EP Stream: Zaia’s “Reset EP”

Zaia is an up-and-coming, 21-year-old Atlanta, GA-born and based singer/songwriter, who has received attention across the blogosphere including the likes of HillyDilly and ThisSongIsSick and others over the past couple of years for a bold, genre-bending sound that draws from hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, soul and 70s funk — and has been compared to Kid Cudi and Childish Gambino. Building upon a growing profile, the up-and-coming Atlanta-born and-based artist released two critically applauded singles this year “Waste My Time” and “Blue,” which has amassed over 1,000,000 Spotify streams. He was also featured on the cover of Spotify’s Mellow Bars playlist.

Zaia’s debut EP Reset, which features the aforementioned “My Time” and “Blue” was officially released today and the material thematically explores the vast, complex and frequently contradictory range of emotions that accompany a particularly bitter, emotional breakup with the aim of supporting others going through similar experiences. “I wrote Reset as a way to vent about the mental reset I had to go through after a long-term relationship. I went from feeling really happy to really depressed for a long period of time,” Zaia explains in press notes. “I think everyone goes through some sort of ‘reset’ after something deeply affects the way they feel and think about things. I tried to represent the moodiness of the emotions we experience with each different track, that’s why they all have different energies in the production.”

“Counseling,” Reset‘s slow-burning and brooding neo-soul inspired opening track is centered around an atmospheric arrangement of shimmering and arpeggiated Rhodes piano, a sinuous bass line and Zaia’s plaintive vocals expressing bitterness, denial and frustration — all of which he wants to desperately wants to escape from, but can’t. And while the song’s narrator briefly admits that he’s kind of fucked up — he’s selfish and a bit off, he says — he doesn’t think that therapy or counseling session with a judgmental professional will help him much. Nor does he seem to want to look very deeply into himself. Give me booze, give me drugs, let try to forget everything that’s ever happened, he seems to say.  Admittedly, sometimes that’s a pretty damn good option. “Blue,” the EP’s second track is a brooding and atmospheric track that’s one part shoegazing JOVM mainstays The Veldt, one part contemporary pop and one part old-school blues, as it captures a narrator, who can’t seem to get over and move on from the breakup — and in some way is haunted (and tortured) by the ghosts of that relationship. “Waste My Time,” is a track that owes a sonic debt to hip-hop and neo-soul as it’s centered around a sultry bass line, boom-bap-like drums while the Atlanta-based alternates between a sing-songy/rhyming and traditional vocal delivery. But unlike the other songs, it’s a sort of angry tell-off to a lover/love-interest. “On the Run” is a Quiet Storm-inspired bit of neo-soul that sounds like one-part sultry come-on, one-part reconciliation, one part desperate plea — but with an underlying tacit sense that the song’s narrator recognizes that going back to his lover may be a bit fucked up. “Grace,” the feverish psych soul meets hip-hop finale radiates an uneasy peace and acceptance with the narrator’s situation.

While further establishing the Atlanta-based artist’s genre-bending sound, his debut EP also reveals an artist, who has an uncanny and downright unerring knack for pairing an infectious hook with earnest, lived-in songwriting that accurately captures the confusing and contradictory emotions and thoughts of an embittering breakup.

The recently released accompanying visual EP is set to specifically tell the story of the song’s narrator, his bitter breakup and gradual (and perhaps begrudging) acceptance of his plight.  “The reason I wanted to make the music video this way is because each song goes together to tell a story, or this rollercoaster of events. Visually we brought that to life, like a reenactment of the entire experience,” Zaia says.