Like most fans of ZAYN, I was eagerly anticipating the release of his next album after hearing singles ‘Entertainer’, ‘Too Much’, ‘Sour Diesel’ and ‘Let Me’. Released in 2016, his first album Mind of Mine was popular, with ‘Pillowtalk’ being the biggest hit, establishing Malik as an independent artist after his breakaway from British boyband, One Direction. After a two-year wait, ZAYN has returned with 27-song album Icarus Falls, just beating Drake’s astonishing 25 tracks in Scorpion. With the album’s singles demonstrating variety beyond the usual melancholic, instrumental-driven love songs, I didn’t know what to expect from this album.
As a fan of classical Greek myths myself, I couldn’t help but fall in love with ZAYN’s choice for his album name Icarus Falls. The story of Icarus is a famous myth about a mortal who makes himself wings and attempts to fly like Gods. But his wings fail him once he flies to close to the sun, melting the wax holding them together. I’m not sure what ZAYN’s ‘fall’ is but the album looks at his encounter with love – most of the songs are about a woman.
One thing I have to credit Malik with is that all of his songs are very well written. The lyrics capture his mood and display poetic style when he describes the woman of his fantasy, nature or what he feels inside. I really liked the fact that the music was quite atmospheric, particularly songs like the beautifully composed ‘Stand Still’. He has kept the slow, melancholic vibe throughout the album (not a huge surprise) and it works. I would pair this album up with Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life with the reference to an inclination that the artists come from space as seen in ‘If I Got You’ by ZAYN as well as the general atmospheric, romantic longing for a significant other. I would also say The Weeknd’s My Dear Melancholy shares a similar mood. Here’s a song-by-song review.
- ‘Let Me’: This is all about how he wants to be her man and not just have a temporary thing with her. It’s slow, romantic and upbeat.
- ‘Natural’: He talks about how it feels natural when they’re together and not forced. It’s another slow one but this time it’s sexier with good vocal range and pitch.
- ‘Back to Life’: This is all about a girl who is there for him no matter how reckless he is. It includes some nice classical Indian tones.
- ‘Common’: This one is all about how the thing between him and this girl is special. It’s romantic, has some nice piano and is catchy but can feel dull and repetitive at times.
- ‘Imprint’: This one has a different vibe but it’s still slow and romantic. He wants this girl to come back to him and is done with the others. It feels like another unnecessary addition to this album.
- ‘Stand Still’: If the world was to stand still, he would find himself moving towards her. This one I liked. It has a good opening and was very atmospheric with nice background music.
- ‘Tonight’: He pleads with a girl to love him like it’s the last time. It’s another slow, romantic piece but I don’t think it adds much.
- ‘Flight of Stars’: After some questionable choices, this song lifts the album. It keeps it all interesting and has a good bass which moves the song along to reach some good vocals. He talks about how he really wants this girl and can’t live without her. It’s one of the better songs on the album.
- ‘If I Got You’: This is another good one – it changes the album up. It has a good introduction and doesn’t disappoint. This is the one that has that Lana Del Rey “I’m from space” mood. Essentially, he wants to travel the universe with this girl.
- ‘Talk to Me’: If you like Drake, you’ll probably like this one. It’s much more upbeat but of course, it’s ZAYN so it needs to be romantic too.
- ‘There You Are’: This is a song about how this girl is able to be his rock. He looks to her for support when times are hard. It has nice guitar work, seems more thought-out with a strong chorus.
- ‘I Don’t Mind’: This one is upbeat but I wouldn’t say it’s anything special. Probably another one he could have skipped putting in the album. It’s not a bad listen but it’s not exciting.
- ‘Icarus Interlude’: This is the one that explains the title of the album and how ZAYN also wants to be a legend but getting there isn’t always morally good. There are very nice vocals and much like his previous interlude in Mind of Mine, there are nice classical Indian tones here. It’s a deep piece and fits nicely.
- ‘Good Guy’: If you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films (as I am), this will be your song on the album. It is the most gripping and cinematic song on the album with the inclusion of Nancy Sinatra style ‘Bang Bang’ vocals and a Kill Bill flute solo at the end. ZAYN is embodying the ‘bad guy’ and talks about how he still wants her by his side regardless.
- ‘You Wish You Knew’: This one is something you can dance to but after hearing ‘Good Guy’, the mood is kind of ruined by this.
- ‘Sour Diesel’: I really don’t know what to say about this except for the fact that I believe ZAYN must have been feeling very experimental as this is a completely different vibe that lends itself more to old school Funk than his usual style.
- ‘Satisfaction’: This song is probably fairly personal as ZAYN talks about how no one was able to guide him for this kind of life and how hard it is to know what is right. Whilst it begins dramatically, the mood is mellowed out.
- ‘Scripted’: This is a nice song about how he thinks love isn’t real anymore, it feels scripted. We get this sentiment through the music too which includes radio-talk and a range of background music to vary the piece as if we were on a TV set.
- ‘Entertainer’: No one can fool ZAYN and he makes that clear in this song. It is catchy, has a good beat and great build-up to the chorus.
- ‘All That’: The pace of this one felt off. The vocals also aren’t as good as in his other songs and this is another one that I think didn’t add much.
- ‘Good Years’: ZAYN definitely stretches his vocal range in this one which is interesting but the Pop-tone of this makes me think it would be better suited to someone like Nate Ruess. However, the message of the song seems to be more personal so maybe ZAYN needs to be the one to sing it.
- ‘Fresh Air’: Another Drake-sounding one. ZAYN feels pressured and wants to escape. It does have some nice background music though.
- ‘Rainberry’: ZAYN is asking a woman if there is someone else. I found this song was dull and seemed to be sung in a Justin Timberlake style which didn’t really reflect ZAYN.
- ‘Insomnia’: I liked the guitar and it was certainly atmospheric until you get to the beat which seemed to take something away from the song and made it go from good to average.
- ‘No Candle, No Light’ (ft. Nicki Minaj): This one is great for dancing as it’s upbeat and Nicki pairs well with ZAYN to make for a good hit.
- ‘Fingers’: ZAYN is telling a girl that he can come and love her but by now there are one too many slow songs and, although this is catchy in places, I wasn’t really a fan.
- ‘Too Much’ (ft. Timberland): Timberland’s notorious layering and good beats are present here with a catchy chorus and overall nice composition. A decent one.
The good songs are good. He displays his usual great vocal range, includes nice instrumental music to create the right atmosphere, he has kept his style constant and his lyrics are very strong. However, that being said, a lot of his songs probably didn’t need to make the final album because they’re so similar. I reckon he could have halved the number of songs and ended up with a very strong track list that would have appealed to most listeners. Sometimes less is more. I do think Icarus Falls is a good album and I do have my favourites so I would say it’s worth a listen if you’re a fan of either ZAYN or anything cinematic, romantic and deep.