Upon hearing 365 Days last year, I immediately noted that ZZ Ward had similar qualities to Adele, with the song being her own Rolling In The Deep. Like Adele, ZZ possesses soulful vocals in songs that still would have impressed decades ago. Unlike Adele, ZZ leans more heavily into the realms blues and soul, which give her some extra edge.
In some ways, Adele could take some tips from ZZ Ward’s sound. On one hand, she could recreate what made her the biggest success story of the century so far with 21, or she could go more mainstream sounding to build on her hit status. The third option is to expand deeper into the styles she has already mastered.
Styles that make up ZZ Ward’s first album Til The Casket Drops, which dropped in late 2012 but hasn’t fully run its course yet. Third and current single Last Love Song is relatively new at her home-radio format AAA. With verses that throw you off at first, the ballad has a gripping chorus where she proclaims “this is the last love song I’ll ever write for you.”
ZZ Ward dabbles in blues, R&B, soul and some hip-hop all centred on a pop focus. So while she might be labeled blues or soul over pop, there aren’t any deep blues cuts on here. It’s all influential and has obviously impacted her as indicated on songs like album highlight Lil Darling and Cryin Wolf.
The record boasts many foot-stompers such as first single Put The Gun Down plus stylish beat-heavy numbers like Move Like U Stole It, 365 Days and If I Could Be Her. While they run the risk of being samey, their spread across the album allows them to sink without drawing too much attention.
There are also signs of the present day through the production style of Blue Eyes Blind, which sounds one-part Timbaland, one-part Alex Da Kid, and the feature of Kendrick Lamar on Cryin Wolf, who initially sounded out of place on the blues-rock track but a second listen worked in his favour.
It’s a satisfying record all the way through. There isn’t a bad song on the album as ZZ delivers strong-enough vocals over strong-enough melodies. There’s enough about her to differentiate her from nearly every other singer on the radar at the moment, but trying to fit her sound in between what’s in right now is difficult and is perhaps why ZZ Ward hasn’t been able to generate the attention she deserves.
1. Til The Casket Drops
2. Put The Gun Down
3. Blue Eyes Blind
5. Cryin Wolf [featuring Kendrick Lamar]
6. Save My Life
7. Last Love Song
8. Lil Darlin [featuring The O’Mys]
9. Move Like U Stole It
10. Criminal [featuring Freddie Gibbs]
11. If I Could Be Her
12. Charlie Ain’t Home
13. 365 Days