Zayn Malik’s New Album Out One Year After He Left One Direction

Exactly one year ago, Zayn Malik announced his departure from the much-loved boy band One Direction — and broke millions of his fans’ hearts in the process. Today, those fans’ hearts are healing, and so is Zayn’s, as he just dropped his solo debut album, Mind of Mine, to much acclaim.

Was it a mere coincidence that Zayn Malik picked the exact anniversary of his departure from One Direction to release Mind of Mine?

Last year, the then-22-year-old singer Malik left the cherished boy band One Direction after five good years for a variety of reasons, including trying to save his relationship with his ex-fiancee, Perrie Edwards.

This year, an older Malik dropped his soulful R&B debut Mind of Mine, and his sound, even personality, couldn’t be more different.

But One Direction fans have really come through. In a trending hashtag on Twitter, #1YearWithoutZayn, many Zayn Malik fans have taken to pointing out that even though they were disappointed Zayn was leaving the band last year, they are thrilled at his evolution and are so proud of him this year.

Some fans even appreciated Zayn’s departure, because he is now making the music that he wants to make.

#1YearWithoutZayn more like #1YearWithTheRealZayn????

— kate (@concertmh) March 25, 2016

Others, although still disappointed, showed their support for Zayn in his new musical career.

This overwhelming support from the One Direction fandom, combined with Zayn Malik’s new R&B fans, has helped shoot the album to No. 1 the iTunes sales charts — a feat that, it must be added, no One Direction album has managed to achieve.

Many Directioners, however, were not so charitable. There was some amount of sadness and anger in the #1YearWithoutZayn trend.

Some fans decided to tweet about the other four members (Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson) without a mention of Zayn or Mind of Mine.

Other Directioners outright dissed 23-year-old R&B singer Malik.

#1YearWithoutZayn he may be gone but he left behind a valuable lesson, never put your head in a tree mulcher to see whats going on in there

— ray (@rayhill_6) March 25, 2016

This minor backlash from the One Direction fandom, far from affecting Zayn Malik, has only helped him by distancing him from his former boy band persona, which he has been trying to get rid of ever since he left the band.

Mind of Mine, as an R&B album, has come to be known for its sensuality ever since Zayn Malik released the music video for the single “Pillowtalk” in January, featuring a steamy make-out session with his girlfriend, Gigi Hadid. All of this is in sharp contrast to One Direction’s boyish tones, poppy tunes, and mostly romantic lyrics.

Zayn Malik’s look has evolved over the year from the boyish charm of a One Direction member to the rugged and sexualized look of a more grown-up artist in the music world.

A tweet posted on his birthday very accurately depicts Malik’s style transformation.

Zayn Malik has certainly a long ways in one year, from his new style to his new girlfriend to his new chart-topping R&B album, Mind of Mine.

[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]