I spent all week dodging leaks of Zayn Malik’s debut album Mind of Mine. With every other post on Tumblr and Twitter promising full torrents or samples of this song or that song, in addition to Zayn himself releasing four of the tracks from the album ahead of its release, it was difficult to preserve the novelty of this highly-anticipated release. And now, while the pop lyrics interlace with dreamy melodies and float around my room at midnight, I’m glad I waited.
That’s not to say this album is revolutionary or revelatory, but it’s gentle and when allowed to exist as a whole instead of stolen or premature parts it feels like a work of drama, as its tracks ‘MiNd OF MiDdd (intro)’ and ‘INTERMISSION: fLoWer’ imply it should do.
Looking at each piece individually, the only song that truly stands out is ‘PILLOWTALK,’ Zayn’s long-standing number 1 single released about a month ago. This song and its accompanying video were shocking in their sexual explicitness and lack of crudity. This song sits like a crown on top of the whole album — perfect, embellished and rotund in its restrained exuberance.
Second is the ‘intermission’ track, but only because it is sung entirely in Urdu and, according to the album’s producer Malay, was sung spontaneously for the album. It has the beginning of a ghazal, all airy harmonizing echoing up to the rafters over shy guitar plucking.
‘INTERMISSION: fLoWeR,’ the appropriately-titled pause in the middle of Mind of Mine. Zayn captures an element of ghazals in this song, allowing the intro to be a deep-sung melody. The couplet in the song, as well as the repetition at the end of it, all allude to traditional ghazals, that usually have the same elements. The lyrics below:
Jab tak iss mohabbat ka phool na khiley / Tab tak iss dil ko sukoon na miley
Dil diye mujhe / Dil diye
Until the flowers of this love have not blossomed / This heart won’t find peace
Give your heart to me / Give your heart
Later songs like ‘dRuNk’ and ‘LIKE I WOULD’ are extremely palatable as they hit every note needed for a song you might play while you are alone in your room, applying lipstick or bracing yourself for a full emotional swing. With these songs, the album cements itself as a gentle soft-spoken reminder of Zayn’s boy-band days, where he sung expressly for withdrawn young fans who didn’t understand their beauty. Except now you are almost full-grown and capable of bigger realizations.
The one feature on the album, Kehlani on ‘wRoNg,’ is well-placed near the center of the tracklist, breaking up Zayn’s over-thought vocals with a higher key and far-crying depth. The songs after are more indulgent and richer, as though Zayn took a breath and dove back in.
Mind of Mine, as you’d expect with a name like that, is incredibly introspective. Besides ‘PILLOWTALK,’ most of these songs feel like they’re rocketing around your head while you lay prone on your bed, contemplating existence and love. Despite their swellings and reverberations they’re muffled and quiet. Think the Weeknd, definitely, or the soulfulness of Ne-Yo, but also add in a softer touch.
Consider the album like a person plucking petals from a flower, convinced each one holds the key to unlocking love — ‘she loves me’ but mostly ‘she loves me not.’ Threading in and out of each reverie of a song is an underlying feeling that Zayn is only grasping at affection but it’s still beyond his fingers’ reach. As the album continues, this theme becomes starker and the tracknames lose their playful early 2000s MSN speak, taking on all caps. A few of the last tracks, ‘BLUE,’ ‘LIKE I WOULD’ and ‘SHE DON’T LOVE ME,’ demonstrate this.
The cult of Zayn is almost as compelling as he is. As I write this review, a million users on social media are crying over ‘INTERMISSION: fLoWeR’ and sharing it with their parents.
Flashing back to when he was recored at a One Direction event saying ‘I love you’ in Hindi-Urdu for a fan, to now when he includes an entire track in Urdu on his first solo album and following a recent interview for Complex where he stated that he has a lot of fans of ‘Desi background’ who see themselves in him, Zayn has consistently given us, his South Asian fans, something to hold on to.
Mind of Mine is firmly Zayn’s and while he extends it to his fans, it remains firmly him in the years after his stint being one of five. It also loops beautifully — when I hit the end of the album, I clicked replay instantly and began again. It’s like exhaling and inhaling again.
Translation provided by Fatima Zehra.