Two of my favorite musical elements are dark, chilled out synths and strong, female vocalists. Combine the pair and you get the intoxicating sounds of electropop queens like Tove Lo, Banks and Halsey. Now you can add newcomer Zealyn to that list.
In an interview for the release of her debut EP, Limbic System, Zealyn said, “After three years of being a pop artist, I was craving more creativity in my music. I wanted to experiment more and create a sound of my own.”
I’m here to confirm that she succeeded in reinventing her sound and identity; after a little digging, I had the revelation that Zealyn is actually the recently acquired stage name of Angie Miller, the third place finisher on American Idol Season 12. My mind was blown, as she was someone I paid extra attention to for being a native of Beverly, Massachusetts, just an hour from my hometown.
Zealyn — A Pop Star Transformed
Almost unrecognizable, Miller has traded in her curly strawberry blonde hair and youthful pop sounds for straight, dark locks and hypnotic synths. The new album showcases a more mature, experimental sound, and marks Zealyn’s rebirth as an artist.
The first track on the EP, “Talk:Listen” feels like an introduction not only to the album, but to this new persona. Debuting as Zealyn’s first single, the track features minimalist lyrics comprised of two similar verses and no bridge. At just 2:21, the song is a quick sampling of her vocals, accompanied by soothing synths that will lull the listener into a trance and carry them into subsequent songs.
The second track, “Overwhelmed,” features vocals from Aaron Marsh, who produced and co-wrote the whole album. Armed with alternative experience from fronting indie band Copeland and lending guest vocals to Underoath, Anberlin, and Sleeping with Sirens, there’s no question that Marsh helped Zealyn transform her sound on this EP.
Next up is “Summer Day,” which feels like the most traditionally arranged and stereotypically pop-y song on the record. That doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. An emotionally charged strings section propels this song while Zealyn reminisces about a long-lost love.
The EP’s central track and second single, “Sleep On It,” is playful and experimental. Featuring sultry layered vocals and choppy programmed drums, this song could have easily been a hit single from a bigger name, proving Zealyn is primed for more star power.
The opening of the EP’s title track, which features guest vocals from R&B, indie, and soul artist JMR, actually reminds me of the intro to the Justin Bieber song, “The Feeling,” showing once again that Zealyn is capable of achieving the same sounds as A-list producers and artists without falling into other pop song trappings.
Limbic System features dreamy, downtempo electronic fare that’s perfect for chilling out. It’s a huge stride in a new direction for Zealyn as an artist and I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next.
Zealyn has three shows on deck this summer in her native Northeast.