“PILLOWTALK” Track Review
Released January 29, 2016
Genre: R&B, Downtempo
Zayn Malik, former member of the infamously derivative boy band sensation One Direction, completely takes me by surprise with his first solo single. Since leaving One Direction, Zayn has dropped his last name – garishly stylized as “ZAYN” – and hasn’t shifted far from love long/torn romantic lyricism that has resonated so deeply in cheap emotions of young teenage fans everywhere. However, “Pillowtalk” is a different change of pace for the singer/songwriter. While the downtempo R&B instrumentation is rudimentary at best, it’s handled with great grace and care. Zayn’s voice is crystal clear but with some subtle vocal strains, a FANTASTIC departure from the super duper polished and clean bastardizations that have corrupted and skewed so many vocal performances of pop musicians (Justin Bieber, One Direction, Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes [cringe], Halsey, etc).
Long story short: it’s not boring, bland, or uninspired! There’s some unexpected nuance and passion within his voice and combined with the urgency and evocative instrumentation, ZAYN (please change this man) has me anticipating what he has to offer next. Not going to say that this is “Best of 2016” stuff (time will tell), but I won’t deny the countless replays of this song I’ve had and the shattered expectations that I was rewarded with. If only pop artists now can take that big risk and step in their music careers, without holding the hands of and smothering their fans with cheap and insignificant album after album, then pop music can surely climb its way back into the importance and relevancy of our culture, in a deeper and meaningful way. For now, listen to this and hope change can come quick.