In 2015 One Direction fans got the shock of their lives when member Zayn Malik announced his exit from one of world’s biggest boy bands. Expressing a desire for a more normal lifestyle in his exit statement, fans were unsure if Malik would ever release music again. What the announcement turned out to be was a coverup for Malik’s wishes to break free from the hamster wheel of teenage pop and drop music that was true to him. What fans received was not only a bashing his former bandmates in interviews, but a solo album that sounded completely authentic and represented Malik in a new light, writing songs centered around the R&B influences he hid for the duration of his time with One Direction. Released at the beginning of 2016, Mind of Mine allowed Malik to make mistakes, while getting his feet wet in new territory.
While he didn’t tour the album due to mounting anxiety (he cancelled several appearances that were meant to promote the record,) Malik is now back with a new record titled Icarus Falls. Now going only by his first name, Zayn has released his most ambitious album yet, despite it only being his second. At an hour and half long with 27 songs, Zayn discusses everything that has happened to him throughout the past two years. While the album at times feels far reaching, Icarus Falls includes some of the best R&B songs of the last few years.
Opening with “Let Me,” Zayn begins his descent into his new smooth sound, pleasing his new legion of fans, while keeping his old fan base at a close distance. On “Let Me,” we hear Zayn becoming comfortably artistic, taking more care with his overall sound then on Mind of Mine, which sounded more hurried and rushed, than something you could ease into.
Tracks such as “Flight of the Stars,” demonstrates Malik’s flawless vocal ability, which made him a standout in One Direction, and while he claimed at one point, that hours of vocal editing stripped his voice to something that sounded generic on the boy band’s records, on “Flight of the Stars,” Zayn sounds the best he has in the eight years he’s been on stage, careful to show off his abilities without an ego.
“Entertainer,” one of the first single’s that Zayn debuted earlier this year, was the first nod that something epic was up in Zayn’s camp. With vocals that sooth, while being backed by a calming piano line, “Entertainer,” is one of the most memorable tracks on Icarus Falls. “Good Years,” was also one of the LP’s promotional singles, released just a few weeks ago. Rumored to be about his time in One Direction, vocally it’s another banger for Malik, tinged with possible regret as his days with the British-Irish foursome were some of his biggest yet.
Ending the record with collaborations with Nicki Minaj on “No Candle No Light” and Timbaland on “Too Much,” Zayn has reached a point in his career where he is finally writing solid R&B tunes, and while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the talent definitely shines through, and Zayn makes it clear that his good years are far from over.
Watch the music video for “Entertainer” below.