Zayn Malik is perhaps the most influential figure in mainstream pop music. Malik was a part of the already-popular band One Direction from 2010 to 2015. He shot to fame after getting into the television show X-Factor. Thereon, his career of accolades and fame in the music industry was kicked into gear. When he left the band in 2015, the band released a statement that his exit was not due to any conflict in the band. They stated that Zayn wanted some time away from the hectic schedule and life of a touring band. Only later would Zayn reveal that he wanted out from the band for a long time. However, his exit did not have any effect on his relationship with other members of the band. It’s likely that Zayn was just not happy under the management of One Direction that not only censored their artistic expression, but also denied them creative control over their art.
After leaving One Direction, many speculated that his career could take a hit for the worse. However, his leaked songs that were never officially released in 2015 got quite popular. And it was his 2016 lead-single “Pillow Talk” that jump started his career as a solo artist. The song debuted as the number 1 single on US Billboard top 100 as well as UK Billboard top 100. It was apparent then that Zayn would have an amazing career as a solo artist.
What does the Title mean?
The title of the single, ‘Pillow Talk’, refers to the talking that often follows the act of making love. Many people tend to talk to their lovers after sex. The reason behind that is the nature of this act. With their physical bodies connected, two people can deepen their bond and become closer to each other than ever. It’s like their soul is connected for a moment during orgasm. Thus, they often tend to share everything with their partner right after the act of sex.
Verse 1 – What does it mean?
“Climb on board
We’ll go slow and high tempo
Light and dark
Hold me hard and mellow”
As mentioned before, Pillow Talk by Zayn is primarily about his personal and subjective sexual experiences. The first line of this verse is an invitation to Zayn’s lover. It implies that making love to Zayn is like a journey and has to be experienced like that. There is no anxiety to reach the end-point. The experience is so pleasurable and consequently, desirable that it feels like Zayn and his lover are just travelling together, locked in the act of lovemaking. The second line, here, mimics the act of sex. It’s not at all subtle. As the journey of making love with Zayn transcends time, the lovemaking will be slow and fast. In other words, it is not rushed but a carefully executed act. For many listeners, the first lines of this verse may invoke feelings of sexuality, and it relates very well to the art of lovemaking. In quite a few cultures, lovemaking is an artform, and not just simply a sexual experience. One big example of this is the ancient book of Kamasutra that was written in India. It’s also known as the book of love. The last line of the verse is Zayn urging his lover to hold him tight as well as mellow. While engaged in sex, people often tend to enjoy a little pain that accompanies it. In essence, the pain is mellowed out.
What does the Pre-Chorus mean?
“I’m seeing the pain, seeing the pleasure
Nobody but you, ‘body but me
‘Body but us, bodies together
I love to hold you close, tonight and always
I love to wake up next to you
I love to hold you close, tonight and always
I love to wake up next to you”
Again, Zayn mentions that he’s seeing pain as well as pleasure. The lyrics are quite visually-explicit in nature. And perhaps it’s because Zayn poured all he wanted to say in this song after leaving his band, One Direction. One direction was primarily popular among teenage girls. Thus, certain words or themes were forbidden to be used by the band, and this control over their creative expression came from their management.
In the pre-chorus, Zayn just pours his heart out for his lover. The repetition of the fact that Zayn loves being physically close to his lover indicates how intense his relationship with them is. It also speaks volumes about the intensity of the whole sexual experience that is being narrated in the song.
What does the Chorus mean?
“So we’ll piss off the neighbours
In the place that feels the tears
The place to lose your fears
Yeah, reckless behavior
A place that is so pure, so dirty and raw
In the bed all day, bed all day, bed all day
Fucking and fighting on
It’s our paradise and it’s our war zone
It’s our paradise and it’s our war zone”
As the song progresses, the lyrics get more intense and explicit in nature similar to the sexual experience that Zayn is narrating. The first line is about Zayn not caring about the world anymore. The noises that both his lover and him make during their sexual encounter will anger the neighbours as their sleep will be disturbed.
There is another subtle interpretation that is at work here in the first half of this verse. Zayn’s mention of him losing his fears and reckless behavior can be about him leaving One Direction. After all, Pillow Talk was his first single after leaving the band. Moreover, in an interview, he admitted that he wanted to leave the band from the very first year but couldn’t do so because the band was doing well and he had no other options. After the band was quite established, leaving it was surely a reckless action according to a lot of labels and critics. Yet, Zayn was able to carve out an amazing solo career for himself.
Apart from that, Zayn also mentions his bedroom, which can be a safe space for his lover and him. The tears and the fears can all be expressed in that safe space. In another interview, Zayn had also mentioned that he loves to sleep and his bedroom is probably the most important place for him. Thus, him using the word ‘bed’ does have some prior context to it. The contrast between ‘fucking’ and ‘fighting’, and ‘paradise’ and ‘war zone’ is there to express how wild a sexual experience with Zayn can be. In fact, calling that experience a ‘journey’ will be an understatement as it’s nothing short of an offroad wild ride.
Verse 2 – What does it mean?
My enemy, my ally
Then we’re free, it’s a thin line”
The second verse is short but profound. Pillow talk refers to the talk after sex. It seems that Zayn is talking to his lover here. He could very well be talking about the One Direction group and the internal politics. They were, including him, prisoners under their management. And now, they’re free. Another interpretation of this could be how relationships can become a prison, and how the lines between the labels of relationships are quite thin. An enemy can turn into a friend or a lover, and vice versa.
What does the Bridge mean?
“Paradise, paradise, paradise, paradise
War zone, war zone, war zone, war zone
Paradise, paradise, paradise, paradise
War zone, war zone, war zone, war zone”
The bridge is more of a metaphor for the whole sexual experience. It’s wild, full of energy, and loaded with ups and downs.
All in all, “Pillow Talk” was quite an iconic song for Zayn’s career as it not only established him as a solo artist but also made history by topping the charts. It’s a song that allowed him to rebel against the censoring forces that clouded his career as a member of One Direction. To sum it up, “Pillow Talk” was a liberating song for him.