Zayn Malik's solo album: 10 collaborators he should call
On Monday night (Aug. 10), Zayn Malik sent out what may very well be a fateful tweet: a public message to Tyler, The Creator taking the rapper up on his offer to work together. "Sounds sick BRO let do some shit !" Malik posted, less than two weeks after finalizing his U.S. label deal with RCA Records.
With a ton of interest surrounding his first post-One Direction album, it seems as if everyone is trying to get in on the Zayn solo act: five months after leaving One Direction behind, the 22-year-old has already been invited to collaborate by Chris Brown along with Tyler, and demos of new music with Naughty Boy and Mic Righteous have hit the Web in recent months. At this early stage of Malik's solo career, who should he be working with in an ideal scenario? Billboard has 10 specific artists in mind.
Check out our list of the 10 potential collaborators that would take Zayn Malik's solo debut to astonishingly high levels:
Instead of pairing with Tyler, The Creator, Malik should instead opt for another lovably unhinged rap prodigy. Thugger could unlock the experimental side and gonzo lyricism of the former One Direction member, and we all know what an amazing collaborator Young Thug is (see: "Lifestyle," "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" and all of Black Portland).
Miley Cyrus has time and again demonstrated her willingness to dabble with unexpected collaborators — after all, she swiveled from chilling with Future and Britney Spears on Bangerz to playing Beatles covers with the Flaming Lips. In her Miley 2.0 phase, however, she lacks a proper duet with a charismatic male pop artist... but hey, that's easily fixable!
The pop production whiz that Malik needs. Ariel Rechtshaid is behind some of the catchiest indie songs of the decade, from HAIM's "The Wire" to Sky Ferreira's "Everything is Embarrassing" to Charli XCX's "Nuclear Seasons," and although he worked on tracks from Madonna's Rebel Heart, he still needs a mainstream breakout moment with an A-list pop artist. Ariel, meet Zayn.
Speaking of "The Wire," the Haim sisters have recently proven their collaborative chops with the excellent Calvin Harris team-up "Pray To God," and have been toying with their sound by grabbing A$AP Ferg for a remix and covering Tame Impala's "'Cause I'm a Man." Their glistening pop-rock radiates style and charm, and a Malik duet would give them an even bigger profile (as if Taylor Swift hasn't already helped them with that).
The U.K. singer/producer has crafted hits with Gorgon City, Duke Dumont and Rudimental, and his warm house textures would perfectly suit a male solo artist like Malik. Plus, he and Zayn probably have already met — after all, MNEK worked with Little Mix on a few of their U.K. smashes, including "Wings."
The emotionally bare singing style of Tove Lo would work well next to Malik's delivery, although he would also be wise to link up with the Swedish artist and utilize her songwriting skills. The "Habits (Stay High)" songstress helped pen Ellie Goulding's Top 5 smash "Love Me Like You Do," as well as recent tracks for Adam Lambert and Hilary Duff.
Come on, Zayn — you know you want to indulge in that Sremm Life. The hip-hop duo made one of the year's most giddily insane, hook-stuffed albums, and Malik is clearly a fan, having covered "No Type" in a demo. The world deserves to know what Zayn Malik sounds like when he unlocks the swag.
Claire Boucher is one of pop's most exciting outsiders, although she's tiptoed toward mainstream stardom on a few occasions by writing a song for Rihanna and opening for Lana Del Rey. The indie world is thirsty for some new Grimes music, and if she ever decided to go full-on pop, Malik would be smart to take advantage of that opportunity.
Malik could easily go down the Max Martin road to chart supremacy, but why not hit up Greg Kurstin, another ultra-successful pop maestro, instead? Look at what Kurstin's done with artists like P!nk, Kelly Clarkon and Tegan & Sars; he helps pop stars sharpen their edges without betraying their gooey centers.
Remember when Justin Timberlake decided to go solo? He called on Timbaland to guide "Cry Me a River" and eventually his next two albums, but it was the Neptunes who helmed his first single, "Like I Love You," as well as tracks like "Rock Your Body" and "Señorita." That fashionably playful pop vibe is exactly what Malik should be aiming for, and Pharrell Williams would be happy (pun intended) to help him get there.
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