Exactly one year after leaving One Direction Zayn Malik drops his debut solo album Mind of Mine, and it’s an R’n’B masterpiece.
Cast your mind back to March 2015 and you probably remember seeing something on social media about the pop cultural devastation caused by Zayn Malik’s departure from boyband sensation One Direction. Whether you were crying into your cornflakes or laughing at the misfortune of fangirls everywhere, Zayn’s name was all over the airwaves.
Exactly one year later, and the Bradford born 23 year old is causing a stir once again, this time in the form of the release of his debut album. Not as controversial as last year’s Malik related news, but the decision to release the album on the anniversary of his departure from the boyband can hardly go unnoticed.
The aptly titled Mind of Mine is a colossal eighteen track album that finds most of its roots in R’n’B, something which is hardly surprising when you learn that it was his father’s love for 90’s rap and classic reggae that got Malik into music in the first place. The whole album seems to channel that era of music, with ‘Drunk’ sounding like something resembling a slowed down version of R. Kelly’s ‘Ignition (Remix)’, and lead single ‘Pillowtalk’ having been referred to by many reviewers (myself included in this review) as the lovechild of The Weeknd and Drake. It’s by no means something particularly unique, but it works.
Looking past the headache inducing use of capitalisation on the track names – ‘Drunk’ is actually ‘dRuNk’ – the album is exactly the kind of thing you’d expect a boyband-member-gone-solo to release. Mind of Mine, really, is Zayn’s version of Justin Timberlake’s Justified. Whether Malik will find himself to have as successful a solo career as Timberlake remains to be seen, but he’s certainly started on the same foot.
Malik wrote all the lyrics to Mind of Mine himself, something which was never the case in One Direction. Sure, they may have had some input into some of the songs, but there’s no one song that is wholly their words. Listening to the album it’s clear that Malik is no McCartney, and he’s by no means the next greatest lyricist of our generation, but it’s also fair to say that Zayn can write a decent set of song lyrics. He’s poetic when he needs to be and straightforward when he doesn’t, and it’s not entirely terrible.
With his new found freedom from poppy boyband hell, Malik no longer has to stick to the sugarcoated lyrics and themes that he used to, and that definitely shows with this record. You won’t find a One Direction song with an expletive in it, yet on Mind of Mine you’ll find six. Almost every song on the eighteen track album has an overarching theme of sex and/or drugs, and the attempt to prove to people that Zayn Malik has matured comes out as infantile. Just because you’re actually allowed to use expletives and ‘adult’ themes on this record, doesn’t always mean you should.
Track seven – an intermission track named ‘Flower’ (or fLoWeR) – is sung in Urdu, his father’s native tongue. It’s a nice touch, and it gives the album that much needed personal connection that was lacking in his otherwise distant lyrics.
Another somewhat unexpected detour on the album is the piano laden ballad ‘Fool For You’. This track isn’t R’n’B focused at all, but more inspired by The Beatles and Elton John. In NME’s interview with Malik, he said “I was listening to a lot of John Lennon the week I got that loop,” and so ‘Fool For You’ gets the Lennon treatment too, and ends up sounding like something resembling ‘In My Life’. Weirdly, it really works, and is probably one of my favourite tracks from the album.
In short, Mind of Mine is the start of something big for Zayn, if things could really get any bigger. He’s yet to comment on whether a tour is on the cards, but I think fans will be itching to see these songs played live and if his appearance on the The Tonight Show was anything to go by, Zayn live is not something to be missed.
Mind of Mine is out now on Spotify and iTunes. You can watch the video for new single Befour, shot in Manchester’s Miles Platting district, below.