Why Zayn Malik Is Going Country With ‘Room Under the Stairs’

'Room Under the Stairs' singer Zayn Malik in a suit

Music

One Direction allowed their sound to evolve. Zayn Malik’s upcoming album ‘Room Under the Stairs’ is going to be a big shift in sound for the former One Direction star.

Love them or hate them, you cannot deny that One Direction allowed their sound to evolve. Zayn Malik’s upcoming album Room Under the Stairs is going to be a big shift in sound for the former One Direction star. He explained why he wanted to go country with this new outing. In addition, Malik named a modern country singer whom he deeply admired.

1 singer inspired Zayn Malik’s ‘Room Under the Stairs’

First, some background, One Direction was initially a pop-rock band that sounded like “I Want to Hold Your Hand”-era Beatles having a sugar high. As time went on, they were swept into the 2010s folk revival, while also dabbling in other genres like rock and reggae fusion. 

After leaving the group, Malik embraced R&B. His most famous post-One Direction songs were “Pillowtalk” and the Taylor Swift duet “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.” both songs were sensual and contemporary. After those two hits, Malik mostly disappeared from the limelight. During a 2024 interview with Nylon, Malik explained his decision to become a country singer with his upcoming album, Room Under the Stairs.

“I was pretty much on my farm having a glass of whiskey and listening to a bit of [country singer Chris] Stapleton by the fire with my dog, playing guitar,” he said. “I’m proud of it. I think it shows a certain level of intellect, to be a bit ahead of the curve.”

Zayn Malik doesn’t want to be seen as a trend-chaser

Some fans might see Malik as chasing a trend because several other pop stars have gone country in the past few years, including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus. He doesn’t see things that way, emphasizing that he did not jump on any bandwagon.

The “Pillowtalk” singer explained what he found so inspiring about country singers. “I could really hear their lyrics and their pain and their growth and the life lessons,” he said. “I didn’t feel like there was a Chris Stapleton song that comes on and he sounds like a f***boy, right? He doesn’t do it! He’s not out here saying, ‘B****** in the club! We’re drinking Bacardi!’ Or whatever these young kids use now.”

What ‘Room Under the Stairs’ sounds like

One might expect Malik to fuse country with some other genres, like the teenybopper pop-rock of One Direction or the slick R&B of his solo hits. However, the debut single from Room Under the Stairs, “What I Am,” is more country than some of the songs that Kacey Musgraves has put out. It could be more rustic, but it’s a credible example of its genre.

“Alienated” has a tiny bit of R&B-style crooning, but it’s still an acoustic country song through and through. Musicians changing their style can become very embarrassing, but Malik’s foray into a new genre is pretty classy. Room Under the Stairs probably won’t inspire the same acclaim (or controversy) as Queen B’s Cowboy Carter or Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” Still, it shows a lot of musical maturity from an artist who got popular on a Simon Cowell talent show.

Malik is taking things in a new direction with Room Under the Stairs and hopefully, his fan will follow him.

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