Hi, I’m Zayn Malik! You might know me from such tabloid headlines as, ‘One Direction’s Zayn And Louis Caught Smoking Spliff’ and ‘Zayn And Perrie Call Of Engagement Following Cheating Allegations’.
However, you probably know me best as the guy who left Simon Cowell’s pay cheque – sorry, One Direction.
Zayn (he’s dropped the last name since leaving the boy band, naturally) established his bad boy reputation long before One Direction even existed. On The X-Factor, he famously stormed out of the dance section of boot camp because he admitted he wasn’t a dancer. Prior to that, he admitted that he wouldn’t have gone for the audition, had his mam not woken him up and booted him out the door to it at the morning.
Fast forward to present day, Zayn continues to tick tasks off his bad boy checklist. Drugs? Check. Tattoos? Check. Jumping the boy band ship to forge a ‘serious, authentic, solo career’? Check and mate.
‘Mind Of Mine’, his first solo effort, sees Zayn drop his second name, but not his guard. What was expected to be a dark, sordid tell-all of failed engagements and the One Direction pressure cooker, instead barely scratches the surface.
Each track lilts in to each other slickly, from the brightly-lit multilingual instrumental Mind Of Mine to smash single Pillowtalk. The latter may confirm that Zayn was by far the best vocalist of the 1D boys. But it’s also the desperate cry of a man child – his eagerness to show that he has the most unbelievable sex on the regular.
When he’s not bragging about the fact that he’s regularly throwing it into young ones, he speaks at length about how much weed he smokes. (Hint: it’s a lot). Drunk continuously references red eyes, and he uses the word ‘faded’ probably as much as the other ‘f’ word.
Where is the vulnerability? Where is the Zayn that nobody knows about? Has he any interest in setting the record straight? Glimmers of it are seen throughout, albeit all too briefly. It’s You leans heavily on hazy Frank Ocean-Esque organs – and puts out the possibility that he is actually capable of love beyond the setting of a bedroom.
Fool For You, fully show Zayn’s potential. A healthy cocktail of honestly, unexpected instrumentation and soaring soul vocals, it’s the jazz piano ballad nobody knew they needed from him. “I need you and I hate it”, he laments, over the simple intro. The tracks sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the other Justin Timberlake and Miguel cast-offs, but only because it’s so much better than them.
That’s not to say that the rest of the LP is a complete write-off – there’s just nothing incredibly unique about it. TIO, (which stands for Take It Off, because, in case you forgot, he absolutely loves riding), is stunning. Cooley confident on the chorus, Zayn would have you believe he could get anyone out of their knickers. However, it could literally be from Timberlake’s second album, ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’, the backdrop is that similar.
BeFour is a smooth R&B jaunt, which sees Zayn turn sharp-tongued – “say what you wanna say/but you won’t say it to my face” – but again, instead of separating himself, follows the Miguel handbook on how to be an R&B singer.
It’s hard when there’s not an awful lot wrong with an album, but there’s also not a lot of good. Songs such as Bright, Blue and the unfortunately titled Lucozade could all be scrapped from the album without anyone noticing, they’re that forgettable. Yet, tracks like She, and the previously mentioned Befour and TIO could be listened to over and over again.
‘Mind Of Mine’ could have been a finely tuned effort that made people pay serious attention to him. But, his desperation to be taking seriously is palpable. His desire to be rid of the One Direction label is tangible. He had considerably more room to manoeuvre on the album thematically. Yet, he consciously chose to oversell sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
‘Mind Of Mine’ isn’t half as exciting as his fans would have you believe, but probably isn’t nearly as bad as critics are making it out to be. More than anything, it’s a lesson in patience, and how Zayn should have had more of it when it came to his solo break.