A source close to Malik tells ET, "This was just a rough demo of a track which was recorded for the last One Direction album. It didn't make it onto the album and it's not new, nor is it a solo track from Zayn."
One Direction's fourth studio album, appropriately titled Four, was released on Nov. 17, marking a historic milestone for the band: 1D became the first act to debut at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart with each of its first four albums.
The buzz around the leaked track all started on Monday when a demo for the song "I Don't Mind" popped up online, then was later posted -- and deleted -- on U.K. producer Naughty Boy's SoundCloud page. Naughty Boy also posted a tweet reading, "Let the music do the talking guys. Thanks us later."
Fans took to Twitter with a firestorm of angry responses, questioning Malik's decision to leave One Direction in order to, as he said, "be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight."
Now, a friend of Malik tells ET: "Everything in the last few weeks happened so fast -- Zayn knows it's going to take a while for things to settle down. He loves music and making music will continue to be a huge part of his life but he hasn't made any specific plans yet for the future, he's just taking things day by day. He was totally genuine in his reasons for leaving the band."
The origin of the track also shines new light on 1D member Louis Tomlinson's recent tweet, in which he issued some harsh words for the producer.
Perhaps Naughty Boy was attempting to shine a light on Malik's vocals? The stripped-down demo, an acoustic guitar-set ballad, did show off a different side of the singer. For what it's worth, Naughty Boy has been re-tweeting plenty of online commentary about the song and signed off for the night with a very zen response.
no one is against anyone here. the fans made all of us. not just a chosen few. the love is alive. hate just doesn't belong there. ?