You could certainly argue that 'Mind of Mine' is merely pastiche. Almost since the dawn of 1D Zayn Malik had claimed their music wasn't his music. And so, with the release of his debut solo album, we can finally see what his music is really about.
His influences are loud and clear: about 20% The Weeknd and 80% Frank Ocean. It's lucky, then, that Ocean's producer Malay has worked on a large proportion of the material here. After all, Zayn is a one name artist now - he's clearly of a high enough calibre to draw in the big guns.
It results in tracks like iT's YoU that's heavily influenced by Ocean's tracks Crack Rock and Pink Matter but without the soul, or the laidback funk of tRuTh that reeks of Ocean's West Coast ennui. And that's before you consider the vocal delivery, from a monotone lower register to that sweet falsetto. Halfway through there's even a John Lennon pastiche in fOoL fOr YoU. Malik may have co-written the album, but it makes you question exactly how much of this "mind of mine" is really his. Lyrically at least, the album borders on generic.
Yet where Malik was always known as the cool and mysterious one in 1D, that shines through in the music. It's far sexier and mature than anything the band have done - undoubtedly the split has allowed Malik to flourish. Lead single PILLOWTALK establishes a sense of woozy sensuality that filters throughout the album, its modern R&B more current than anything the band ever created.
Perhaps too frequently the album slows eagerly to a pensive, atmospheric crawl, but the heady mood is punctuated by some brilliant dance-pop. sHe is all sparkling nocturnal lights, lUcOzAdE is a suitably fizzy shot of energy, and the deluxe edition includes the pulsing, euphoric LIKE I WOULD. More of the album is at a middle tempo: the simmering dRuNk, the melancholic rEaR vIeW, the predatory wRoNg - all leading towards album closer TiO that positively drips with sex.
And Malik has another trick up his sleeve - his Pakistani heritage (on his Dad's side). It's there in the melismatic vocal runs, it's there in the tabla drums at the start of dRuNk, but mostly it's there on INTERMISSION: fLoWer where he sings in Urdu. It adds a sense of authenticity that takes the album beyond the obvious pastiche. Just as Ocean draws on West Coast culture, Malik fuses Asian and urban sounds to become a pop voice for mixed-heritage Brits.
Ocean's mythical next album may still be a ways off, but in the meantime Malik's efforts will do very nicely indeed - pastiche or no.
Listen: 'Mind of Mine' is out now.