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Mind of Mine is Zayn Malik's debut solo album that was released by RCA Records on March 25, 2016.

Album BackgroundEdit

Following Zayn Malik's five-year stint with English-Irish band One Direction, he quit the band after signing off from the band's On the Road Again Tour for an indefinite period six days prior due to stress.

Shortly after, he began working on solo material. After sessions with various producers, Malik eventually went on to meet James "Malay" Ho, who would become his debut album's main collaborator.

On 29 July 2015, Malik shared a photo on social media of his official signing with RCA Records. Throughout the rest of 2015, Malik gave interviews with several music magazines, during which he spoke about his debut solo studio album and revealed part of the track list. He stated "life experiences have been the influences for the album and just stuff that I've been through, especially in the last five years".

Furthermore, he explained his reasons for leaving One Direction: "there was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band." Malik originally auditioned to be a solo R&B singer with Mario's "Let Me Love You" in 2010 before becoming part of One Direction, but with the band headed in a pop rock direction.

Due to the band's musical direction, Malik was unable to sing or write the kind of R&B music he had originally pursued before joining the band. He elaborated: "If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop, generic" and that "Whenever I would suggest something, it was like it didn’t fit us. There was just a general conception that the management already had of what they want for the band, and I just wasn’t convinced with what we were selling. I wasn’t 100 percent behind the music. It wasn’t me. It was music that was already given to us". He told Complex that "It was about denying the authenticity of who I was, and what I enjoyed about music, and why I got into it."

Despite his comments regarding One Direction, he told Ryan Seacrest that he is "massively grateful for that, and if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here," adding that "It’s not because I’m trying to be more successful or as successful as what was going on before, because there’s no comparison."

Malik told The Fader that "it wasn’t actually about [being the biggest] anymore" but "It was more about the people that I reach. I want to reach them in the right way, and I want them to believe what I’m saying." He added, "I just want to make music now."

Conception and influenceEdit

In March of 2015, Malik was seen at a London recording studio with producer Naughty Boy, leading to speculation of the pair working on music together. Following his departure from One Direction, Malik alluded to the potential of a solo career, with the release of his first solo studio album to be released under the Syco label in 2016. On 31 March 2015, Naughty Boy released on SoundCloud an early demo of Malik's song "I Won't Mind".

In June 2015, UK rapper Mic Righteous leaked Malik's song "No Type", featuring Mic Righteous and produced by Naughty Boy, a cover version of Rae Sremmurd's hip hop song. With Naughty Boy as his producer, he also worked with grime rappers Krept & Konan during this time, recording a song together with an unfinished music video.

However, the material was never released after Malik parted ways with Naughty Boy. Though it was unreleased, his work with Naughty Boy and Krept & Konan helped Malik gain a new urban audience in the UK.

Malik stated musically the record leans towards R&B and described his album as "weird, alternative R&B", stating that "It's all very sparse and random," and "They're all kind of different thoughts. The music reflects that as well because they're different emotions, so you feel different things through each song."

He also said it would incorporate different genres of music, such as soul, reggae, and an R&B-rock fusion, stating that "all the songs are different genres," and that they "don't really fit a specific type of music. They're not like, 'This is funk, this is soul, this is upbeat, this is a dance tune.' Nothing is like that. I don't really know what my style is yet. I'm kind of just showing what my influences are. Depending on what the reaction is, then I'll go somewhere with that."

The album was influenced by the music that Malik grew up with, primarily his father's urban music records, including R&B artists R. Kelly, Usher, Donell Jones, and Prince, rappers Tupac and Biggie, and reggae artists Gregory Isaacs and Yellowman, as well as Bollywood music.

Malik cited rapper Tupac Shakur's album, "All Eyez on Me" as the album that had the biggest impact on him, stating that it is "so real, and from a perspective of a place where somebody is not afraid to be completely 100 percent honest." He said, "as I grew up, it really helped me to understand that it’s OK to be honest with your art, because people appreciate that."

In an interview with NME, Malik explained the album's title: "It's really reflective of the whole experience that I want to give the listener. I wanted it to be almost like a brainstorm. It’s just music and it’s just whatever you’re feeling at that moment in time."

Writing and recordingEdit

Teasing what can be expected of his first solo LP, Malik told Billboard: "once they [the fans] hear it, I feel like they will understand me a little bit more. For 10 years, this album has been in my brain, and it's just been there, sat with me, needing to be out."

