Zayn
Mind of Mine


3.5
great

Review

by beachdude USER (36 Reviews)
March 25th, 2016 | 74 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A new direction.

The X Factor, American Idol, and the wave of similar reality singing shows seemed to present a golden opportunity for the under-appreciated vocal talents among us. Simply show up, sing your heart out, and get everything you ever wanted: a record deal and devoted worldwide fanbase - in short, the opportunity to quit your day job and show the world what you were always meant to do. The real you. But as the few lucky enough to make it to the other side of such contests quickly discovered, the music industry was interested in their vocal abilities… and significantly less interested in the “real them”. What followed was neither a boon to the artists themselves, nor listeners - as scores of focus-group tested, committee-written pop records sung by inexperienced, unsuspecting new artists flooded the market. The vast bulk of these albums were quickly forgotten, along with the artists whose names they bore - many of whom lambasted a process that left no room for their own creativity to be given a chance. They were a pretty voice and nice face on the album cover, but nothing more.

Zayn Malik almost didn’t even make it that far. Eliminated from the X Factor competition before the final round, the then 17-year-old British singer was given a second chance along with four other similar rejects, the five of them lumped together to form One Direction. They shared traits with the show’s many other prepackaged acts, except for one - their phenomenal, and lasting, commercial success. The group became a rare long-term success story, as the five young vocalists traveled the world to a fanbase that ate up their every movement and digital footprint. Even in the early days of the boy band’s popularity, Malik never seemed to quite click, with his R&B-leaning, exotic vocals fighting to stand out amidst the walls of production. Malik was also distinguished by his Pakistani heritage and Muslim faith. The “dark horse” of the group never seemed to get the memo: The group’s image and marketability came first, and music was somewhere down the list - something to be crossed off quickly rather than a key component of the brand.

That’s why it shouldn’t come as much surprise that Zayn Malik has emphasized repeatedly, in the months since his departure, that he is now all about the music. And Mind of Mine, his debut as a solo artist, certainly feels labored-over. While the album’s 14 tracks (18 on the deluxe edition; oddly, second single “Like I Would” is among the bonus tracks) cover a fair amount of sonic ground, it rarely feels like Malik is imitating the One Direction formula of trying anything and everything and seeing what sticks. Instead, he attempts to distill and capture the greatness of the R&B music that has always been his passion, and find his own niche inside an already crowded lane. And on the album’s standout moments, his search yields great rewards, as Malik strikes a delicate balance between the alt-R&B moodiness of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean (whose main collaborator Malay produces and co-writes much of Mind of Mine; his contributions frequently elevate the proceedings), and pop earworms. Soaring ballad “It’s You” is anchored by a gorgeous falsetto hook more reminiscent of Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley than modern R&B; “Wrong” features excellent back-and-forth between Malik and up-and-comer Kehlani, who delivers an infectious guest verse; and “Befour” deftly mixes soulful vocal inflections with a smooth, tightly constructed beat anchored by a menacing, droning synth. On the latter, Malik sings passionately of being restricted creatively by the pop hit-making machine - a novel concept for a mainstream R&B song. While Malik’s lyricism on much of the album frequently takes a backseat to the overall mood, here his passion for the words shines loud and clear.

While Mind of Mine’s emphasis and mood and groove can pay dividends on many tracks, a drawback of its subdued approach is that Malik’s powerhouse voice too often fits into the groove rather than pushing to the forefront - on many tracks, he is content to stay in a small portion of his range for most or all of the song, sacrificing showmanship for consistency. While this restraint in service of the bigger picture is admirable, it can lead to stretches of the album blurring together into a mid-tempo slog, particularly in the mid-section of the deluxe edition’s one hour runtime. Casual listeners of many tracks may be mistaken for thinking Malik is an above-average singer rather than a great one, and his most immediate tool for capturing the listener’s attention is gone. That being said, Malik’s main achievement on Mind of Mine - establishing a distinct sonic lane in the wake of a pop group whose entire mantra was to be indistinct - is no small feat. The album showcases both stunning highs and obvious room for growth. If Malik is able to loosen up more on future work and give both his impressive vocals and sometimes fascinating songwriting tendencies - as showcased on “Befour” - more room to breathe, he could be on to something truly special. For now, he has delivered an enjoyable collection of modern R&B/pop. Its flaws, while evident, are clearly the result of Malik himself, rather than a committee of songwriters or marketing executives. And that might be his greatest achievement of all.



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user ratings (85)
Chart.
2.6
average
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Peter Meister (2.5)
Believe me, we know what you are thinking about alright....



Comments:Add a Comment 
beachdude
March 25th 2016


846 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I do lol. Hope you enjoy the write-up at least.

Snake.
March 25th 2016


20958 Comments


that album cover for some reason gives me heavy twenty one pilots vibes and i already fucking hate it

Asdfp277
March 25th 2016


18938 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

the single on this sucks ass

PumpBoffBag
March 25th 2016


933 Comments


yea nice review.
I've not listened to it, and I prolly won't, but if the rest of the release is the same standard as Pillowtalk, it probably won't be great.
cuz that is one truly dogshit song

Mort.
Contributing Reviewer
March 25th 2016


14049 Comments


great review man

Digging: Kero Kero Bonito - Time 'n' Place

PappyMason
March 25th 2016


5702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I've not listened to it, and I prolly won't, but if the rest of the release is the same standard as Pillowtalk, it probably won't be great. [2]

PappyMason
March 25th 2016


5702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

The Guardian review for this is pretty funny. They take his "outsider" tag, and run with it.

random
March 25th 2016


2681 Comments


Cover on this looks like Alfred E. Neuman.

Digging: Brockhampton - Iridescence

Yep321
March 25th 2016


183 Comments


no it doesn't

Cygnatti
March 25th 2016


32587 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Is this streaming?

Digging: Mid-Air Thief - Crumbling

torts
March 25th 2016


4300 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

ye



not bad

Middle18
March 25th 2016


247 Comments


Not my bag but very impressed with "its you". Seen him perform it on Jimmy Fallon and couldn't believe I was enjoying something from an X factor reject.

Cygnatti
March 25th 2016


32587 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

it's you sucks tho

PappyMason
March 25th 2016


5702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Lol at what he's done with the tracklisting.



Alright, I'm going to give this a listen.

beachdude
March 25th 2016


846 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

TL;DR of the review: This definitely could be better, but overall I think it's a good start. I enjoyed it for the most part, but an hour of mostly mid-to-slow tempo R&B songs can be a BIT much...

PappyMason
March 25th 2016


5702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

There isn't much originality here tbh

JigglyPDiddy
March 25th 2016


3322 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

That album artwork is a Lil Wayne rip off and y'all know it. lol

silentstar
March 25th 2016


2526 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really enjoyed pillowtalk and before, so hopefully the album pulls through

JigglyPDiddy
March 25th 2016


3322 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Summary is clever af. smh

PappyMason
March 25th 2016


5702 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

That album artwork is a Lil Wayne rip off and y'all know it.



Goes without saying.



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