Zayn Malik’s Nobody is Listening was released on 15 January 2021. It’s Zayn’s third studio album. R&B is mellow and easy to listen to. Streaming in Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music
First of all, Welcome to the 30s, Zayn!
Upon release, Nobody Is Listening received generally favourable reviews from critics; the album peaked at 44 on the US Billboard 200 and 17 on the UK Albums Chart.
“It is a shame if Zayn Malik actually believes Nobody Is Listening because they should be.
Since departing One Direction in 2015, the comparatively low-profile British Pakistani singer has steadily delivered high-concept pop albums that take risks, bear emotions and defy expectations.
Mind of Mine transformed fluorescent, Frank Ocean-inspired R&B into a hazy after-hours head trip, and the heavily loaded Icarus Falls made intimate love songs into mythic voyages.
Here, on his third solo LP, he finally realizes his full potential as a shape-shifting pop auteur, dialling the production way up and finetuning his falsetto so that it melts into every bar.
Malikʼs past projects have drawn comparisons to big-budget R&B/pop stars like Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber, but this album feels against the grain and quietly experimental, as if he spent most of the lockdown vibing to The 1975 and Daniel Caesar.
Whatever he has been absorbing is working: The songs here are glossy without being obvious, and as a vocalist, he never sounded so dazzling and bold. Sonically, he manages to cover some serious ground.
The introspective poetry of “Calamity” bounces right into “Better,” a hopeful soul-pop tune that would make John Legend proud.
And Malikʼs hushed, coy delivery on “When Loveʼs Around,” a fluttery duet with Syd from The Internet, is quickly outshined by his whinnies and howls on the belt-it-out ballad “Connexion”.
But the production—playful and unexpected—is especially fun: “River Road” is stripped back like a barroom acoustic cut, while the megawatt “Sweat” picks right up where Phil Collinsʼ “In the Air Tonight” left off”
Zayn kicks off his third solo album wondering, as its title indicates, if anybody is listening to him.
And as you might guess, he’s pretty sure nobody is: “My brain lives with the cannabis/Can I resist the dark abyss?” he offers on “Calamity,” a silly spoken-word poem in which the ex-One Direction member turned solo hitmaker sounds like a teenage stoner.
Malik has a point. It’s been more than two years since his last album, Icarus Falls, an aptly titled 27-track follow-up to his much-sleeker 2016 debut, Mind of Mine. Both LPs left listeners with more questions than answers about what Malik wanted out of his post-1D career: chart-topping success or the kind of musical honesty that can lead to 27-song records named after figures from Greek mythology.
Despite its brooding introduction, Nobody Is Listening shows both restraint and growth from a new dad who just turned 28, even if the songs seem more reflective of his relationship with ex partner Gigi Hadid than of his journey into fatherhood. Given Malik’s R&B-crooner ambitions, it’s good he can sing the hell out of a love song.
The smooth lead single, “Better,” is a sweet, intimate portrait of second chances that sets the tone for the coffee-shop-guitar sound of the LP.
“Outside” sees him tenderly begging for forgiveness, while the falsetto-laden “Connexion” is Malik confirming that he’s ready to “go head first into the unknown.”
Featuring chill vocals from neo-soul singer Syd, the breezy “When Loves Around” has Malik hinting at the possibility of marriage while showing off how well he works with the right duet partner.
There are still some moments of irrepressibly horny R&B, recalling Mind of Mine. “Windowsill” is both the dirtiest and catchiest song on the album — much better than the diluted “Sweat,” though that song’s “In the Air Tonight” drum fill right before the chorus gives it some much-needed energy.
The record reaches its peak with the one-two punch of “Tightrope” and “River Road,” delicate closing statements and two of Malik’s best songs to date.
The former is an inspired love song that finds power in its simplicity, with the singer drawing meaning out of the repeated phrase “Something told me it was you.”
“River Road” encroaches on Leon Bridges’ retro-soul territory as Malik sings hopefully about his future, delivering the most sobering vocal performance on a largely subdued bedroom project.
If he really thinks nobody is listening, that’s fine by him; there’s only one person he has in mind anyway, and there’s nothing more honest in pop music than that.
Zayn Malik wanted to leave behind his image of a boyband and wanted to have total control of his music; one of the things he hated most about One Direction was the fact, in his own word, the music was generic as fuck.
I mean, is pop music, that’s pretty much the definition of pop music, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. I think the music of one direction is going to become classic in the future, and Zayn was part of it.
He recently posted an IG video singing “Night Changes” from album 4, the last album Zayn recorded in the band.
All Zayn’s music till this album, in my opinion, wasn’t that much different from 1D, except more R&B, but his biggest Hits, “Pillow Talk”, “I don’t want to live forever,” and “Dust till down” sound pop and generic as fuck as he said it. Until this album, I can hear more experimental, stepping away from pop and not doing generic R&B.
His first track, “Calamity,” including his “rap” introduction, is actually really good. You can almost “see” Zayn smoking weed as he says the line: “My brain lives with cannabis. Can I resist the dark abyss?”
Adele twitted once the album was released that she couldn’t stop listening to it.
I can’t say I got the same effect, but it definitely was one of my favourite albums of 2021, and it is a great album to stream when you want to chill. Streaming on Apple Music, Spotify and Youtube Music.
If you want to own a CD Version of Zayn’s album, click here
Check out the blog about the Soundtrack of “Legends of the Fall” by James Horner.