Zayn, "Mind of Mine" (RCA Records)
Wait, Zayn was in One Direction? You'll ask yourself that question after listening to his solo album.
"Mind of Mine" — which comes a year to the day he officially announced he was leaving 1D — is a mostly downbeat R&B-pop adventure that shows Zayn has some true star quality.
It's a departure from the pop grooves One Direction have become known for, and Zayn's new songs — in the vein of Chris Brown, Frank Ocean and recent Justin Bieber — are appealing. There isn't a bad tune in the batch of 14 tracks.
"It's You" is a pretty, falsetto-heavy slow groove; "BeFour" is addictive and catchy; "Truth" feels like a neo-soul song of the early 2000s; and on "She" and "Fool for You," the singer reminds you why he did well on "The X Factor," where 1D formed in 2010.
Malay, the producer who worked heavily on Ocean's Grammy-winning "channel ORANGE," also works his magic on Zayn's album, as do producers Levi Lennox, xyz, Alan Sampson and MakeYouKnowLove.
It may be a group of names you don't recognize, but that's a good thing for Zayn. While his album's sound isn't particularly new, it's unique and tailor-made for Zayn. He's heading in the right direction.