By Ashley Oken
Zayns eagerly awaited third album, Nobodys Listening, is out today (January 15), and instead of the sprawling 90 minutes of 2018s Icarus Falls or the pop maximalism of his 2016 debut, Mind of Mine, it scales back to focus on the singers deepest thoughts, including nostalgia, sexual desire, and heartbreak. Its a tenacious yet delicate album full of stripped compositions and intimate lyrics, the kind that longtime fans need during a tumultuous time.
Teasing new music for months before the release, Zayn dropped the early singles Better in September and Vibez three months later. The former hit the Billboard Hot 100 in October, while the latter set the tone for the rest of the album to come with its neo-soul vibe. On January 12, Zayn even launched a phone line for fans to get a taste of the new collection, playing snippets of tracks for excited devotees. The finished product comprises 11 tracks that give fans a window into Zayns growth as an artist and a person, reflecting on the recent birth of his daughter and nostalgia on lead track Calamity while maintaining his mastery of sensuality on Sweat.
Within this entire album, there is a sense of maturity and clarity within the lyrical content and production style, signaling a step in a fresh direction for the former One Direction member. Urging us to slow down and take stock of what we have, this album is tender, honest, and full of passion just as our lives should be. Below, we break it down, track by track and mood by mood.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: nostalgic.
Key lyric: Can I resist the abyss? / Leave a mark on this with no start, just exist
One of the most vulnerable songs on the album is its opener. Zayn chooses to rap on the track, sedately reciting an introspective poem that gives fans a look into his life as the dad of a baby girl, his long-term relationship with Gigi Hadid, and an overview of the last 10 years of his life though he doesnt offer specifics. Listen to this the next time those 3 a.m. thoughts hit you in the middle of the night.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: contemplative.
Key lyric: Cause sometimes its better that way / Gotta let it go so your heart dont break
Singing about giving an on-off relationship a second chance over a soft beat, Zayn shows that love for someone doesnt die easily. This song will have you thinking what if when an ex-flame messages you on social media.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: apologetic.
Key lyric: I know Im not so innocent / but the love I had for you was real
With its crooning and potent lyricism, Zayn sings about a turbulent relationship in which hes devoted to his partner and hopes theyll let him back in. This acoustic-anchored song will have you thinking over that early morning fight you had with your partner.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: amorous.
Key lyric: Ive been waiting all night to get closer / And you already know I got it for ya
Over its sultry, 90s R&B-inspired beat, Zayn perfectly describes the crushing anticipation and tension that coats the room when you’re with your crush. Play this the next time youre getting ready for a virtual date with your paramour.
- When Loves Around (ft. Syd)
Listen to it when youre feeling: groovy.
Key lyric: Never feel that type of way / But I need you in my life
A team-up with singer-songwriter Syd, the song finds the duo softly singing about not feeling like love is possible until one person changes their view. Like the rest of the album, this succinct track is airy, propelled by a soft, danceable beat, and will make you think about the one person for whom you ditched the dating apps while dancing slowly around your apartment.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: lustful.
Key lyric: And I dont wanna miss out on another love / So Im gonna dive in, go headfirst into the unknown
This simple tune finds Zayn brandishing an unbelievable falsetto and the kind of bedroom guitar strums he used to make a staple of his Instagram page. Singing about a love thats passionate and spans both a digital and physical connection in the post-chorus, Zayn evokes all the emotions that accompany seeing someone you cant get enough of. Play this the next time you think of the person youre crushing on.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: sexy.
Key lyric: Dripping down your body like gold / Slowly steamin up the windows
An 80s-style power ballad rooted in dripping synth noises, Zayn gives us an addition to the Spotify sex playlist with lyrics that paint a picture of all the ways physical pleasure can make us hot. Play this the next time you want to get down with your partner.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: like a boss.
Key lyric: They said I wouldnt do shit / Now they all about my new shit
This downbeat, lightly funky, and flexing track draws parallels between Zayns life as a member of One Direction and everything that came after, calling forth his strength and ability to be unfuckwitable now that hes in control of his image and success. Play this next time you ace that work or school project.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: hot.
Key lyric: Cigarettes and fuckin on the window sill / Break the glass, go and show me how you really feel
Built like an emo-rap track, Windowsill hones in on Zayns desires namely, his promises to pleasure his lover on the countertop and every surface imaginable. Over an electronic beat, British rapper Devlin adds his own devilish details, like, And I’m sure she tempt Satan, if she ain’t the devil herself. Play this the next time you need a soundtrack for some stay-at-home, uh, adventure.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: spiritually in love.
Key lyric: Cause Im already up here and I got my eyes closed / And I aint never fell from a love this tall
Interpolating the swoon-worthy 1960 single Chaudhvin Ka Chand by Indian singer Mohammed Rafi, Zayn includes the Urdu lyrics to this acoustic-based ditty to add to this song about spiritual love. Play this song when you feel like you need to know your strength to get through a difficult time.
- Listen to it when youre feeling: hopeful.
Key lyric: Breeze outside my window turned to color / Know that I will see the sun again
This jazzy pop ballad is a gentle and tender closer to the album, giving hope for better days although we cant control the outcome of our current circumstances. Play this when you need to make sense of a strange, confusing time in your life, perhaps even now. Heres to a great year, Zayn recently tweeted. Hope [its] better than the last!