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Exactly one year after Zayn Malik released a statement saying he was leaving One Direction in order to “be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight,” he released his first solo album Mind of Mine.

Mind of Mine is far from the toe-tapping, innocent, and catchy music One Direction has been producing since Malik left. The 18-track album, which came out March 25, is a very different sound from the almost-bubblegum pop music that made Malik famous and instead falls into the R&B genre, taking his talents in a new direction.

There’s a strong bass presence in all the tracks, but the tempo is very slow, almost sensual, Malik’s attempt to show he has grown up since his departure from the group. The vocals are hardly catchy enough to sing along to and since all the tracks have similar tempos and tones they blend together seamlessly, making it difficult to differentiate them or pick out any standout hits.

The second track on the album, “PILLOW TALK”, is Malik’s first solo single, which was released back in January. The track hit number one on both the U.S. and Canada Billboard Hot 100, giving fans a taste of the album and success it’s sure to gain in the public eye—no matter how it’s received by critics.

Although it’s one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, it’s still quite soft and sensual, describing love, sex, and passion. The music video, featuring Malik’s girlfriend, model Gigi Hadid, is darker than anything One Direction has done with its artistic effects and cuts, and its sexual imagery. The track has also been released as a remix featuring rapper Lil Wayne, further distancing Malik from his pop roots.

The remainder of the tracks on the album are a mix of soul and R&B, and all focus on falling in or out of love. If you’re looking for a taste of the album without having to listen to the whole thing, there are a few tracks worth checking out.

The seventh track, entitled “INTERMISSION: fLoWer” is heavily inspired by traditional Urdu music, paying a homage to Malik’s Pakistani heritage, and performed in Urdu as well, making it a unique experiment that Malik pulls off flawlessly.

“fOoL fOr YoU” is a refreshingly simple ballad after some heavy R&B tracks. It’s a pretty standard love song, and almost seems out of place on the album, featuring lyrics like “I’m a fool for you and the things, the things you do”.

Malik definitely proves his vocal abilities and diversity on the album, as he branches out from the pop genre in which One Direction solidly planted themselves. The album also shows off Malik’s songwriting ability, with him contributing to every track on the album, something he rarely did when part of the boyband.

When the album ends, you aren’t left with the innocent, lovey dovey feeling that One Direction’s songs left behind. Rather, it’s a loose and relaxed feeling, but one that is painfully unmemorable. Malik is clearly trying to define himself as a more R&B-influenced artist than during his One Direction days, and Mind of Mind does a good job of this, but whether he’s going to be successful in his new direction is yet to be seen.



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