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Zayn Malik’s new album feels like a reunion with an old friend

LONDON%2C+UNITED+KINGDOM+-+OCTOBER+07%3A+Zayn+Malik+attends+the+BBC+Radio+1+Teen+Awards+on+October+7%2C+2012+in+London%2C+England.+%28Photo+by+Stuart+Wilson%2FGetty+Images%29
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 07: Zayn Malik attends the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards on October 7, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 07: Zayn Malik attends the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards on October 7, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Getty Images

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 07: Zayn Malik attends the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards on October 7, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

by Olivia Litsey, Arts & Lifestyle Assistant Editor

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Anyone who knew me in 2012 knew I was in love with One Direction. I would watch every interview I could find, sing along to every word of every song and cry at concerts. I was that girl.

Part of the reason why I loved the group so much was the members’ arresting vocal ability, and then-member Zayn Malik was a major component of that. Aside from one of my original favorite lyrics of his about breaking tables because he wanted to have a laugh, there were a number of instances on One Direction’s debut album that made Zayn stand out from the other boys in the band.

A handful of moments toward the end of “Moments” established him as a singer with enviable range. His pure talent combined with the narrative of him falling in love, and making of joke of it to avoid getting hurt, is remembered as a swoon-worthy Zayn sample.  With that, the last 30 seconds of “I Want,” the song that brought the group’s Up All Night tour set list to a close, also easily convinces listeners to hop onto the Zayn-admiration train. The feeling of being treated to such a performance and then having to leave the concert venue was bittersweet to say the least.

This was only the beginning. The group went on to do three more tours in the next three years. Zayn continued to slay audiences everywhere with his voice, especially in tracks such as “Last First Kiss,” “She’s Not Afraid,” “You & I” and, one of the group’s most popular, “Steal My Girl.” But in 2015, while the On the Road Again tour was still underway, Directioners were crushed to hear Zayn had quit. It seemed to mark the end of an era.

The remaining four members released the band’s fifth album just six months later.

While it introduced a few strong new songs, its vibe was different without Zayn’s vocals maintaining the foundation of a chorus or peeking through the music to hit a scandalously powerful high note.

Thankfully, the world wasn’t Zayn-less for too long because — perhaps not-so-coincidentally — he released his first solo album on March 25, exactly one year after the official announcement of his departure from One Direction.

It’s evident that with this album, “Mind of Mine,” he was looking to quite literally make a new name for himself. The collection of new songs refers to ZAYN.

No last name, all caps. It also differs from his previous work due to the unusual structure of the track titles (for example, “rEaR vIeW”), the fact some songs are tagged as explicit, the heavy influence of Zayn’s own writing and its overall stronger leanings toward the R&B genre. He obviously wanted to stray away from the straight-set, squeaky-clean pop image of One Direction.

Yet, for me, listening to this album was like getting a hug from an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while because, most importantly, his voice remains just as impressive as it was before.

The first single released off the album, “PILLOWTALK,” has taken over radio with its catchy slow-jam-esque feel. It expresses being in the throes of a tumultuous relationship both physically and emotionally: “It’s our paradise and it’s our war zone.”

A hip-hop remix of the song with Lil Wayne has also been released, which is ironic considering the cover artwork featuring baby Zayn depicted with his current tattoos might as well be “Tha Carter V.” Apparently they’re cool, though.

At this point in time, I’m most partial to “iT’s YoU” and “fOoL fOr YoU,” both poignant tracks about a desperate, unreciprocated type of love. With what sounds like violin and harp, the first of the two is almost reminiscent of a lullaby that listeners would cry themselves to sleep to: “I looked at it like a blessing, and now it’s just a curse.”

Played on the piano, “fOoL fOr You” is a louder documentation of pain as Zayn belts out his inability to resist a love he wishes he didn’t feel. Of all the tracks on the album, this one is my recommendation for solo performances in the car and/or shower.

Not even two minutes long, perhaps the most notable track on the album is “INTERMISSION: fLoWer.” Upon first listen, I wasn’t sure if I was so enthralled by its soft tones that its lyrics escaped my understanding or if they actually weren’t in English. As it turns out, the song is sung in Urdu — a language native to Pakistan and India.

Its translation matches the evocativeness of the music: “Until the flower of this love has blossomed, this heart won’t be at peace.”

Seemingly a tribute to his heritage, this track verifies the album as a more personal artistic representation of Zayn.

Despite the heartache Zayn caused his fans last year, he has come back with a greater commitment to his craft.  It makes my heart so full to see him performing again with a renewed visage of roaring passion. I can’t wait to continue to watch him grow.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Zayn Malik’s new album feels like a reunion with an old friend”

  1. Glyn Ruck on April 13th, 2016 12:33 pm

    What a nice commentary!

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