With fans begging for a new album to be released for over three years now, Zayn finally dropped his sophomore album, Icarus Falls. Not only did fans get one album, but essentially two with a twenty-seven song track list. Like Mind of Mine, Zayn sings falsetto ballads, along with chilled out, moody tunes. In this album, he is much more open and vulnerable, detailing his struggles with the light and dark of relationships, drugs and alcohol, and we even get more of glimpse of how his relationship is with the boys of One Direction today. (Hint: not so great from what it sounds like). With an album as long as this one, it would be easy for it to get messy and unorganized, but Zayn easily navigates through what has been going through his mind these past years.
The first half of the album is about the upsides to a relationship, and how love conquers all in the end. With songs like “Natural,” “Back to Life,” “Common,” and “Flight of the Stars,” the need of love and feeling a love like never before is prominent. “Natural” describes a love that feels like second nature, and natural like a “force of nature” as he serenades. He shows off his falsetto-as we all know he can do flawlessly. At the end he repeats, “like a hurricane,” to show just how strong the love is in his relationship. It’s a mid-tempo song, like most of Zayn’s music, but could also be a single played on pop radio.
“Back to Life,” brings us into the world of Zayn’s possible dependency on drugs and alcohol at one point in time. The song begins as an echo and the first couple lines we hear Zayn sing are “What if I changed my mind?/ What if I said it’s over? I been flying for too long/ Can’t remember what it’s like to be sober,” which is a nerve wracking, scary way to open a song. But in the pre-chorus and chorus, he says the only one that’s on his side no matter what, and gives him oxygen when it’s hard to breathe, is the person he’s in a relationship with (Gigi? Probably.). This is one of the more upbeat, pop songs on the album, and even though it comes early on, it’s nice to know that when put on shuffle, there’s still an all out dance number in there.
Back to the classic moody beats Zayn presents, “Common” is lyrically one of the best songs on the album. It’s sweet and sentimental, saying he’s never felt love like the love he feels now. He also sings about the perfection in imperfections and how in the cruel we live in, he feels safe in his love, and there is nothing “common” about it. It’s something he’s never experienced before.
“Flight of the Stars” is different in the sense that the beginning starts off completely acapella. This song shows off his lower register. Fans are always left speechless when he hits the high notes he’s been known for since his One Direction days, but this is just as smooth and impressive. “Flight of the Stars,” is another sweet sentiment to his love, and also to himself. He says he’ll follow her wherever she goes as long as she loves him the same. But there is also a line he kind of snuck in there in the beginning of the second verse singing, “I been feeling like I deserve somebody.” It could be taken as he’s been through enough, and knows his self worth enough to be able to say he deserves a good relationship in his life.
Before starting the second half of the album, there is the “Icarus Interlude,” getting listeners ready for the sadder, darker part of the album. The songs aren’t lovey-dovey and sentimental, but instead his feelings on how the media perceives him, lost love, and possibly a lost brotherhood.
“Icarus Interlude,” isn’t a traditional minute in a half long instrumental, or a voicemail recording like many interludes are. Instead it’s four minutes long and has a full set of lyrics. He compares himself to Icarus, meaning he may have lost his way a bit in the celebrity world. He had the world at his fingertips when he was in One Direction, and lost a lot of that momentum once he left. He’s realizing, for his own well being that he needs to keep his circle small and his head on straight. The last verse repeats “I’ve been lying to the liars.” This is ambiguous and poses many questions: What is he lying about? Who are the liars? Why is he lying to them? It could be the media and how he played into the “mysterious” one in the band for so long, or many other things fans aren’t privy to.
Moving into the second half of the album, we learn Zayn is becoming more self actualized, rather than blaming others for his own issues. “Good Guy” comes right after “Icarus Interlude.” It’s a complete 180 from the “your flaws are beautiful,” and “we belong together forever,” Zayn. He is quite literally saying he’s a bad person and people should keep away. It could also be Zayn giving into the way people think he is from reading articles and interviews about him. The music is haunting, and a little terrifying imagining a shell of man walking around telling people to stay away from the horrible person he thinks he is.
It’s also saddening to hear Zayn belt out his thoughts about wasting his youth and broken friendships in “Good Years” and then again in “Fresh Air.” “Good Years” washes away the facade of a five member One Direction reunion any time soon. Zayn clearly blames himself, the other boys, and drugs and alcohol for being unable to resolve any problems. Hearing Zayn sing about how he wished he was anywhere other than with One Direction and wasted away his “good years,” is a Directioner’s worst nightmare come true. Through the sadness, though he sounds phenomenal and listeners can truly feel is pain. We learn later in a short, straight to the point track, “Fresh Air” that ultimately, there were just too many differences that caused the demise of a friendship.
Going back Zayn feeling manipulated and controlled during his time in One Direction, “Scripted” sort of deals with that. This song causes sort of a stirring feeling with the echoey background music, and Zayn teasing us by almost saying that things he’s had to do in the past were publicity stunts, but he won’t say what. The song is dream like and gets you thinking, so what’s real and what’s fake? We’ll never know according to Zayn.
“Satisfaction” is one the songs that details a loss of love. It sounds like this was written during his short break up from girlfriend, Gigi Hadid. This ballad wrenches your heart by saying there is love there, but life was in their way. He can’t find any satisfaction or fulfillment in life being alone. Zayn’s voice is soft in this song, with no major key changes or crazy techno beats, but we can still feel his sorrow in this song as well.
Even though fans had to wait so long for the release of Icarus Falls, it was well worth the wait. It’s safe to say that this album was a journey from start to finish. From the album, Zayn’s audience will have a better sense of him as person, and who he wants to known as. Looking back, it seems like Mind of Mine was released so quickly, and seemed so unorganized because he felt like he needed to release it in order to stay relevant and not just become another washed up, former boybander. That wasn’t really proven then. Only true Zayn fans were by his side then, but this album will broaden his demographic from young girls, to possibly young men as well. There is no shortage of high notes, R&B synth sounds, or carefully written lyrics. The artist that Zayn is and has always wanted to be shines through in every song. He established himself well with Icarus Falls, proving his craft and that he’s around for the long haul.