Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.
Zayn was never my favourite in One Direction but I always appreciated what his presence in the group did for British Muslims in mainstream music. While he’s now moved on to a more mature sound in his solo career, a new artist, cute 19-year-old Harris J, has come along to appeal to the younger teen market that 1D cornered. Instead of signing to one of the majors, Brit School graduate Harris is with an independent Muslim label, Awakening Records, and his faith is integral to his music. His best known song Salam Alaikum uses a Muslim greeting (“peace be upon you” in Arabic) as its main hook, yet it otherwise sounds like the typical teen-pop track of today, with the innocence of early Bieber. My favourite of Harris’s singles is the catchy and uplifting Good Life. Both tracks are co-written by a team including Paddy Dalton (who’s worked with Lawson and The Wanted) and successful Muslim artist Maher Zain. British Muslims are a massive audience who are underserved by the mainstream media and music industry, so it will be interesting to see if they embrace an artist with a fast-growing following that would normally excite them, or if unproven assumptions that non-Muslims wouldn’t accept an overtly religious Muslim pop star get in the way.