It has been a year since Zayn Malik left One Direction, and in that time the Bradford born artist has continually maintained a public presence by way of an online spat with producer Naughty Boy and starting a high profile relationship with model and reality tv star Gigi Hadid, who notably featured in his recent music videos. Here we take a look at how far the boy from Bradford has come with debut album.
After teasing for so long he was ready to show the public who he truly was as an artist, Mind of Mine establishes a bold statement, one that perhaps many thought would not be the case. After the public watched him grow and mature in the limelight of One Direction, it seems that all that time we never quite knew the true Zayn Malik.
There’s something very natural about Mind of Mine, probably due to the fact Zayn never quite fit in with his peers in One Direction, which over the years culminated in less than vocal interviews and at times inanimate stage performances. Alas, this seemed to be the appeal of the boy band member. He was effortlessly mundane and handsome beyond his peers. The album opens with the intro ‘Mind of Mine’ which teases the sort of atmospheric and seductive nature of the falsetto infused record. As those 57 seconds end, we are met with the lead single ‘Pillow Talk’, which was released earlier this year. Its instrumentals are highly polished and show the same sophistication of the various players in the R’n’B and hip-hop world, although there is a feeling that ‘Pillow Talk’ lacks a memorable ambience, instead relying on the refinement of its production to impress.
As the album progresses, it becomes more of a complete body of work with its raison d’être seeming to be Zayn wanting to convey his proclaimed artistic maturity. Organ and piano drenched track ‘It’s You’ redeems itself as something you might have found on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange with its falsetto laden lyrics and the faux-fatalist lament of the song’s demeanour. The pace ups itself again as we reach ‘She’ and it’s at this point that one thing is for definite; Zayn was definitely not at home in One Direction. The track finds itself detailing the seductiveness poignancy of R’n’B with production that one might have been found on early The 1975 material.
The album once again dies down in tempo as ‘Intermission: Flower’ takes hold as track 7. With it, comes something absolutely no critic or die hard fan might have expected, especially for a high profile artist who still clung to teenage women for their fan base; it’s sung in Urdu which serves as an homage to Zayn’s Pakistani heritage, something he has always been proud to recognise. It is a pastoral-esque lament to the flower of his love as he sings “Until the flower of this love has blossomed / This heart won’t be at peace“.
There is still plenty of time however for the seductive The Weeknd inspired bombastic R’n’B to blossom further, as ‘Wrong’, featuring hotly tipped artist Kehlani, produces a lusty call and response between the two, something that takes one back to such a trope that defined 90’s R’n’B.
The remainder of the album finds itself fluctuating between somber and upbeat with tracks like ‘Lucozade’ and ‘Like I Would’. However, it is unable to establish a consistent dynamic, but its apparent inconsistency seems to gleefully move away from the regimentation and sycophantic stylisation that Zayn has come to know with One Direction; a mass money making monster which valued fulfilling boardroom targets rather than creating music made with sincerity.
As the album’s hazy crescendo ends and its cadence ‘She Don’t Love Me’ delivers throwbacks to certain Prince material, it’s clear to see that ‘Mind of Mine’ borrows heavily from the musical production tropes of PARTYNEXTDOOR, Bryson Tiller amongst The Weeknd, but yet it revels in that with the understanding that it has used them sincerely. If Zayn was looking to make a statement then he has certainly done that: to his old band mates, to his peers but most importantly, he has made a statement for himself that proves he was capable of much more than rewriting the boy-band archetype. You feel that after all this time as a teen heartthrob, Zayn is ready to embrace substance, over style.
‘Mine of Mine’ is out now via RCA.
A stylish but sincere attempt, Zayn delivers a solid body of work that would fit neatly in the record collection of any RnB fan.