When Zayn first broke away from One Direction, he wasted no time putting some distance between himself and his former bandmates. His hazy solo debut, Mind of Mine, came out on the one-year anniversary of his departure announcement. And instead of channeling the kind of vintage arena-rock that his old group gravitated toward, he teamed up with Grammy-winning R&B producer Malay and repositioned himself as the missing link between Frank Ocean and Justin Timberlake.
Having fought for and earned his independence with the No. 1 single “Pillowtalk,” Zayn is free to make yet another pivot — this time, into the sunshine. “Still Got Time,” the new single from his upcoming second album, is surprisingly sunny beach music from an artist whose lifestyle seemed downright nocturnal on his last go-round. (Thankfully, he also ditches the aNnOyiNg CaPiTaLiZaTiOn patterns he favored in 2016.)
Yet despite the welcome addition of vitamin D to his music, Zayn uses his freedom in ways that are unproductive. The galloping dancehall track — featuring Drake associate PARTYNEXTDOOR and co-produced by Murda Beatz (“No Frauds”) and Frank Dukes (“Green Light”) — is so on-trend to the point of blending in instead of standing out. Mind of Mine didn’t exactly break new ground, but it’s hard not to recognize how “Still Got Time” can’t edge out PARTYNEXTDOOR’s other Caribbean club-kindler, Major Lazer’s “Run Up,” or the tropical tunes on Drake’s recent More Life playlist. And while Zayn doesn’t have to beat you over the head with his impressive falsetto or his belting skills — Mind of Mine benefitted from its many displays of restraint and delicacy — Zayn’s performance is so understated here as to be anonymous. After a few listens, the track’s hook may very well work its way into your head, but it might just take you a second to remember that it’s him when you hear it. Zayn already established that he had a Mind of his own — if only he could use it a little more here. B