Well here we are. The time has come. Exactly one year after Zayn peaced out of One Direction, he’s given us Mind of Mine, an 18-track glimpse into his mind, body, and soul. And what a gorgeous glimpse it is. From references to ex-girlfriends (see: Little Mix’s Perrie Edwards) to songs undoubtedly inspired by main squeeze Gigi Hadid (maybe), Zayn is using his solo debut to stand atop a platform and scream, “I’m not in a boy band anymore!” Don’t worry, Zayn. We know. And to prove it, we’ve combed meticulously through each and every song you wrote and sifted through every possible reference to your grown-ass life. I get you, kid. I promise. Even though I don’t get why you TyPeD aLmOst EvErY SoNg TiTLe LiKe tHiS. 1. “MiNd Of MiNdD (intro)” Stand out lyrics: “Open up and see what’s inside of / my mind” Perrie or Gigi? That’s a hard pass. This song literally consists of Zayn’s album title being repeated over and over, so unless “mind of mine” is code for “I love you Gigi,” this is his album equivalent of opening the door and saying, “Welcome to my crib.” 2. “PiLlOwT4lK” Stand out lyrics: “In the bed all day, bed all day, bed all day / fucking and fighting on” Perrie or Gigi? Well, considering Zayn’s currently with Gigi, I hope beyond hope this song is about her. But at the same time, with the track over-romanticizing what can only seem like a seriously tumultuous relationship, I also hope it’s more abstract. Like maybe this is Zayn’s persona in a relationship, and in real life he’s all about watching Jessica Jones and eating Doritos. Because I mean, here’s the thing: Zayn’s using Mind of Mine to grow up. Back in his 1D days, we never would’ve heard him drop the f-bomb, let alone using it to describe sex. So while Gigi appears in the video, and we’re meant to believe he wrote this with her in mind, you also can’t help but think this song is entirely reactionary; that it’s his very public break from his boy band band alter-ego. Especially since a relationship like this sounds like a lot of unnecessary drama and work. Calm down, you two.
3. “iT’s YoU” Stand out lyrics: “So my silence won’t / be mistaken for peace / Am I wrong for wanting us to make it?” Perrie or Gigi? Considering this song is a beautiful buzzkill, I’m saying it’s the former. (And don’t any of you dare argue with me.) Via his glorious high-notes, Zayn uses this jam to wax poetic over what seems like a woman who’s completely over his shit. He alludes to letting his scars bleed, he talks about learning lessons — ultimately, he sounds like all of our LiveJournals circa 2006, post-first serious breakup. And unless there was another woman he was engaged to in his early twenties, I’m guessing he’s using “iT’s YoU” to process what I can only imagine was an unfortunate end. Either that, or he’s finally written a song about me and just never said anything. 4. “BeFoUr” Stand out lyrics: “I’ve done this before / Not like this, not like this” Perrie or Gigi? Neither. Enter: The first of Zayn’s “club jams” — a chance for him to express just how much of a ladies’ man he is, particularly while drunk. (But don’t let me spoil the song “dRuNk” for you.) So ultimately, he’s talking to someone. A faceless entity. Maybe even a ghost. And for some reason, he’s requesting they disclose everything they’re thinking while he tells them he’s never done “this” before. “This,” of course, remaining a mystery. (But I am assuming it’s code for “singing a song about hooking up after a few beverages.”)
