Release Date: Mar 25, 2016
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Pop/Rock, Contemporary R&B, Alternative R&B
Mind of Mine is a remarkably easy album to live with. For a pop record coming from the pedigree Zayn has, with four enormously successful records with the biggest boyband of the 2010s under his belt, there is a surprisingly interior quality at work here. A lot of it is in the production, to be sure, but the lyrics and the vocal performance bring forth a maturity it’s hard to associate with One Direction through the crowds of screaming tweens, no matter how much they’ve progressed over the last two albums.
“Open up and see what’s inside of my mind. ” So suggests Zayn Malik in the introduction to his debut offering Mind Of Mine, anticipating what a curious public wants from a mega-celebrity who walked away from a mega-boyband (One Direction, in case you’re none the wiser). Now freer to walk his own path, it’s particularly on the nose of him to invite his audience into his mind to poke around, and the result is an album that’s an expansive but cogent head trip.
Despite his protests of ignorance, the timing of Zayn Malik’s debut solo album, Mind of Mine, feels pretty significant. It comes out a year ago to the day after he released a statement confirming he’d left One Direction, the juggernaut, X Factor-created boyband that had propelled him from a slightly bored-looking teenager to a slightly bored-looking, incredibly wealthy adult. After leaving the group, he explained that he wanted to be “a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight”.
“I need you and I hate it”, croons Zayn Malik on his first solo album Mind of Mine. It’s a line in a Beatles-y piano ballad called 'Fool For You' (sorry, 'fOoL fOr YoU') about halfway through the 18-track album. The first song on side two, if you like. There’s a playlist of songs he was inspired by on Spotify, and you can draw a fairly straight line between John Lennon’s 'Imagine' there and this song, 'fOoL fOr YoU'.
If you need proof that no life skill is more valuable than knowing exactly when to leave a party, look no further than Zayn Malik. Though his work as one-fifth of boy-band superpower One Direction left him at best a distant second to de facto frontman Harry Styles in terms of mainstream visibility, by splitting from the group in 2015 — just an album before they were likely to split anyway — he was able to position himself as the member with the biggest head start to achieving an equally successful solo career. An equally well-timed FADER cover story cast him as a fringe-friendly artist with too much on his mind for 1D, and a triumphant debut single trumpeted his solo arrival, greeted with a reception that not even his world-conquering former group had ever managed.
Over the past half decade, R&B has increasingly staggered off the dancefloor in a daze, landing on expensive soft furnishings to stare into an empty glass. The man mostly – but not exclusively – responsible for this development is Abel “The Weeknd”’ Tesfaye, whose heavy-lidded influence on the mainstream shows little sign of abating. As the success of Justin Bieber’s recent Purpose album testifies, the trend for horizontality in pop has transformed even that former teen irritant into a slinkier figure.
After an extended period of hushed anticipation promising an edgier, all-grown-up, one-name-only Zayn, the UK singer finally unleashed his debut solo single "Pillowtalk" earlier this year. Showing signs of a more mature pop star — one who drops f-bombs, dry humps his girlfriend on camera and weeps blackened tears — the track, its accompanying video and now, his full-length album, valiantly attempt to distance Zayn from his past as one fifth of the manufactured boy band machine that spawned One Direction. In some ways, it works; the songs on Mind of Mine certainly skew towards more mature content and a sleeker, less bubblegum-y pop sound that's implemented expertly by producer Malay on silky smooth PBR&B-lite ballads like "It's You.
Zayn Malik has had sex. But he doesn't just want that fact to be implied in his lyrics or ingrained in his music. The 23-year-old ex-One Direction member wears it like a Boy Scout badge, placing himself between sheets and against walls time and time again. His solo re-introduction is a glimpse into his dirtiest thoughts, which, like the thoughts of most 23-year-old boys, are a bit half-baked and corny ("I think I know she don't love me/That's why I fuck her right," he offers on "She Don't Love Me").
Last Friday, in order to celebrate the release of his first solo album, Mind of Mine, Zayn performed the bonus track "LIKE I WOULD" on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon." He was assisted by the Roots and surrounded by fluorescent tubes, but he looked alone and slightly lost, his eyes gazing blankly ahead. Since he left One Direction a year ago, there’s an awkwardness and inflexibility visible in his performances, as if he’s just learning how to occupy a stage on his own. When he sings the chorus, "He-eeee / won’t touch you like I do," he starts to loosen up, giving a few rhythmic shrugs and meaningful gazes at the middle distance, but as a solo star he moves through space unsteadily.
Just over a year after leaving One Direction, Zayn Malik has emerged with Mind of Mine, his attempt at jumpstarting his solo career and being taken seriously as a mature artist. His well-publicized fallout with his former band has left him as much a symbol of individuality and rebellion to some as a backstabbing turncoat to others. For many, the record is a referendum on his decision, either validating it or serving as a skewering indictment of his choice go solo.
Making a transition from pop to more adult-oriented R&B is the modern hallmark of the erstwhile boy-bander. “Pillowtalk,” the lead single from former One Direction member Zayn Malik's solo debut, Mind of Mine, is textbook break-the-mold material, all blue-eyed soul and brooding sensuality. Justin Timberlake, of course, is the obvious touchstone here, particularly on the sex-centric standouts “She” and “Tio” (short for “Take It Off,” natch).
Former One Direction member Zayn Malik gets serious on "Mind of Mine." Former One Direction member Zayn Malik gets serious on "Mind of Mine." One Direction famously hated being referred to as a boy band. But if the term didn't fit the mega-popular British group that recently went on hiatus, the problem — at least from the outside — had less to do with the word "boy" than with the word "band." Here was a musical outfit, originally assembled on the British edition of "The X Factor," that always seemed to view its music as an afterthought. Not that its records weren't great — most of them were.
“PILLOWTALK”, the first solo single from One Direction defector Zayn Malik (now mononymously known as Zayn), was one of the more disheartening recent pop debuts. It didn’t come out long after Justin Bieber’s Purpose, and it seemed as if Zayn’s producers were following that album’s formula. It was tough, sexual non-teen pop, seemingly designed to scrub away any vestiges of his prior boyband career.
Some of the most impassioned vocals on “Mind of Mine,” the solo debut of the One Direction dissident Zayn Malik, come on a modest mid-album interlude called “Flower.” The producer Malay plays a gentle folk-influenced guitar figure, and Mr. Malik exhales deeply atop it and then begins singing with deeply centered but controlled fervor, “Until the flower of this love has blossomed/Until this heart is at peace.” Then, three times, he pleads, “Give me your heart.” “Flower” is the most plainly besotted song on this album. It is also sung in Urdu, the native language of Mr.
It was around ten years ago that top 40 music was having a moment with a genre affectionately known as "R&Bollywood". The music fused together aspects of Western popular music (notably hip-hop, dancehall and, obviously, R&B) with sounds from the Indian subcontinent (bhangra, qawwali and the filmi music of Bollywood). The crossover appeal was huge, and for a brief moment the likes of Jay Sean, Rishi Rich and Raghav reigned supreme; there was even an official bhangra remix of that Britney and Madonna song.
Instances of former teen idols taking confident steps into the pop spotlight are rare, but worth celebrating — and they often involve the channeling of R&B in its many forms. Janet Jackson’s 1986 full-length, “Control,” which opens with the lyric “When I was 17, I did what people told me,” established the child actress as a take-no-prisoners pop force. A year later, George Michael’s “Faith,” his first solo album after hitting it big with the blue-eyed soul duo Wham!, arrived, a slick collection that showed off his bottomless love for soul music.