Apparently Zayn Malik is the latest artist to fall prey to his label's efforts to control and possibly sabotage his career.

It all began when Brazilian producer Rafael Allmark spoke to fans privately about a collaboration with Zayn that was going to be released. The fans excitedly posted about the new song, which was supposed to be released today, February 12th. It began charting in some countries—but it turned out that Zayn had not known about or approved the song's release.

"The track was completed in 2018 but Malik's label would not let Allmark release it at the time due to Zayn's second album releasing soon," said the Twitter account @zayndata1 in an exclusive statement to Popdust. "Allmark claims he did not know that the vocals were Zayn's when they were first sent to him and only knew when he was instructed my RCA Records not to release the song… Allmark clarified that he was not comfortable releasing without Zayn's consent and it was extremely unprofessional that his label did not try to stop the release or ask consent from Zayn."

The song was pulled from the airwaves after Zayn's tweet, leaving fans stunned and suspicious.

After this incident, many fans are starting to question Zayn's label and his contract, which was orchestrated by Simon Cowell. They cited the fact that Zayn's last album, Icarus Falls, received inadequate promotion from the label, RCA. Some believe Zayn was the subject of a smear and suppression campaign by the label, which released physical copies of Icarus Falls two weeks late in many cases and even failed to release physical copies in dozens of countries around the world.


"The label is holding me back but I promise I am doing everything I can to get my music to you," Zayn tweeted in 2018 before the release of Icarus Falls.

Fans have reason to be suspicious of RCA, which is an imprint of Sony. Many artists have spoken out about abuse they received from labels under the Sony umbrella. When she was in an abusive relationship with manager Tony Mottola, the co-owner of Universal Group (an imprint of Sony), Mariah Carey had difficulty escaping due to the amount of control he exercised over her career. Similarly, Kesha's lawsuit against Dr. Luke, a producer who worked for RCA—Zayn's new label—claimed that the "Tik Tok" singer experienced prolonged sexual and psychological abuse, but Kesha has still been forced to pay Dr. Luke thousands of dollars in royalties. And the story of labels taking control of their artists is as old as the music industry itself.


Of course, maybe fans should channel their energy into supporting Zayn's music. The people have the power, and together, we can all give Zayn's music the attention it deserves.

Ellen DeGeneres is an inspiring figure.

There are few people as successful as she is who deserve success as much as she does. Her talent and charm are perhaps only matched by the bravery she demonstrated in coming out as a gay woman at a time when that seemed likely to tank her career—and did, in fact, derailed it considerably. Her popularity as a public figure is both a testament to how far our culture has progressed in a relatively short time and undoubtedly a contributing factor in that progress.

Is it any wonder then that, when Ellen came under attack for just being pleasant to a fellow human being, people practically fell over each other to defend and support her? Since issuing her response on Tuesday, she's been hailed as an icon of civility and a too-rare source of hope for the future of our divided nation. Maybe she is those things, and as a general rule, she deserves our support—but she is also absolutely wrong about George W. Bush. Namely, she's ignoring the man's true legacy.

"I'm friends with George Bush. In fact, I'm friends with a lot of people who don't share the same beliefs that I have. We're all different, and I think that we've forgotten that that's okay that we're all different."

Who could argue with that? Differences of belief and opinion are not just a part of friendship; for some people they're the whole basis. And as a morning talk show host, Ellen's job is pretty much to be friends with everyone. While she makes no secret about being generally progressive, she treads lightly when it comes to politics—which is not just smart, but probably necessary for national sanity. Instead of diving into that mess, she thrives in all things cute, silly, and inoffensive.

Her show specializes in harmless pranks, surprises, adorable animals, and child prodigies who make us all feel stupid. It's a world of low-stakes fun, and it's not hard to see how the 2019 version of George W. Bush fits into that world. He's a goofy old man who hasn't been culturally relevant in a decade, and he spends his retirement creating charmingly amateurish paintings of pets, world leaders, and himself bathing. He isn't abrasive and belligerent like Trump. He actually seems pretty humble and sweet, socially.

If I were to meet him without context, I'm sure I would want to be his friend, too, regardless of his personal beliefs. Personal beliefs are a personal matter, and if it were only a matter of beliefs—or even of the social agenda Bush promoted when he was president: pushing for a federal amendment to outlaw gay marriage—then it would be up to each individual to forgive and accept him or not.

