In a flash of brilliance, coveted UK producers Snakehips have teamed up with R&B’s enfant terrible Zayn Malik for a moody new single, “Cruel.” The production duo have long been touted as prodigies of the UK’s future R&B scene, imbuing each track they touch with their summery, glitchy brand of soul and drawing from a varied pool of talented collaborators. “Cruel” is certainly no exception.
The lush track begins with Malik detailing his preferred antidote to the death and destruction he sees on television and the often depressing state of world affairs. No real surprise, it’s sex. Though Malik has suffered well-founded criticism for rarely straying from the topic, he sells it here with lighthearted lyrics and a lilting falsetto. “Your body hurts me, looping around like CCTV,” comes Zayn’s slick vocal through shards of jazzy synths, after dedicating the song to his “Venus in Converse”.
The track bears the signature Snakehips production that has kept the duo in high demand. Much like this year’s All My Friends EP, the soundscape is subtle and nuanced. The jazzy melody seems to sway in the sunlight with wandering ambient sounds and a wide open kick. Even as the layers fade away into a solitary piano outro, the sound stage is carefully tended to. With such gorgeous production and a solid vocal hook, “Cruel” is a deserving mid-summer jam.