And friend, there'd better be. We've been waiting a while now for his second solo album, and we're excited for whatever's next. Since the release of his debut, Mind of Mine, in March of 2016, we’ve learned a lot about what he’s capable of artistically. We’ve learned that his creativity has extended to include a collaboration in fashion. We’ve learned he’s willing to open up about his trials and tribulations without throwing unnecessary shade. And we’ve learned that he is the inventor of a haircut capable of breaking the internet.
So what would we like to see and hear from Zayn in 2017? Behold, our wish list for his next move(s).
1. More songs in Urdu
One of the best songs on Mind of Mine was "Intermission: Flower," a short track that Zayn sang in Urdu as a nod to both his father and the music of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, whom Zayn grew up listening to. Recently, Zayn’s producer Malay spoke to Billboard about plans for him to sing in Urdu again on a collaboration with composer A.R. Rahman. We've also seen him use Urdu script on his official merchandise as a tribute to his Pakistani heritage — clearly, the language means a lot to him.
As he continues into this year, we'd love to hear him make more music that honors who he is, the people he loves, and the artists who helped spark his love of music in the first place. Any longtime Zayn fan knows just how much family means to him. What could be better than a new album that marries the influences of his past and present lyrically and musically?
2. A little more chill
Mind of Mine was a great vessel through which Zayn navigated the murky waters of post-boy-band solo-dom. He used his debut in large part to declare himself a grown-ass man: He sang about sex, drugs, and various combinations of both. He wrote freely in his memoir about how he never got to write or sing about doing it in One Direction, so he ran with the opportunity when he struck out on his own. That said, he’s since kind of backed himself into a creative corner. Zayn’s still a young man, but there are only so many songs about making sweet, sweet love that anybody would want to hear.
Which means it’s time to look beyond the scope of the paradise/war zone. It’s great that Zayn has a lot to say about his intimate life, but after a while the shtick morphs into the equivalent of the guy who follows up every joke with, “... IN BED!” So what else is going on? What about lyrics on love (and how love changes over the course of a long-term relationship), or adulthood, or about having to reconcile how different you were from who you are now? What about anxiety or body image (two topics he broached in Zayn)? What about designing coats? What about literally anything else, since we’ve heard it all?
Sex can still be on the lyrical table, but as Zayn steps more and more into his own as an artist, we need to see who else he can be and what else matters to him. The man's complexity shines through in interviews and the way he approaches style and fashion — let's hope we hear more of that in his music. Even Drake sometimes just writes about his hometown.
3. More collaborations
His Fifty Shades collaboration with Taylor Swift was not only a bankable pop song, but proof that Zayn’s voice can fit exactly where it needs to. Years of practice in One Direction obviously taught him how to complement the people he’s performing with, but he deserves credit for holding his own in a duet with one of the most popular artists in the world.
That said, it’s important to note that Mind of Mine was obviously Malik’s means of setting himself apart from the pack. It would’ve proved nothing had he (in his solo debut) crammed his record with guest spots from famous singers. His album had to be his, and it had to showcase his range without leaning on the publicity of so-and-so’s guest vocals on such-and-such. (“Wrong,” his fantastic collaboration with Kehlani, is the exception that proves the rule.)
But this time, he can venture away from his independence. We already know that Zayn has the chops to deliver music all by himself, so why not enlist some other artists who complement his talents? Why not unite him and The Weeknd for a high note-off? Why not pair him with Lorde for maximum emotional output? Why not invite Harry Styles for the ultimate act of publicity (and loveliness)? Zayn has lived as part of a group, and he has successfully gone solo. Now let’s see what happens when he picks and chooses who he performs with, with nothing really left to prove.