This seems to be the frame that Ellen was working from when she paired herself with Bush as "a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president." And in that respect, she no doubt has a lot of practice with forgiveness. After all, 15 years ago, 60% of the country opposed gay marriage, and today more than 60% approve. Should we hold a grudge against that 30% that have changed their minds?

More importantly, should we bother to rehash old issues when a supreme court ruling has rendered them moot? Gay marriage is legal in all 50 states! Portia and Ellen are as married as anyone else. If they don't want to hold onto old resentments over the fight to get there, who are we to tell them otherwise? The problem is: George W. Bush's legacy extends much further than domestic policy. He was once the most powerful man on earth, and the way he wielded that power continues to shape the world for the worse.

George W. Bush is a war criminal.

I'll leave aside waterboarding, Guantanamo Bay, extraordinary rendition, and Abu Ghraib, because there is far too much to talk about in one article, and none of those topics are as cut and dry as the Iraq War.

George W. Bush wanted to go to war with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was an evil man, and Bush had inherited a grudge from his father—along with an oil lust from his Vice President. But the world has no shortage of evil men, so he needed a stronger justification to send the country into a massive war.

Colin Powell lying to the UN

In that respect, 9/11 justified the inevitable. It got the whole country so fired up for a fight that there was enough energy for more than one. So George W. Bush and his administration lied. They drew vague, imaginary connections between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, then they manufactured evidence of a weapons program that was even more of a fantasy. They manipulated the media, coerced false testimony, ignored voices of reason, and lied, and lied.

They got the country on board through any means necessary, and thrust us into a multi-trillion-dollar war without a plan for the fallout. As a result of that war, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have died, millions have been driven from their homes, the entire region has been destabilized, and ISIS formed and flourished in the vacuum of power. We are living in the world that George W. Bush's war created, and we are far worse for it, regardless of his "beliefs."

Is it even possible for someone with such a toxic legacy to earn our forgiveness? Someone who has caused so much misery and turmoil? We may never know… because George W. Bush has never apologized. Maybe all that pain he caused was the result of some mistaken beliefs on his part. Maybe his beliefs have evolved, and he regrets what he did. As of yet, he's given us no reason to suspect that he sees anything in his legacy that would require an apology. It seems unlikely that he will ever give the world that opportunity to forgive him, yet so many of us are already eager to forget what he's done. Will we do the same for Trump and his child concentration camps in another decade?

George W. Bush celebrating the "success" of the war in Iraq REUTERS

In a just world, we would leave aside any question of beliefs and put George W. Bush on trial for his crimes. But we don't live in a just world. We live in a world where powerful men rarely face real consequences for their crimes.

Luckily, there is a model for responding to this kind of injustice. if there's one lesson we can draw from the #metoo movement (apart from the basic reality of pervasive sexual assault…), it's that we don't have to wait around for a justice system that isn't on our side. The court of public opinion is fickle and dangerous, but sometimes it's the only tool we have to punish people who are otherwise untouchable. George W. Bush will never be tried at the Hague. The least we can do is shun and shame him. The least we can do is remember.

In her response, Ellen admonishes us to "be kind to everyone'' and accuses the world of forgetting that difference is okay. Has she truly forgotten that war crimes are not?

CULTURE

Worst Celebrity Kisses, Ranked

You've seen the Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello video, but have you seen these other terrible kisses?

If you thought that Lily-Rose Depp and Timothee Chalamet took the cake for worst kiss of the week, you're wrong.

Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello shared a rather grotesque full-on video of themselves kissing last night, and the Internet is generally feeling a bit traumatized.

The video was apparently intended to troll their critics, though it's unclear exactly how. "We saw on Twitter and stuff you guys saying stuff about the way we were kissing, that it looks like weird and that we kiss like fish," Shawn says in the beginning of the clip.

"It really hurt our feelings," Cabello says. Then Mendes says, "So we're going to show you how we really kiss." What follows: choking, LOTS of tongue, Shawn possibly trying to eat Camila.

Even for a joke, this kiss is disturbing. Maybe that's because the kiss looks half serious; the body language makes it look real, but the kiss itself is nightmarish. While all this could just be an elaborate PR stunt, there are a fair number of liquor bottles behind them and honestly, they could (let's hope) simply be incredibly drunk.

