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Jessica is a contributing writer for The Hudsucker. You can usually find her dissecting the latest season of 'Game of Thrones', or singing along to Taylor Swift's '1989' in the car at stop lights. Feel free to say hi. Personal motto: Live every day like you're Glen Coco.

Mind of Malik: Zayn’s Debut Album Aims Too High To Please

Full disclosure: I am a Directioner. If you’re unsure, that’s a ride-or-die, ‘til-the-end One Direction fan. On March 25, 2015, I (along with the most of the 1D fandom) was confused, saddened, and angry after learning one of the band’s founding members, Zayn Malik, walked away from the group.

Fast forward exactly one year later: Zayn is releasing his first solo album, and everyone from fans to the band’s mentor, Simon Cowell, is still unsure if their “break” is just a hiatus, or a permanent separation.

As a Directioner, I was miffed over Malik’s decision to leave, making the release of his album on the one-year anniversary of his departure all the more bitter. However, as a lover of music, I decided to give it a shot, and listen to his solo debut with an unbiased and nonpartisan perspective. Let’s take it from the top…

Source: Miller Mobley

Mind of Mine (Intro)

The album’s intro delivers a sound almost as dreamy as Malik himself. With echoed vocals, an electric snare, and stringed instrumentation, the tune does an excellent job of delivering a mastered blend of classical tones and electronic accents. The title track is short and simple, giving a promising glimpse of the work in its entirety.

Pillowtalk

If “Mind of Mine (Intro)” was a promise, “Pillowtalk” is its conception. The track, which was the first single from the album, makes a clear departure from his days in a band. The song is charged with R&B tones and mature lyrics that is sure to set the tone for his sought-after “grown-up” image. This is certainly the most top-40 worthy track on the album, with clear pop influence. If Malik was trying to win over any wary One Direction fans, this song is sure to be the one that does it.

It’s You

“Pillowtalk” is the peak of the album, so it seems fitting that “It’s You” is the pit. What starts off in bizarre echoed organ music, does little to transform into anything substantial as the song progresses. The strange use of synthesizers and stringed instruments seems more superficial than honest, as it appears the song’s inception was put in place simply to gain the favor of critics. The highlights of this track are Malik’s steady falsetto and the lyrics

Befour

The title of this track has kept many 1D fans anxiously awaiting to hear the newly solo artist’s thoughts on his former group. And while the song may not directly reference Malik’s former bandmates, the lyrics do little to squash any potential misinterpretation of a complete falling out between the singers. The instrumentation of the song remains true to what the album has delivered so far, with strategic sound board mixing and traditional instruments all set to an R&B rhythm. The song overall does a lot to revive the album after its previous track, “It’s You” and is sure to reinvigorate listeners as they continue to discover the mind of Malik.

She

If any song on this album has the potential to be another hit single, “She” is the one to beat. The track is upbeat with sultry lyrics and smooth intonation, making it a clear candidate for Ryan Seacrest to add to his list of songs on KIIS FM’s American Top 40 radio. The song is simple and will appeal to any of Malik’s mainstream fans. It is a bit boring at times, given its simplicity and the transparent logic of having an easily popular song among the tracklist. “She” is banger of a song, albeit one as basic as any single from Pitbull or Flo Rida.

Source: Miller Mobley

Drunk

Malik takes the opportunity to slow things down for his audience, and walks us through a night of well, drinking. Lyrics like “Late nights, red eyes, amnesia, I need you” don’t give much room for interpretation. Although, his intention is clearly to relate a night of drinking to an intoxicating relationship, it’s a concept far too played out. Despite the overdone notion behind the track, it has an excellently crafted sound that builds as the song plays, and will get even the most ridged of listeners to do a shoulder dance.

Intermission: Flower

The intermission track on the album is much like the Intro in its complex blend of echoed vocals and acoustic instruments. This 1:44 sec song seemingly draws inspiration from Malik’s heritage as an ode to his Pakistani roots. The lyrics, difficult to decipher, work well with the simple picking of the guitar and synthesized chords. Unfortunately for Malik, this tune is the epitome of his desperation to be loved by critics, and to leave those boy band day behind. It’s a nice touch, but certainly unnecessary.

Rear View

“Rear View,” many believe, draws from Malik’s past relationship with former girlfriend-turned-fiancé Perrie Edwards of the band Little Mix. The lyrics denote memories of reasons why Malik felt the need to run from the relationship, and ultimately serves as a look back over their time together. The recording itself is well-done and certainly reminds listeners of a Justin Timberlake track, surely a conscious effort on Malik’s part to associate himself with a former boy bander who became the breakout star.

