Music Reviews

Review: Zayn – Mind of Mine

Words By: Jordan Murray

There’s an enormous sense of expectations behind Mind of Mine that should not exist. Portrayed unwittingly by The Fader as an outsider on a quixotic and self-reflexive journey not unlike Alex Chilton or Mark Hollis, Zayn’s been subject to the sort of poptimism borne of ridiculous praise for The 1975 et al. Alas, one Frank Ocean producer later, here we are, awaiting with a baited breath an album that could do worse than be defined by the staid posturing of “Pillowtalk”.

If you’ve missed the resurrection narrative, you’re probably confused around the hype that this thing has managed to gin up, and whilst I’m not really in the mood to shame Malik for not being Muslim enough like every other white publication inevitably will, I do feel it necessary to question what the function of Mind of Mine is when it rarely steps outside of the parameters that One Direction apparently put around him. Sure, he occasionally does wonderful things with his heritage- specifically mid-album ballad “Flower” where he decides to sing in Urdu- but then he immediately follows it up with double-entendres that would make Howard Stern cringe.

Part of that is why “Pillowtalk” is so relentlessly disappointing. Set against a sub-1D dirge, Zayn delivers some sweet nothings with all the technical ability you’d expect of a man on the street. It’s a precedent that’s set early on; song after song, Zayn trades in alternative R&B tropes that reflect a staleness inherent in the genre. Far from The Weeknd or even lesser standard-bearers a la PARTYNEXTDOOR or Miguel, Zayn manages to do so little with this sound that it all just tends to sound like contrived nihilism than the maturity he so desperately craves.

The New York Times opines that One Direction are the first postmodern boy band. They’re not far off the mark. Between the self-aware narrative they follow and melodies that carelessly co-opt, Zayn’s move towards solo stardom appears knowingly contrived for the sake of broader expectations. Why should we all of a sudden care about a guy from a remarkable average musical outfit whose greatest asset is handsomeness? We shouldn’t. But here we are, patiently awaiting whatever it is Harry Styles concocts in the next 12 months. In the meantime, here’s Zayn, primed for stardom and just as undeserving.