A collaboration between Zico and IU is like a wet dream for Korean charts. Both artists routinely see their music lodged in the top ten for weeks (sometimes months) on end, seeming to attract a wide variety of fans. So why does the prospect of this pairing leave me cold? More and more, I’ve come to the conclusion that the taste of Korea’s general public just doesn’t usually intersect with my own preferences.
There’s a moment in SoulMate’s video where the sign beside the elevator reads “zzz,” and that pretty much sums up my feelings toward the song. It’s a sleepy, jazz-influenced hip-hop track that feels as if both artists downed a heavy dose of melatonin before recording. There’s obvious skill involved in the construction of this, but its low-energy vibe does nothing for me.
The hushed instrumental melds muted brass with a barely-there shuffle of percussion, leaving space for the duo’s vocals to move front and center. As with much of his solo work, SoulMate allows Zico the chance to display his versatility as a performer, opening the track with melodic crooning before launching into a hip-hop verse. IU gives a much more restrained — even generic — performance, which is surprising for a vocalist with such recognizable style. The two previously collaborated way back in 2009 with the upbeat bubblegum of Marshmallow. It’s striking to compare the two songs, as both artists have moved from straightforward commercial pop to an artier brand of serious-minded music. But sometimes “serious” isn’t better. Sometimes it’s just a bore.