Zayn Malik continues to prove his worth as a solo artist by stepping even further out of One Direction's enormous, dad-jam shadow with the release of "Cruel," a collaboration with UK DJ duo Snakehips.

Zayn -- the living, breathing embodiment of physical perfection and an outspoken purveyor of alien life forms -- quietly released the track late last night (July 14), just as the world was gearing up to delve deep into brand new releases from pop royalty Britney Spears and also Katy Perry.

"Cruel" may have been successfully overshadowed, then -- at least on a larger scale -- and it's a shame, because the song deserves top radio rotation. You know what else is a shame? The fact that Zayn will not (well, cannot) dance. Because "Cruel," with its R&B lilt and heavy pop sheen, demands so much more than Zayn's typical motionless, onstage indifference. Alas, let us at least hope for a stellar music video.

Better yet is how far his enunciation has come: The typically marble-mouthed Zayn is at his vocal best here, or at least his vocal clearest. His diction is (finally, mercifully, beautifully) the cleanest it's been since those early 1D days, when it was of the utmost importance that fans understand the lyrical intricacies of "What Makes You Beautiful." He's still singing about sex and ladies, because write what you know, but we can at least understand him without the much-needed aid of, and for that fans should feel forever grateful.

Will Zayn ever see a write-up about his work without incessant One Direction references? It seemed unlikely at first, when he was lobbing softball insults at his musical roots and buying into his own mega-hype. But the music is good enough that he may fully shake the "former boy bander" label for good -- and soon.

Do yourself a favor and listen to Zayn and Snakehips' collaboration "Cruel" via Spotify above.

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