QUICKSPINS: Zeina — Eastend Confessions

Album cover of “Eastend Confessions” by Zeina. Courtesy of Apple Music.

The Montreal singer’s debut album is a harmonious blend of R&B and Arabic music influences paying homage to her heritage.

In the days following the release of her debut album Eastend Confessions, Zeina posted a photo of her father to her Instagram with the caption, “I could have millions of streams but this is the real flex for my dad.” In the photo, he is pictured wearing a t-shirt that reads “My daughter is on a Billboard.” 

Born to Lebanese and Egyptian parents and raised in Montreal, the artist’s Arabic heritage has come to play a central role in her music. She spoke to Apple Music in 2023 about the importance of reclaiming her cultural identity, which she had initially felt a bit hesitant to represent: “But as I grew up, I realized, ‘No, that’s what makes me different. This is truly me, and I have the power to be this right now and not be scared and really embody that.” Released on April 3, 2024, Eastend Confessions is a full-fledged ode to her cultural background through R&B music, the pinnacle of this homage in her career so far.

Zeina effortlessly switches between singing in English, French, and Arabic on numerous tracks, a nod to her trilingual upbringing in Montreal’s multicultural environment. Additionally, Arabic instrumentation is heavily present in the album’s production. “Hot” is complete with an Arabic drum breakdown on the backend, and “NASTY” is founded upon a typical Arabic melody. “Problematic” bridges both elements, with its oud melody (a traditional Arabic string instrument), mizmar horn bridge, and distinct drum and percussive sounds. These cultural elements are perfectly blended with contemporary R&B production that is smooth, groovy, and accessible. 

“Hooked” has a poppy, tropical bounce akin to Rihanna and DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts,” and is already making its waves on Montreal radio stations as a summer-ready hit. There are also slower moments on the record, such as the acoustic “Betrayal.” “Take Me Down” is a standout, sincere ballad set to soft guitars and smooth bass. 

The album’s lyrical content remains in line with her previous work, focusing on themes of romance and relationships. Songs like “Hooked” and “NASTY” are more upbeat and playful with some risqué moments, while other tracks capture the challenges and confusion that can come with a relationship. “Give Me Time” is an introspective song about taking distance from a partner to focus on oneself. “Temporary” is equally cautionary, as the singer gets candid about not wanting a relationship that requires full commitment. “Problematic” is a fun cut where she flirts with danger, an ode to taking pleasure in being bad.

Zeina’s voice shines all across the project, especially when utilized powerfully on tracks like “Hot,” where her melodic runs are beautifully high and soft. Her sped-up cadence and animated delivery on most tracks is reminiscent of pop-R&B heavyweights SZA and Rihanna, showcasing Zeina’s ability to demonstrate her vocal prowess while simultaneously delivering the addictive qualities of a hit. “Betrayal” is truly the standout vocal performance on the record, with Zeina soaring into a high vocal register that is perfectly highlighted by the track’s minimalist, acoustic foundation.

With its culturally researched production, multilingual singing, and personal lyrics, Eastend Confessions is a portrait of authenticity: Zeina is unapologetically proud of who she is—the Arab-centric, Western popstar she had aspired to become in her formative years.

Score: 8/10

Trial Track: Problematic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts