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

One Direction releases surprise first single as a foursome

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.

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

“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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