Pop Perspective: Zayn Malik’s “Pillowtalk” Reviewed And Rated By Idolator Editors

Mike Wass | January 29, 2016 3:55 pm
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At Idolator, the editors share a passion for high-quality pop. Occasionally, our tastes align. Other times, not so much! So, in the spirit of debate, we’ve developed a recurring feature called Pop Perspective. Basically, all four of us dissect a particularly noteworthy pop event, and give it a rating out of 10.

That way you’re getting a full spectrum of views and we can all vent. (It’s cheaper than therapy!) The latest pop happening to be dragged under the Idolator microscope is Zayn Malik’s debut single “Pillowtalk,” which is already sitting at number one on iTunes. Is he on his way to solo stardom or was leaving One Direction a big mistake? See our thoughts below.

Robbie Daw — 6/10

You can’t fault Zayn Malik for wanting to break off from the sugary, safe pop machine that is (was?) One Direction. It had to be stifling to stick it out through a break-neck jaunt that saw the boy band churn out four albums and a fleet of singles and music videos since their X Factor days.

So here we are now with “Pillowtalk,” the slow-jam sex romp that serves as both Zayn’s declaration of solo stardom and initial power-grab at the throne of male pop star dominance. There’s something intrinsically ’80s about the song, in that, if you strip away and forget all its surrounding Zayn-ness for just a moment — this will definitely require skipping the accompanying music video — “Pillowtalk,” at its core, plays like a big, synth-drenched power ballad from days of yore, the likes of which folks like Phil Collins and Roxette and Def Leppard used to turn out.

I guess we’re also supposed to ponder the idea that Zayn is now free to openly sing about fucking, something he never would have gotten away with while tightly constrained in One Direction. What, artistically, this amounts to is up for interpretation. Does it make him, and therefor his new material, more desirable to the music consumer? Does it simply dumb down his music? Results may vary.

Bottom line: “Pillowtalk” doesn’t set pop forward, nor is it a glaring misstep. In the end, it’s just kind of there.

Bianca Gracie — 5.5/10

Zayn Malik is finally stepping out of his One Direction clean-cut boy band shadow, and his expected attempt to explore more of an adult sound comes in the form of “Pillowtalk.” The UK lad was always the best singer in the group, so I was excited to hear how he would translate his deep, sultry tone into his own music. But unfortunately I’m not wowed. The downtempo vibes of the song is quite textbook, which leaves me feeling unmoved. Aside of Zayn’s on-point brooding vocals, the production could use more glitch, rawness and even more of a feral yearning. Maybe it was the record label’s choice to kick off the era with something more safe, who knows?

The male alt-R&B comparisons (Miguel, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd) have already arrived, so it will be interesting to see if Zayn can create his own mold once the album drops in March.

Carl Williott — 3/10

Zayn’s been talking about his time in One Direction like it was a square peg-round hole situation, like the group’s radio pop material never aligned with his apparently esoteric music tastes. So then we get this solo debut, expecting a huge departure from 1D’s big-tent pop and it’s…big-tent sex pop. It’s another entry into the endless canon of tryhard young stars saying “I’m grown up and you know I’m grown up because I like saying ‘fuck’ and humping and stuff.”

This route would be fine if the song somehow separated Malik from the pack. But instead of leaving an impression, we get something that sounds like if OneRepublic tried to make an “edgy” Miguel song from 2012. Your move, Harry.

Mike Wass — 7/10

I don’t have time for this pettiness. “Pillowtalk” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a perfectly acceptable stab at Weeknd-lite pop. Zayn sounds great, the chorus lodges in your brain like a tumor and there’s a lyric about pissing off the neighbors with “reckless behavior.” What more do you want?


What would you rate “Pillowtalk” out of 10? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!