Zak Abel, Only When We’re Naked | Album Review
English pop singer Zak Abel shines on his full-length debut album, ‘Only When We’re Naked.’ His best attribute is his voice.
There is plenty of musical talent worldwide. Even when certain trends make you doubt the music world, a gem comes along. In this case, the gem is Zak Abel, an up-and-coming English pop singer. Abel makes his official introduction to the world on his full-length debut, Only When We’re Naked. What a title! Title aside, his best attribute throughout the album is his voice.
Highlight “Unstable” kicks off Only When We’re Naked superbly. Zak Abel has a great, distinct vocal tone, showcasing incredible grit on the chorus. Characterized as tropical-infused pop, the cues are most prevalent on the chorus. Despite the song title, there’s nothing unstable about the chorus, which is catchy AF. Cleverly, Abel references ‘nakedness’ on the Bridge (“Even when we’ve got nothing on.”)
On follow-up “Still Want UUU,” Abel exhibits excellent vocal poise on the verses. The intensity level and vocal register ascend on the pre-chorus.
“I don’t know what to do with myself right now / I can’t think about nobody else right now.”
The following chorus ends up being powerful and assertive, led by lead vocals. Arguably, incorporating background vocals might’ve made it even more hard-hitting. Nonetheless, like the opener, the chorus is catchy, standing out.
“I give you loving, you give me nothing / Till I’m black and blue inside / You keep me falling, but I’m going all in / Cause I still want you tonight.”
The smoothness of the vocals on the verses of “Broken” is a selling point. Once more, Abel gives a great performance, accentuated by excellent vocal production. Soulful choruses contrast the poise of the verses. Additionally, great vocal harmonization appears on the pre-chorus, with more harmonies arriving on the bridge. “Broken” also shines thanks to its electro-pop production touches. For the most part, Sky Adams keeps the production captivating without being overdone or covering up Abel. Perhaps the sole quibble – “Broken” could stand even more punch on the chorus.
Pop-soul highlight “The River” is set in a minor key, featuring a darker, more enigmatic quality. The record uses some of the slickest production work of the album, incorporating fuller production work compared to preceding cuts. The chorus is the crème de la crème – memorable and well-written.
“She don’t have no choice / She don’t have no choice in the matter / Oh just sailing down the river / She don’t have no voice / She only has a silence to shatter / She’s just sailing down the river to the grave.”
“Beautiful Life” returns to more electro-pop driven sound, serving as a smart contrast to “The River.” The vocals – clear and robust – continue to be the best thing about Only When We’re Naked. The vocals tend soar on the pre-choruses, setting up the romantic, uplifting chorus that:
“It’s a beautiful life, it’s a beautiful world / It’s a beautiful ride, when you’re next to me, girl / Got me smiling every time I see you dancing in my favorite T-shirt / Baby, you remind me how to feel alive / Got me smiling every time I hear you say those words that make it clearer / Baby, you remind me how to feel alive / It’s a beautiful life, it’s a beautiful life, ooh.”
“Only When We’re Naked” commences with piano patch, a change of pace from previous cuts. The biting vocals are celestial. The nudity inspires the chorus, which is simple, but rousing and effective. “Naked” makes fine use of backing vocals and horns, which give the chorus and the song as a whole, a lift. Another notable moment are the rhythmic, hip-hop vocals on the bridge.
“Awakening” stars abruptly, with vocals and piano. Soon after, strings enter, followed by horns, then backing vocals. The effect is a build-up. Once more, a tropical-oriented pop identity becomes established. It’s chocked-full of energy.
“Deserve to Be Loved”
“Deserve to Be Loved” slackens the pace, an appropriate move eight tracks in. The balladry allows for Abel to showcase the full scope of his voice, specifically the nuances and cracks. The production work is beautiful, featuring a lush, soulful, old-school sound. The lyrics are lovely throughout, with Abel “bringing it home” on the chorus.
“Baby we deserve it / I’ll make it sure you heard it / Baby we deserve to be loved…”
“Rock Bottom” brings the sole feature of the album, courtesy of a rap verse by Wretch 32. The vibe is definitely a pro. Starting with piano as the chief accompaniment initially, bass eventually anchors, followed by string-pad and the beat. Once the hard beat enters, it’s irresistible – head nodding and foot tapping are inevitable. Again, Abel benefits from a catchy chorus at his disposal, intact with tropical influence.
“All I Ever Do (Is Say Goodbye)” closes the album soundly. It features an enthusiastic vibe from the onset. The tropical influence continues, most pronounced on the chorus. Perhaps he’s overdone it throughout the album, but it’s infectious nonetheless. Again, the vocals continue to impress.
All in all, Zak Abel delivers an impressive debut album with Only When We’re Naked. He is incredibly talented – his vocals are simply amazing. Furthermore, there’s plenty of enjoyable material with nothing being particularly objectionable. Arguably, there’s too much tropical-pop and perhaps on some songs, more supporting vocals would provide a further lift, but ultimately, it’s nitpicking. Only When We’re Naked is a great start for Abel.
Gems: “Unstable,” “The River,” “Beautiful Life,” “Deserve to Be Loved”