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The Earliest Bird: The Top Release 1-15-21 – 1-21-20, Zayn’s “Nobody Is Listening,” Reviewed

The poster boy for world music, Zayn Malik, is the  One Direction with roots in Pakistan (his father is British-Pakistani). He was the first 1D to leave the band, and though his solo career (two albums, a handful of hits including the smash 50 Shades Darker Taylor Swift duet), hasn’t been a disaster, Zayn was still hurt by a stage fright so overpowering he wouldn’t tour behind his albums.

Zayn had the best voice in 1D but he was moody, even petulant, and there was a sense of pent up anger and hurt over slights both imaginary and true. The first solo album was a smash hit in 2016, the follow up in 2018 was a stiff, and the latest album, Nobody Is Listening, dropped today. It is good, though sometimes it sounds like a man having a CDC enthused shot of paranoia.

Nobody Is Listening is modern pop with an r&b bent as shown by The Internet’s Syd on “When Love’s Around,” it isn’t what you think of as hyper-pop but its sensibility is singer songwriter pure pop, Zayn sings with a wide ranging voice that handles falsetto with ease and gives “Outside” another dimension. The sound is digital all the way, the production hip hop, and the songs all exquisite, and when Zayn writes (cowriters but then everything is co-writes in 2021) the right song, “Tightrope” is one of his very best efforts, and the final track “River Road” is a bass driven and strummed confessional, “Call you my lover, drinks to my liver
I cried now a river full of tears…”

Zayn’s best album to date is pure electronic pop but it isn’t light hearted, and while misery loves company, it isn’t really fun. The spoken word, perhaps I mean rap, on opening track “Calamity” doesn’t happen, and the tunes are not great (for the most part). Still as a soundtrack to sorrow it is a fine accomplishment.

Grade: B+

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