To be fair, kissing is a pretty strange action when you think about the logistics of it, and sometimes it's painfully obvious just how bizarre the act of smashing your mouth against someone else's can look from the outside. On the other hand, a little technique goes a long way, and these celebrities seem to be severely lacking in either experience or sobriety. Anyway, in honor of Shawn and Camila, here are some of the greatest celebrity kiss trainwrecks of all time.

9. Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian

No wonder this marriage didn't work: Kris Humphries didn't have the decency to lean down far enough to reach his short wife's mouth. Still, this kiss is relatively innocuous in comparison to what's coming next.

MUSIC

Louis Tomlinson Wants to Be in Oasis So Bad

"Kill My Mind" is an Oasis rip off in the least flattering way.

Louis Tomlinson wants us to know that he's been listening to rock music.

Louis Tomlinson - Kill My Mind (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

In an awkward 2017 profile with The Guardian, the former One Direction member described himself as "forgettable" and endorsed the idea that he was the "lowliest" member of the group, citing the fact that he never had a single vocal solo during his time with the band. "I'm trying to work out why it is that I'm [doing this]," he said, as a few offerings off his upcoming solo album played in the background. So he did what any uninspired artist would do: he went back to his "roots" and listened to the music he grew up with. "I grew up loving bands," Tomlinson told MTV. "Because I'm from the north of England naturally everyone's obsessed with Oasis and Arctic Monkeys." Consequently, Tomlinson's new single, "Kill My Mind," sounds like a mediocre tribute to early aughts British rock.

Louis Tomlinson Kill My Mind Liam Gallagher super imposed over an image from Tomlinson's "Kill My Mind" lyric video


"Kill My Mind" is melodically reminiscent of a 2006 Arctic Monkeys B-side, while lyrics like, "kept me living from the last time, from a prison of a past life," attempt to carry the metaphorical significance of an Oasis record, but mostly just don't make any sense. Tomlinson's attempt at a low nasally growl when he sings, "and you hate me, and I want more," just sounds like Liam Gallagher mimicry. Thematically, Tomlinson's wish-washy narrative makes it sound like he's trying to appear more prolific and rock-and-roll-esque than he actually is. Even the lyric video shows a cartoon Tomlinson directly copying the outfit and stance of Liam Gallagher during an Oasis performance. All of it feels fraudulent, none of it is compelling, and all of it suggests Tomlinson would rather be a third Gallagher brother than himself.

MUSIC

AT&T's Fake Boy Band Accidentally Created a Total Bop

AT&T needs to drop the full "Summertime Lover" track immediately.

AT&T/ Kory Brocious

There's no doubt about it—"Summertime Lover" from AT&T's new commercial is an absolute banger. The only problem: It's not a real song.*

*UPDATE 09/20/2019: SUMMERTIME LOVER HAS OFFICIALLY DROPPED.

"Summertime Lover" is a fictional number performed by a fictional boy band in an AT&T commercial. The commercial hinges on the premise that a boy band without dancing is "just okay." Except the song they seem to have created solely to be used as a "just okay" boy band sample is accidentally a total bop. It's been stuck in my head for days, and I've watched the commercial like 80 times already just to hear the 30-second clip.

Just listen to that. Like, damn. I can't be alone in demanding that AT&T drop the full track immediately. And based off the YouTube comments, I'm definitely not.

at&t boy band

Obviously "Summertime Lover" is a major throwback to '90s heyday boy bands. The main hook, "Summertime love / With my summertime lover," could have been ripped straight from NSYNC. But when lead singer, Kory, uses his falsetto to sing, "Gimme one chance / I'll treat you like a princess," he carries enough passion and vocal talent to drive the band straight into the modern era. And that wink. Swoon.

So you know what, AT&T. Let's go a step further. On top of dropping "Summertime Lover" as a single (it's honestly a travesty this hasn't been done already), it's time to make this boy band a real thing. I know this is just a silly commercial, but I don't even care. Call up Kory and the boys, hire a choreographer, and make this happen. I swear to G-d, I would buy a ticket to see these guys in concert.

You thought "Summertime Lover" was a big joke, but you were wrong. "Summertime Lover" is a big hit. Time to take it global. #DropSummertimeLover