Lately, the phrase “quality over quantity” seems to have gone missing, and with it, its overall meaning and intent. Artists seem to be releasing nearly two (sometimes even three) albums a year and the quality of these releases seem to be dwindling before our eyes. We’re left with several Spotify album notifications and a heaping pile of new music that essentially sounds programmed and produced to death. The worst part is that you can hardly tell the difference between a passable song and a good song (notice how I didn’t use the word “great”?).
But this gloomy time may be coming to an end, and out burst a ray of sunshine named ZAYN. Bradford-born Zayn Malik, known to the rest of the world as just ZAYN, recently released his first album since the unfortunate split from the English boy band One Direction. After releasing four albums with his then pre-teen pals, ZAYN peacefully parted ways with the pop sensations to begin molding his solo career and focusing on his personal creative endeavors.
For his debut album, ZAYN went all in with an 18-track confession of all natural emotions, including lust, love, and loss. He also stylized his track titles in a way only a 90s/early 00s-born listener would be able to decode. One of the few tracks listed in all caps and the album’s most popular single, ‘PILLOWTALK’ presents a relatable story of the ups and downs a relationship. Offering an emotional view into ZAYN’s personal life, the track clearly discusses how the very place you feel safe can become the same place you obtain the most scars–in someone’s arms.
Slipping right into ‘iT’s YoU’, we’re drawn into the very intimate space that is ZAYN’s musical diary. Though he knows in his heart his lover truly doesn’t care about him or their relationship, the sonic sorcerer pleads for her to stay and weather the storm with him. Like any relationship, mistakes are made and you can either mend the bridge and move forward, or sink into the depths of lost love.
This harrowing theme continues in ‘rEaR vIeW’ as we’re taken on an emotional rollercoaster with an unfaithful lover. We’re then carried through ballads like ‘fOoL fOr YoU’ and ‘BoRdErSz’ where ZAYN continues to read aloud his recorded personal woes and bear it all for the world to hear.
While we can all, at one point or another, relate to ZAYN’s pain and sorrow throughout the excessively long 18-track album. However, his sentiments may have been better received on a 12-track album with a six-track follow up EP. The album, clocking in at 59 minutes, shares a great deal of intimacy and raw emotion that makes for a slightly exhausting listen. Despite its longevity and clear lack of maturity, the album’s production is worth the listen alone.
Change is a great thing, and in this case, it’s clear ZAYN made the right move departing from One Direction. He’s got plenty of albums ahead of him and a lot of maturing to do, but pop’s new favorite artist definitely delivered a little piece of sunshine with his heartbreaking new album.
Watch the video for ‘PILLOWTALK’ featuring ZAYN’s real-life girlfriend, Gigi Hadid, below.