The World’s Crush, ZAYN, Releases New Album “Room Under The Stairs” – Our Top 5 Picks!

There aren’t many people on our planet who we can say are universally loved. But, oh, we have one. He’s the apple of Gen Z’s eyes (being our eye candy as we grew up lusting after his sexiness and falling for his magnificent voice that shaped our childhood), our crush, and our first love. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Zayn Malik. Now going by ZAYN, he’s just returned with his first album since 2021, with a humble name that perfectly embodies his low-key and secluded life away from the glitz and glamour – Room Under The Stairs.


ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS vinyl & CD signed by ZAYN now available for pre-order! 🎶 🪜

♬ original sound – Zayn

ZAYN has made his mark in the world of boybands with his irreplaceable presence in one of the biggest ones in the world, One Direction, and as a soloist, owning the R&B genre. But his newest release is a far cry from the heavy R&B tracks infused with elements of dance and EDM, with sick production that made the songs emotionally heavy but also great jams. We’re in a new era of ZAYN, an era that he finally feels comfortable enough to share with the world despite the horrible obstacles he’s faced in his journey. And we welcome him with open arms.

Room Under The Stairs is his fourth studio album, which has been in the works for about six years. It was created in his home studio in rural Pennsylvania, recorded in Georgia, and co-produced by the Nashville-based Dave Cobb. You see, the producer isn’t exactly known for the kind of tracks we’ve initially heard and loved from ZAYN, like his other sultry hits exploding with R&B and pop like PILLOWTALK, Dusk Till Dawn, and Good Years. Instead, he’s best known for his work with country and Americana big-names like Chris Stapleton. 

That’s how you know this album is vastly different from anything we’ve heard ZAYN do, but it’s also the most raw and personal look into how he’s been. Owing to his anxiety stemming from his experiences in his early career, ZAYN has been living a quiet life. This album allows us a little peek into how he’s been and what he’s like now. After all, we all grew up with him, and we’re aching to know whether the voice that comforted us all these years has finally found his own. 

It seems that 2024 has been a fantastic year for music, with icons that have shaped our playlists coming back to claim thrones that are rightfully theirs, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Billie Eilish, whose album we’ve also reviewed, and of which the release coincides with ZAYN! Today, we dive into the 15-track gift that is Room Under The Stairs

We’ve listened to it from beginning to end, chosen our top five favourites of the album, and concluded with our thoughts on the rest of the tracks and the album as a whole. Picking five favourites was tough, so tough that I dare not rank these five tracks. They’re listed here in the order they appear in the album, along with what I think is the perfect mood for you to listen to them, a little something we’re bringing back from our review of Olivia Rodrigo’s album, GUTS. Here they are!

What I Am

This track gives us our first glimpse into how ZAYN is doing, and I love what we’re hearing: “Don’t take me for what I’m sayin’, Just take me for what I am”. We’re hearing that ZAYN has finally been able to love himself and accept himself for who he is, and he’s now waiting for someone to do the same. In an album that we already predict will be filled with gloom and sadness, this positive message that encourages self-love is such an inspiring one.

Adorned in an adult contemporary genre, the instrumentation here is very upbeat and feel-good, echoing the self-acceptance that ZAYN has finally learned to have himself, reinforcing the narrative the lyrics tell. The cherry on top of this track is the gorgeous vocal runs in the background. Being significantly softer than the verses, it’s a pleasant and subtle addition that threatens to slip out of notice. But being a ZAYN fangirl has trained me to hear them anytime, anywhere. It’s a beautiful twist to the track that only the Zayn Malik can deliver.

When to listen: This is perfect for a shower concert! It empowers you as you start your day, making sure you know what you’re worth. It also gives you the perfect chance to feel like a star, as if you’re singing a sold-out night at Wembley Stadium, something we know ZAYN will do one day, too.

My Woman

Hold up, are you hearing these vocals? They’re drop-dead beautiful, hitting you as soon as the song starts and delivering the best shock to the heart and ears. The layers of vocals in the chorus leave your mouth hanging agape. Every time I listen to the chorus, I tune in and focus on a new layer of vocals that fills me with appreciation for the human body of the vocal icon that is ZAYN. 

