“BeFoUr” is the third promotional single from Zayn’s first solo album Mind Of Mine. It was released on March 17 2016.
The song was previewed in a behind-the-scenes video for his Fader cover story in November 2015 (this cover story was actually his first introduction as a solo artist).
“BeFoUr” examines Zayn’s life before leaving One Direction and was written in a studio in a Las Vegas hotel immediately after his departure from the band. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Zayn talked about the inspiration behind the song which came during a Big Sean concert this same night
“We were sitting backstage in a VIP area and I was just telling him [Malay], ‘It’s crazy being here in Vegas. I’ve literally been all over the world with One Direction. I’ve done this before, but not like this. Not by myself, not this way, not here with the intention of working on my own music.”
The song title, “BeFoUr”, is obviously a pun. On the track, Zayn repeats several times the line “I’ve done this before”, addressing his career and incredible success with his former band One Direction.
When Zayn left One Direction, there were only four members left. Thanks to the title, the lyrics can be also interpreted as “I’ve done this, be four”, then referencing directly at the boy band.
Ironically enough, the last One Direction’s album Zayn appears on is titled “Four” (because it was their fourth LP).
In an interview for Cosmopolitan, Harvard’s Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in English and poet Josh Bell discussed the song lyrics, title and its pun. Somehow, Bell ended up finding a way of comparing Zayn to Irish poet and novelist James Joyce and the legendary English playwright William Shakespeare :
“Were there five band members, so that when Zayn left it made four? And if so, does that make the title, here, a pretty solid pun? As in, ‘before, we were five, but now that I’ve left, I be-four you?’ Beware … begone … befour. That’s not a bad pun at all, really. Someone once said, ‘He who would pun would pick a pocket,’ but I think that person was Samuel Johnson, and no one really reads him anymore. Shakespeare picked pockets. James Joyce did too. I’m kind of split on puns, myself, but either way: someone should get Zayn, James Joyce, and Shakespeare in the studio together as soon as possible.”
The music video for “BeFoUr” was released the same day as the album, March 25th.