Lyrically, "Befour" addresses both his past and his detractors at the same time, including his past as a working class teenager in Bradford (which the music video is based on), his former band, and the scrutiny of his detractors.
The song talks about the story of a man who has finally broken out on his own, and also addresses critics of his career with his former band One Direction and how he felt frustrated and suffocated during the time he was with the band.
Befour" was released on March 17, 2016, as the second promotional single.
According to James Ho, "Befour" was conceived when he and Malik were in the VIP area of a Las Vegas club where Big Sean was performing in August 2015, and Malik said, "It's crazy being here in Vegas. I’ve literally been all over the world with One Direction. I’ve done this before, but not like this. Not by myself, not this way, not here with the intention of working on my own music". The track was also previously used as background music for Zayn Malik's The Fader Cover Star video in November 2015.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Zayn talked about the inspiration behind the song which came during a Big Sean concert this same night:
“We were sitting backstage in a VIP area and I was just telling him [Malay], ‘It’s crazy being here in Vegas. I’ve literally been all over the world with One Direction. I’ve done this before, but not like this. Not by myself, not this way, not here with the intention of working on my own music.”
The music video for "Befour" was released on March 25, 2016. The music video for the song was released on 25 March 2016, and it focus on youth culture, splitting scenes between Malik hanging in a car or restaurant with friends to images of young people boxing, drinking, dancing a,nd getting haircuts. The song received acclaim from music critics who praised the song's lyrics, his falsetto a,nd called it one of the album's best tracks.
The video was shot in Manchester's Miles Plattingdistrict and dramatizes what Malik's working-class teenage life was like in Northern England, including scenes at a boxing club (Malik used to do boxing before his music career), restaurant/pool hall, barber shop, parking lot, and fish and chips shop.
|Released||March 25, 2016|
|Location||Manchester's Miles Plattingdistrict|
|VEVO views||54,390,937 (as of July 18, 2020)|
The song was previewed in a behind-the-scenes video for his Fader cover story in November 2015 (this cover story was actually his first introduction as a solo artist).
It was listed as one of the best songs of the week by Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and Rolling Stone. It debuted at number 85 on the UK Singles Chart and number 16 on the UK R&B Chart. It reached number 28 on the UK TV Airplay Chart. As of August 2016, the music video has received more than 32 million views on YouTube.
"Befour" was described by Rolling Stone as "smooth R&B" and NME described it as an "R&B ballad". Music Times said it combines R&B, synthpop, and soul, and AXS said it uses "tribal percussion and ringing synths". AXS calls it an "experimental and assertive slice of R&B" with "personal lyrics addressing his past and detractors all at once." New Statesman says it is "tightly-constructed and slickly-produced" and includes one of Malik's vocal hallmarks, a "long and impossibly high note." Billboard states that "Zayn channels his inner Justin Timberlake" with the song.
Credits and personnel
- Recorded at Larabee Studios, North Hollywood, California; Germano Studios, New York City.
- Mixed at Larabee Studios, North Hollywood, California.
The song title, “BeFoUr”, is obviously a pun. On the track, Zayn repeats several times the line “I’ve done this before”, addressing his career and incredible success with his former band One Direction. When Zayn left One Direction, there were only four members left.
Thanks to the title, the lyrics can be also interpreted as “I’ve done this, be four”, then referencing directly at the boy band.Ironically enough, the last One Direction’s album Zayn appears on is titled “Four”.
In an interview for Cosmopolitan, Harvard’s Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in English and poet Josh Bell discussed the song lyrics, title and iun. Somehow, Bell ended up finding a way of comparing Zayn to Irish poet and novelist James Joyce and the legendary English playwright William Shakespeare :
"Were there five band members, so that when Zayn left it made four? And if so, does that make the title, here, a pretty solid pun? As in, ‘before, we were five, but now that I’ve left, I be-four you?’ Beware … begone … befour. That’s not a bad pun at all, really. Someone once said, ‘He who would pun would pick a pocket,’ but I think that person was Samuel Johnson, and no one really reads him anymore. Shakespeare picked pockets. James Joyce did too. I’m kind of split on puns, myself, but either way: someone should get Zayn, James Joyce, and Shakespeare in the studio together as soon as possible.”
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