Overall: Musically inviting, but lyrically pretentious, posturing and superficial
23-year-old Zayn Malik had a rather noisy exit from UK X-Factor group One Direction. The boy band's dedicated fan-base was devastated to hear that Malik was leaving and seemingly was going to step away from the spotlight, citing a desire to be "normal." Then came the actuality: he claimed he felt personally and professionally stifled and was going to release a solo album, causing both excitement and angry feelings of betrayal. So, after a year of media buzz, rumored development and collaborative drama, do we finally know why the caged bird sings? In short, Mind of Mine leaves you thinking "This is what Zayn was so pressed to depart 1D to do?" His vocals are pleasantly smooth and sustainable (though he has poor diction), and at times remind you of Robin Thicke (in general, not thinking falsetto). The music is indeed different from what fans are familiar with- plaintive and coquettish R&B-and it gains points for being concentrated and having an effective aura. The content, however, is so melodramatic and fruitless in its endeavor to be profound and "adult." The lyrics are very repetitious (verses are short and bridges just echo the chorus) and sometimes feel randomly assembled. They read as if Malik (who shares writing credits with Harold Lilly and Herbie Crichlow, among others) just started scribbling at whim trying to be "deep" and it ended up on the record without buffering. Consequently, there's a vagueness, and recurring metaphors (such as those to drugs) are more like redundancies than themes.
Malik completes the annoying "must show everyone I'm grown and/or a bad boy" trifecta with sex, bleep-words and "journalists might talk about this" material--i.e. the drug references and suggestions to One Direction. To make sure you don't miss it, a track titled "Before" is spelled "BeFOUR" (actually, it appears as "BeFoUr;" all of the titles have odd capitalization..ooh, so inventive and edgy). Gasp! Four was the last album Zayn did as a group member! What?! The lyrics are similar to songs on 1D's first project after he left (Made in the A.M.)?!! Whoa, shots fired!! The song has a confrontational energy, because...being in a successful pop-quintet where there aren't any accusations or reports of abuse, fraud and/or mismanagement is such an oppressive experience. Now, he's out and able to make pretentiously brooding and wounded albums; thank goodness (*sarcasm*)! He was dying to "Break Free" like Ariana Grande and let us into this Mind of his, but as it turns out, there isn't much there. Justin Timberlake and Nick Jonas did it better.