What Happened to Zayn?

Despite being the first One Direction member to go solo and release a popular debut album, the pop star has fallen off the charts and out of the spotlight.

Sadaf Ahsan

September 26, 2022

What Happened to Zayn?
Zayn Malik at the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2018 (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NARAS)

About a month ago, on a random August afternoon, one Zayn Malik took to Instagram and bequeathed his fans a special gift: a 31-second clip of him crooning the classic One Direction song “Night Changes.” At one point, the 29-year-old gets so into his musical soliloquy that he picks up the camera — with an angsty black-and-white close-up view of his tatted arms and long eyelashes; mise en scene! — as his voice raises in pitch and emotion. Call it a brief symphony, an aria, a moment.

It left fans in a tizzy, with one commenter proclaiming, “zayn singing 1d songs in 2022 is literally the best thing that could ever happen.” Another shared, “RIP me.” Yet another declared, “Omg my ears are blessed.” Indeed. The video, which suggests that there might be more coming from the singer, has amassed over 30 million views to date. As one other fan commented, “What are you telling us?” Well, I can answer that: based on his history, absolutely nothing.

As the hallowed prophecy tends to go, when the first member of a band decides to leave, they are practically guaranteed super-stardom. Think Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, George Michael, Beyoncé, and Camila Cabello. It’s a move that breaks the hearts of thousands of fans worldwide but eventually wins them back with fiercer love than ever. In the case of Malik, however, after his debut album Mind of Mine dropped in 2016, his follow-ups failed to climb the charts or impress critics. While his former bandmate Harry Styles — who left the band shortly after him — has conquered music and the screen, Malik has made more of a name for himself because of his personal drama. He’s thought of as the superior singer, gracing manyamagazinecoverbillinghim as the next big thing (or, for just beinghot). But, following the path of so many before him, Malik’s star has hit a speed bump thanks to a not-so-squeaky clean image and distaste for the spotlight. Still, so many fans hold out hope.