Growing up as a teenager with a younger sister, I had to listen to more One Direction than I would like to admit. At the time, I thought they were the worst thing ever. It was mostly just a mix of oversaturation and angst that caused this but as I matured I began to appreciate them more. I would go as far as saying songs like “Night Changes” are genuinely good.
It seemed like as soon as I began turning around to them Zayn Malik, probably my favorite of the group, left to work on solo material. I expected absolutely nothing from his solo work, assuming he was going to just make his own bad to mediocre rock band. He also made the dumb mistake of biting the hand that fed him and pretty much calling out One Direction for making terrible music which should have turned off all the fans for this. Then “Pillowtalk” got released and I immediately got interested in this project. It seemed like Zayn was taking his career in an R&B direction which really intrigued me. This record was also produced behind Malay who produced several tracks off of Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE which I love so I went in excited.
After a few listens I have to admit, this is a solid debut and I am impressed with what Zayn put out. I actually thought that almost all the songs before the intermission, I am not really crazy about “Drunk,” were quite good. Having listened to “Pillowtalk” several times between listening to this album and having a car with a functioning radio. I cannot complain about all the airplay this is getting, I am really liking this track and I might even go as far as to say it is my favorite song on the Mind of Mine.
“It’s You” is another one with a really unique sound that I really like. The organ on here sets a really nice tone, as do Zayn’s higher pitched vocals which sound beautiful and not as forceful as it could. The lyrics, which seem to focus on his relationship with his ex-fiancée and is basically saying “it’s not me, it’s you.”
One of the most interesting lyrical moments is on the next track “Befour,” a song about his career now he has left One Direction. It reflects on the hate Zayn has been receiving for leaving the group and how he handles being at control when it comes to making music. The song itself is definitely catchy too with a great beat accompanying it. The same goes for the next track “She,” a song that sounds like something Miguel would come out with.
Then we get to “Intermission: Flower” a sitar based song sung entirely in Urdu. While Urdu is not a language I am familiar with, I am Middle Eastern and find music from that part of the world to be beautiful, so this really appealed to me. Once this and the following track, “Rear View,” are over, I stopped enjoying this record in the same way. “Rear View” comes across as the most emotionally sincere song, with Zayn comforting his partner that has clearly gone through a lot. The song is probably the closest this album comes to making a Frank Ocean song.
After this, the rest of the songs are kind of a blur. This is a problem I have with several contemporary R&B albums. They have some stand out moments and the rest of the songs just kind of sound the same. It is not like there are any outright terrible songs on here. “Drunk” does not work for me just because it does not paint a particularly great picture in my mind. The worst song to me, “Tio,” just does not seem to fit the album very well and is just a weird place to end things. It is a traditional sex song, and on an album that is not shy about sexual content, this still feels particularly out of place. This is because the lyrics do not seem to come from a place of love like the other sex songs here.
While I cannot say for sure whether or not Zayn will become the next Justin Timberlake, I can say this is far from a bad start. At worst, this is a mixed bag, but the songs that work, do so very well. While this won’t be making my year end list, this is still solid and should satisfy those who want new music from Zayn. I am sure we will hear again from Zayn soon and hopefully a genuinely great album. I can settle for this until then, though.
Best Tracks: Pillowtalk, It’s You, Befour, She, Rear View
Worst Track: Tio