The highly anticipated solo debut by former One Direction singer Zayn Malik is out, and it lives up to the high expectations while allowing the singer to forge a new direction for his career, dissociated from his boyband past. Mind of Mine is an outstanding debut that allows Zayn to shift gears to an R&B track, while maintaining his ability to craft catchy pop songs.

Mind of Mine by Zayn Album Review

Backed by producers like Frank Ocean‘s Channel Orange main producer Malay, Zayn establishes his footing in a pop-influenced R&B with a sultry and sexy sound, quirky beats and just the right amount of melodic variety. The downbeat sex jams that comprise the album offer little musical innovation, but follow a tried and true formula for making pop hits. More importantly, they are markedly different from the singer’s work with On Direction, which allows 1D fans to understand Zayn’s justification for splitting from his former bandmates in favor of a different creative path. Vocally, Zayn demonstrates a range of sound and bears some resemblance to Miguel, Usher, The Weeknd and Ocean himself, especially in his falsetto technique and strong bass on downtempo songs like “iT’s YoU” and “wRoNg” where he is joined by Kehlani.

Thematically, Mind of Mine explores different dimensions of personal relationships, love and sex. The record’s 18 songs on the deluxe version are largely downtempo and sensual with a couple of notable exceptions. Zayn shows a more mellow songwriting side with songs like “BLUE” or “fOoL fOr YoU” – a pop piano ballad, which is not as sexually charged as other tracks on the album, but still carries on the album’s unifying themes. On a different note, the lead single “PILLOWTALK” takes a different approach in its explosive beats and sleek, dynamic vocals. Zayn is joined by current girlfriend model Gigi Hadid in the passionately emotional video for the single.

This said, the album constantly shifts gears but without being too obtrusive. It explores various approaches in the span of its 18 songs, which makes it seem a little incohesive especially in its second half marked by the lovely surprising intermission titled “fLoWer” where Zayn refers to his Pakistani roots and sings in Urdu. From that point onward the songs feel a little repetitive and bland with just a few exceptions. Even though the record’s length allows for greater musical variety, we scarcely see that. The singer for the most part plays it safe and sticks with a comfortable pop sound infused with sensuality and sincere passion. On Mind of Mine, Zayn vacillates between a bad boy image and a disarming earnestness, both of which translate equally powerfully into his vocals and catchy hooks. Ultimately, Mind of Mine outlines Zayn’s own creative path and successfully dissociates him from his past as a One Directioner while retaining much of his fanbase. He confidently reserves his place among the big names of R&B with a stellar solo debut.

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