Almost one year ago, millions of fans around the world were shocked by the announcement that Zayn Malik was leaving One Direction. After the band had been together for four years, Zayn decided that he needed a break. Yet that cool-down turned into days in the studio, a breakup of his engagement and twitter fights with his former band members. Clearly Zayn just yearned to get out and become the solo artist he originally wanted to be. While One Direction has not been the same without him, Zayn has illustrated his ability to thrive as a solo artist with his debut album, “Mind of Mine.”
As with most boy bands, fans knew that it wasn’t going to last forever. With the average time a boy band stays together being less than five years, I had already prepared myself for a moment like this. Yet, I always assumed it would be Harry Styles, the group’s most popular member, who would leave the band first to pursue a career as a solo artist. Zayn had always been the most aloof member, who attempted to refrain from being in the public eye unless it was demanded. However, since the breakup, Zayn has talked about how this image was created by fans and his management, and he is welcoming his celebrity with shirtless, open arms. Appearing on the cover of numerous magazines half naked, the bad boy of One Direction is not afraid to speak up anymore, and especially in his album.
Zayn had always been an R&B artist. He went into the “X Factor,” the show that brought One Direction together, hoping to become an artist like Usher. The music One Direction has produced is predominantly Top- 40 pop that appeals to adolescent and teenage girls, which Zayn now describes being embarrassed by. While he appreciates his years in One Direction, Zayn says that it is just not the music he likes to listen to or wants to continue to produce.
In late January, Zayn announced that the lead single for his debut solo album, “Pillowtalk,” would be released the following week. The hype surrounding it was huge, as many One Direction fans were eager to hear the sound Zayn would take with his music. When the song dropped with its music video, I hastily clicked the YouTube link and was surprised at what I heard. While it was not the same as a One Direction song, “Pillowtalk” still had a similar Top-40 feeling to it. I would not categorize it as R&B or as a dramatic change to what Zayn had previously produced. The single was clearly a marketing move to appeal to his previous audience and gain traction as a solo artist. While I can understand this and enjoyed the catchy track, I was disappointed.
“Pillowtalk” is about sex, which is something that Zayn isn’t trying to hide. He says that everybody does it and people are eager to hear about it. The music video features girlfriend and supermodel Gigi Hadid and is a sexual, conceptual film that confused many people. While the lyrics are simplistic and unoriginal, Zayn explores the physical and spiritual elements of sex. The most memorable lyrics of the track are its opening: “Climb on board, we’ll go slow and high tempo. Light and dark, hold me hard and mellow.”
The next single released, “It’s You,” was exactly what I wanted when I heard Zayn was dropping an album. The slow R&B ballad showcases Zayn’s vocal range and power as he croons about his ex, Perrie Edwards. Throughout the chorus, Zayn says, “It’s you, it’s you,” because although the person he loves causes him pain, he knows that she is the one for him. Yet, he realizes that this pain is toxic and it is better for himself to leave the relationship.
“BeFour” is arguably the best song on the album. It perfectly showcases Zayn’s stylistic R&B and discusses Zayn’s feelings right before he left One Direction. The chorus: “So say what you wanna say, what you wanna. So say what you wanna say, what you gotta say now. So say what you wanna, what you want. Shame is you won’t say that to my face” is directed towards his haters and his former bandmates, who he claims did not acknowledge the problems that drove him to leave.
The upbeat R&B jam “Like I Would” has drawn comparisons to the One Direction song, “I Would.” Both detail how they would treat a partner better than their current lover. Instead of the 1D band chanting “I would, I would,” Zayn says “Like I would, Like I would.” This has been met with criticism from many fans, but Zayn is attempting to show his proposed ideas for songs were never accepted. He is straying away from their sound by being more sexual and creative in his music.
Hidden in the middle of the album, “Fool for You” has been compared to a Beatles pop ballad due to Zayn getting inspiration for the track from listening to John Lennon. The chorus repeats Zayn belting, “Cause I’m a fool for you, and the things you do,” further showcasing his remarkable vocal range and ability. It serves as something different from the various R&B songs packed into the album.
While many of the songs on the album are about being in love and falling in love, “She Don’t Love Me” is about unrequited love. While Zayn’s partner is content having a strictly sexual relationship, he is craving more. This last track on the album provides a catchy beat and an interesting conclusion to an album filled with sex, desire, sadness and frustration.
While “Mind of Mine” is a wonderful debut album as it showcases Zayn’s range and ability, it is safe. The album was produced in less than a year, which was probably due to his new management not wanting to lose the attention that the breakup provided. Many of the songs are similar and blend into each other with the same beats and connotations.
The record debuted at No. 1 in both the United States and the United Kingdom, making Zayn one of the few male artists to have a first album debut at No. 1. I have to question whether it would be as successful if Zayn did not already have an audience of eager fans willing to buy whatever he produced. However, I can see that it introduces the music industry to Zayn Malik, solo artist, rather than Zayn Malik, member of One Direction with his soulful, compelling voice.