Former One Directioner Zayn is back with his sophomore album, but a hangover from his boy-band days could be holding him back.
It feels like he's spent too long in Simon Cowell's hit factory and still hasn't quite managed to get off the hitmaking treadmill.
As a result, Icarus Falls is about three different albums in one, with 27 songs split into two parts and spanning an hour and a half as Zayn drowns us all in falsetto hooks and tries desperately to cover all his bases.
Part one is stock-standard and frankly uninspired R & B love songs and slow jams. Part two is a much stronger representation of Zayn's capabilities, but he shoots himself in the foot by dancing through genres and musical references in a way that feels like checking off boxes to please everyone.
There's a Nancy Sinatra sample, church bells, funk, piano melodies, EDM, hip-hop and an obligatory Nicki Minaj guest feature (No Candle No Light). On top of all that you've got a handful of producers, including the likes of Malay (Sour Diesel) and Timbaland (Too Much), adding their different sounds, so what you wind up with is excellently produced, but messy nonetheless.
In all fairness, Zayn is talented and is the only One Direction star who's really carved a new niche in the music industry. And there are great songs here, they're just hidden in a data dump, which is an obvious grab at clocking up streaming numbers.
Icarus Falls needed to be compacted into something listeners could actually digest - an album with something more to say, by an artist who was more confident in how he wanted to say it.
ZAYN, Icarus Falls
Album: Icarus Falls
Label: Sony Music
Verdict: Yet another case for the argument that less is more.