Nobody Is Listening
2021 • POP • RCA
The latest release from the former member of One Direction only serves to show two things: his life remains uninteresting enough for his songs to be just about sex and that his creativity is in decline.
When you compare Zayn’s first two albums, you can see something very peculiar. Although the two albums of former member of One Direction are relatively similar, his second album, Icarus Falls, presents a great decline from his debut. While in Mind of Mine, the English singer showed himself as one of the biggest bets of the next years with his sexiest lyrics — compared to the material produced in One Direction — and less sober beats, in his next project he seems to have been lost, delivering almost an hour and a half of short and tight songs that, in general, said the same thing over the same beats — not even the ambitious concept ended up saving. Now, in the sixth year of his solo career, Zayn releases his third album, Nobody Is Listening, which only intensifies the feeling that Zayn is in a non-stop artistic decline.
At first glance, Nobody Is Listening proves to be an improvement over Icarus Falls. While Zayn’s last album contained 27 songs, an hour and a half, of banal and superficial lyrics and generic instrumentals, Nobody Is Listening is short, tight, and is not exceeding any barriers. In other words, it is aware of itself and how far it can go without becoming something almost unbearable to hear. However, it becomes a lie when we look at the album more closely. The set of 11 songs is full of simple instrumentation and lyrics with no ambition, both of which rarely try or think of leaving the comfort zone. Thus, while Icarus Falls seems to be trying to do something different, Nobody Is Listening doesn’t even bother to go beyond generic beats and lyrics that tell uninteresting details about Zayn’s sexual and love life.
The vast majority of Nobody Is Listening‘s songs follow the same pattern seen in Icarus Falls: short three-minute songs with the same standard structure. Again, we have the feeling that Zayn is playing with what is easy and accurate and not with what is harder and different. The best example of this can be seen in the single “Vibez,” which has very silly lyrics and an instrumental that seems to have come from a sample store for videos on YouTube. Likewise, “Better” is just another boring and monotonous piece in the middle of the album while “Connexion” seems like a very poorly organized mix of different trends that don’t talk to each other — the thin vocals before the chorus ended it all.
However, this does not mean that the album does not have some enjoyable tracks. While “Outside” carries a greater vulnerability in the lyrics and a catchy hook, “Windowsill,” with Devlin, proves to be a good duet with a good delivery from both singers — especially Zayn who, for the first time since “Pillowtalk,” does not sound tacky while talking about sex. However, the best moment on the album is the track “Sweat,” where Zayn describes a relationship as a drug that gets him high. What draws the most attention is the chorus where all the instrumentals and Zayn’s vocals — which reaches its highest point here — deliver this kind of epic and timeless sound. Although these are still generic and basic, they are not as forgettable as the others, which, in a way, ended up being a positive point here.
Finally, some tracks show the biggest album mistake: laziness. Several moments we can see tracks that had potential if they had received a greater treatment or a more attentive look. Just like in “When Love’s Around,” with Syd, and its poor mixture of both singers, or as in “Tightrope” and “River Road” which, although relatively good, appear very late and end up being overshadowed by the tiredness of listening to all the other songs. On the first track of the album, Zayn sings that no one is listening to him. Well, it’s hard for anyone to really hear what a normal 22-year-old guy has to say, especially if it’s not something interesting.