeboy actually sings on the release. It's been far too long since we've heard him belt, right?
James “Malay” Ho - Producer. He gave Billboard a little bit of insight on the recording of the album: “We went camping for a week in the Angeles Forest -- set up a generator and a tent so we could track in the woods. “It was the complete opposite of what he’d been doing. We had the gas grill, BB guns, bows and arrows. It was a shittin’-in-the-woods-type thing.”
Kehlani - In an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music's Beats 1, Malik revealed that up-and-comer Kehlani will be featured on his album. We don't know which song just yet!
For more, try:
–The Complete Guide to Frank Ocean's Upcoming Second Album