From Bubblegum Pop to Cool Guy R&B: “Mind of Mine” Review

Olivia Monahan, Class of 2017

Popular music trends ebb and flow. ZAYN’s “Mind of Mine” is a hauntingly beautiful showcase of many of those trends.

After leaving the band, the former One Direction member said the “bubblegum” style of One Direction’s music was never his thing. His first solo album isn’t anything close to that. Malik employs heavy bass beats, contrasted with the high pitch of his voice. Many of the songs resemble classic R&B tunes with heavy influence from electronic dance music.

The fusion of Hip-Hop/R&B with electronic dance music is not something new. Songs like “Hot Line Bling” by Drake, “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, and “Work” by Rihanna are clear examples of how this trend is producing chart topping hits.

It’s clear that ZAYN wanted to create as much distance from his music and the music of One Direction. “Pillowtalk”, the artist’s first single off the album, explores the physical and spiritual aspects of sex. An element of music that One Direction would never blatantly venture into. ZAYN said in an interview that now that he is a solo artist he no longer feels censored and forced into performing music he doesn’t like.

In fact, many of the songs have to do with sex and drugs. It’s almost like ZAYN is trying to prove to everyone that he’s not a cookie cutter boy band member. In the song “SHE DON’T LOVE ME”, a track off of the Deluxe Version of the album, he says, “I think I know she don’t love me/ That’s why I f-ck her right”. These lyrics shatter the image that the PR for One Direction tried so hard to uphold.

This almost desperate attempt to distance himself from One Direction’s music hasn’t helped as much as ZAYN would have hoped. “Pillowtalk”, ZAYN’s first single from “Mind of Mine”, charted number 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. However, like Jon Caramanica of the New York Times points out, none of his singles have broken into the Hip-Hop or R&B charts.

ZAYN isn’t getting much attention from the R&B genre because he’s trying so hard to appear cool. While the music itself is good and probably some of the best we’ll see as far as the pop charts go, he sounds like an angsty teen. The entire album seems melancholy and sad, a vibe that seems to resonate most with “hipsters”. Lyrics like “We be drunk all summer/ Drinking and flowing and rolling/ We’re falling down” from the song “dRuNk” paints the vivid image of ZAYN telling all of his fans, “Hey, I’m cooler than you.”

Time will tell how ZAYN’s solo album will stand up to One Direction’s sales powerhouse. One Direction has had three number one albums and two albums charting at number two. However, a One Direction single has never debuted at a number one chart position on Billboard’s Hot 100. “Pillowtalk” debuted at number one and has not dropped from the top ten since its release.