The 23-year-old singer announced on Wednesday evening (29 July) that he'd inked his first solo deal, posting a photo of him signing the contract at the RCA offices.
He said: "I guess I never explained why I left. It was for this moment to be given the opportunity to show you who I really am! #realmusic #RCA."
It was the #RealMusic that baffled some One Direction fans, who wanted to know exactly what he meant by the world 'real'.
Lmao so zayn is basically saying One Direction isn't real music and who he was with 1D was fake....ok lol— Harry's Mum (@mytinysonharryy) July 29, 2015
SO HE WAS FAKE ZAYN FOR 5 YEARS???? THAT MAKES ME SAD— ˗ˏˋ julia ˎˊ˗ (@74hes) July 29, 2015
@zaynmalik so all this time I listen to fake music you disappoint me so much Zayn.— ∞Harry Styles (@Sasseh_queen) July 30, 2015
So all those lyrics Zayn sung..that mattered to many was fake to him?— taylør (@liamslilsecret) July 30, 2015
@zaynmalik what about all things u did with the boys and all funny moments and all amazing songs ..is that fake ! Explain it zayn— Sabreen .. (@Sabreen93sabo) July 30, 2015
However, plenty more fans were thrilled and excited to see what Zayn would do next. And Zayn clarified the meaning of 'real' by retweeting one fan (@zaynhealy) who wrote: "You are stupid. Real music meaning real to him. Real because he has written and recorded it solely to what he likes. Real to himself like lol."
You are stupid. Real music meaning real to him. Real because he has written and recorded it solely to what he likes.Real to himself like lol— cerise (@zaynhealy) July 29, 2015
He also seemed tickled by another fan (@flatfringes) who tweeted: "is this Zayn's moment he's taking off his Hannah Montana wig and now he's Miley Cyrus."
Zayn quit One Direction in March after five phenomenally successful years with the group who finished third on X Factor's seventh series. The band – Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Niall Horan – have continued without him.
They are signed to Simon Cowell's Syco record label, but the music mogul revealed last week Zayn would be signing to a different label as One Direction are his priority.
Simon tweeted last night: "We have been working on this for a while and I am pleased to say congratulations to @Zaynmalik on signing with @RCARecords. I believe they are the perfect label for @ZaynMalik's solo career and I am sure whatever they release together will be special."
RCA Records has worked with artists including Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Whitney Houston, Kings of Leon, Ke$ha and Alicia Keys.
Check out these reactions to Zayn quitting 1D (featuring Professor Green and Ricky Wilson):