Zayn Malik’s debut solo album, Mind of Mine, comes out Friday, but the U.K. singer is far from a first-timer. As a founding member of One Direction, the global pop phenomenon born on Season 7 of The X Factor, Zayn has six years of experience — and more than 18 million record sales — under his belt already.
A year ago, Zayn left the band with the goal of carving out space on his own terms, and making music that better aligns with his R&B sensibilities.
He might be a deft hand at playing the role of the pop star by now, but Zayn’s career is entering a new phase in which he’s effectively wiping the slate clean to start fresh. We look back at where it all began, and where he’s been since. Seventeen-year-old Zayn Malik might never have made it onstage at The X Factor‘s Manchester, England, auditions in 2010 if it weren’t for his mother,
Trisha, who forced him to get out of bed for the hour-long drive from their home in Bradford. Later, he would say that all he hoped for was an objective judgment on whether or not he had talent as a singer — something that was confirmed when judges Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger put him through to the Bootcamp round on the strength of his rendition of Mario’s “Let Me Love You.”
His audition wasn’t broadcast on the show, so TV audiences were first introduced to the teenager in later episodes, when he refused to partake in a group dance lesson, fearing embarrassment if he attempted the routine.
Cowell noticed he was missing from the group, found him hiding out and convinced him to return. After being eliminated from contention as solo performers, Malik and future bandmates Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan were assembled by Cowell to form a band and remain in the competition in the “Groups” category. On that day — July 23rd, 2010 — One Direction was officially born.