While talking about the recording sessions with Billboard, Malik's main collaborator for the album James "Malay" Ho said they have gone to unusual lengths in pursuit of inspiration, for one "we went camping for a week in the Angeles Forest – set up a generator and a tent so we could track in the woods."

James Ho is a Grammy Award winning producer whose past work includes Frank Ocean's album, "Channel Orange" and Big Boi's album, "Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty."

Malik told the magazine: "I'll come down here [the recording room] and record maybe seven songs a night. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m not censoring myself anymore."

Ho described Malik as "pure genius" and noted that most of the vocals were recorded in just a few takes.

According to Ho, Malik was heavily involved in every aspect of recording, stating that, "Even if there were co-writers involved, all the direction for the songs and all the lyrics and everything pretty much came from him." The song titles are rendered in a stylised manner, reminiscent of Prince.

Malik said the stylized capitalization reflects the way he used to like capitalizing letters when he was at school. He said that after his debut album releases, he plans to pursue an academic degree in English or literature (which he originally intended before his music career), while at the same time working on writing his next album.

Malik said that "Pillowtalk" was written about sex, stating that "everybody has sex, and it’s something people wanna hear about. It’s part of everybody’s life, a very big part of life. And you don’t want to sweep it under the carpet."

The track, "It's You" was inspired by the breakup of a relationship (possibly from Little Mix's Perrie Edwards), with Malik stating: "It was a form of therapy for me, and it did help me get through" some personal issues while he was writing it.

According to Ho, "Befour" was conceived when he and Malik were in the VIP area of a Las Vegas club where Big Sean was performing in August 2015, and Malik said, "It's crazy being here in Vegas. I’ve literally been all over the world with One Direction. I’ve done this before, but not like this. Not by myself, not this way, not here with the intention of working on my own music."

The Qawwali Urdu song "Flower" was inspired by Malik's upbringing as a British Pakistani Muslim.

Referencing the recording, Ho stated that Malik "knows how to sing like that and he’s always been able to do it, but he just never took it that seriously" until one day he "just picked up the mic and tracked that whole thing basically live, in one take." Ho said he "was just blown away" and "didn’t know he could sing like that," and that "he told me he was in a super spiritual place, and that the saying is something one of his family members had told him that had always stuck to him." Ho said the session was like jazz "where a singer will have a concept or a melody and then the rest of it is just improv."

Malik sung and wrote one of the songs, "Wrong", in collaboration with American R&B singer and songwriter Kehlani.

According to Malik, he "reached out to her, played a couple of songs for her in L.A. and she's really cool, she liked the music, so she got in the studio within a couple of days, she gave me a song back that she wanted me to do, and we just got it done straight away." Malik originally wrote "Wrong" as a rap, which he then used to create lyrics for the song.

The song "Fool for You" is a pop ballad inspired by The Beatles, particularly John Lennon, citing the songs "In My Life" and the Indian-influenced "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".

Malik sang "Lucozade" in a freestyle manner and recorded the song in one take.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Mind Of Mine (Intro) 0:57
  2. Pillowtalk 3:23
  3. It's You 3:50
  4. Befour 3:28
  5. She 3:09
  6. Drunk 3:25
  7. Intermission: Flower 1:44
  8. Rear View 3:21
  9. Wrong (featuring Kehlani) 3:32
  10. Fool For You 3:22
  11. Bordersz 3:59
  12. Truth 4:05
  13. Iucozade 4:12
  14. Tio 2:58

Deluxe edition tracks

  1. Blue 3:44
  2. Bright 2:56
  3. Like I Would 3:12
  4. She Don't Love Me 4:15

Target edition and Bol.com limited edition

  1. Do Something Good 3:51
  2. Golden 3:14

Chart PerformanceEdit

In the United Kingdom, "Mind of Mine" debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, with 22,250 copies sold, replacing Adele's album, "25" at the summit. The album set a UK streaming record, as the highest-streamed debut for a British male act.

During its second week, it fell to number nine on the albums chart, selling 7,733 copies and fell to number three on the album streaming chart. Overseas, the album entered at number one in New Zealand and Australia, making him the 26th English male solo artist to top the Australian Albums Chart.

In France, the album debuted at number three on the albums chart and number one on the albums download chart. The record also opened at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart with first week sales of 11,000 copies in the country. As a result, Zayn became the first artist since Yoan to enter at Canada's summit with a debut album.

