Almost exactly a year to the day after Zayn Malik left British boy band One Direction, he gave fans new music in the form of Mind of Mine.
After listening Zayn Malik’s debut effort, I’ve decided the Justin Timberlake comparisons are unfair. This album would be what happened if the best singer in *NSYNC was the first to release an album and it was a solid one. Unarguably the best vocalist when he was part of “1D,” the fact that Zayn Malik became the first to debut as a solo artist is a relief.
Musically, I’d say Mind of Mine has more in common with R&B artists Maxwell, The Weeknd, or even Al Green than it does Justin Timberlake. Had Zayn simply debuted as a solo artist, I doubt anyone would be rushing to make the connection. The only comparison that could be made is to say that Mind of Mine may be solid proof that Malik will certainly survive life after boy band fame — if he keeps putting out music like this.
The four singles that Zayn Malik fans are already familiar with — “PILLOWTALK,” “iT’s You,” “LIKE I WOULD,” and “BeFoUr” — also happen to be among the best songs on the album. “BeFoUr,” a song that may or may not be 1D shade, is probably the most satisfying of the released music. It has an understated, funky vibe while making a series of effortless change-ups that seems to best represent the attention to detail that went into Mind of Mine. “BeFoUr” also has a beautiful high note.
There aren’t too many high notes on Mind of Mine; if it were up to me, every song would have a high note because Malik’s falsetto is glorious.
It’s when you begin to listen to the unreleased songs that you get the deepest sense of just how much Zayn Malik was forced to hold in during the 5-year period he was in One Direction. He sings in Urdu during the intermission track “fLoWer,” something I doubt we would have ever heard had he stayed with his former group.
The sensual nature of the album is also far removed from the more pre-teen friendly music he’d previously been making. The good news is that the sexual tone in songs like “PILLOWTALK” and “TiO” doesn’t come across as contrived or try hard. It just feels like the type of music that Malik would have preferred to have been making this entire time but was never allowed to.
Now Zayn can, and I doubt he will be going back in the other direction anytime soon.
No doubt Zayn Malik leaving One Direction angered and hurt quite a few fans. However, it may be awhile before some are old enough and mature enough to understand that if he had to do so to give us Mind of Mine, then it was the right time to do so and the correct decision.
It’s been a long while since anyone gave us such a purposefully thought out musical impression of their deepest creative urges in the form of a debut album. That the person who did so is a former One Direction member may be quite a bit to digest from music lovers and critics accustomed to rolling their eyes at anything or anyone associated with the group.
Zayn Malik’s album, which already boasts a Billboard #1 single via “PILLOWTALK”, has a serious chance at some awards. If Zayn continues to grow and maintain his visibility on the music scene, he has the opportunity to be taken seriously in a way his former band members likely won’t be.
With Mind Of Mine, Zayn Malik has arrived, leaving his boy band roots in the dust. In the process, he’s given listeners what could be an instant R&B-flavored pop classic.
[Image via screen grab from ZaynVEVO]