album review




By Ashley

Zayn Malik has certainly become an intriguing presence in the landscape of popular music, gaining remarkable notoriety for his decision to leave the biggest boyband of this decade so far. It’s a decision taken by many boyband solo strikeouts (Justin Timberlake & Robbie Williams spring to mind) that have walked the path before him. In ZAYN’s case, he took the decision to salvage his love for music and stand on his own, away from the big pop machine One Direction, which begs one to ask was it a stupid or sane decision? Well, a year to the date of his departure, his answer comes in the form of the stunning release of his debut solo album Mind Of Mine. The album is an evocative and uncompromising stream of ZAYN’s consciousness that is sung in a characteristic voice filled with angst, lust and freedom accompanied by sensual soothing R&B sounds that place ZAYN in full control of how he lets his audience into his world.

ZAYN coolly entices the listener to “Open up and see what’s inside of my, my mind” on the trippy opener ‘MiNd Of MiNdd’ an enticing entrée of swelling piano chords and electro blips that flitter away and reveal an open door into the psyche of the singer. ‘PILLOWTALK’ follows with its stuttering R&B beats, menacing electric guitar and undeniable chorus where he sings about passionate lovemaking, which unsurprisingly made its way to number one in the U.S. and the U.K. Zayn bellows that love is “a paradise and a war zone” which represents much of the lyrical content of the album.

When love is a ‘paradise’, Zayn finds himself “Drunk all summer” in love on the dreamy ‘“dRuNk”’ a chilled R&B track with a sparse beat and hazy vibe. Intoxicated, his inhibitions take a back seat as Zayn boldly declares “I lose control” when he is with his lover. On the Beatles inspired affair ‘fOoL fOr YoU’, ZAYN can’t resist being infatuated with a tainted lover admitting solemnly “I need you and I hate it”, over stunning piano chords and emotive booming drums. However, ZAYN is not always subservient in his love; he is wildly self-complimentary about his ability to be a better lover than his rival on the only up-tempo disco jaunt ‘LIKE I WOULD’. You can see why this is Zayn’s second single with its relentless funky baseline similar to the catchy The Weeknd hit ‘Can’t Feel My Face’, it definitely gets you in the mood to bump and grind on the dancefloor (no judgement passed at all).

When love is a ‘war zone’, ZAYN is brutally honest as on the brooding synth ballad ‘iT’s YoU’ where he pensively sings “She don’t give a fuck about what I need” about a disinterested lover. ZAYN’s striking falsetto hauntingly ebbs over the at times orchestral downtempo that compliments this intimate moment of clarity. Within his mind, ZAYN also begins to see things for how they are and will no longer settle for something that sacrifices his happiness, as on ‘BefoUr’ an interesting title that might elude to his former One Direction bandmates. On this entrancing downbeat R&B groove with its 80’s inspired baseline, Zayn lights the snare as he frankly declares to his haters there are “No strings for you to pull…Say what you wanna say…You won’t say it to my face’’. Similarly, on the mellow ‘tRuTh’ and trippy highlight ‘lUcOzAdE’ that wonderfully disregards a typical song structure; he vows not to get caught up in the superficiality that life can bring.

A vocally striking moment arrives on ‘INTERMISSION: flower” when Zayn sings in his Urdu mother tongue which is a powerful cultural moment that allows you to appreciate the appeal of the universal language of music. Overall, Zayn’s vocals on Mind Of Mine distinctly shift from sensual drawls like on the ace ‘wRoNg’ which is about carnal sexual desires featuring R&B starlet Kehlani, to seamless falsettos and a distinct tone that doesn’t get lost in the production. The intricate R&B songs are well produced and at times atmospheric, subtle when needed and support the laidback persona of its singer. The consistency of the R&B affair should be credited to the few producers of the album, Malay (Frank Ocean) Levi Lennox (Krept & Konan) MYKL (Ghetts) and newcomer XYZ who provide ZAYN with sounds similar to Frank Ocean, Miguel and even Prince. They ensure the tracks cohesively flow and are formidable in a time where streaming has changed the way a listener selectively engages with an album.

Mind Of Mine is an accomplished debut that makes the listener aware that ZAYN is a young man who loves to love, enjoys entertaining his sexual desires and is unwilling to comprise himself. Unfortunately, because the album features 18 tracks, it suffers slightly from a rehash of similar ideas about love and sex consequently neglecting more diverse subject matters and at times a change of tempo is needed to reengage the listener. Nevertheless, the album portrays a beautifully flawed artistic vision that conceptualises the imperfect nature of human emotion in an exciting way that positions ZAYN front and centre.