Zayn Solo Debut: “Mind of Mine”

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Top Tracks: “Like I Would,” “She,” “Wrong (ft. Kehlani)”

Grade: A-

Verdict: “Mind of Mine” is a strong album both thematically and technically. All the songs follow a similar vein of heartbreak and love, making the whole album cohesive, while the even mix of ballads and bops keeps listeners interested. Even though the capitalization and spelling of the tracks do make the album feel a little bit like a middle school scene kid designed it, Zayn’s first record sets him up for a solid solo career.

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Despite dropping his last name, and his band mates, it’s impossible to separate Zayn Malik from his previous work in One Direction.

Known for being the loner of the group, Zayn garnered fans for his punk-ish look and stellar high notes. Thankfully, Zayn’s kept both in his debut solo album, “Mind of Mine,” an R&B album that Zayn himself described as “sexual” to Complex magazine.

Zayn’s first single was definitely sexy. After months of waiting and teasing, “Pillowtalk,” which debuted at No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100, finally dropped in late January. Many fans were split following the single, preferring Zayn’s vocals in One Direction to his new sound. Many fans were split following the single, preferring Zayn’s vocals in One Direction to his new sound. A downtempo R&B track featuring his new flame, Gigi Hadid, “Pillowtalk” shows a deeper side to Zayn than any One Direction song ever allowed.

The music video, while a little trippy, also let Zayn show off a little more of his personal style, but resembles Selena Gomez’s music video for her 2009 song, “Naturally.” Of course, Zayn’s is more grown up and features a darker color scheme than Gomez’s Disney Channel hit.

“iT’s YoU,” the third album track, offers a softer R&B ballad with a synthpop backing. The lyrics, which are easily the best part of the song, mellow out by focusing on the heartbreak behind a failing relationship, possibly inspired by Zayn’s split with Perrie Edwards.

While the lyrics are touching, the overall effect of the track is boring. Without the synth in the background, the track would just be another piano ballad, and, while Zayn has no problem hitting those high notes, the chorus stays high, for the most part, which sounds shrill, rather than haunting.

“Like I Would,” a track from the deluxe edition of “Mind of Mine,” captures the spirit of the album best. The song is a slow build, starting with just a soft beat behind Zayn’s vocals, until the climb, which adds an impressive drum kick and transforms the song into an electro-R&B hit in the chorus. The lyrics, too, are confident and fun, and fit the beat perfectly.

Unfortunately, not every song can be that successful. “Tio,” which stands for Take It Off, sounds like it should be a hot song, but the downplayed rhythm feels broody rather than sexy and definitely doesn’t fit the “you’re a freak like me” lyrics. The track feels a little confused as a whole.

Still, for a first solo album, “Mind of Mine,” is insanely polished overall. Zayn’s certainly managed to break away from his role in One Direction. He created an album that, despite a few slip ups, really is sexy overall.

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