It’s been about a year since Zayn Malik decided to leave One Direction to take time off from fame, and it’s been about a week and a half since he came back from wherever he went to release his new album, Mind of Mine.


I remember my friends, ardent fans of the boy band, lamenting his departure as the end of the era, but it’s really nothing to be sad about since what he’s doing now is so much better. When your roommate starts yelling at you from the next room about “that guy from that one boy band” and how the title of this review has to be “I listened to Zayn’s album and creamed my pants,” I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the guy’s hit some paydirt. Debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 confirms that, too.


From what I’ve been told about Zayn’s boy band heyday, he was the quiet and mysterious odd one out whose musical tastes didn’t always gel with One Direction’s anthemic pop-rock catalogue. Mind of Mine is a long time coming, in that respect, and it’s nice.


On the whole, it’s an R&B record, but you can hear strains of pop, soul, and electronic too. It’s fun to be listening to a song and have it click with someone else you like to listen to—”Borderz” gives off a Glass Animals vibe (think “Gooey”), and the gorgeous outro to “She” is all Justin Timberlake. There’s something for everyone here, from alternative to not, and I think that’s a good mediation of who he used to be musically versus who he is now.


As a record, it’s cohesive in sustaining a sensitive yet sex and alcohol-fueled mood, but it’s also quite diverse in that every song takes you on its own little trip. It’s hard to pick out highlights because I don’t think there are any real fillers on the album, though their presentation is pretty cryptic—I mean, I ReaLLy dON’t kNoW wHat He’S trYinG tO SaY bUt whAtEvEr, aRT is Art.. Even the slow songs are beautiful and memorable in their own right. Some of the ones I listen to the most have to be “Lucozade,” “Rearview,” and “She Don’t Love Me,” though. They’re all very hushed, silky, and seductive, and even a little thoughtful at times

 

There’s one track on the album that everyone is talking about, and it shows up right in the middle of it, titled, “INTERMISSION: flower.” It’s 104 seconds of his Pakistani roots, his lilting Urdu wrapped up in an echo chamber. He sings about love being like a flower, but what’s more interesting is how he sings. It’s endearing, hearing his little bit of an accent, and how instead of his usual croon or mumble, he’s trying to emulate how Urdu singers sing—effortlessly navigating through runs—and they have to layer his voice to give him that wobble. You can hear him reaching for something similar at the end of “It’s You,” too.


It’s exciting, because it reminds you there’s more to him behind his ex-boy band and bad boy images. It’s a nice little gesture towards something more personal, when the rest of his album stays one step removed to maintain the mystery of Zayn.

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