The lyrics spotlight a woman the protagonist thought he loved, only for it all to be an illusion, and he’s mourning what it was, or rather, what it never was. He longs for solitude to confront these heavy emotions, wanting to yield to the intensity of his sentiments. He is embracing authenticity over restraint, a truth we see also shaping this album. The laid-back instrumental here suits the vocal prowess and raw emotion dripping from his voice and the lyrics, which makes this song one that perfectly represents who ZAYN really is.

When to listen: When you’re unoccupied and can afford a distraction or ten, because every time you hear this song, you will be delivered an amazing shock to your ears with ZAYN’s vocals. 


ZAYN says, “Stardust is the love on the album.”. It’s the dash of sunshine, the splash of love, and the colourful track of the album. It sounds so dreamy, like a fairytale coming true as snow (or stardust!) falls from the sky, wrapping you and your lover up in the warm embrace of love. It’s a song that makes you smile. It’s impossible to hate this one. It’s a song where we see the hopeless romantic in ZAYN pop off!

Lyrically, it truly sounds like a dream love story one would have sitting in a room under the stars. It’s an innocent, straightforward, happy little dream. Nothing complicated like the feeling of being surprised by a thousand roses, having your name adorned in the sky as fireworks or standing atop a skyscraper screaming your love for each other. It’s a simple little love story that’s just as powerful and moving as any other. With the beautiful touches of vocals layered by the vocal superstar, the song is soothing and peaceful, giving you so much hope.

When to listen: I’d listen to this one when I need to believe in love; when I’m failed by the cruelties of the world (and men), I’d listen to this and feel my own little happiness and serenity, basking in the hope that ZAYN delivers, making us all believe that we’ll all get this love.

The Time

The instrumentation here is a breath of fresh air in the album, with the upbeat drums and bass spicing up the beat and reminding us a little more of the ZAYN sound we love. With the instrumental and country-esque vocals, ZAYN reflects on how much he values time and the precious time he spends with the person he loves, realising that love is more important than fleeting superficialities like fame and glamour, which he once had and let go of. 

He delves into themes of personal growth, time, and regret with these evocative lyrics that we can imagine are an introspective peek into his life, living under wraps in a metaphorical room under the stairs. With lyrics like “Never fell for the fame thing” and “Feedin’ families, forget the fame, I’m doing it now for a second name”, he shows that he wants to prioritise the wellbeing of his family, especially now that he has a child (with his on-and-off girlfriend Gigi Hadid, who broke up for good in 2021), now wanting to create a lasting legacy over temporary fame.

When to listen: This one’s got to be a theme song for your conversations and thoughts about existentialism that hit in the darkest hours of the night. It’s a song that reminds you about the preciousness of time, picking you up from your midnight existential crisis. 

Fuchsia Sea

In the album closer, we’re back to hearing the sound of ZAYN we all love, with relatively more of the intense production and instrumentation we love and miss hearing on him. It’s also so perfect for this song, which conveys how he’s sick of the pain and grey the breakup and losing love brought into his life that he wants the vividness and the wilderness of a fuchsia sea. This desire for more colour and flow in his life is echoed by the soft-rock genre and instrumental, making this such a well-packaged song.

Sonically, the song is impressive. Lyrically, the song threatens to place me at the brink of tears as we hear ZAYN’s most profound revelations about the life he’s been living – “I saw the flame, and still walked through it”, “How can you break when you’re broken to begin with?” and the painful intro confessing that he’s sick and tired of the pain and grey. And vocally? He proves that he is the vocal killer he is, with the vocals running in the bridge that sends me straight to heaven every time I hear them. Jaw-droppingly beautiful. Oh, the things I’d do to listen to this live!

When to listen: This is for a little dance party when you want to look and feel like a rockstar. This is when you let those sultry dance moves come out. This is for that hot girl moment after a mental breakdown because we all know you need to dance it out after every cry!

The rest of the album

Did you think I was done? Absolutely not! We’ve literally only nicked the tip of the iceberg, merely five out of the 15 songs that await our ears! Ten more songs didn’t end up in the top five but are still part of the story that ZAYN has to tell us.

