Zayne leaves One Direction to go in another with debut solo album

Vincent Nguyen, Reporter

On March 25, 2015, Zayn Malik announced that he had quit one of the biggest boy bands in recent memory, One Direction. A year later on the same date, on purpose or coincidentally, he released his solo debut album “Mind of Mine.” Now referred to as “ZAYN,” the 18-song effort is his attempt to step away from his former boy band success and their “generic” music, according to him.

“Mind of Mine” is the music ZAYN, as he stated before wanted to originally pursue and make before joining the band. The results were a more alternative, modern day contemporary R&B sound and direction, as evident in the first track “MiNd Of MiNdd (Intro).” With many similarities to other alternative/contemporary R&B/pop acts such as The Weeknd, Miguel, Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake throughout the 59-minute cut, the album has a distinct and constant sound throughout.

To help craft the direction of the album, the 23-year-old singer linked up with Grammy award-winning producer/songwriter James “Malay” Ho, who was the main contributor for Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” (Frank, we need you back, man). Although Zayn’s intentions and ideas were a breath of fresh air and alluring, the execution was underwhelming and lackluster.

The lead single “PILLOWTALK” is an average attempt of a radio-friendly single incorporating his new, defined sound. With a ho-hum hook lacking any oomph, the song subsequently falls flat even over a big theatrical instrumental.

Zayn possesses one of the more unique voices in the music industry currently, illustrated with his piercing falsetto on “iT’s YoU” and vocal diverse range on “dRuNk.”

“sHe” is a standout track and vocally the best on the album. As he sings about love during a very catchy chorus, “she wants somebody to love, to hold her / She wants somebody to love in the right way,” over a whirl of synths.

Despite that fact, his biggest flaw is his enunciation and diction. In some songs, you can hear noticeable mumbling and slurring of words, which leads to a difficult listen at times. “wRoNg” is a prime example of this flaw, as he is hardly understandable at certain points. And Kehlani, the only feature on the album, overshadows him on the track and steals the spotlight. On “BoRdErz,” he gets washed within the atmospheric production as the song prolongs with seems like for eternity.

The most comfortable Zayn sounds on the album are on the more upbeat, dance ready jams like “lUcOzAde,” “TiO” and “LIKE I WOULD.” “lUcOzAde” has a very similar 80s synth-based production, while he croons a constant stream of thoughts without a chorus. A pounding kick drum invades listener’s ears on “TiO,” a repetitive, bouncy tune where Zayn sings about wanting to see his partner get undressed and see her natural state. “LIKE I WOULD” is a classic pop song. As soon he starts singing the chorus, “Heee, won’t touch you like I do,” there is no way you are not out of your seat and grooving out.

Zayn is still transitioning into a solo act and crafting his art. As of right now, every step in his solo career has been calculated and maybe even over-calculated. It seems like he is trying too

hard to shed previous notions of his music, but at the end of the day, it just sounds emptily hollow. He has all the potential in the world, but it will be interesting to see if he can tap into that potential.

Final Grade: 7.5/10

Favorite Tracks: sHe, dRuNk, lucOzAde, TiO, LIKE I WOULD

Least Favorite tracks: PILLOWTALK, fOoL fOr YoU, BoRdErSz, BLUE

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