During an interview on Sirius XM’s Debatable on Wednesday, March 17, the 28-year-old “Dusk Til Dawn” singer played coy when asked about who from his old band he considers to be “No. 2.” Malik admitted that he didn’t think it was fair to rank Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson given his past with the X Factor UK alums.
“I don’t think there’s a comparison,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what, Niall is my favorite. How about that? Niall makes the best music.”
When the radio host expressed disbelief that anyone could create something “even better than Zayn,” the “Pillowtalk” crooner stayed humble. “He makes better music than me,” Malik added. “Yeah, I’m a Niall fan.”
The Brit Award nominee sent shockwaves through the One Direction fandom in March 2015 when he left the pop group after five years. One week before the band made the official statement, Malik departed their On the Road Again world tour.
“My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined,” he noted at the time. “But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologize to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.”
The remaining members of the band continued as a foursome and released their fifth studio album, Made in the A.M., in November 2015. Two months later, Us Weekly confirmed that One Direction would be going on hiatus, with a source saying that the singers would “remain friends, but they are exhausted and want solo careers.”
It didn’t take long for the U.K. natives to pursue their own artistic ventures. Horan, 27, has produced two solo records so far: Flicker (2017) and Heartbreak Weather (2020). Malik, for his part, released his third album, Nobody Is Listening, earlier this year. Styles, 27, Payne, 27, and Tomlinson, 29, have also released solo records.
Though they’re no longer making music together, the “Slow Hands” crooner and Malik appear to have stayed close through the years. When the “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” singer welcomed his first child with Gigi Hadid in September 2020, Horan was quick to send the new parents well-wishes.
“I’ve sent a message, actually, to him recently just to congratulate him,” the “Nice to Meet Ya” artist told Capital Breakfast one month after the birth of Malik’s daughter, Khai. “It’s an amazing thing. You hear all the time that becoming a dad, it’s such an amazing thing.”