July 31, 2015 / 1:57 PM / 2 years ago

One Direction releases surprise first single as a foursome

2 Min Read

Members of the pop group One Direction pose for photographers at the Capital Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium in London, Britain June 06, 2015.Neil Hall

LONDON (Reuters) - Best-selling boy band One Direction released a surprise first single as a foursome on Friday, two days after former member Zayn Malik announced a new record deal as solo artist.

"Drag Me Down" follows November's "Night Changes" and is the first single the group, which came to prominence on British televised singing competition "The X Factor" in 2010, has put out since Malik said he was quitting the band in March.

The foursome -- Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson -- posted a video message on Twitter announcing the new single.

"It's the first song from the new album that we've been working very, very hard on," Payne said in the video.

In a separate post on his Twitter feed, Payne called the move "a bit of a surprise".

The news came after Malik himself tweeted a picture on Wednesday of him signing papers at RCA Records.

"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," he wrote.

Malik quit after five years with One Direction, saying he wanted to "be a normal 22-year old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight".

Reporting By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

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