Zayn Malik, the man behind the mononym ZAYN, returned to music after a two-year break. The 30-year-old singer has a new label, a new sound, and a new lease on life, as demonstrated in “Love Like This.” And in the new video, dropped with the track on midnight on July 21, he romanced a stylish blonde model who resembled none other than his ex Gigi Hadid. “How you hit ’em with the clothes and the stare / And the hips and the hair like that /Got me all up in the zone, in the zone/ In the zone, in the zone like,” he rapped in the sensual club-worthy track.
And the irresistibly energetic beat featured surprisingly romantic lyrics. “I don’t wanna waste no time / You are the cr—, you are the crown/ Everything is on the line/ but I would rather be dead /If it’s gonna mean a life that is lived without you, baby.”
Zayn continued to tease the song ahead of its release. On June 29, he shared a video of him looking pensive while atop an apartment complex as a snippet of the music played. A week later, he revealed the song’s name by posting a video of him tagging a wall with graffiti. He also posted a photo of him hugging a woman who some thought was Selena Gomez. Other promos revealed that it wasn’t Selena, despite what some fans hoped.
The sparse production in the snippets harkened back to the drum and bass/UK garage/jungle sound of the 1990s. Sources close to the singer told Billboard in June that this song marks a departure from the sound of his previous eras (and his hits “Pillowtalk” and “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.”)
The new music comes on the heels of Zayn shifting his career by signing with Mercury Records. His first three albums – 2016’s Mind of Mine, 2018’s Icarus Falls, and 2021’s Nobody Is Listening – were released on RCA (Mercury Records is a part of Universal Music Group, while RCA is owned by Sony Music Entertainment.) Mercury Records’ President Tyler Arnold was thrilled to have Zayn join the label’s historic roster.
“As soon as ZAYN and I met, I knew we had to work together,” he said in a statement announcing the signing. “I was blown away by the new music but just as impressed by his vision, drive, and spirit. We’re honored he and his team have joined us at Mercury Records. We’ve got an incredible opportunity to tell the next chapter of his story together.”
The new label might be the shot-in-the-arm that Zayn’s career needs. Mind of Mine made Zayn the first One Direction member to drop a solo album, and it seemed like his career was on track when “Pillowtalk” went to No. 1 in numerous countries, earning 5x Platinum status in the U.S. and double-Platinum in his native England. The second single, “Like I Would,” tapped out at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100. The closest he’d come to the top of the charts was in 2016 when he teamed with Taylor Swift for “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” off the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack.
Nobody Is Listening was a bold title to name an album because it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The two singles, “Better” and “Vibez,” failed to move the needle, and the LP has yet to cross the Gold certification mark.
In late 2021, Zayn posted three songs – “Believe Me,” “Grimez,” and “41 11” – via Dropbox, crediting the tracks to a new project titled Yellow Tape. The project saw Zayn rap for the first time ever, and he mentioned Simon Cowell, Kanye West, and Gigi Hadid. The tracks were removed shortly after they were shared.
— zayn (@zaynmalik) June 27, 2023
In recent years, Zayn has been known for less than his music and more for his personal life. In October 2021, he pled “No Contest” to multiple counts of harassment against Yolanda Hadid, mother of Gigi Hadid (his on-again/off-again ex and mother of his daughter, Khai.) Zayn and Yolanda had an alleged altercation, and the singer pled “no contest,” which does not equal a guilty plea.
“In an effort to protect [my daughter], I agreed to not contest claims arising from an argument I had with a family member of my partner’s who entered our home while my partner was away several weeks ago,” Zayn tweeted after entering the plea. “This was and should be a private matter, but it seems, for now, there is divisiveness, and despite my efforts to restore us to a peaceful family environment for me to co-parent my daughter in a manner she deserves, this has been ‘leaked’ to the press.”
In March 2023, Zayn was linked to Selena Gomez when she was spotted walking next to his assistant. However, in June, she unfollowed Zayn (along with Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, and Zendaya on Instagram.) A source told PEOPLE that Selena has “no hard feelings with anyone she unfollowed.”