Hands up who was surprised when Zayn Malik announced his departure from One Direction last year? I certainly wasn’t because it was always clear that he wasn’t all that comfortable with being in a boy band. After all who can forget the huge strop he threw before the band were put together during a dance class on The X Factor? Obviously the appeal of fame and riches were enough to help Zayn put his real ambitions to one side, at least temporarily. Since leaving One Direction, Zayn has done everything he can to try and prove that he’s a world away from the squeaky clean image he’s had for years. From talking about smoking weed in interviews to ditching his fiancé Perrie Edwards, Zayn is determined to show that he’s an adult.
The first cut from Mind of Mine was Pillowtalk, which rocketed to number 1 in the UK and the US. The track embraced the R&B roots that Zayn has always had and peppered it with some expletives and references to sex, just so you know that he’s really grown up now. The song was actually better than I expected it to be and there’s no doubt that Zayn was the voice of One Direction so I’ve always been intrigued to hear what a solo effort from the singer would sound like.
Mind of Mine is Zayn’s attempt to show that he’s better than the music he was ‘forced’ to make as part of One Direction, and for the most part it works. Pillowtalk was a good introduction to the record and much of the material here stays in the same R&B territory as that single. The album opens with Mind of Mindd (intro), a near minute-long dreamy mix of sparse beats and reverb-filled vocals.
Things kicks off properly with Pillowtalk and from that point on things get interesting. Some of the songs here clearly discuss his experiences in One Direction, and that’s understandable. Equally his relationship with Perrie Edwards appears to be fair game and I doubt she’s pleased with lyrics such as ‘she don’t love me, that’s why I fuck around’ on deluxe edition closing track She Don’t Love Me.
Zayn really gets into his groove when his voice is allowed to shine without the production wizardry that is present on a fair amount of the record. Drunk utilises his falsetto for a seductive R&B groove, the sparse Wrong featuring Kehlani has a fantastic atmosphere, and piano ballad Fool For You showcases just how gifted a vocalist Zayn really is.
Highlights on the record include the pulsating, but oddly titled, Lucozade and the beat-driven TIO (Take It Off). Both songs show that Zayn has a knack for a catchy melody and he can deliver emotion-filled vocals that convey some actual depth, unlike his former band. Current single Like I Would, which is only on the Deluxe Edition of the album, is the standout moving slightly from the R&B sound into electro-pop.
The parts of Mind of Mine that don’t work quite so well are where Zayn tries a little too hard. Does he need to keep referencing smoking weed and swearing? Does encouraging poor spelling and randomly stylising your track titles show your creative genius? Probably not but it seems those things have been mistaken for having edge and that’s a real shame. After all the majority of those who buy this record, in the first instance any way, are going to be the kids who have followed One Direction for years so I can already see irate parents outraged at some of the content here.
It’s clear with his solo record that Zayn is attempting to establish who he really is as an artist. The music couldn’t be any further away from One Direction and the album is surprisingly strong. Zayn is clearly a talented vocalist and on the evidence of this an impressive writer too. When he allows his talent to speak for itself, he truly shines and I just hope that for album number 2 he drops a bit of the posturing.
Track Listing: 1. MiNd Of MiNdd (Intro) 2. Pillowtalk 3. iT’s YoU 4. tRuTh 5. sHe 6. dRuNk 7. Intermission: Flower 8. rEaR vIeW 9. wRoNg 10. fOoL fOr YoU. 11. BoRdErSz 12. tRuTh 13. lUcOzAdE 14. TiO 15. Blue 16. Bright 17. Like I Would 18. She Don’t Love Me Record Company: RCA Release Date: 25th March 2016