What is in the mind of Zayn Malik? What’s going on in that cranium up there? What does he have to say in this post-One Direction Zayn Malik world? These are the questions we are apparently probed to ask with an album title like Mind of Mine, and Zayn’s first album since leaving One Direction. For starters, it definetly doesn’t sound like One Direction, that’s for sure. If anything it sounds like a super-pop younger “I just discovered sexuality” Miguel with Frank Ocean influences, but that last bit is probably mostly from the work of Malay, a major producer of Mind of Mine who was also the producer of basically all of Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE and John Legend’s “Green Light (feat. Andre 3000),” for anyone who lights up at that throwback jam from 2008.
Other than a little “let’s see what’s in that mind of mine” intro to the album, we really don’t get any introspective look into Zayn’s mind. If anything it just sounds like he wants us to imagine lying in the bed with him and maybe drinking and smoking a little, which may be fine for the One Direction fanbase that was old enough to be sexually attracted to him back then, only to hear him write 18 tracks about it now, but for the rest of us, it’s pretty lackluster when it comes down to lyrical material or song depth.
That being said, it’s still a pretty damn decent R&B/pop-blend album. Plus the kid can sing. He can’t read or write though I’m pretty sure based off of the song titles. It’s like he took Miguel’s Wildheart lowercase tracklist idea to its most extreme, like a kid handing in an essay with all the letter cases jumbled and then saying April Fools and handing in the real essay, except this time, it’s not a prank. This is how we have to read the titles. Also why did he make his album artwork look like Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III?
Besides all that however, it’s really not that bad of a record. I expected to hate it and was pleasantly surprised. There’s no real depth or introspection, and all the songs are basically just him wanting his fanbase to imagine him as a sex icon, but I don’t know if it’s that real breakout solo record that he needed. It’s close to experimenting production wise, but it’s not on the level that say Justin Timberlake’s Justified was, another boy band breakout solo record that really changed the face of pop music.
Here on Mind of Mine, it just kind of works within the walls of pop that have already settled in. There’s some great psuedo-R&B verses, but they all pretty much morph into the “drop and then airy-compression” pop choruses that we’re so used to hearing. The lead single, “PILLOWTALK,” boasts nothing special other than another pop song, and like a good friend of mine said, “yeah, it makes me wanna take my pants off, but it’s not a good song.” It’s the only song on the record to even form some kind of interesting narrative, describing pillow-talk and the bedroom as some “dichotomy of paradise and war,” as TheNeedleDrop said, but it’s not anything that he actually explores lyrically other than stating it in the chorus. Also when he repeats the line “paradise” in the post chorus sections, it couldn’t sound anymore like the chorus to “Paradise” by Coldplay. Not only is the rhythm of the line basically the same, but he says the same word. I’m sure it’s not intentional, it’s just something I can’t not hear, like the bridge of “sHe,” whose “in a in a” breakdown segment just reminds me of “Guilt Trip” off Yeezus by Kanye West.
Nonetheless, as much as I may have a problem with the tracklisting or the album artwork or the lack of depth and introspection to an album literally entitled Mind of Mine, Zayn does show off his vocal chops and make some pretty decent pop/R&B music. Mind of Mine does show promise though, and that he might be willing to work more “out of the box” production and genre wise with later releases. It may not be the breakout solo record that he needed to make a Timberlake-like name for himself , but he’s not out of the race just yet.