After dropping his latest track featuring Sia, the R&B singer teases a new album, a new direction and a new love for acting
It’s only been a year since ZAYN released his debut solo album Mind of Mine, but yesterday the singer dropped his anthemic, Sia-featuring new single “Dusk Till Dawn”. Its video shows off yet another side to the R&B singer: not to be confused with the similarly-named heist horror by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, the video sees ZAYN delve into a world of crime, following him as he traces the movements of Girls actress Jemima Kirk, playing Bonnie to his Clyde. He outwits the law, outruns some gangsters and rides off into the sunset with his accomplice and whatever she’s been carrying around in a briefcase. The video comes directed by Marc Webb, the man behind The Amazing Spider-Man and 500 Days of Summer. “He just gets shit done by having fun,” ZAYN laughs over the phone from New York City, where he recently celebrated Eid with his girlfriend Gigi Hadid.
“Dusk Till Dawn” has the same big budget, action-packed feel as a cinematic release; pair this with the high-octane ballad and it feels like ZAYN is ushering in a new era. Whereas the singer made a point of departing from the most successful boy band in a generation because he wasn’t making the sort of music that was true to who he was, today it seems he’s fully accustomed to being independent. “Everything is kind of at my own pace now, so I am finding sit-down time in between working,” he says. “I’m just trying to find that balance like I’m sure most people are. You want to have a good time but get as much work done as possible.”
Besides his new single, ZAYN is gearing up for the release of new material. “I’m just trying to show that I can do different things,” he says. “I’m always messing around with music and finding things that I like to sing on, and I want to show people that I’m not really biased to a specific genre. I like all kinds of music.” This is the year for pop reinventions: Miley Cyrus went back to basics, Katy Perry started to look a bit like Miley, and the old Taylor Swift is, apparently, dead (the new one has a perm). But while ZAYN’s newly-shaved head might have drawn headlines (he jokes that he cut off his hair because the bleach had left it “a bit destroyed”), the only metamorphosis he’s focused on is the evolution of his creative skills as an artist.
“When I'm writing, I actually try to draw as little reference as possible because I want to make something new,” he says. “I do everything as a learning and growing process. It’s much more satisfying than feeling like I’m holding something back from people or like I’m not able to show them what my full capabilities are,” he says. “That’s a massive weight for any creative to be able to have that full control.”
He’s certainly pushing himself to be involved with every aspect of his creative output. “Dusk Till Dawn” was written by ZAYN and Sia with Greg Kurstin, whose production and songwriting with the likes of Adele has earned him Grammys and Ivor Novello awards. This creative cohort may be what’s inspired his new drive: he’s quickly becoming a multi-hyphenate artist, dabbling in different genres and mediums.
“I’m definitely enjoying and liking to get involved in every single area,” he says. “It’s new and something that I’m interested in trying.” His previous work has included collaborations with other accomplished solo artists like Usher, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Kehlani, but Sia encouraged him to push that little bit further. “She raised the bar. I felt like I needed to up my vocal, so I went back in there and re-recorded a few parts here and there. When you’re working on a feature, it’s always cool to have the other person there to kind of push you a little bit further – if they’re singing a bit better than you, they can push you to pull your socks up.”
As if the battle to exhibit the most impressive range of vocals didn’t push him enough, “Dusk Till Dawn” has also left him toying with the idea of adding acting to his ever expanding roster. “I could definitely see myself doing that in the future on a serious level,” he says, hinting that he would like to be considered for upcoming films. “I enjoyed it, it was really fun. It didn’t feel like it was work for me – it was just like getting to play this other character and be a bit of a badman.”
There’s a tense interrogation scene in the video where a detective shouts, “I know who you are.” ZAYN claps back, putting on an American accent, “You don’t know me!” And while he says the inference isn’t “a diss,” it is “open to interpretation”. You could see this as a taste of what's to come.
Speaking about future material, ZAYN explains that he’s deviating from his normal sound, trying his hand at new skills. One upcoming track will feature Dazed cover star Nicki Minaj – but aside from the high profile collaborations, he promises that the album is a reflection of his personal journey. While he won’t reveal the three-worded title of the upcoming album just yet, he promises there is “more of an identity in the music”. “I’m just growing and writing,” he says. “I want to share that with the world.”