It's a potent, immersive album that drags you into its emotional maw even when the hooks and tunes are relatively slight. rEaR vIeW's post-The xx blanched R&B hits hard through intensity and repetition; fOoL fOr YoU could be a phones-aloft 1D ballad veiled in digital seduction.
The distant, aloof production can't mask everything: tracks such as tRuTh and, particularly, lUcOzAdE are so insubstantial that you can't grasp them and they simply vanish into the ether. Yet the album ends in insistent mode, with Malik's lover-man shtick on TiO close to slipping into sex-pest terrain: "Take it off, take it off, just take it off!"
How much does Malik's new persona ring true? Ultimately, it is hard to tell; he is buried so deep beneath the best songwriters and cutting-edge production that a lot of money can buy. Closed and private, Zayn Malik always was the sullen enigma of 1D. On this valiant debut, that status is maintained.
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