Since launching into the music scene in 2016, with her debut EP ‘Washing Machine‘, singer-songwriter Zeina has been blending her inspiration for early 2000s R&B, her Arab culture, and indie pop. Born in Brooklyn to Egyptian/Lebanese parents and raised in Montreal, Zeina attempts to merge these various influences within her music while making tracks that speak to a global audience.
With her latest track, ‘Whatever,’ Zeina presents an R&B-laced track centred around the themes of female friendships found in the diaspora and how to find the silver lining even in the greatest disappointments.
The track opens up spaciously, with what sounds like a looping guitar melody and keys played out with a warble effect, giving the feel of a wobbling vinyl and lo-fi sensibility. Zeina's vocals enter, sung in a lower register cushioned masterfully by a punchy R&B beat that drops right a the 22-second sweet spot adding a punch to her lyrics.
“I know what you did…
No matter what you say, I don’t forget
He told me you’re talking about regrets…”
Within the first few lines, we know this song is about some sort of falling out, where the track starts with the tension of confrontation, eventually leading into an empowering chorus.
“Whatever is a song I wrote when I needed to blow off some steam,” says Zeina. “It helped me to take back my power in a situation where I was let down by a friend who switched up on me.”
In the chorus, she sings, “Whatever, I’m living off better,” a simple line, but through the momentous production, Zeina finds the fuel she needs to overcome the betrayal.
“The lyric ‘Whatever I’m living off better’ is basically saying ‘I’m better off. Sometimes after you remove the ‘I love you so much glasses,’ even in regards to friends, you realise how much you’ve been done wrong.”
But according to Zeina, the song has another layer of meaning upon which its foundation is built upon. That foundation is her “Mates”, which she uses to address both her fans and her female-led collective “who work hard to pursue their creative passions and lift each other up.”
“I want to create a world that my 12-year-old self could’ve seen and related to,” she says. “A world where finally a girl that looks like her and comes from the same background as her was represented in music.”
All the women featured in the adjoining video for the track are from the MENA region and live in the same city Zeina grew up in, Montreal. “I wanted to keep pushing the representation of MENA women abroad, especially in pop culture and music from all different MENA backgrounds."
The track was produced by the Grammy-nominated, LosHendrix, who has worked with everyone from SZA, GIVEON, Brent Faiyaz and more. The track is both warm, intimate, and inviting, at the same time, her vocal delivery is clear, resonant and confrontational throughout, suggesting that Zeina is not one to back away from a battle. Instead, she wrangles her collective to find strength in the remaining friendships. This becomes emphasised in the outro, where we hear the dust settling as the track and video fade to black.
With over a dozen releases to date, Zeina clearly has a knack for selecting her collaborators. In the past few years she has also worked with Roget, Carter Lang, Nascent, Jordan Ware, Nez, and Skrillex, and was spotlighted as one of TikTok’s ‘Artist to Watch” in 2022’. Zeina is currently working on a new EP titled, ‘Eastend Confessions’‘, which is set to release this year.
Listen to 'Whatever' here: