ZAYN: “Nobody Is Listening”- Should They Be?


Caption: Zayn mixes dark tracks and romantic ballads in his latest album “Nobody is Listening.” (Picture courtesy of Twitter).

Confusingly, Zayn gives one much and simultaneously nothing at all to discuss when writing about his latest album, “Nobody is Listening.” Zayn sets a somewhat dark tone for the album in its first track, titled “Calamity,” a slam poem of sorts with lines such as “My brain lives with the cannabis / Can I resist the dark abyss?” It’s a strange addition to the album, given that the rest of the songs included are relatively lovey-dovey tracks with mellow instrumentals. With steamy R&B pieces and slower crooning tracks, Zayn reaches for many different things on “Nobody is Listening” and doesn’t hold onto any of them. To be sure, the album is extremely pleasant to listen to, and I even added a few of the songs to my playlist, but there is nothing especially profound about it. 

The songs on “Nobody Is Listening” are all at relatively the same mellow pace, even if they sound slightly different. Slow, methodical and warm. “River Road” and “Tightrope” are good examples of this side of the album and perhaps my favorite tracks. Zayn demonstrates his vast falsetto time and time again, especially in “Unf***witable,” seemingly aiming for a similar sound as the Weeknd. Whether Zayn reaches that incredibly high standard is up to you to decide, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

It’s impossible to discuss this album without mentioning the unapologetically sexual songs on it, a topic Zayn has explored successfully throughout his career as he did with “PILLOWTALK.”  “Sweat” and “Windowsill” are two of the quite raunchy, but simultaneously are very catchy. It’s a welcome break from the sometimes tedious incessant crooning present on most of the other songs. They grab one’s attention in a way that much of the rest of the album does not, forcing you to internalize the lyrics. 

For those who have never liked Zayn that much, myself included, “Nobody Is Listening” will change your perspective on the former One Direction member. The soft R&B instrumentals and other relaxing tones throughout make for excellent ambient music, especially given that the lyrics don’t add much. “Calamity” is perhaps a better look inside of Zayn’s brain, but leaves us wondering how much of himself is dominated by this darkness, and how much is rescued by his love for partner Gigi Hadid. 

The cover art and even the title of the album seek to achieve a similar effect: a look into the mind of an international pop star who stepped away from one of the most popular bands of all time and has sporadically released music since then. The cover features numerous blank faces with big eyes, seemingly symbolizing the multitude of expectations that listeners have for Zayn and his curiosity about whether the blank faces would listen if he said what was really on his mind. According to the title, he thinks they wouldn’t. The sense that “Nobody Is Listening” is especially pervasive in “Calamity” wherein Zayn opens up about his fears and insecurities, followed by a repeating chorus of the words “nobody is listening.” 

Given that the album is largely self-reflective, only two of the 11 tracks feature other artists. “When Love’s Around,” a soft and slow song gains a lot from Syd, former Odd Future member, while Devlin’s verse on “Windowsill” is an unwelcome addition. With Devlin and “Windowsill” it seems as though Zayn is reaching for a “PILLOWTALK”-esque hit, but largely misses the mark. It’s a recurring theme in “Nobody Is Listening,” as there is no distinct commitment to one type of music, as Zayn seeks to find the sound that suits him best. Make no mistake, there are several songs on the album that are quite good. Falsettos come out of nowhere to meet one’s ears, and soft, drawn-out beats make a lazy day in bed seem like the only option. Thus, if you find yourself searching for some new music this week, “Nobody Is Listening” is certainly worth some of your time.