Wrong (ft. Kehlani)

When first promoting his album, Malik often reminded us of his intent to show his mature side. He was specifically referencing his ability and desire to sing about sex. “Wrong” is the type of song that could easily be found on any R&B or pop album. In fact, there comes a moment where the track is reminiscent of songs from Nick Jonas’ self-titles solo album debut. The mastering is predictable and sultry with literal moans from Kehlani filling any breaks in the background. It’s easy, fun, but overall fails to make any lasting impression.

Fool For You

This is by far the simplest song on the album. It’s a slow romantic ballad that will surely make any Zayniac swoon. The song draws on great soul singers like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, with a 1960s vibe surrounding the piano and vocals. While the song might be an expected addition to the album, it’s intrinsic in nature and a lovely nod to the past.

Source: Nabil

Borderz

Once again, listeners will find themselves in the midst of a song thinking, “Is this actually good, or am I supposed to think it is?” “Borderz” is another example of a song forced by Malik in an attempt to get critics to rave about its originality. Unfortunately, it ends up sounding like the lesser version of songs on previously popular R&B albums. Truly, it’s a song that makes its listeners believe RCA and producers had an agenda to get it on the album, and the only contribution Malik made was lending his vocals. Ironic, considering that was his main complaint from his previous boy band days. The song is mixed well with various snares and a moving rhythm, but the lyrics are far too easily anticipated, with a clear lack of vision.

Truth

If you want to skip right to Malik’s opinion on being in One Direction, this is the song to listen to. Filled with lines like “Don’t know how many times/I’ve had to say this to you/This ain’t my scene/This wasn’t my dream/It was all yours,” there is no doubt the song is in reference to why Malik left the band. The dissonance of the instrumentation with Malik’s vocals in the beginning is less than pleasant on the ears, but maybe that was the intent. The best aspect of this song is its honesty, something that has seemed to evade Malik for the most part in Mind of Mine thus far.

Lucozade

This song tips its hat to Malik’s Pakistani roots once again, although it only lasts for a short moment in the beginning of song. It’s clear this track was made to be played drug-addled evenings as it describes. It’s expected, and doesn’t do much to help learn who Malik really is, rather gives insight into his hobbies.

TIO

For starters, “TIO” isn’t the name of some newfound drug or the initials of an ex, it’s an acronym that stands for “take it off.” Once again, there are numerous innuendoes and blatant lines about Malik’s sexual desires and preferences, all of which will undoubtedly leave his fans weak in the knees. It’s by far the most sexual song on the album, will leave fans with their imaginations running wild.

Blue

This song is exactly what you would think it’s about based on the title. “Blue” is a melancholy track in which Malik expresses his feelings of loneliness and his desire for someone to love him even when he’s not feat his best. There are indicators the song is another reference to his ex-girlfriend, Edwards, and his feelings of isolation and sadness leading up to their split.

Source: Miller Mobley

Bright

While you can listen to “TIO” or “Wrong” to get the general idea of what the song is about, this is hands down the one that sounds true to who Malik is as an artist. The editing is done flawlessly and listeners will hear a fervor in Malik’s vocals that tells them this is a song he really enjoyed making. He clearly had fun with it, and his fans will too.

Like I Would

“Like I Would” serves as another potential single from the album, and will certainly reach airwaves at some point in the next few months. The track describes a confident Malik boasting to his ex that her new man won’t be able to measure up him as a lover. The sound is a fun mix of EDM and R&B, a clear favorite of Malik’s. This track brings back more energy at the end of the album.

She Don’t Love Me

As if taking a note from Taylor Swift’s 1989, Malik ends Mind of Mine by coming to terms with the end of a relationship, although in a much less eloquent way. In the song, Malik blames the leading lady’s lack of infatuation for his promiscuity and inability to be faithful. Many fans have thought the song to be a reference to Malik’s ex, Edwards, and an incident last year that involved pictures of him holding hands with another woman while still on tour with One Direction. It’s a mix that passes, but doesn’t do the album any favors.

Overall, the album is decent. Fans of the newly-solo artist will surely have enough admiration for him and the sexy lyrics to let a handful of less-than-stellar tracks slide. Malik is clearly trying to make it known he has fully departed from his once squeaky clean image held while in the band, but it’s clear he’s trying too hard. His constant talk of honesty and lack of creative control while in the band was cited as one his primary issues with being involved. However, his forced and contrived attempts at gaining favor from critics is apparent and makes the work seem even more disingenuous than he would probably like to acknowledge. As time progresses, Malik will certainly deliver better albums that will make fans and critics alike rave over his creativity. For now, he will have to settle for a B-. Mind of Mine passes, but Malik certainly has potential to excel.

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One Comment on “Mind of Malik: Zayn’s Debut Album Aims Too High To Please”

  1. Audra Kostic March 28, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    Reblogged this on Passionate About Music.

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