In the United States, "Mind of Mine" debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, shifting 157,000 album-equivalent units (including album sales, equivalent track sales, and equivalent streams), including 112,000 pure album sales and 40.8 million streams, one of the highest weekly streaming figures for an album.

Zayn Malik became the first British male solo artist to debut at number one with his first album, the first British male solo artist to reach number one with his first album since George Michael's album, "Faith" in 1988 (which debuted at number 41 and took nine weeks to reach number one), the first UK act to debut at number one with their first album since his former group One Direction's album, "Up All Night" (on the chart dated 31 March 2012), and the first UK act to debut at number one with their first album on both the Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart since Susan Boyle's album, "I Dreamed a Dream" in 2009.

Malik is also one of a number of artists that have achieved number one both as part of a group and as a solo act the first British male artist to debut at number one in both the UK & US, and the third artist to debut at number one on both the Billboard 200 and Billboard Hot 100 with debut entries on each chart (along with Lauryn Hill and Clay Aiken).

The album release propelled Malik to number one on the Billboard Artist 100 chart, replacing Justin Bieber at the summit and surpassing One Direction's number-two peak on the chart.

The album subsequently sold 44,000 units the following week and 31,000 units the week after, hence selling a total of 232,000 copies in the first three weeks.

"Mind of Mine" set an iTunes record, becoming the first debut album to top the daily iTunes charts in more than 70 countries, having topped the daily iTunes charts of 84 countries within 24 hours of release.

The album also set a Twitter record, as the first album to top the Billboard Twitter Top Tracks chart for three straight weeks with three consecutive songs: "It's You", "Like I Would" and "Befour".

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Mind of Mine" has received generally positive reviews from music critics. Metacritic indicates "generally positive reviews", with a score of 69 out of 100, based on 21 reviews.

Alicia Adejobi of International Business Times rated it 5 out of 5 stars, saying that it demonstrates Malik's strong vocals tackling different moods, slick production, infectious beats, sexually heightened lyrics and "an insight into the singer's soul", concluding that "Malik's foray into r'n'b feels natural."

Glenn Gamboa rated it an A grade in Newsday and 4 out of 4 stars in AM New York, saying that "Malik’s brand of R&B bridges the gap" between Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and Justin Timberlake, but "is clearly Malik’s creation, one that may take him to unexpected new heights" as he "heads off in his own soulful direction."

Troy Smith of Cleveland rated the album a B+ grade, stating that Malik has carved "out his own niche, which he accomplishes thanks to cohesive production and a concise vision".

Elijah Watson of Pigeons & Planes and Complex said it is "more than" a Timberlake-like "rebrand", but rather "the project displays a Malik that has always been present, but is finally getting the proper introduction he deserves." He praised the album's experimentation, stating that, like Ocean and Miguel, "Malik is pushing into new territory both vocally and sonically."

Dan Pardalis of Complex said that, lyrically, it is Malik's "ability to vividly depict the reality of human relationships that asserts his move away from the kids' table."

Andrew Milne of musicOMH called it a "genre-blending bedroom confessional" and a "Soulful, sexy and captivating" album that shows "experimentation, honesty, passion" and "Malik's versatility and urge to explore".

Sam Richards of NME referred to it as "sexy, credible pop-R&B", comparable to a previous Malay production, Ocean's Channel Orange, while pointing to the "dubby neo-soul" of "Truth" as an example of Zayn developing his own personality, concluding that the album "is sumptuously produced and perfectly sung, with just enough intrigue."

Magdalen Jenne of PopMatters said "underneath the wrapping this record is a brilliant, pulsing, living thing."

Andy Gill of The Independent praised the "sublime R&B beats" and particularly Malik's vocals as "by far the album’s most potent aspect, bringing grace and wonder even to the more routine material, and hoisting the better songs to classic status", while viewing the Qawwali-style "Flower" as being culturally relevant in light of recent events, stating that "the brief track’s beauty" has the potential to open people's "hearts to the broader aesthetic possibilities of cultures outside their usual experience."

Michael Cuby of Flavorwire described its "album-as-complete-work" form as "impressive" and praised Malik's "impeccably versatile voice" across "delightfully varied" songs, the blend of Miguel's sexuality and Ocean's introspection with his own "clear pop ambition", and the unique "Flower" which "only he could execute properly".

