6 Truth Bombs Zayn Dropped About Life in a Boy Band

Zayn Malik isn’t throwing shade at One Direction, he’s throwing shade at the boy band machine.

History has shown that the solo careers of one-time boy band members can be just as exciting and interesting as the original band’s run.

But few boy bands rise to prominence on their own. They have teams of people helping them craft that young, hip, extremely lucrative look.

Now that Zayn Malik has proven that he can successfully go it alone with his music, the young singer is sharing what things were like behind the scenes of One Direction. And it’s truly enlightening.

Here are six things we learned about life as a member of a mega-group from Mr. Malik.

1) Not even how they styled their hair was up to them.

Malik recently spoke with Complex, where he revealed that he and the rest of One Direction were told how look, down to the slightest detail. That included (not) coloring his hair and (not) having a beard.

“There were certain restrictions in terms of the way that we could come outside of that young teen boy look. Mainly my beard, honestly. I wasn’t allowed to keep it. Eventually, when I got older, I rebelled against it, and decided to keep it anyway.

“That was just because I looked older than the rest of them. That’s one of the things that is now quite cool. I get to keep my beard. I also wanted to dye my hair when I was in the band, but I wasn’t allowed to.”

2) He wasn’t allowed to talk about certain things with the press.

Zayn made a comment during his Complex interview that is more than a little telling. The young singer made a statement that leads us to wonder just how much his One Direction-era interviews were orchestrated.

“It’s nice to have the chance to speak,’ he said. “Now I get to talk about what I’m passionate about.”

3) Zayn could only sing 1D songs one way.

Now that “Pillowtalk” is out there, we have a pretty good idea what to expect from Zayn’s solo projects, at least for the foreseeable future: sultry stylings on polished R&B tracks. But his vocal flourishes are notably absent from his One Direction records. Sure, he’s singing on them, but his voice rarely stands out from the bunch, and that choice was apparently very deliberate.

The 23-year-old spoke with Fader last December, where he spoke about the struggle he experienced while recording tracks for his boy band.

“There was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band,” he told Fader. “If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop, generic as fuck, so they could use that version. Whenever I would suggest something, it was like it didn’t fit us.”

4) The boys of 1D could only write management-approved songs

You don’t have to do much research to learn that the members of One Direction have writing credits on many, many of their songs, but another quote from the singer seems to indicate there were strict guidelines dictating what and how they could compose songs.

Here’s what Zayn told Billboard in January:

“It was like a fucking machine going constantly… We weren’t allowed to say certain things, or word [lyrics] the way we would want to. I’d sit and wonder, ‘If the fans knew how it worked, what would they think?’ My argument was: People are more intelligent than that. They want to hear what’s real, so why don’t we write some stuff that we’re actually going through?”

So, sure, there were restrictions for their songwriting, but they were still their songs, right? Here’s what Zayn said in that Fader interview:

“I wasn’t 100 percent behind the music. It wasn’t me. It was music that was already given to us, and we were told this is what is going to sell to these people. As much as we were the biggest, most famous boy band in the world, it felt weird. We were told to be happy about something that we weren’t happy about.”

5 ) Even 1D’s current relationship with Zayn appears manufactured.

A funny thing has happened since Malik left the world-famous boy band. Although the boys in the group claim they’ve spoken with Zayn and everything is copacetic between them, the newly minted solo artist has a different story…

In January, Zayn spoke with L’Uomo Vogue about his rapport with his former bandmates, and his statement is troubling.

“The truth is I haven’t spoken to any of the boys at all really, I spoke to Liam a bit and that’s just the way it is. I did try to reach out to a couple of people and they didn’t get back to me, but then publicly, when they were asked questions about it, said that they’d spoken to me and that we were friends. But that’s not the case, I tried to reach out and be their friend but they haven’t even replied to any of my calls or texts.”

6) Zayn Malik struggled with the “authenticity” of One Direction

Granted, “authentic” is a subjective term, a matter of opinion, but many objectively “authentic” groups exist. So what was missing for 1D?

It’s not a simple thing to nail down, but perhaps intention is the heart of authentic work.

“[Authenticity] was something that was always underlying, and ended up as the main factor of me leaving in the end. It was about denying the authenticity of who I was, and what I enjoyed about music, and why I got into it,” Zayn told Complex. “I believe that success follows authenticity. People see through fake shit. They don’t want to see that; they want a real person.”

Zayn’s first solo album drops today, so we’ll see how “authentic” fans find his solo stuff. But if his singles are any indication, then we are all just meeting the real Zayn Malik.