At long last, Louis Tomlinson has released his debut single.
At midnight, he premiered "Back to You," featuring Bebe Rexha and Digital Farm Animals. It's the former One Direction singer's first song as a lead solo artist, after being featured on Steve Aoki's dance track "Just Hold On." Tomlinson doesn't begin singing until about a minute into "Back to You," letting Rexha shine first. "We recorded a version where I sang first, but you've got to do what's best by the song," Tomlinson told the BBC 12 hours before its release. "With the emotion she gives it, and the way she opens up the song, it always had to be her, really."
Tomlinson is "nervous" about how fans will react. "My whole mission with this album is to not write these Hollywood-esque songs that talk about some unfathomable crazy love story. I'm so bored of that. Because I'm from up north, I grew up loving the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and Oasis. And the way they tell stories is such an effortless thing. It's real, it's honest and it's to the point, you know?" he explained. "Now, any of the Arctic Monkeys would be devastated to hear me talking like this, but there is a way of incorporating that conversational honesty into pop."
The 25-year-old singer discussed the "harsh" subject matter in "Back to You" during an appearance on BBC Radio 1's Breakfast Show Friday. "We all know those people where you probably shouldn't be together but you just keep finding your way back to each other," he told host Nick Grimshaw. "It kind of stood out to me...because it's quite minimal in the production, and it's kind of something, even melodically, that feels different to what I would normally do."
Tomlinson said he has written "about 50" songs for his album. "Ideally it's coming at the end of this year, but I don't want to put myself under too many time constraints and end up in a position where I have to put two fillers on it," he told the BBC. And "a lot" of the songs are about his on-again fashion blogger girlfriend Eleanor Calder, Tomlinson said. "I wanted to make the album feel chronological, because that's how I wrote it," he said. "You can hear my journey as an individual over these three years—leaving the band, then going out on to the really crazy party scene, and then I've kind of ended up full circle back with Eleanor, who I love dearly."
The singer also promised that his forthcoming album will be more than a collection of singles. "That's why bands like Arctic Monkeys are so great. They don't work on any script or any maths or science. They just say what they feel. If it doesn't rhyme, it doesn't matter. If it sounds awkward, it doesn't matter," he argued. "I think, especially with being lucky enough to have a big fanbase, I want to say to them, 'Look, lyrics actually matter, and I want to show you why.'"