March 25, 2015: A normal date for some, but one that spelled doom for One Direction fans like me. On that day, the official One Direction Facebook account posted a long-winded message to the band’s fans. The message gradually revealed itself: Zayn Malik was leaving the band.
Fans were heartbroken, torn and confused. We didn’t know how to feel about this artist who had meant so much to the group but had chosen to leave it all behind. Should we support him? Should we be upset?
Ultimately, I decided to push my heartbreak aside and focus on the fact that Zayn would eventually make new music. In especially cheeky fashion, ZAYN, now in all caps with his last name dropped, released his first full-length solo album, “Mind of Mine,” exactly one year after his exit announcement.
The album, the only production by a United Kingdom male artist ever to do so, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, The world heard his first single, “PILLOWTALK,” two months prior. Some responded with joy and others with disapproval, the latter mostly among One Direction fans who still had hard feelings about Zayn’s decision to leave, but no one could deny that the song was a hit.
I’ll admit that Harry was my favorite member when I was immersed in the fandom, but I had always thought that Zayn had the most raw vocal talent of any member. If only my 13-year-old self had known then that Zayn would eventually release one of my favorite albums ever.
“Mind of Mine” is a masterpiece, a work that shows how a passion for music and an ear for something extraordinary can blend into sonic perfection. Cool rythm-and-blues beats and Zayn’s killer voice are a match made in heaven, especially on tracks like “BeFoUr” and “tRuTh.”
His sound is futuristic, which differentiates him from the pop we’re used to hearing from his One Direction days. The title describes the album perfectly, as Zayn includes some of his most candid thoughts and guarded feelings on tracks like “iT’s YoU” and “INTERMISSION: fLoWer,” in which he sings in Urdu, his father’s native language.
“Mind of Mine” made me respect Zayn as an artist more than I ever thought I could. It was unexpected and greatly appreciated. His gorgeous vocals, visuals and lyrics combined to create the perfect storm of sensuality and strength. Zayn forged a new image for himself with various style transformations and model girlfriend Gigi Hadid at his side as he rose to solo fame. He showed the world, and skeptical fans especially, that he could rise above the group he was formerly bound to.
One Direction gave Zayn the platform to spark his creativity and “Mind of Mine” is the product of his taking full advantage of it. I am excited for what he has in store for us in the future.
Get ahead of the game by checking out Zayn’s newest single “Still Got Time” ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR, released March 23. A collaboration between two artists who love capital letters is sure to be a supercharged song of the summer.