What Zayn Malik’s Billboard Interview Really Says about One Direction

There can be no denying that Zayn Malik broke a million hearts when he walked out on One Direction back in March of last year. Malik was one-fifth of the world’s biggest boy band and adored by millions of fans across the globe. Many feared for One Direction’s future after Malik walked, but Zayn’s former band mates have stayed strong, pulled together and released their fifth, and arguably strongest album.

With the gift of hindsight it was easy to see that Malik was unhappy as part of One Direction. Even during the 2010 season of X-Factor there were signs that Malik may not be a suitable fit for what Simon Cowell was trying to create. Who remembers Malik’s temper tantrums and threats to quit X-Factor? It was clear that something didn’t sit right with Zayn. It may not have been clear to Malik at the time but it seems that, deep down, he recognised that One Direction were being packaged as a product, and that Zayn felt uncomfortable about that.

Missed my mouth

A photo posted by Zayn Malik (@zayn) on

Malik’s fans will remember all too clearly Zayn’s recent interview in Fader magazine. As reported in Inquisitr at the time Zayn was reported to have said that One Direction’s music was as “generic as f***” and that he had wanted to quit from the beginning.

“I just wanted to go home from the beginning. I was always thinking it. I just didn’t know when I was going to do it.”

History tells us that, for reasons known only to himself, Malik decided to stick around with One Direction, and as a result went on to become one of the biggest names in pop.

Despite the huge success that Malik enjoyed as part of One Direction, there were always hints that Zayn wasn’t truly comfortable being part of a boy-band. It may be a little unkind to Zayn, but when you have the adoration of millions of fans and are able to sit back and watch the millions roll in, it probably isn’t too difficult to let your reservations take a back seat.

Yet when One Direction hit the peak of their fame – they had just grossed almost $300 million for their 2014 tour – Malik walked. Some may think that Malik had made so much money from One Direction that he decided that the cash was no longer relevant, that he simply couldn’t face another nine-month tour locked in a hotel room by day and singing the same songs by night.

Of course, it is easier to assert your independence when you will never have to worry where the next paycheck is coming from.

The reality seems to be very different. Just yesterday Billboard published a major and explosive interview with Malik, and the internet went crazy. Malik’s fans were split into two camps. Some praised Zayn for being brutally honest. Others felt that Malik had betrayed the very people to whom he owes everything, the only people who will ever understand exactly what he went through as a member of One Direction, his former band-mates.

There is an abiding obsession with the relationships between the members of One Direction, and now that Zayn is an outsider, many want to know how things sit between him and his former band-mates. For that reason, most of the media, including the Telegraph have focused on the fact that Malik says he wanted to keep in touch with his former friends but it hasn’t happened.

“I had every intention of remaining friends with everybody, but I guess certain phone numbers have changed and I haven’t received calls from a lot of people. I’ve reached out to a few of them and not got a reply. Certain people have pride issues, but it’s stuff you overcome in time.”

It is interesting that Malik accuses others within One Direction of having “pride issues.” Surely Malik must realize that he could not have picked a worse time to walk out of the band. You have to suspect that rather than having “pride issues” Malik’s former band-mates are suffering a great deal of hurt and a sense of betrayal.

A photo posted by Zayn Malik (@zayn) on

No-one would deny that the relationship, or lack thereof, between Malik and the rest of One Direction is interesting but it really misses the point entirely. In many ways, the point harks all the way back to Malik’s initial misgivings about being part of One Direction. The really important issues in Malik’s Billboard interview are given far fewer column inches than their relationships. Malik lifts the lid on just how badly One Direction were abused by their management and the degree to which they are moulded into the “One Direction brand.”

“It was like a f—–g machine going constantly.

“We weren’t allowed to say certain things, or word [lyrics] the way we would want to. I’d sit and wonder, ‘If the fans knew how it worked, what would they think?’ My argument was: ‘People are more intelligent than that. They want to hear what’s real, so why don’t we write some stuff that we’re actually going through?'”

One has to wonder why many outlets, including Time, barely mention these issues, preferring instead to focus on the much softer relationship news.

Remember if you will that the members of One Direction were all teenagers, some as young as 16, when they were fed into Simon Cowell’s hit machine. Even Cowell accepts that Zayn and his mates were hugely overworked. Of course the lifespan of a boy-band is notoriously short and no-one knew when or if the bubble was about to burst. The end result was the Malik and the others were subjected to a terrifying and relentless round of record, promote, tour, on an annual basis until it finally became too much.

The real story here is not whether Zayn is speaking to his band-mates or not. What is really important is the degree to which Malik and the others were manipulated to fit an image. Remember also that Cowell still has a hand in Malik’s career, and Zayn is still on a Sony label. You have to wonder how much more damning Malik would have been if he had been free of all of that.

Zayn Malik has given a real insight into life as part of One Direction, and it does not paint a pretty picture. Malik may insist that he will no longer be censored, but you have to wonder how much more Zayn could have said if he was truly free to do so.

[Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP]