Since Zayn Malik’s shocking departure from the successful U.K. vocal group One Direction, he’s been very open about the restraints he was under as an artist while he was trying to explore his own sound.
Now that he’s out of his Sony contract and signed to RCA Records, Zayn is being forthcoming with all of the things he wasn’t allowed to do as a member of One Direction. In the new issue of Complex, Malik opens up about what it was like to be under the thumb of people in power, while being a member of one of the most successful boybands.
According to Malik, they had to keep a more youthful look to appeal to their young demographic, which meant that he couldn’t keep his beard.
“There were certain restrictions in terms of the way that we could come outside of that young teen boy look. Mainly my beard, honestly. I wasn’t allowed to keep it. Eventually, when I got older, I rebelled against it, and decided to keep it anyway. That was just because I looked older than the rest of them.”
— One Direction News (@1D_24hNews) March 21, 2016
It wasn’t just his beard, as this preppy look extended to his hair, which is now dyed silver.
“That’s one of the things that is now quite cool. I get to keep my beard. I also wanted to dye my hair when I was in the band, but I wasn’t allowed to.”
This lack of control that Malik had over his image in One Direction also applied to his music career, as he wasn’t feeling the direction the group was going in, and didn’t have a say about the music they were making, which he has talked about in the past.
“It was about denying the authenticity of who I was, and what I enjoyed about music, and why I got into it. That was always there. It was one of the things that wasn’t going to go away, so I had to go away.”
— BreatheHeavy (@breatheheavycom) March 21, 2016
As stated, this isn’t the first time that Zayn Malik has discussed how liberating it feels to make his own kind of music now that he’s no longer with One Direction. During a Beats 1 interview, Malik said that he had a different sound, and it really does show in his new single “Pillow Talk,” which is really resonating on the Billboard charts.
Back in November, Malik admitted that he never wanted to be in One Direction in the first place, and just went with the flow because it was an outlet to get his voice heard. Then, he realized that being in a controlled group wouldn’t get him the freedom he wanted as an artist.
“I realized the direction we were going in with the music, I instantly realized it wasn’t for me because I realized I couldn’t put any input in; I couldn’t give my opinion on this or that because it didn’t fit the grain of what we were as a band or what we represented.”
As for the remaining members of One Direction, Malik said that they aren’t angry with him over leaving the group, even though some tabloids have reported otherwise. During the Beats 1 interview, he said when he sat the boys down to talk about his decision to leave, no one tried to talk him out of leaving.
Since leaving, Zayn Malik has been compared to Justin Timberlake, who left his boy band, Nsync, during the height of their fame, for a more lucrative and successful career. In the first year of his solo career, Timberlake came out with a more R&B sound, which deviated from the signature poppy sound that Nsync had.
When Malik first announced his decision, he claimed that he wanted to live a normal life, but the rumors that he was working on his own solo material started to circulate, and the rest, as they say, is history.
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]