Zayn Malik’s video for his long-awaited single “Pillowtalk” has just dropped, and it’s as sexy an affair as the title suggests.
The ex-One Direction crooner recruited supermodel girlfriend Gigi Hadid for the arty affair, in which the lovers make-out, nuzzle, and lock one another in a charged embrace that suggests they could either tear each other’s clothes off or rip each other’s throats out.
“It’s a paradise and it’s a war zone.”
Malik opts for a more grating, pained and plaintive vocal style than he ever did during his time in One Direction, when the Bradford heartthrob was known for his smooth, soothing vocals and the ever-so-slight lover’s-baby-talk edge he often added when pronouncing certain vowels and words. More than the other guys, Zayn would often sing in a way that made the listener feel they were indeed engaged in some intimate pillow talk — it’s not known whether this was deliberate or a happy accident, eg. an unintended consequence of some kind of breathing technique Zayn was using because it allowed him to hit those low notes with a silkier tone and for a longer duration.
Whatever the case — and strangely enough — the milk-chocolate smooth-as-silk vocals of 1D-era Zayn are gone, and his voice is sounding more abrasive on the new single, which is the first time Zayn has actually sung about “Pillowtalk.” Perhaps he’s shot up to that register (and without his normal falsetto) because the new grit in his vocal suits the sub-theme of the sexy song: the way that love and passion can turn abruptly into recklessness or even violence.
The Sun is reporting that Zayn has removed “every last trace of One Direction.” Hollywood Life declares in their headline that Zayn “smothers” Gigi Hadid in the video. Perhaps this is a reference to the Bradford hunk’s body language in the clip, which shifts from loving to bracing and dominant, or perhaps Hollywood Life is referring to the lyrics. Zayn really can’t get close enough to beautiful Gigi, if lines like “wanting to hold you close and wake up next to you” are any indication.
The video is a montage-style affair with interesting lighting and digital effects. The viewer feels as if they are looking into a kaleidoscope, where dreamy images morph suddenly into nightmarish ones, and back again. Foreground features diminish in power until something previously hidden bursts into view, the way a form can burst suddenly from a “Magic Eye” print if you blur your eyes.
Zayn is lit with a red filter the first time he approaches the camera, as if bathed in blood from a recent kill. Gigi Hadid is stark white on a black background, then black on a white one, and back again. The pair kiss in profile, tropical blooms appear superimposed over grim backdrops only to melt away, a scene with the lovers segues smoothly to a scene in which Gigi’s face is reflected four times over in a split, geometric frame. There is even a moment when digital black tears drip like acrylic paint from Zayn’s eyes; red tears soon drip from Gigi’s in a similar scene.
The production is good, with the percussion line especially innovative in the way it fuses African drumming and grating industrial-Goth elements. Birdcall-style woots, chirps and whistles rise up throughout the song, so you feel like you are surrounded by myriad different breeds all chirping and calling from branches at different heights and angles — this helps to add sonic depth and a sense of a large, cavernous space, thus opening up and “lightening up” what could have been a heavy and claustrophobic track. Some mellow, soulful Slash-style guitar licks spice up the second chorus and bridge.
The video is reminiscent of something by classy and innovative nineties star Terence Trent D’Arby. The video also calls to mind Beyonce’s “1+1” for its kaleidoscope vibe and the way intimate moments and horrific or unsettling ones alternate quickly.
Zayn thanked fans for their positive messages about the track:
Are you enjoying “Pillowtalk”? Is this a new side of Zayn Malik?
(Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)