The Week In Pop: What’s Next For Zayn Malik, One Direction, And The World?
Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction was announced the only way it could be in 2015, via an official statement on the group’s Facebook page. (I suppose a series of Snapchats would also have been appropriate.) The crucial sentence and obvious pullquote is this: “I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.” But here’s the whole thing, which also includes statements from his bandmates and Simon Cowell:
There you have it. This generation’s reigning boy band is now down a man. It’s not that surprising because Malik has been the subject of tabloid rumors involving substance abuse for a while, and he recently took a hiatus from touring to recuperate. On the other hand, it’s pretty surprising because more than most boy bands, One Direction seem built for the long haul. When Four came out last year I noted that they’ve been unusually good at evolving their sound beyond adolescence, to the point that none of their recent music would sound weird or creepy coming from the fiftysomething version of 1D. And even though Simon Cowell svengali’d them together in the first place, they seem to genuinely like each other. There wasn’t any sense that one of them was itching to go solo; even Malik’s goodbye message suggests that rather than trying to grab more of the spotlight, he’s trying to get out of it entirely.
So, what does Malik’s exit from 1D mean for all involved parties?
Malik: First and foremost, if he genuinely wants some time away from the media circus, he can get it now — to an extent. There’s no way the paparazzi are going to stop following him around just because he quit the band, but at least maybe they’ll be sorely disappointed by his mundane life. Cheering for your favorite football club at the pub is not exactly glamorous. Still, for the long-term, we have to wonder if Malik is about to become the next Bobby Brown. I mention Brown rather than Justin Timberlake because Malik is notoriously the bad boy in 1D, the guy most likely to corrupt some young Whitney in waiting. He’s one of the only two members of 1D who could feasibly pull off the leap to solo stardom if he decides that’s something he wants. All the 1D guys can actually sing, and he’s by far the coolest and — let’s face it — the handsomest. I’m genuinely curious about what a Zayn Malik solo track might sound like, only because I can actually imagine him doing something different than the sparkling pop-rock 1D have become known for. I hope he gets the downtime he needs, but I also hope this isn’t the last we hear of him.
One Direction: What I wrote before about One Direction still applies: They’re built to last. Their fifth album in five years is due this year, and they don’t need Malik to keep their songwriting machine in motion. Plenty of bands have survived on four-part harmony, and it’s not like personality was driving 1D’s music. This isn’t like Timberlake leaving *NSYNC, where he’s by far the most recognizable and talented guy in the group. It’s probably not even like Matt Sharp departing Weezer, Wes Borland quitting Limp Bizkit, or John Frusciante dipping out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (twice!), guys who played a key role in the songwriting process — though I can’t say for certain that Malik isn’t some kind of songwriting ace in the hole, so correct me if I’m wrong there. Another interesting parallel is Robbie Williams, the designated bad boy from ’90s UK boy band extraordinaire Take That (“Back For Good” 4 lyfe) who left the group due to substance abuse and ended up becoming a massive solo star across the pond despite never quite clicking over here. Take That were able to reunite without Williams and have maintained a fruitful career since then. It’s not a perfect parallel because Williams’ departure basically ended Take That’s first iteration whereas 1D will probably be fine. Still, they’ll need to find a way to recapture some of their mystique because there’s basically no getting around the following:
one direction is now just a bunch of white nerds
— maria sherman (@mariasherm) March 25, 2015
The rest of the boy band universe: The throne is for the taking! Now is the perfect time for 5 Seconds Of Summer to release some fire single and supplant their benefactor/mentor figures. It happens all the time in hip-hop, so why not in high-stakes teen pop too? If the Wanted were ever going to stage a comeback, this is their moment. (Just kidding, not even this could salvage the Wanted’s career.)
The universe at large: Jokes, befuddlement, profound sadness. (Thanks to Fuse TV’s Maria Sherman for most of these.)
zayn is leaving one direction to be happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
— maria sherman (@mariasherm) March 25, 2015
— Girl Scouts (@girlscouts) March 25, 2015
— David Crosby (@thedavidcrosby) March 25, 2015
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) March 26, 2015
goodbye cruel world pic.twitter.com/0gnM9wEimU
— maria sherman (@mariasherm) March 25, 2015
Coincidentally we just happened to post this job listing this morning pic.twitter.com/z70h0tnPcM
— samir mezrahi (@samir) March 25, 2015
@billyeichner not the time
— Gracie A Bryant (@GracieABryant) March 25, 2015
All hail King Kendrick Lamar. To Pimp A Butterfly becomes his first #1 album, debuting this week with 363,000 equivalent units — 324,000 from sales and the rest from record-setting streams. (You might recall that good kid m.A.A.d. city entered at #2 in 2012 when its strong first-week sales figure of 241,000 was dwarfed by Kendrick’s buddy Taylor Swift, who moved 1.21 million copies of Red right out of the gate.)