5. “sHe” Stand out lyrics: “She’s crying out that she loves me / Holding my hands so I won’t leave / Cause baby don’t wanna be lonely / She says, ‘I just want you to hold me’” Perrie or Gigi? First guess: Perrie. Second guess: Neither. Off the top, I’m willing to bet cold, hard dollars that Gigi Hadid has never begged anybody to stay anywhere. (Do you follow her on Snapchat? Girlfriend doesn’t have time for any of that.) So my second guess? Perrie. But the Little Mix singer is also a boss — like, she’s currently doing arena tours with her pop group, so if she’s ever had time to simply be held, I will be shocked and confused. Which brings me to my next theory: a mysterious third-party entity. Especially because Zayn seems to be singing about women in a relatively consistent way. They’re dramatic, complicated, in love with him — and completely two-dimensional. Like The Weeknd, women — to Zayn — are just a part of his narrative, so it’s appropriate this song is called “sHe” and about a nameless figure. This song has one purpose: to continue painting Zayn as the object of one’s affection. (And I say “one” because I don’t know any actual person who’d cling on to somebody’s hand.) 6. “dRuNk” Stand out lyrics: “Right now I’m emotional / I lose control when I’m with you / I hope I haven’t said too much / Guess I always push my luck when I’m with you” Perrie or Gigi? Off the top, I’m saying Gigi — mainly because Zayn seems to be using this song as a platform on which to express his emotional and romantic vulnerabilities. But it also seems like a way to brag about how much of a party animal he is. Like, we get it, dude: you’re 23 and you drink. So ultimately, it’s like the musical equivalent of a FB status bragging about how wasted you got last night. Which, of course, prompts an obvious reaction from the rest of us: an eyeroll coupled with “great story, dude.” 7. INTERMISSION — fLoWer Stand out lyrics: “Until the flower of this love has blossomed / This heart won’t be at peace” Perrie or Gigi? Okay! This song is in Urdu, and it’s less than two minutes, and it asks the subject to “give me your heart.” Thus, because of how unequivocally lovely it is, I’m voting it’s targeted to Gigi. But I will also vote for myself, because I am selfish and like to assume all beautiful things are about me. Or Harry Styles. Which would make my fan fiction dreams come true. 8. “rEaR vIeW” Stand out lyrics: “Heard about all you’ve been through / And it sounds like you need a friend, a friend” Perrie or Gigi? Okay, true: this is a song about intrigue and devotion (“I’ll follow behind”) and loneliness on Zayn’s part (“I’m tired of looking by myself / and not with you”), so technically this likely goes to Gigi (again). But for a hot second, let’s pretend he’s talking about Liam Payne, the Direction member he’s closest to. Because Liam has been through a lot, you know? And this song is about looking at the past. And following the demise of 1D, Liam also likely needs a friend (even though he’s currently — allegedly — dating Cheryl from X Factor). So for a beautiful fleeting moment, let’s chalk this track up to Zayn’s bromance with the former bandmate he admits to still talking on the phone with. Let’s pretend this is Zayn’s olive branch, and that we should be ashamed for inflicting our heterosexual norms on each and every one of his tracks. Let’s pretend this is the song that leads to a Liam-Zayn collaboration. Because honestly that would be so much more interesting than another Gigi/Perrie song. 9. “wRoNg” (feat. Kehlani) Stand out lyrics: “What a shared love / only so dry / I’ll get her wetter than ever / four letters is never the question” Perrie or Gigi? Honestly, I don’t care because this song makes me feel like I’ve just walked in on my little cousin doing it. Like, we get it, Zayn: you have sex. You did it. Literally. But TBH, I can’t imagine Gigi (since this is a song about who he’s currently sleeping with) sitting there thinking, “Yeah! Great track! So mysterious! So good!” Because it isn’t. It’s a jam (the beat is great), but the lyrics are an even less succinct way of saying “That’s what she said!” But shout-out to Kehlani for adding some much-needed dimension to a song that sounds like the poster of two girls kissing that every guy had up in his dorm room. I mean, she describes herself as a “problem with problems,” but it’s her verse and she can do what she wants. 10. “fOoL fOr YoU” Stand out lyrics: “This love is tainted / I need you and I hate it” Perrie or Gigi? Look. Instincts tell me to write “Gigi” for every song, but she just doesn’t seem as dramatic as Zayn is painting his subjects to be. So instead I will say the piano here is very nice, and I like the way the chorus swells, but the “I love you but it’s hard” ethos has slowly morphed me into this gif of Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor yelling, “I’m bored!” But that said, this jam is the closest to anything we would’ve heard Zayn sing in One Direction, so for nostalgia's sake, I will say this song is one of my favorites because I keep expecting Niall or Harry to chime in and sing directly to my hearts. So maybe this song is really about One Direction. And Zayn wrote it seconds before he realized he had to leave. Because that’s a narrative I can get behind. 