The album starts with Dreamin, with the hottest “1, 2, 3, 4” I may have ever heard in my life. This track answers the age-old question: would you rather have loved and lost or have never loved at all? To which he pleads, “Please don’t let me forget fallin’ in love, it’s all good”. In this track, we welcome the vocal king with open arms as he showcases his vocal runs, which remind you of the legend he’s always been, thrilling you for what’s to come in this album. 

Grateful, the third track on the album, sounds like an ode to his daughter, Khai, who, as he’s shared in nearly every interview he’s done, has changed him. The layering of falsettos is no less than a treat for the ears. Sounding like a highlight reel of his life thus far, the song lyrically bares his life, as if catching us up on how he’s doing. It was a rather unexciting song sonically, but ZAYN’s vocals are a hit in every single song on this album, and they deserve that appreciation.

The fourth track on the album is Alienated, a pre-release single that glimpsed the upcoming album. This one heads into a slightly more country direction with his vocals and the guitar-heavy instrumental as he sings about the sense of disconnect, existentialism and the desire to numb the pain. But he’d do it all over again, which shows that he’s learned so much from all the experiences he’s had in his life, both good and bad. After all, every experience shapes us to be a better version of ourselves. And he echoes that with this deeply personal story.

His raw lyrics are the focus, which he wrote all the way back in 2018, with the sweet falsettos that mimic the vulnerability he’s showcasing here, further spotlighted by the more mellow instrumentation. There’s so much emotion in this song, delving into the feeling of disconnect and feeling like you don’t belong. And he brought the feeling to life in such an honest manner.

Another emotional one hits us with How It Feels. Let me tell you how it feels! It feels so moving and poignant. It feels like I’m physically hearing and experiencing ZAYN’s heart breaking into a million pieces as he sings with a sense of defeat in a relationship where he wants an out, but he was never granted it. Only for his partner to end it and break his heart. The sparse piano melody with his soul-stirring vocals just hit.

Gates Of Hell is the eighth track of the album. What a bold title, isn’t it? It excited me with the kind of story or sonic sound I’d hear in the song. I was waiting for it to hit me like I was standing at the gates of hell myself. But it never came. The lyrics, however, are fascinating the deeper you dive. Lyrically and vocally, it sounds like ZAYN is singing as his intoxicated self and constantly repeats the chorus, as if personifying the number of times the thought enters his mind when he’s drunk, in which case, it’s a cool detail. 

But moving on! Birds On A Cloud immediately follows, and it sounds like a continuation of Gates Of Hell, where he’s coming off from the high of the alcohol he consumed the night (or song) before. 


“Birds on a Cloud” ☁️

♬ original sound – Zayn

Against a happy and upbeat backdrop, ZAYN’s vocals drip with longing, pain, and a burning desire for happiness. It’s a devastating juxtaposition. He ends the song with a very evocative “I can’t escape”, where his vocals are isolated against the strum of the guitar, hitting straight to the heart how trapped he must feel. He’s a genius at making you feel what he feels.

Concrete Kisses was a track that felt like a version of what we’d heard before in the nine tracks preceding it, making it yet another unexciting song on the album. I do love the title, though, as ZAYN personifies the scars he got from falling on the concrete ground as concrete kisses, likening them to marks left by a person who left him. Nonetheless, despite a musically dull track, the last 45 seconds were my favourite. His little runs against the instrumental was a beautiful way to end the song.


I’m finding my way on the highway this year

♬ original sound – Zayn

Next came False Starts. As I listened to this song, I could imagine this to be playing in the scene of a movie where there’s a long drive, where the protagonist has finally found their happiness, or maybe it’s a couple that’s driving a beautiful road by the sea with the brightest smiles ever, heading into a new chapter of their lives. This feel-good song sounds so perfect for a movie soundtrack. 

Rearing off the country and ballads, ZAYN ever so slightly dips his feet back into R&B in Something In The Water. Ah, it’s like he’s home. He owns this genre! He sings about that feeling of falling for someone, but it feels so scary that he blames the water for the intensity of his emotions. This was one of the top contenders for the top five spots. 

Still, it missed ever so slightly, partially because I’m confused about the creative choices behind the terrifying, jarring, demon-like voice saying “water” when this song is literally sung by a vocal emperor.