Last week’s #1, Empire’s season 1 soundtrack, falls to #2 with 89,000. Next up is Modest Mouse’s Strangers To Ourselves, debuting at #3 with 77,000 units based almost entirely on sales. Then comes a flurry of top-10 mainstays: the Fifty Shades Of Grey soundtrack (#4, 60,000), Swift’s 1989 (#5, 56,000), Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (#6, 52,000), and Ed Sheeran’s x (#7, 49,000). Marina And The Diamonds enter at #8 with 46,000 for Froot, their first ever top-10 album. Marina nearly edges out Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, also with about 46,000 and sitting at #9. Maroon 5’s V closes out the top 10 with 44,000 at #10.
The top seven songs on the Hot 100 are exactly the same as last week, which isn’t fun at all. That means “Uptown Funk!” is #1 for a twelfth straight week — double Bruno Mars’ previous record of six weeks on top with “Locked Out Of Heaven” and not bad at all for Mark Ronson’s first #1 hit. At 2-3-4-5-6-7 are Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do,” Rihanna/Kanye West/Paul McCartney’s “FourFiveSeconds,” the Weeknd’s “Earned It,” and Swift’s “Style.” Then, finally, some movement: Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” rises a spot to #8. Pitbull and Ne-Yo’s “Time Of Our Lives” stays put at #9, and Flo Rida’s “G.D.F.R.” (also featuring Sage The Gemini and Lookas) climbs to #10. Weirdly enough, the current iTunes top 10 singles are almost exactly the same, but Maroon 5 are all the way down at #22 on that one. Make of that what you will.
Hozier – “Work Song”
I totally believe spontaneous modern ballroom dancing breaks out at Hozier concerts.
Ed Sheeran x Rudimental – “Bloodstream”
Sheeran singing “How’d I get so faded” makes this feel like one of his corny rap covers, which combined with the awkward drum-n-bass breakdowns should make me despise this song. But I kinda like it? Dark Sheeran is better than shlocky Sheeran.
Tom DeLonge – “The Invisible Parade”
Dude skipped out on a new Blink-182 album for this? Maybe the aliens really did get to him.
T-Pain – “Let Your Hair Down” (Feat. The-Dream & Vantrease)
“Let Your Hair Down” is almost everything a T-Pain/The-Dream duet should be. The only thing I’d add is way more cheese.
J. Cole – “G.O.M.D.”
If Kendrick Lamar had released Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, how many people would have dubbed it as a masterpiece?
Martin Garrix – “Don’t Look Down” (Feat. Usher)
It was Usher’s turn to sing on an EDM-pop banger, wasn’t it? Garrix, the aggessor behind “Animals,” plays far more nicely here. (Turn down for… millions of dollars!) I’m actually surprised he didn’t get Ne-Yo instead, not that I mind hearing the superior Mr. Raymond on the track instead. “Don’t Look Down” is sentimental shlock yet somehow also one of the highlights of its genre, with a typically stellar vocal performance from Usher and playful melodic twinkles from Garrix.
Florida Georgia Line – “Sippin’ On Fire”
Basically every Florida Georgia Line song has the same chorus, but it’s a good chorus.
Karmin – “Along The Road”
At least they didn’t rap on this one?
Allie X – “Sanctuary” (xample)
Ever since Allie X debuted with the Chvrches-sounding, Katy Perry-approved “Catch,” her singles have gotten progressively less satisfying, to the point that I was ready to write her off completely. But “Sanctuary,” only available in partial form for now, is the best thing she’s ever done.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Taylor Swift will receive a country-related award at the ACMs next month. [Rolling Stone]
- More Swift: The Princeton Review apologized for getting her lyrics wrong on an SAT practice test. [Twitter]
- So I guess Harry Styles gets $800 sheep placenta facials? [Life & Style]