Exactly one year to the day since Zayn Malik announced his departure from One Direction to make “real music”, he strikes out on his own with his solo debut. The question is, was it worth it?
There's no doubt that the Los Angeles-based Malik has looked to US influences for Mind of Mine's style. This could have been a different album had he opted for the UK-style production of his former friend and collaborator Naughty Boy; instead, he turned to James "Malay" Ho, producer of Frank Ocean's channel ORANGE album, and it seems clear Malik is being led by such influences rather than tentatively forging his own path.
That's not to say that there aren't some promising songs here. In fact, there are several; the sultry late night r'n'b throb of lead single Pillowtalk is immediately gratifying, as are the smooth LA club vibe of She and the addition of guest vocalist Kehlani on Wrong.
On the other hand, the finger-clicking, Bruno Mars-style soul of Fool For You sounds utterly out of step with the late- night R&B gloss that dominates the album.
The biggest problem with Mind of Mine is that Malik simply doesn't have that much to say – a fact that grows increasingly apparent with each song. Read what you like into them (BeFour could be a riposte to his former bandmates, It's You might have been directed at ex-fianceé Perrie Edwards), but most tracks are either about sex (Drunk, the aforementioned Pillowtalk), break-ups (Truth) or getting high (Lucozade) and come across as eye-rollingly puerile.
A great, expressive voice will only get you so far, but it is certainly worth watching how Malik’s career progresses. For now? Well, he’s headed in the right direction.