Former One Direction member Zayn Malik

Zayn Malik is back, and he has a different direction.

The former One Direction singer released his new solo single — “PILLOWTALK” — late Thursday night after teasing it on Twitter throughout the week.

“PILLOWTALK” is not what I expected from Malik, who now goes by ZAYN. Yes, in all caps.

I didn’t expect a former boy band member to come out with this kind of song. It’s mature, dark and sexy — the opposite of the stereotypical boy band pop song. Hell, this whole song is about sex.

“So we’ll piss off the neighbours … A place that is so pure, so dirty and raw. Be in the bed all day, bed all day, bed all day. F—ing you, and fighting on,” Zayn croons in the song.

Even the music video reflects the former One Directioner’s newfound maturity and sex appeal. The video features Zayn’s rumored girlfriend Gigi Hadid and other scantily clad women.

When have we ever seen a naked person in a One Direction video? Never.

When has One Direction cussed in a song? Never.

The break Zayn had between his new solo career and One Direction clearly recharged his creative juices. Imagine if he had gone straight into his solo career. Zayn’s music most likely would have been forgotten and regarded as a mistake.

For many fans, when Malik left One Direction, it was like the world ended. People hastily tweeted the demise of One Direction and Zayn, but they were wrong. Both are flourishing.

Zayn’s new song reminds me of another former boy band member: Justin Timberlake. Both were a part of two popular boy bands that had rabid teen girl fanbases. Both were the first members of their bands to leave, but NSYNC completely broke up and One Direction stayed together.

That fact probably shows which of the two bands were stronger.

Now is Zayn the new Timberlake? I’m not sure about that, but it’s completely possible.

One thing is for sure: Zayn is here to stay. A voice like his completely deserves to be heard alone.