A jab at One Direction’s label?

Zayn Malik Signs With RCA, Making "Real Music" Now

Zayn Malik never opened up why he left One Direction… until now.

The former 1D member shared a photo of him signing on the dotted line with RCA, who represents Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson and many more, along with a little tidbit as to why he decided to leave the world’s most successful boy band. In a series of Tweets posted today (July 29), Malik said: I guess I never explained why I left , it was for this moment to be given the opportunity to show you who i really am! #realmusic #RCA !!

To put things into context, from the little we know about Zayn’s time in 1D, his need to express himself probably doesn’t come from creative clashes with the band. Considering they all write the majority of their own songs, and speak openly about writing based on personal experiences, Zayn alternatively spoke about never feeling the need to contribute until their fourth album, when he realised he was the only one not songwriting.

It seems his breakout move might be more about a bid to reclaim his mostly erased background and religion.

During his time in One Direction, Zayn was regularly targeted via Islamophobic attacks. In 2012, he was accused of “pimping Islam” for getting tattoos associated with his heritage and wearing a keffiyeh. He also deleted his twitter that year, due to the abundance of racist attacks he received. His decision to tweet #FreePalestine just over a year ago also brought racially charged criticism.

Zayn spoke about the racism he received briefly in a 2012 interview:

“Nasty things were being said on Twitter like I was a terrorist. How can you justify that? How can you call me that and get away with it?. We live in 2012 and I thought we’d moved forward.”

There’s a chance even 1D’s management contributed to the hostile attitude toward Zayn – changing the original spelling of his name, a leaked marketing plan revealed just how negatively his own team wanted him portrayed, commonly presenting him with “othering” terms like “mysterious” in an official music video or a “bad boy” in label approved interviews/articles, not including his visit home in 1D’s feature film and erasing his father, Yaser, from all publicity associated with the band’s parents.

If you’ve been watching closely, you’d have noticed his very specific actions since leaving the highly controlled band – appearing at The Asian Awards, thanking his parents for “making me Asian”, and being seen to be working almost exclusively with industry figures with similar backgrounds to him.

It’s not like Zayn standing on his own will eliminate all racism against him entirely either – days after he left One Direction, US commentator Bill Maher compared Zayn to the Boston bomber (and cruelly insulted fans for calling him out) – but being able to speak for himself away from the restrictions his previous label put on him might at least help him get back to himself and, as a result, provide a voice for mixed race and/or Muslim young people who might be experiencing similar treatment.

It makes you wonder whether the rest of the band are now less or even more controlled, as a result of one member leaving solely to reclaim his voice. Would Zayn’s departure have scared them into being more agreeable or angered them into running an even tighter ship? Since One Direction just announced their fifth album is complete and Zayn’s will likely hit next year, there are probably quite a few juicy tell-all songs on the horizon…