ZAYN’s ‘Pillowtalk’ puts us to sleep

RCA/Courtesy

Zayn Malik fled from the sea of preteen, life-size cutout hoarding, high-pitch squealing One Direction fans for an ambiguous abyss and now has the burden of redefining himself. But if “Pillowtalk” is any indication of what is to come, he’ll need to work on cultivating his new identity.

Malik took a gamble, leaving his roots for a sense of adulthood and independence. He shed his teenage boyband skin in hopes of entering the pool of artists artists like Frank Ocean and Miguel. But his youthful presence still lingers — even with lyrics about “fucking you and fighting on,” a scandalous move his previous group, One Direction, would have never dared.

Though Malik’s studio activities have been a mystery for a year, his return failed to floor fans like Bieber’s return with Purpose. In the pop music arena, artists are forced to reimagine and reinvent their image at the risk of slipping into the cracks. With the new “formula” for writing a hit song, it’s even easier to vanish into the multitudes of synthpop. But Malik missed his opportunity to outshine his peers by releasing a song that doesn’t elicit curiosity at all. Had it been sung by another artist, I wouldn’t have cared. It would’ve just been another passionless single about sex.  

“Pillowtalk” doesn’t have a unique message or sound; its current traction is solely cultivated by Malik’s previous fame — one which may burn out if he continues to tread paths that have already been created instead of cultivating his own.

While an artist like Miguel, who has already established a sensual persona, may have thrived through this song, an up-and-coming artist like Zayn Malik (now that he intends to have a solo career) cannot establish his identity through something so mediocre. It’s a song about sex. Like any other song on the radio. And it’s a song that starts off slow and dives into a stronger rhythm fueled by forced passion — just like his music video. Malik’s dead eyes match his dead voice. We’ve already heard this type of track a million times — what makes Malik a career worth investing in when these covers show more passion than he does? Maybe we should focus on Malik’s raw voice instead of the one adjusted by the studio.

Theoretically, “Pillowtalk” should be a powerhouse when each component of the song is teased out and analyzed on its own. The lyrics themselves are strong enough. The beat itself is catchy enough. Zayn’s voice is definitely unique enough to shine amongst the other artists on the radio, a fact that’s obvious through his other solo song “I Won’t Mind”. But his attempt to establish such a strong identity and his failure to back it up with the appropriate passion makes “Pillowtalk” a confusing beginning for his new career. In the extremely artistic video, Malik’s eyes convey no emotion, which mirrors the song itself. He needed to come out with a bang, but left us falling asleep instead.

Contact Ilaf Esuf at [email protected].