One Direction Gone, Zayn Malik Asserts His Own Style in New Album Mind of Mine

The anticipated album from Zayn Malik leaves listeners disappointed with its overused sound instead of something new. (Courtesy of Flickr)

The anticipated album from Zayn Malik leaves listeners disappointed with its overused sound instead of something new. (Courtesy of Flickr)

By Brian Conway

Former One Direction member Zayn Malik, has gone solo in his debut album Mind of Mine — a project that, while very calculated in its approach, does not manage to kickstart his pop superstardom with originality or memorability.
If Mind of Mine has one thing going for it, it is the atmosphere. The moody production gives way to a tone of deep lust and bitter angst as Malik croons about distant lovers. The beats range from upbeat and dance-ale to stripped down and pensive.

In almost every way, it represents the current pop landscape in 2016 — predictable and derivative. While the sounds here do not innovate, they do give Zayn the platform needed to potentially deliver the listener a certain personality, as well as the tools to succeed using the conventional pop/R&B formula.

Despite the adequate base for a solid album, his vocal performance leaves much to be desired, as he never takes full advantage of what has been built around him (i.e., his skills and opportunities). He comes off as uninspired and drab on most cuts, failing to make use of the production he sits over.
This record was intended to both differentiate himself from the members of his former band and to make him a unique player in the pop world, but only the former of those feats have been achieved. In this sense, his debut is more style over substance, a cliche that has made a cringe-worthy reality. It not only affects the sound of the songs, but the actual track list itself, which features stylized capitalization (“BeFoUr”) that tries a bit too hard to be edgy.

There are positives about this release, though. A handful of tracks do click on multiple cylinders, including “Pillowtalk,” “iT’S YoU” and “LIKE I WOULD.” These tracks manage to stand out through Zayn’s complementary instrumentals and his front and center role that gives him a fresh voice as an artist. In “Pillowtalk,” he provides booming, emotive vocals in a very raw and refreshing way.

In the end, Mind of Mine bathes in pop mediocrity, fully self-aware of its own unremarkable artistry. Most of the tracks here are a formulaic and manufactured way of delivering a sound that appeals to the most common denominator in 2016.

The tracks that are welcomed are few and far between, making the album a tough listen from front to back. This could have been the project that separated Zayn from other singers in his field with a new sound and fresh perspective but instead, Mind of Mine feels tired and familiar.


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