Edi Adegbola of Magnate Magazine called it "an accomplished and well-produced piece of slick, provocative, and surprisingly mature alternative R&B", while pointing to the cultural relevance of "Flower" in light of recent events, noting that "inter-cultural unity and solidarity like this are more relevant than ever."

Mesfin Fekadu of Spartanburg Herald-Journal expressed surprise that Malik was a former One Direction member because of how different Mind of Mine sounds, stating that it shows "Zayn has some true star quality" and that there "isn't a bad tune" in the album.

Lewis Corner of Digital Spy rated it 4 out of 5 stars, stating that "he has genuinely put together a slick debut album that deserves success on its own merit".

Richard He of Noisey and Vice gave it a positive review, stating that "Zayn's brand of alternative R&B is carefully curated to exude maximum cool," that it is "a more consistent listen than Bieber's Purpose, or even Beauty Behind the Madness," and that the "songs are masterfully crafted" with each element "in perfect balance - lyrics, melody, production."

Desire Thompson of Vibe gave the album a positive review, calling it a "pleasurable debut album" where "he's mastered the art of sexual slow jams" and stating that the musical chemistry between Malik and Ho "shines through".

Lucas Villa of AXS rated the album 4.5 out of 5, calling it "raw, real and refreshingly cool."

Alex Dansereau of Sputnikmusic described it as a "great" album where Malik finds "his own niche inside an already crowded lane" as he "strikes a delicate balance" between "alt-R&B moodiness" and "pop earworms."

Maeve McDermott of USA Today rated the album 3 out of 4 stars, praising Malik's "sublime voice" and stating that it "succeeds as a catchy, sexy and fully modern take on contemporary R&B".

Bill Brotherton of Boston Herald called it "an ambitious, mature, modern R&B" album and praised Malik's vocals as "smoky, sensual" and "expressive".

Christie Goodwin of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said that "Malik's falsetto has a subtle side not prevalent among Timberlake wannabes," and that "Truth" and "Flower" insinuate "Mind"-expanding possibilities.

Ian Drew of Us Weekly rated it 3.5 out of 4 stars, saying it "leaves One Direction in his dust".

David Sackllah of Consequence of Sound compared it to Timberlake's Justified, and thought Zayn "falls short."

Alan Raible of ABC News rated it 3.5 out of 5 stars, saying it is "much more compelling than anything his former band ever issued."

Music Times gave it a positive review, with Jon Niles saying it reminds him of early Weeknd mixtapes and has "lasting appeal", while Ryan Middleton said it "is an impressive solo effort."

Tim Sendra of AllMusic wrote that "the sound of the album is rich and layered with synths, rubbery basslines, and occasional electric guitars" and that "he digs deeply into slow, sensual ballads and basically buries himself there like it was a big, fluffy blanket perfect for a midnight rendezvous" while also commenting that "while the songs are mostly strong and it all sounds very slick and state of the art, the highlight is Zayn's voice" and that "it's a treat to hear him on his own, with nobody else hogging the spotlight", ending the review by calling the album "an impressive debut".

Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly rated the album a B+, noting that many tracks "conspicuously echo Ocean’s Californiacool ennui" while adding that "he doesn’t sound particularly interested in pushing pop’s boundaries or dissecting the vagaries of his own fame".

Michael Cragg of The Guardian opined that "the sound he’s chosen – clipped beats, hazy production flourishes, oodles of falsetto as a shortcut for emotional honesty – is basically 2016 writ large may seem bandwagon-jumping, but there’s more than enough good stuff here to suggest it’s been created with love rather than with an eye on ticking boxes."

Some reviews were less positive, with Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone praising Malik's range and vocals, the immersive production, and unique experimental tracks such as the neo-soul "Truth" and hypnotic intermission "Flower", but criticizing the album's overtly sexual lyrics.

Brad Nelsen of Pitchfork, however was less complimentary about the album, noting that it "lacked compelling hooks, a unifying mood, or a clear narrative".

Alexa Camp of Slant gave it a mixed review, praising Malik's vocals and the music production, but criticizing the lyrics as "pleasure-obsessed, vaguely misogynist, and largely disposable."

Andrew Unterberger, writing for Spin, noted that the album "never sounds less than great", but that Malik doesn't "give us much reason to care about that Mind of His" and that the songs are "lacking in narrative."

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