Unlike most emerging male pop aspirants these days, Zak Abel is actually bloody likeable. That’s been evident ever since he’s been on these pages, and it’s impossible to deny on his major label debut Only When We’re Naked.
That title might be a bit of an ‘ooh, naughty’ attempt at shock value, but it does a disservice to the amount of hear that Abel puts into his work. Kicking off with the gently plucked guitar of Unstable, Abel sings like his life (and, well, career in fairness) depends on it. Through the rasps of the chorus it’s so obvious how much this means to him, continuing in earnest on Still Want UUU (those coos of the chorus will get ya).
Zak Abel is without doubt a gifted songwriter. It’s rare to find someone who balances that with just as much verve in performance, and Abel manages to craft a level of freshness in even the most predictable routes. There’s no surprises here in terms of the trajectory of his songs – The River and Beautiful Life aren’t likely to shake up the game in any way – but there’s something about them that’s hard to dislike.
That ‘something’ is probably the man at the centre them all. He’s not trying to be Sam Smith when he goes for a ballad, you can anticipate how much these songs will pop in a live setting, and even though there’s an obvious stream-bait quality to some of it- hiya All I Ever Do (Is Say Goodbye) – Zak Abel has managed to carve out a very distinct personality for himself. In such a short space of time and in such a tired field, you can’t argue that this is anything other than impressive.