11. “BoRdErZ” Stand out lyrics: “This is all for a good cause / Think you’re doing a good job” Perrie or Gigi? I’ll give you three guesses. (Spoiler: It’s Gigi. She is your only guess now, so I guess there’s that.) But look: unlike Zayn’s previous manifestors — in which his girlfriends are OTT and everything about their lives are upsetting — “BoRdErZ” represents the lighter side of a relationship. It’s about vulnerability (“Let’s break down all of our walls”) and about willingness to accept one’s partner for who she is (“Give me all of you”) and seems to depict the evolution of a real relationship. So we did it, everyone! And also when that beat drops, what even. 12. “tRuTh” Stand out lyrics: “Don’t know how many times / I’ve had to talk you through / My dreams, new scenes with enemies / I got caught up in this game” Perrie or Gigi? Friends, it’s happened. Finally after no less than 6000 jams about Gigi and/or any number of mysterious-seeming women, Zayn pens a breakup song about regrets and what went wrong and the part he played in a particular relationship’s demise. (“I won’t point any fingers / I won’t say it was you”) And while none of us will ever know what happened between he and Ms. Edwards, it probably did go something like this: Zayn changed, he started hanging out with Naughty Boy (with whom he very publicly fell out with on Twitter), he evolved into the man he is now, and Perrie did her own thing because that’s usually how early 20-something relationships go. So ultimately “tRuTh” is an honest “well, it didn’t work out” song ideal for any situation in which something didn’t work out. Which also makes me think this could actually just be about Naughty Boy, which would make me like this even more. 13. “lUlcOzAdE” Stand out lyrics: “She’s older I told her / we ain’t meant to be” Perrie or Gigi? Neither! And I say that with confidence, because this track seems ripped from the pages of “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Do you remember when Zayn was photographed — pre-1D breakup — with another girl, prompting more to come forward and claim he’d cheated on Perrie with them? (It was a dark time in our lives.) Methinks we’ve found the song’s subject. Here, Zayn seems regretful. He seems messy and distraught and like he’s not in a particularly wonderful state of mind. He seems the way we’ve all been at one point or another, and in one verse, expresses his disappointment in his subject’s lack of ambition. (“You’re the bad guy in this movie”) And while he should most definitely not be blaming the — alleged — women he may or may not have crossed the line with, it’s interesting to watch him sift through the past and its subsequent baggage. (“I’m trying to fucking scream and the words won’t come out”) More songs like this, Zayn! More! 14. “TiO” Stand out lyrics: “Let’s get naked and explore / our inner secrets” Perrie or Gigi? Who knows anymore. I don’t. And I mean it. We go from unpacking what seems like Zayn’s leftover One Direction-induced trauma (#interesting) to a song that’s about “a freak like [him].” So: sex. Another song about Zayn having sex. But not even particularly interesting sex? (“Push me up against the wall / don’t take it easy”) Like, okay? Sure. This song could literally be about any human person. Also, I feel weird about Zayn saying “I’m so turned on” because I own the One Direction documentary and I still equate him with being the boy from Bradford who loves spray painting his house. Which, admittedly, would be more interesting subject matter at this point than another sex song. 15. “BLUE” Stand out lyrics: “In the clouds where the angels sing / It’s her smile, yeah it’s so glassy” Perrie or Gigi? I promise I don’t actually think the above lyrics are interesting, but I do think it’s interesting that this song sounds freakishly like “Ave Maria” (a hymn), and Zayn’s opted for religious imagery to describe the woman he’s singing about. So, because of his respect for this woman, I’m voting Gigi. Also, he uses “angel” more than once, and Victoria’s Secret just branded Ms. Hadid an Angel, so there you go. Solving mysteries one track at a time — I’m like a pop culture P.I. 16. “BRIGHT” Stand out lyrics: “She likes getting high just for the day / She’s different in night, she knows what I say” Perrie or Gigi? And just when I thought we were out of nameless women to sing about, Mind of Mine pulls us back in. Ultimately, “BRIGHT” is a song that allows Zayn to tell us he smokes pot and drinks (“I found my life in between shots and getting high”), and while the beat is great and ideal for singing/dancing/yelling “I love this song!” the lyrics fail to go down a road I’d actually like to explore by focusing more on “she” (ugh) and less on how Zayn actually found his life. I mean, wouldn’t it be exciting to hear Zayn sing about how drinking/smoking gave way to some serious life revelations? And what those revelations were? Because for an album called Mind of Mine, we’re not getting a ton of mind. And Zayn seems like an interesting person. I’d like to know more about what he’s thinking. 17. “LIKE I WOULD” Stand out lyrics: “So stop wasting all my time, messing with my mind / It’s cold-hearted, cold-hearted” Perrie or Gigi? Neither! You know the song “Olivia” off One Direction’s latest? No? (Just me?) Okay, well trust me when I tell you that every pop singer (think Drake and “Hotline Bling”) throws out a song all about a random, faceless “you” which adheres us to them and allows us to insert ourselves in the narrative. This is that song. This is Zayn’s wink at the audience — his “here’s looking at you, kid.” This song is for and about all of us. And it works. And it’s why it’s such a perfect single. 18. “SHE DON’T LOVE ME” Stand out lyrics: “I think I know she don’t love me / That’s why I fuck around” Perrie or Gigi? Alright, well if Zayn was fucking around on Gigi, the tabloids would’ve picked that up and ran with it. So, Perrie? I mean, maybe, but Zayn wasn’t exactly proud of his alleged indiscretions (see: his Twitter tantrum after any/all allegations). So it looks like we end on the review equivalent of a shrugging emoticon. Zayn want’s someone’s body on top of his — which is maybe the point of Mind of Mine. As transparent as the title seems, it’s more an enigma than an insight.