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Zayn Malik ‘Room Under The Stairs’ review: A new direction for One Direction star

Yeehaw! Country music is the order of the day on Zayn Malik's latest, but it fits him like the snuggest of cowboy hats...

4.0 rating

By Nick Reilly


When initial details began to trickle out about Zayn Malik’s new album, one of the biggest talking points was the fact that he’d chosen to work with producer Dave Cobb, a man not necessarily known for crafting the sultry, pop-infused R&B that has largely defined the former One Direction star’s solo career.

Instead, Cobb is best known for producing Americana heavyweights such as Chris Stapleton and the late John Prine, delivering a not-so-subtle clue as to the surprising left turn that Malik was about to take with his music.

To his credit, this newfound country change suits him incredibly well. Directly inspired by Malik’s move to rural Pennsylvania after a tumultuous time in his personal life, it’s a record that delivers some of the most gorgeous songs of his solo career so far. There are elements of whisky-soaked country greatness throughout, but impressive too is the ability of each song to let his vocals — he was always the strongest singer in One Direction after all — truly soar. “I’ve been dreamin, feelin this way,” he softly croons on opener ‘Dreamin’’, its chorus buoyed by subtle, guitar-driven funk.

It’s interesting to note that Cobb came on board at a stage when Malik had almost finished a rawer cut by himself, suggesting that this was the place where he was truly meant to be.

I’ve been feeling alienated / On my spaceship alone,” he offers on the raw and often stunning, soul- flecked ‘Alienated’. By mining his personal pain — and heading in a country direction — Malik proves he’s still capable of greatness. His first-ever solo show in London takes place tonight and sense that — after something of a muted start — true solo stardom could be on the horizon.