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I Went to Zayn's Listening Party and All I Got Were Answers to All My Questions

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It had finally happened: my number one senpai noticed me. Or rather, his PR did (shout out!) and I was staring a crisp black invitation to Zayn’s listening party in the face. Or the gold-pixelated kerning, sans-humanoid face? Details, people. What I’m saying is I scored an invite to Zayn’s Mind of Mine album release party last Friday, and I could finally, potentially, stare my favorite not-disgraced-just-escaped kind-of-teen definite-Idol in his face. Maybe through 10 bodyguards and some velvet rope, but no matter.

Heavy-hitting questions for a hardened reporter on the beat.

The single time I saw One Direction live, Zayn Malik hadn’t dropped his last name yet but had freshly dropped his white British boy-band. After following his journey to singularity on social media, I was stoked to perform my own brand of investigative journalism: was Zayn indeed created from the bones of Zeus himself (explaining his ridiculously chiseled face)? Did his hair glow with the secrets of a perfectly toned grey-haired coiff? Could he actually sing the crooning, stoner ballads of his album without heavy backup? Perhaps most importantly: was his very public lovefest with Gigi Hadid actually kind of legit?

Heavy-hitting questions for a hardened reporter on the beat.

I began my plan of attack at 8:30 pm, fueling up for my totally-professional stakeout at Milk Studios by stuffing my face with dumplings before walking over to the party. I’d like you to know that I had leftovers, so for the entirety of the party, I had a frozen bag of dumplings in my purse while I danced — I mean, investigated — the penthouse, waiting for Zayn to arrive. Dumplings in one hand, vodka tonic in the other. Journalism 101: carry the right materials for your stakeout.

It was good that I had a protein fix before arrival, because the entire party ended up waiting about three and a half hours for Zayn to arrive.

It was good that I had a protein fix before arrival, because the entire party ended up waiting about three and a half hours for Zayn to arrive — drunken herds of twerking stylists had already begun coupling up for their nightly cornerbound mating rituals before the stars of the night swanned in and began cuddling on the cordoned off couch (the only seating in the entire space, BTW).

It was as if the wave of the bass on the Kendrick remix playing was shifting the entire studio tectonically — the dance floor cleared swiftly to surround the celebrity couple. I used my drunken tonic-vision to stare beyond the masses to assess the sitch: was Zayn as hot in person? Yes — but you could definitely stare him in the face, compared to how glaringly beautiful he can look like in photos. This was also helped by the fact everyone else in the party looked similarly gorgeous — like, stock photo model for denim campaign beautiful. My second question: Did his hair glow with secrets? No, in fact, he was freshly buzzed, and the only thing about him that glowed was the paparazzi’s light reflection, coming from the Snapchatting onlookers surrounding the pair. He appeared, in fact, entirely at peace and unbothered. It fit the music playing around us, his album — chill in the face of hysteria. My favorite concise review of the album, which I think reflects Zayn’s public persona as well, came from Maria Sherman:

It makes sense to me: after years of non-stop touring as part an energetic boy band with the best-selling capability to croon a teen girl into hysterical sobbing, Zayn has passed the point of exhausted posturing. He just wants to chill the hell out, make music he can actually make out to, and smoke some weed. He has the weight of positive representations of Islam on his shoulders, and the hearts of teen girls in his hands to crush in disappointment or adoration with a single move. It takes a remarkable amount of composure to actively not fuck up when you’re in the spotlight like that.

The dude is human. A beautiful, very successful human, but a human nonetheless.

So when people have accused him of being a little distant in his comeback interviews, I get why, and how, and I understand. The dude is human. A beautiful, very successful human, but a human nonetheless. With a hot girlfriend, who, judging by their interactions, is as used to performing "don’t-freak-out-under-the-magnifying-glass-of-judgement" levels of grace as he is. So for my last question: are they, as a couple, legit? Looked like it. But even if they aren’t, the celebrity fascination dividends they pay each other off are so great that it can’t and shouldn’t matter much to the rest of us.

I didn’t, to be fair, have a conversation with either of them. But I did watch from a foot away as Zayn stepped behind the DJ booth, head down, avoiding the crowd’s eyes, smiling as he ran his hands across the controls. He smiled, too, at those who managed to catch his attention for a moment, and after touching the turntable, dance-walked back to Gigi as his latest single came on. He looked at peace with the changes going on in his life. A man on his own, repping his art in his own context, learning from his freedom the same way he learned from his band, years before. He didn’t end up performing a single song from the album. I guess he wanted the work to speak for itself. Which is, I guess (and rather charitably), the most we can ask from someone on whom we have focused so much of our attention, hopes, and fears.