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In Memoriam

The Star That Burns Twice As Bright, Burns Half As Long: Goodbye Zayn Malik

You were always the cool one.

His first audition, a solo performance of Mario’s “Let Me Love You”, which earned him a full house of “YES” from the judges, was never even broadcast on the main X Factor show. At bootcamp, his refusal to dance Brian Friedman’s choreography to “Telephone” prompted Simon Cowell himself to venture backstage to boost his confidence enough to make it through to the next round. As part of the newly formed boyband, he changed his name from Zain to the much more popstarry Zayn with a Y and just like that, a star was born.


But the star that burns twice as bright, burns half as long, and after five years, Zayn Malik - both the hottest and coolest member of cultural phenomenon One Direction - has left the band, in scenes reminiscent (to those old enough to remember and young enough to have cared deeply) of Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell’s exit from the Spice Girls. Sick leave in the middle of a worldwide stadium tour. A flurry of rumours. The lull. Then a final statement. Front page news. Hysteria.

See, here’s the thing you may not know: Zayn Malik has always been One Direction’s lynchpin. He has the face that God always wanted for himself and a falsetto that makes angels cry. He’s had five consecutive hairstyles that have induced fever that could wipe out populations. His allure is universal and unconcerned with your sexual preferences. He even makes a pretty girl.

He has a reserved personality that led magazines to dub him “the Mysterious One” but he also once got into a slagging match with The Wanted where he referred to one of them (accurately, for the record) as “chlamydia boy”. He introduced the Yorkshire accent to teenage girls worldwide and coined his own catchphrase, “Vas Happenin”. He may not have known where Malibu is, but he tweeted #FreePalestine at a time when most celebrities were steering well clear of the debate, even at the risk of inviting yet more relentless Islamophobia to his doorstep.



— zaynmalik1D (@zaynmalik) July 28, 2014

He’s been smart enough to work closely with hitmaker Naughty Boy, who arguably set up the human drywall Sam Smith for super stardom, which means that a solo album is no doubt impending, regardless of his arguments that he just wants to live life as a “normal” 22-year-old.

Sure he’s had his fair share of controversy. He was dating older women way before Harry met Caro, hooking up with mother of two Rebecca Ferguson while both were still contestants on the X Factor. Video leaked of him smoking weed in the back of a taxi with bandmate Louis Tomlinson, and he has been notoriously unfaithful to his fiancée, the Little Mix singer Perrie Edwards. The backlash to his latest alleged infidelity is almost certainly the straw that broke the camels back and prompted his decision to quit.

But on the other hand, in one of the truly most beautiful moments captured in a music documentary film, he bought his mum a house and brought everyone who watched it to floods of tears.

For a long time, consensus has been that Harry Styles is One Direction’s star player, but that myth is about to unravel. Zayn is the Geri. Zayn is the Robbie. Zayn is the one that can stand alone, but that One Direction can’t survive without. Any other member could have left the band yesterday and the jenga tower that is the 1D empire would have wobbled but not fallen, but without Zayn, the keystone, they won’t make it one more year.

It was only in the golden-hued reflection of the glory of Zayn's flawless features that the rest of them looked attractive. It was only Zayn's unmatchable ability to hit those top notes that could lift tracks like "You And I" out of muted dirge into aural transcendence. Only Zayn's natural nonchalance could balance Liam's earnest Barlow, Louis' bitchy Sarah Harding, Niall's innocence and Harry's foppish charm. They're just a group of average looking guys now, with similar vocal tones and similar styles, writing typical cliched songs. Nothing special. Not like Zayn.

And if you’re still not convinced that pop culture suffered a massive loss yesterday, consider that if Zain Malik from Bradford had never become Zayn Malik from One Direction, the single most important contribution to literature would never ever have been written.