And the album’s final song for today, the 14th and second-last track, is Shoot At Will. This song feels like it may have been written sometime after ZAYN and his longtime on-and-off girlfriend, Gigi Hadid, broke up. At the time, the reason behind their breakup, or at least the issues surrounding it, was very controversial. Multiple sources said that Gigi’s mother, Yolanda Hadid, claimed ZAYN “struck” her, an allegation he “adamantly” denied. 

People were quick to lash out at ZAYN, and this barrage of hate from the haters and people who wanted to hold him accountable might’ve been what led him to refer to them as the “firing squad” in Shoot At Will. He ends the song with this verse:

I hold my hands up for the firing squad
And if you want, you can take it all
I don’t really know, I can’t give no more
Shoot at will
Because she shoots to kill, yeah
And I’m dyin’ inside

This might give us a glimpse into how he felt then. It’s as if he’s saying that the haters can take a shot at him, taking everything away from him, but he doesn’t care, as if he’s already been shot by the person it would’ve hurt the most. Or maybe that he’d rather be shot by this firing squad because he knew her single shot would kill him. There’s so much here that offers a story deeper than what we’ll ever know. As he sings, he proves the vocal god that he is, conveying this sense of defeat with a resigned and hopeless tone. 

Ending Thoughts

Ladies and gentlemen, just as we’d expected, ZAYN has amazed us. However, not quite in the way we’d thought he would.

As mentioned earlier, his music has always dabbled in R&B, a touch of rock, with a splash of dance and EDM. But Room Under The Stars is very different from anything he’s done before. Still, he proved the versatility of his vocals as he manoeuvred various genres and proved that a vocal powerhouse need not be belting out the longest, highest notes but can prove his range and ace every style he pursues. 



♬ original sound – Zayn

ZAYN has a natural gift for conveying precise emotions with his voice, so you are well and truly hit by every single emotion he wants you to feel, bolstered by his wonderful lyricism. It’s unique to ZAYN and something that no one can replicate. Did you notice how I went from calling him a vocal icon to a vocal god as the review progressed? With every track, I gained more and more appreciation for the talent this man holds. 

Speaking of his lyricism, you can tell this album was the result of six years of experience. It’s packed to the brim with such raw emotion and deeply personal narratives that we can only imagine it must have taken him so much courage to no longer keep his little secret in his rural home but rather for the whole world to listen to and resonate with. 

With stories overflowing with emotion and a voice that can convey every single one, we owe kudos to producer Dave Cobb, who found the perfect instrumentation style for the album. With the stripped-back production format, which means the use of minimal and acoustic instrumentation that emphasises the vocals, every song was able to encapsulate the essence of ZAYN beautifully. 

But we can’t deny that it’s different from what we’re used to hearing from ZAYN, as it sometimes sounded repetitive. I believe that this isn’t an album you can only listen to once and make a decision about it. At the first listen, you’re shocked by the different sound compared to his past work. At the second listen, you start to uncover your favourites. On the third listen, you find something you love, even in the songs you don’t fancy as much. It’s an experience I’ll gladly partake in, and I’d recommend you do it, too!

I could never stop gushing about ZAYN. From his talent to his incredible personality, it’s been great to see him doing so much more promotion for this album release. He’s been overcoming the anxiety that plagued him for the sake of his daughter to create a lasting legacy, as echoed in The Time. He’s been doing more interviews and even did a one-night-only show in London, which was his first live show in eight years!


Unforgettable night London! Thanks @NOYZ

♬ original sound – Zayn

He deserves all the support as he makes his way back to where he rightfully belongs – on stage, surrounded by the people who love him, have grown up with him, and see him for what he is. ZAYN, the world loves you. And we’re so glad to have you back.

ZAYN – Room Under The Stairs

Zayn Malik Album Review Graphic Cover: Graphic

Check out Room Under The Stars on Spotify and Apple Music now! I mean it, right now! Stay tuned to all things ZAYN on his Instagram and TikTok pages. 

Cover Photo by Eunice Chua of the DANAMIC Team. Additional visuals courtesy of Zayn Malik.

Baani Kaur

Aspiring to achieve great heights like every human in the world, but till then, enjoy the most dramatic and sarcastic person you will ever read from.

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