Cool, at times edgy and adult but just a little too one-note to be a classic.
Zayn Malik has certainly made plenty of headlines in the recent months and years, but now he has also made a record and apparently, made up his mind too. “Mind of Mine” sees the 23 year old unleash his version of events, as it were, on the musical world. Those expecting a bitter, revelatory expose of the truths behind the fiction of One Direction will be disappointed, but those after a sexy, sometimes sleazy R’n’B album which sits comfortably alongside the recent output of Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, The Weeknd and Usher will find themselves sated.
After a moody intro, the album begins with lead single “PILLOWTALK” which needs no introduction, having stormed to #1 with its “slow jamz” vibe, sexy swearing and raunchy video. It’s clearly been cut from the same cloth as recent Bieber, with languid production and odd distorted backing vocals like birds of paradise squawking away. It seems to be trying hard to be grown up but is perhaps mistaking “mature” with “adult” or “rude”. The video even features a woman opening her legs to reveal an exotic flower.
“BeFoUr” in its title at least, seems to be a reference to his former band days (for those looking for links anyway) but it’s also a welcome pace change, being closer to a dancefloor track, coming on the heels of the slow “PILLOWTALK” and positively glacial “iT’s YoU” which is trying to be an emotive ballad but needs cranking up a notch and is more like Zayn practising his scales or someone tuning an old radio.
Highlight “LIKE I WOULD” (strangely only on the Deluxe edition?!) is cool and synthy and not unlike something The Weeknd, Jason Derulo, Frank Ocean or (sorry purists) Michael Jackson himself might have released. This vibe continues in tracks like “lUcOzAde” (much harder to type than it should be!) “tRuTh” and “SHE DON’T LOVE ME”.
“TiO” (not a Spanish uncle, but an acronym for Take it Off) is another “sexy” song about getting naked which comes across as more pervy than erotic. “wRoNg” is more dramatic but ploughs much the same furrow as the earlier tracks. “BoRdErZ”, “sHe” and “dRuNk” are again like much of what has come before and whilst “BRIGHT” is more electronic, it veers between interesting (is it about to descend into a Mike Posner “Cooler Than Me” electro burst, or a Kanye West power rant?) and surprise surprise, more of the same again.
Another highlight, “fOol fOr YoU”, comes closest to being like Zayn’s musical past, aiming for McCartney-style sentiment and actually being quite successful as it descends through the necessary piano chords.
4 of the 14 tracks on the standard edition are parental advisory (mainly the f-word) and all of the album track titles are either capitalised or have random capitals in the middle like an obscure password and it’s hard to work out whether Zayn, sorry ZAYN, is trying too hard to be different or just finally being himself after years under the thumb of the collective weight of Cowell, X Factor and 1D. Everyone thought that Harry Styles would be the Robbie Williams of the group, getting the jump on the solo career and being different and interesting, so it’s a surprise to see Zayn get there first. It would have been easy for him to rush out a cheesy pop record to please what remains of the teen fanbase of One Direction but this seems more thoughtful and possibly calculated. It’s just a shame it’s not more varied.
Find out more about what Zayn does next at his website.
“Mind of Mine” is out now on RCA records.