#HappyBirthdayZayn. We take a look at what makes Zayn’s voice beautiful.
Zayn Malik is 23 years old today.
As he gears up to release his first solo effort, which is said to be an electic combination of Frank Ocean-esque R&B and hard hitting urban influence, let’s take a look back at what helped establish the British vocalist as one of the most anticipated solo acts to watch.
There’s no doubt all eyes are on Zayn as pop fans wait to see if the product he delivers without the biggest band in the world backing him is worthwhile, but one thing is for certain – the chances of him disappointing vocally are pretty slim.
Allow us to demonstrate with 23 of Zayn’s strongest vocal performances:
A little known fan favourite from Up All Night saw Zayn tackling the lengthy bridge and bringing it down with ease.
22. Ready To Run (2:14)
One Direction’s inspirational anthem sees everyone on point vocally, but Zayn once again takes the bridge to new heights, as this leaked live feed from their 2014 SNL performance shows.
21. Let Me Love You
It’s only appropriate to go back to where it all began on Zayn’s big day. Brief footage of his X Factor audition shows he was a shoo-in with the judges and an early hit with the crowds.
Before they had five albums worth of smash hits, One Direction covered a range of popular songs and made each one their own. Bruno Mars’s Grenade was no exception, and the angsty R&B sound was perfect for Zayn’s vocals.
19. Teenage Dirtbag
1D’s most beloved cover even made the original band, Wheatus, fans of the boys. Zayn took a fearless approach to the song’s soaring bridge, showcasing jaw-dropping range and experimenting with the song’s format.
18. Last First Kiss (3:27)
Back in 2013, when 1D were more known for teen pop love ballads rather than alt-rock funk, Zayn provided a true vocal highlight in almost every Take Me Home tour concert, letting his trademark falsetto trail endlessly over the last words of Last First Kiss. As this video shows, they might not be on talking terms with him right now but, at one point, Zayn’s biggest fans were his bandmates.
17. Rock Me (featuring Liam)
Rumors abound that these two might collaborate on Zayn’s new solo effort, but for now we’ll just picture how amazing that might sound based on this unbelievable 23 seconds of perfection.
16. What Makes You Beautiful Acoustic (3:02)
Acoustic sessions often show up many artists for their vocal weaknesses, but the occasional stripped back offerings from One Direction have actually served to prove just how talented they all are. Without being buried under heavy post-production and effects, the band’s acoustic performances revealed how vital Louis’s voice is to 1D choruses and how Zayn’s voice decorates the song, as he seamlessly peppers their live performances with impressive vocal runs and unique ad-libs.
15. Right Now
One Republic’s Ryan Tedder co-wrote one of 1D’s most unique songs, Right Now. The Midnight Memories album track lamented life away from loved ones while appreciating the thrill of performing for sold out crowds every night. Zayn was rarely the go-to member for handling choruses, but on this track he shone as the lead vocal.
14. Stockholm Syndrome
One of the band’s moodier tracks, evoking a more R&B feel and penned by Harry Styles, Four’s standout track Stockholm Syndrome finds all the band in top form again but, as this video shows, Zayn fans are definitely in for a treat when he goes on tour by himself for the first time. Imagine 2 hours of this?
13. Rock Me (again)
Yes, we featured it twice. Can you blame us though? We’re surprised Zayn didn’t pass out after this!
12. I Won’t Mind
It was the world’s first taste of solo Zayn and while the indie Bon Iver-esque tone wasn’t for everyone, it showcased the best of Zayn’s softer vocal side, and would certainly carve out a unique sound for the former boy bander.
11. Best Song Ever
1D’s movie soundtrack hit received Zayn a particular amount of attention after he appeared in very convincing drag for the music video. But vocally, his 7 second high note at the end of the song is what should’ve been the focus. Here’s a clip of how that note came about. Despite being woken at an ungodly hour, Zayn’s professionalism allows him to deliver one of the best vocal performances he’s ever done while still half asleep.
10. Kiss You (0:50)
Kiss You is one of One D’s liveliest songs and came at a time when the band’s energy was at peak levels. While Zayn became increasingly disconnected during stage performances as time rolled on, this performance of Kiss You shows Zayn in full superstar mode, leading the first verse, showing off tons of personality and then effortlessly working his way through a technical error in the second verse.
9. Live While We’re Young (1:43)
Live While We’re Young continues the “peak 1D” theme, and proves there’s really nothing Zayn can’t do with his voice. Even mid-water fight.
8. Moments (featuring Liam)
Another one for the “Wow these two really should collaborate” pile. What’s great about this is how Zayn’s power note fuels Liam’s falsetto to new heights.
7. Steal My Girl (Acapella)
The silver lining in one of 1D’s worst singles, Steal My Girl, was Zayn’s unexpected falsetto leading into the final choruses. Where a vocal run or power move would be standard, Zayn takes an unconventional approach and gives the track a unique finishing touch.
6. Where Do Broken Hearts Go?
This song is undoubtedly One Direction’s rockiest ever, with massive drums and even bigger guitars. Every member of the band cited it as their favourite from Four and hoped it would become a single (it didn’t, dammit Simon Cowell!). 1D even shared the stage with Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood to belt out this track, with electrifying results. One such result was this “harder than it sounds” vocal choice from Zayn which he adapted into each live performance afterward.
5. Don’t Forget Where You Belong (featuring Louis)
Fans have been lamenting the “death” of ‘Zouis’ since last April when their friendship seemed to crumble for good due to the strain of letting go and tensions made worse by meddling producer Naughty Boy. Another casualty of Zayn’s exit is the compelling duet he shared with Louis on the Niall-penned/McFly co-write Don’t Forget Where You Belong. While Louis handles the now-solo fine on his own, one can’t help but miss the chemistry the two shared both as friends and bandmates.
4. Tell Me A Lie
Back when 1D were finding their feet musically, Zayn’s vocal confidence propelled their early performances and was one of the reasons the group was always a step ahead of the other boy bands of the early 2010s (yes there were a few).
Strong is widely considered one of One Direction’s most striking and powerful songs. Co-written by Louis, the outstanding lyrics are highlighted by Zayn’s passionate delivery of the song’s towering bridge. The remaining members managed to fill in the gaps too, serving up their own impressive solos once he left. It’s easy to see why fans treasure this song, and it’s a damn shame we’re likely to never hear Zayn sing these particular lyrics again.
2. Story Of My Life (Acapella)
OK, this is appreciating Zayn in the context of the whole group, but allow us to lament the loss of how great these five sounded together, with or without music. Is it reunion time yet?
1. You And I
It doesn’t get any better than Zayn’s death-defying high note in 2013 power ballad You And I. By far his most impressive vocal feat to date, and one he easily conquered live as well. This vocal has made many sit up and take notice of One Direction, and take Zayn seriously as a vocalist.