It’s been little more than a year since Zayn Malik (now known mononymously as Zayn – like Madonna or Jesus) announced his exit from One Direction while they were still midway through their world tour – a move that broke the hearts of millions of fans. (They’ll recover.)
Dropping his first solo song with as much notice as his departure from the band, “PILLOWTALK” sheds the light, teenager-friendly tone of One Direction and features a much edgier, sensual side of Zayn. As the lead single, it’s a good indication of the songs that follow on his debut LP “Mind Of Mine” with the tight instrumentation providing an elaborate backdrop for Zayn to embrace all his R&B tendencies.
The sleek production highlights some of Zayn’s impressive vocal work such as in “BeFoUr”. The beat-driven tune begins with a spacey synth and it all comes together in the bridge as Zayn wails over pounding drums.
“wRoNg” features a fantastic back-and-forth with American recording artist Kehlani as the two sing a gorgeous hook over a reverb-laden instrumental that gives the track a grand overtone.
The material can be likened to the more familiar tunes of today’s R&B princes, such as The Weeknd and Frank Ocean. In fact, Frank’s frequent collaborator, Malay, co-wrote many of the songs here.
However, barring a few gems, that creative spark is absent and the album retreads many of the same ideas especially in the middle of its runtime. With many of these songs featuring similar tempos, the album loses a lot of its lustre from melding together indistinguishably.
This could also be attributed to Zayn’s persistence in singing within the same vocal range. There’s no denying that he is an incredible singer and the earnestness with which he sings is what lends a lot of heart to the songs. However, he doesn’t push out of his comfort zone and could stand to gain from exercising a little more experimentation.
Some final thoughts: “Mind Of Mine” will appeal to fans of Zayn and R&B in general. The well-produced effort is chock-full of lush vocals and shimmering electronic instrumentation, but is lacking in variation and creativity at times. Casual listeners will appreciate the vibe to engage in some pillow talk of their own. /wink/