ZAYN: Stepping in a New Direction

Glenn Rohrbacker

Fresh off of dropping the biggest surprise of early 2015 and breaking the hearts of fans everywhere, Zayn Malik releases his first solo album, Mind of Mine. In the 5-boy band of One Direction, Zayn was generally seen as the more mature soul of the group, but the world didn’t know him as himself, but as 1/5 of a money-making machine, built to attract the hearts of teen and tween girls all over the world. Now that he decided that he couldn’t do it anymore, he chose to leave for another over-produced, industry product: ZAYN. In an attempt to be original and his own entity, ZAYN does the contrary – merely adding another piece of fabric into the crowded blanket of the pop music universe. The album is a bit ironic, showing a picture of young ZAYN as the album cover, but hosting content mainly about sex, drinking and other things that young ZAYN definitely shouldn’t be partaking in. One common theme is the irregularity of the title text of the songs. In an attempt to give anxiety to grammar-junkies and English teachers everywhere, he undermines the English language by mixing uppercase and lowercase letters where they shouldn’t be, hoping it shows he isn’t just like everyone else with their proper English.

Zayn Malik released his first solo album (Billboard photo)
Zayn Malik released his first solo album (Billboard photo)

The album has 18 original songs, all sounding very similar. The whole record is drenched in reverb, hoping to make it onto as many Spotify love-making playlists as possible. The first single “PILLOWTALK,” which was an odd choice for a radio hit, didn’t do as well as expected. It’s slow tempo and reverberated guitar riffs underline the theme of the album: sex. ZAYN tries to slow it down even more on “iT’s YoU,” bringing out his rawer vocal ability, which is disappointing. It’s actually a decent song, but feels a bit empty and needs something more. The song “sHe” is basically “Jealous” by Nick Jonas, especially by having the same exact drum beat. It’s one of the catchier songs on the record, and actually something that I would’ve thought to be a radio song. “INTERMISSION: fLoWer” sounds like a remade Beatles song from their questionable era. It doesn’t even sound like him singing, but with a slightly John Legend twist on his voice. “rEaR view” is one of the better songs on the album, having that catchy build-up method that works for a lot of pop singers.

It’s hard to differentiate sounds on this album because many of the songs are the same. I seem to remember several years ago when a successful member of a boyband left the group to pursue his own career. He even went into the pop-R&B genre and rebranded it. But that was the difference, he created a type of music that worked for him and made it different enough that people wanted to hear it. Now, he’s one of the biggest stars in the world and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then bye bye bye.

ZAYN had a lot of pressure to put out this first album and I’ll give him that. But if he wants to have his own voice in the music industry, he has to create it for himself, instead on this record he substitute his voice into a genre that isn’t popular anymore, and I don’t think he left the world’s biggest band to be unpopular.