The English singer and songwriter Zayn Malik, that many may know from a famous band known as One Direction has just hit us with his first solo album. The 23 year old vocalist released a couple of successful singles earlier this year, but I am sure not many of us anticipated such a phenomenal album release only a year after his separation from the band. Zayn has clearly not spent the past 12 months twiddling his thumbs, but has been in the studio writing truthful and emotional lyrics.
Since One Direction’s profound success after X Factor the band have lived a very high profile life, which could have been one of the reasons for Zayn’s exit. From Zayn’s called-off engagement to Perrie Edwards to his partying lifestyle everything about the artist has been heavily publicised since the start of his career in 2010. Zayn’s departure from 1D left many of their fans distraught and it was believed that he may have wanted to take a step back from the limelight. However, this album suggests something entirely different. It may have simply been that Zayn wanted to pursue his own solo career, where he made more soulful R&B music. Significantly, the release date March 25th marks a year since Zayn left the band.
The album cover features Zayn as a child, with his current tattoos on his arms to infer that he may just be a child heart. This may indicate that the artist is nostalgic about his childhood days, which may explain from the font and spelling of the song titles. However, the content of the lyrics is far from childlike, but very much grown up – with sexual references, drugs, sex, regret and heartache. There are definitely some stand out tracks on the album such as runaway success of first singles ‘PILLOWTALK’, ‘iT’s YoU’, ‘wRoNg’ and ‘SHE DON’T LOVE ME’ which all tell us something about Zayn’s emotional state when writing the album.
The ‘PILLOWTALK’ video in particular, dropped jaws with its racy scenes between the artist and girlfriend ‘Gigi Haddi’, everything about the nature of the video and lyrics was the first sign of Zayn’s change of musical direction. This has clearly paid off, considering how well the album is doing already and the reaction it has received. The fact that the artist only has one feature on the album in the 21 year old American newcomer Kehlani indicates that he really wanted this to be a reflection of his individuality and creativity. Particularly, the distinctive intermission ‘Flower’ which was sung in Urdu: the native language of Zayn’s father.
The track ‘tRuTh’ stands out because the lyrics refer back to the album title when he says “my own mind was in the way”, suggesting that he struggled with confusion for a long period of time, but now he says he is “the front seat” and has a “new view”. The track ‘dRuNk’ though sees Zayn is truthful about being “drunk all summer” and “wasted and faded every night”, showing that artist is still taking advantage of his youth and independence. There are definitely some romantic songs on the album dedicated a special female, possibly Gigi, with songs like ‘sHe’ informing us of their love story, the stand out cut at the end of the tracklist ending the song well.
“Were we ever hearing the true Zayn Malik while he was a member of One Direction…?”
The track ‘TiO’ has a similar sound to many of Justin Timberlake’s R&B songs after his own departure from NSYNC, which may be where the Bradford vocalist took influence from. ‘lUcOzAdE’ meanwhile is easily the best song named after a popular energy drink since Kanye West’s ‘Monster’… The deluxe edition includes 18 songs that each demonstrate Zayn’s vocal range and high falsetto. It is often very hard for artists to achieve this, but every song on the album is gripping. This album definitely represents a modern take on R&B and Zayn represents UK talent very strongly. Zayn has been working on the LP with Grammy-winning producer Malay Ho who has previously worked with the likes of Alicia Keys and John Legend and his most famous input towards Frank Ocean’s outstanding ‘Channel ORANGE’. It’s clear that Zayn was trying to follow in the footsteps on these artists that have worked alongside Malay Ho too.
All in all, this is an exceptional album that not many would have seen coming from Zayn Malik. Any 1D fans that were expecting the commercial pop tracks they would typically receive from the band when Zayn was a member would be majorly disappointed by this album. Therefore, Zayn leaving 1D was a huge risk, but clearly a necessary move he had to make since he had his own talent to offer. This album sits high in the current landscape of music along with many other RnB musicians. Many will be thinking where does Zayn go from here It is rumoured that he is already working on his second album, so can we be expecting a tour from him and several Brit awards next year? Only time will tell.