Earlier this week, former One Direction member Zayn Malik shocked fans by signing with RCA Records. Not only is RCA one of the most well known record labels in the world, it’s also home to one of Malik’s idols, Justin Timberlake. The signing is arguably a milestone in Malik’s career, and it has generated buzz over whether Zayn could be the next Timberlake. Let’s look at the similarities.
1 – Boyband past: Of course, Zayn has become recent alumni of One Direction. Justin too, started out in a boyband although this may be hard to believe for anyone born past 1999. NSync dominated the charts in the late 90s and early 2000s, and like One Direction, the pop group reached stadium status in 2001 when they embarked on their Pop:Odyssey Tour. Justin, like Zayn, also embarked on a solo career when his group were at the peak of their success.
2 – Timing: Which brings us to timing. Both members arguably had a popularity rival in their groups. For Zayn, Harry Styles, and for Justin, JC Chasez. JC, a former judge on America’s Best Dance Crew, was a fan favorite amongst the group. For many, he was just as good a singer and dancer as Timberlake, and quite possibly the only other member of the group who could have had solo success.
This is undoubtedly the same for Harry Styles, either one of these members could be destined to be solo stars, had they timed their solo ventures as well as Zayn and Justin. As previously mentioned, with both bands at their peaks, Justin had the eyes of the world on him when he made his solo debut at the 2002 VMAs performing his debut solo single “Like I Love You”. There’s no doubt that when Zayn makes his first move as a solo artist, the spotlight will shine brightly on him too.
3 – Artistry: Anyone who has paid attention to pop music over the last 13 years will know that, love him or hate him, Justin Timberlake has made his mark as an artist. With the help of Timbaland, a modern day match made in artist/producer heaven, Justin has made four stellar pop records, with every song distinguishing Justin from NSync’s in-comparison bubblegum pop sound.
The Michael Jackson influence in Justin’s songs is unmistakable, as well as both artists desire to be taken seriously as solo artists away from their respective pop groups. This is also the case for Zayn who tweeted he can’t wait to make ‘real music’ at RCA and show fans who he really is. In his first interview after quitting One Direction, Zayn told the Sun, “it just wasn’t real to me anymore“.
Only time will tell us who the real Zayn Malik is, and with influences like The President of Pop Justin Timberlake, he has big shoes to fill as the next big thing.