The first solo album by a member of One Direction was always going to be a big deal, but few would have put money on Zayn Malik being first out of the traps. The moodiest member of the boyband seemed happier to slink into the shadows and surreptitiously smoke weed while his bandmates did the promotional donkey work and generally toed the line in terms of their squeaky-clean, teenybopper-friendly image.
A year after his sudden departure from the world's biggest boyband, however, and it seems that the 22-year-old has found his groove with his solo material – or at least, he's getting warmer. Much of 'Mind of Mine' follows a similar template of the late night r'n'b heard on impressive lead single 'Pillowtalk'. At other points, it sounds like he's painted himself into a corner by insisting on the same austere beats with zooming, cooler-than-cool Los Angeles-club choruses on every song. Admittedly, it works on most occassions; 'She' and 'BeFour' are slinky, funk-dappled standouts, but the repetition becomes glaringly obvious as the album progress. It also means when he does try something different (as heard on the finger-clicking 'Fool For You', allegedly inspired by The Beatles), it sounds strangely out of place on the tracklisting.
Eclecticism isn't high on Malik's agenda right now. This album was all about establishing himself as his own man and putting distance between his cheesy boyband past. He ultimately wants to be pitched in the same breath as the likes of Frank Ocean; even the fact that the album cover art is eerily similar to Lil Wayne's 'Tha Carter III' and the fact that he's going around dropping Tupac Shakur's name in interviews comes across as a little desperate. He's not quite there yet, and he probably needs to go out and do some of that 'normal life' stuff he's talked about before he writes his second album, as lyrical content is a bit of a problem here.
Overall, though, there are some surprising ideas emanating from that mind of his. Let's see what happens next.