A peek inside Zayn’s “Mind of Mine”
Malik's debut solo album forges a path for his future as a musician.
April 4, 2016
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
More than a year after I broke out my piggy bank to buy tickets to see my favorite band, One Direction, the concert came around and I made my way to my nosebleed section seats dressed as the classic tweenybopper. When high school came around, I traded my glittery posters for alternative bands’ t-shirts and my neon pink purses for ratty flannels around my waist. Nevertheless, when I learned Zayn Malik had really, truly left One Direction, I was shaken up, watching girls around me literally shed tears.
I got tickets to the July Arrowhead Stadium show, and from another set of nosebleed seats, couldn’t help but feel something was missing. Zayn Malik wasn’t just the (arguably) most modelesque looking member of the band, but had maybe the widest vocal range and brought the most unique talent to the table.
If you’re expecting “Mind of Mine” to be another bubblegum pop, over-produced album with impersonal lyrics and a set of five strained voices, you won’t find it here. The album, released March 25, fully departs from Zayn’s 1D days. Throughout the set, we are inside Zayn’s “Mind of Mine” as he pours his heart out with images of hazy nights, dirty thoughts and heartbreaking ballads.
The album begins with “MiNd of MiNdd (Intro),” a soundscape, calming yet exciting intro track, featuring a 1975-esque, almost muffled voice accompanied with echoes and a repetitive, hypnotic synth, previewing the muffled, foggy sounds to come with the rest of the album.
Next comes “PILLOWTALK,” the album’s first single, with the crispest sound to it. Malik holds on to the muffled background voices that worked for him on his intro track, while venturing back into the mainstream with the strong vocals about “seeing the pain, seeing the pleasure.”
“iT’s YoU” begins with a melancholy gospel tone, Malik entering the track confiding in his listeners about a lost lover, a drum track in the background to give a calming beat. “iT’s YoU”’s R&B tone will remind you of none other than Frank Ocean, as one of Ocean’s producers, Malay, worked closely with Malik on the album.
The next three tracks blend together in a swirly haze, best described as “unhappy artist on drugs longs for ex-lovers.” The songs, while similar to each other, represent the style that Malik has been striving for ever since his X-Factor audition that grouped him with four other aspiring boys, making One Direction, but abandoning Malik’s clear passion for R&B styles.
“If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop…” Malik told the Fader. “I just wasn’t convinced with what we were selling. I wasn’t 100 percent behind the music. It wasn’t me.”
When “INTERMISSION: fLoWer” comes up, the muffled and swirly sound of the album is briefly interrupted with soothing but melancholy guitar picking. Malik enters the track humming, singing the song entirely in Urdu to remind his listeners that he isn’t just an ex member of a commercial boyband — he is an Asian artist, forging new ground for Asian artists around him.
The album’s next stand out track comes with the Weeknd-inspired “wRoNg” featuring American R&B singer-songwriter Kehlani. The sexually-themed song features impressive duet harmony between the two young solo artists, one of Malik’s best tracks for vocals.
“fOoL fOr YoU,” depending on your level of emotional stability, may or may not make you cry, like it may or may not have done for me. The Lennon-inspired track features a simple piano line and presents a vocal gymnasium for Zayn, definitely giving him the opportunity to show off his vocals that were often blended in with four other boys’ in his boy band days.
Track 13, “lUcOzAdE,” gave off a grand, dramatic feeling with its pulsing intro and almost machine-like hypnotic synth used once again, very clearly taking cues from 80s synthesizer experimentation. “TiO,” standing for “Take it Off” follows the same repetitive machine-like noises and Weeknd inspiration, but ventures into more blatant sexual themes, sure to make Zayn’s target audience swoon.
And swoon they did. Zayn’s new fanbase – dubbed his “Zquad” by the artist himself – tweeted that they were “zlessed” by the new album as the album rose to number one shortly after release in the UK.
“BLUE” is most surely Coldplay-inspired, but seems to never fully develop into more than an emotional intro. Interestingly, Zayn’s next track choice is a song called “LIKE I WOULD,” not to be confused with the 1D hit, “I would” where Zayn is featured quite a bit. The song has the most 1D-esque sound to the intro, but stays true to Zayn’s more gloomy tone as the song goes on.
Not every track on “Mind of Mine” is standout. But he pulled a few challenging songs off and incorporated enough to keep critics talking. After listening to Zayn’s album and following the artist’s Twitter sagas, two things are sure: One, Zayn will not be returning to a boyband anytime soon. Two, the artist with the new brooding, sexual reputation is going somewhere, and I don’t mean back to his 4 a.m. VIP section in a nightclub somewhere.