ZAYN – Nobody is Listening | Cynic

2 February 2021 / by Myaah Farrell

There are two sides to ZAYN and ZAYN fandom. One sees the growth he’s made from his days in One Direction and the other sees him as a standalone adrift the masses. Luckily CJRU has the scope to see both in tandem. To read the poptimist review of ZAYN’s Nobody is Listening Click here.

ZAYN is a fine artist and Nobody is Listening is a fine album. And by fine I mean just enough to be passable without being particularly memorable. The former One Direction boy band member  has failed to make a real splash with his third solo studio album, making this album’s title more literal than ever intended. 

Nobody is Listening is an 11-track record featuring themes of love, sex, cigarettes and the  uncertainty of romance. While many artists have used these things to inspire great records,  ZAYN has incorporated them with a shallower depth. The reflective album offers a look at the singer’s anxieties and his attempt at a stripped down, non-flashy R&B album.

Contemplating the meaning of life in itself, the 28-year-old musician infiltrates most songs with a brooding and moody overtone that permeates every track. From lyrics like “My brain lives with the cannabis /can I resist the dark abyss?” to “Your cigarettes on the windowsill/you left here from the night before” it’s obvious that the Zayn is trying to convey a more mature sound. Utilizing a number of falsetto laden bridges ZAYN manages to build an album that is simultaneously intimate and distant at the same time.

 Not all is lost on the album though, with ‘When Love’s Around‘offering chilling vocals and ‘Outside”s coffee-shop-guitar, there are moments of redemption for the singer. 

Even with these more redeeming tracks the brooding boyband alum has produced a series of mediocre tracks where he has retreated to an assured set of R&B booty calls.  

The steamy track ‘Windowsill‘, offers libido laden lyrics that harp on the notion that sex sells regardless of lyrical content or quality. Featuring British rapper Devlin this track offers simple production with a cringeworthy rap verse. ‘Sweat‘ is another sex-fueled track that is only  energized by the drum fill right before its respective chorus. Finally River Road closes out the  album with a finger-picked guitar and his usual vocals. Despite this the closing track  feels lyrically disorganized, leaving listeners perplexed at what he is trying to say in the album’s final moments.  

Nobody is Listening isn’t an album big on bangers or pop mega-hits. It attempts to share its  sensibility with the likes of other guitar-centric R&B artists like H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar.  Although a valiant effort, ZAYN is only half-way there. With an equal mix of sultry ballads and sub-par tracks, the boyband legacy is still trying to find a sound that resonates.