Zayn Malik is one of the most accomplished young stars in the world, with a history in internationally acclaimed boyband One Direction and an award-winning vocal repertoire. He has publicly struggled with his music and the emotional weight of stardom, keeping him out of the spotlight in recent years. In July of 2020 Gigi Hadid, international supermodel and Zayn’s longtime on-again-off-again girlfriend, revealed that she was pregnant. Positive news has continued to swirl around the couple, and they announced on September 24 that Gigi gave birth to a girl – the day before Zayn released his latest song, “Better.”
The song opens with simple guitar. As Zayn’s vocals are introduced, a tapping beat begins. You can hear what sounds like a hand hitting the guitar, which creates a more personal feel. His voice is gentle, and the instrumental-focused production contrasts his regular style.
There is little change in the background instrumentals as Zayn makes observations about his dynamic with (presumably) Gigi’s father and the couple’s relationship finally being solidified. There is a slight rushing surge as Zayn’s vocals gain more strength, “’Cause I love you/Yeah, baby, I love you.” The pained yet powerful emotion in his voice is a reminder of his vocal skill.
In the chorus Zayn’s voice gets more powerful, “Why? Why wait to fight?/Give it a try/Or I’ll say goodbye while it’s right…” He’s singing to Gigi. The couple have been dating, breaking up and shooting Vogue covers since 2015. Zayn is singing about the choice to definitively remain together. The melody may also be familiar to listeners, as it utilizes “You Light Up My Life” popularly sung by Debby Boone for the 1977 film “You Light Up My Life” (though it was originally sung by Kasey Cisyk).
— zayn (@zaynmalik) September 25, 2020
Zayn’s voice is layered atop itself as a light rattling beat interjects quickly, this fits the lyrics, which discusses things falling apart. He references the glove debacle of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, in which Simpson’s lawyer famously had Simpson try on an ill fitting glove to “prove” his innocence. Zayn sings, “Like it’s a crime on trial, I got acquitted/Me and you wasn’t meant, we wasn’t fitted/Like it’s a glove, I hated to admit it.”
In the next verse Zayn stops flip flopping, as he describes all of the good parts of the relationship worth appreciating and maintaining. He sings about the way he and Gigi shouldn’t allow it to slip away from them, “’Cause obviously, we go back/So why would we ruin that?” Zayn effortlessly includes some light but higher notes on the final lyrics, before the song fades away with the opening guitar. The song writing process included Cole Citrenbaum who’s worked with the likes of Gavin Haley and Alextbh, and his influence is present. It also included the work of Dustin “DAB” Bowie, whose lyrical abilities are also clear, as he’s worked with Kehlani and Lucky Dave.
Our baby girl is here, healthy & beautiful🙏🏽❤️to try put into words how i am feeling right now would be an impossible task. The love i feel for this tiny human is beyond my understanding.Grateful to know her, proud to call her mine, & thankful for the life we will have together x pic.twitter.com/nvhfOkk2fw
— zayn (@zaynmalik) September 24, 2020
Typically dropping songs full of dramatic and sultry sounds paired with soaring vocals, “Better” provides a much more “at home” feeling from Zayn. With this track being the first single off of his upcoming album, this surprise song is the first music he’s released since 2018. “Better” and its new sound is a page turning in Zayn’s life.