Album Review

Zayn - Room Under the Stairs

Admirable in its emotional mining, but left wanting for just a little more Zayn sparkle.

Zayn - Room Under the Stairs

On fourth record ‘Room Under the Stairs’, Zayn ditches his infamous boyband persona of mystery, fourteen years in the making - in service of a “raw, honest” entry. And apparently inspired by the pastures of rural Pennsylvania, where quietened celebrity, newfound parenthood and heightened rumination has ushered in dusky songwriting, ‘Room Under the Stairs’ starts strong. Soulful resolve solidifies the diversity of his angelic singing chops across ‘Grateful’, ‘Alienated’ and ‘My Woman’, while country pop ode ‘Stardust’ has enough emotion to choke the hardest of hearts - and such romantic infatuation with his new, golden locale is more than persuasive, making richer a usually unpopular swerve to stripped-back pop. Indie rock cut ‘Gates of Hell’ is certainly inspired, if not paint-by-numbers, while later, possessed by the spirit of soft-rock Americana, an odd American twang overcomes the singer, suggesting a seedling desire to step outside the box, albeit prematurely hatched, in resistance to his R&B roots. But those longstanding sensibilities can’t help but creep back in - see the soft-pop of ‘What I Am’; the long falsettos of ‘False Starts’; the trickling, buttery vocals of ‘Something in the Water’; or even the strange, confused combination of soft-rock and R&B on ‘Fuchsia Sea’ — that, by the record’s end, start to feel missed. Zayn’s fourth is admirable in its emotional mining, is rich in execution and soul, and indeed his brain-scratching melodic riffs will have die-hard fans blushing - but even on this, what we’re told is his ‘most vulnerable’ release, the treading of the long-trodden, stripped-back, ex-boyband desire path leaves the record wanting for just a little more Zayn sparkle.

Tags: ZAYN, Reviews, Album Reviews

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