Don’t worry ZAYN, I’m listening! I’m just not really enjoying it though. :(
Former One Direction member and celebrity crush of many, ZAYN Malik has come back with his third LP after a three-year break. While Mind Of Mine was not bad at all, Icarus Falls was generally considered as a big drop off, as although the 29-long tracklist might gain you more profit from Spotify streams, people don’t usually really want to sit through 90 minutes of music, let alone mediocre music. I’ve known of his confidence issues before, and it genuinely sucked that a characteristic of his would block his potential success. I was rooting for him and I really hoped that his mental health can be at its best. With that being said, allow me to give my criticism of the record.
This album isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s very generic. “WOAH! P-POP ALBUM GENERIC?” I hear you say, and yes, I do see that this criticism is also as generic, but really, this album isn’t really different from the usual pop/bedroom pop albums that are available. It’s just mostly bedroom pop instrumentals, sung by a pop star. It isn’t frustrating to listen to this in comparison to some legitimate bad albums, but do I really need this in my life?
This album attempts to mix in different influences of styles, e.g. bedroom pop in Better, alternative R&B in Vibez, spoken word (?) in Calamity, house in When Love’s Around, and they’re actually cohesive, cohesive in the fact that most of them fail to utilize the advantages that come from the influences, branching to create more diverse and interesting sounds. Instead, they use the same damn approach to every song (despite different styles) by slapping a generic pop hook, gloomy instrumental, and call it a day.
One thing that’s good about this album is ZAYN’s vocals. He sounds charismatic, a light in the dark if you will. I do see a potential motive to highlight ZAYN’s vocals by adding dim instrumentals and generic R&B song structures, but letting ZAYN’s vocals come out stronger by diminishing the quality of the rest isn’t a good sign. A big problem that limits ZAYN’s performances is really the quality of these hooks. Put Dua Lipa or Billie Eilish in these hooks and the same problems would still appear.
This album desperately attempts to reach the alternative R&B “vibe” or “aesthetic”, perhaps hoping to reach an effect that can be seen in say, H.E.R.’s self-titled or Bryson Tiller’s TRAPSOUL, but the lack of actual realization and uniqueness ultimately makes this album fall flat. A couple of songs that highlight ZAYN’s vocals by giving a more laid-back approach instead of the fake “vibin’” approach, work much better, e.g. River Road, Better.
This album sounds serviceable on the surface level. But when one listens to this more than once and starts to question, “What does this album give me that others can’t?” This album's thin cover starts to fall apart. In conclusion, ZAYN. SPELL HIS NAME IN ALL CAPS.
Favorite tracks: Better, River Road
Least favorite tracks: Vibez, Tightrope, Windowsill
PS: First review of a 2021 album and well, off to a great start ain't it