It’s been awhile since listeners have heard the softer side of Zico’s solo music. As the leader of rambunctious boy group Block B, his sound is most closely tied with his playful, charismatic image. But of all his solo work, my favorite track is probably the soft, melodic “I Am You, You Are Me“ from last January. The prospect of a similar-sounding follow-up is exciting. Unfortunately, the off-kilter “She’s A Baby” doesn’t match its predecessor’s peaks.
The song will be a standout for many listeners, but from its first washed out chord, it was clear that “She’s A Baby” was not going to be for me. Music that can be described as “chill” usually does very well in Korea, but songs of this nature require something extra to break out from the background. With “She’s A Baby”, this comes in the form of experimentation with tempo and vocalization. I can appreciate the progressive bent that Zico is attempting. Few K-pop artists of his caliber even bother to play around under the hood of a song. While initially jarring, the shifting pace of the second verse and chorus mark an odd sort of climax at a point where you don’t expect to hear it. Paired with a dynamite melody, this could have resulted in something really special.
“She’s A Baby” plays like a modern hip-hop lullaby, especially in the sense that its volume rarely raises above a whisper. It’s an incredibly muted piece of music, and gives Zico an opportunity to play around with a jazzier vocal style. Taken alongside the striking music video, it almost becomes more of a performance piece than a pop song. And sometimes performances pieces are easier to admire than enthusiastically embrace. For me, that’s definitely the case here.