Physical media are one of those things in my past and present that I’m on the fence about. I only keep certain books and CDs in my home if they hold emotional value, but will regularly throw away those that don’t; more often than not, I opt for the digital equivalent. Objects like paper mail and cassette tapes, the latter which is enjoying minor popularity at the moment, I will gladly keep away from. I have fond memories of recording songs off the radio, but will you see me buy an album on tape now? Hell to the no.

They’re bulky, with portable players still running on AA batteries, no skip function and can’t fit in my pockets as easily as an mp3 player. I’m all for nostalgic comebacks, but if they don’t have modern conveniences built into them, I won’t step near them.

rico the slow tapes

Rico, a new R&B singer, released his debut LP, The Slow Tape, an album that pays homage to 90s R&B slow jams, hence the name. This isn’t new, with Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream and FKA TwigsLP1 two notable release with similar concepts. Where the latter two excel is in updating the sound with modern sensibilities, while The Slow Tape is a derivative ploy that falls limp. Each track is about a guy trying, or getting, a girl undressed, and that’s it.

The lyrics on this record could not be more basic than hooks like “we do it all night” and “take it off (let me touch you like this)” repeated ad nauseum. The production doesn’t fare better, with overblown synths and overdone reverb on bass and drum sounds. Songs “Till The Sun Comes Up” and “놀이터 Remix” specifically, and the record as a whole, suffer from elements that are pushed too far in the slow jam direction that they become child-like traces of the material The Slow Tape takes inspiration from.

Of all the wrong going on in this record, one of the things that goes right is Rico. As a vocal talent, Rico’s good. Tracks like “Do It All Night” and “둘만의 노래” show that when he gets going, falsetto on the prior and quick pacing on the latter, Rico’s voice is strong; I can even believe that he wants to see girls naked, fuck them, and possibly cuddle afterwards. The guy can deliver on the promise of The Slow Tape, which brings me to the second thing this LP gets right; “남김없이.” The synth shifts, spare production and his whispered vocals do justice to the source material.

By stripping away the excess of the prior tracks and keeping the focus on Rico, “남김없이” is the only track that nails the nostalgic feeling without being a straight copy. This should have been released on its own because as a hidden gem, the song will remain hidden. Rico and “남김없이” are not done justice by The Slow Tape, and future releases should work on these elements than the rest of this travesty.

Rico’s The Slow Tape is too much of the bad and not enough of the good. I appreciate the consistency within the record, but man is this not good. Most of the songs on The Slow Tape are derivative R&B synth ballads with lazy, one-note writing. The lyrics are not imaginative, the themes are redundant and much of the production is half-assed. That said, Rico himself has a lot going for him as a singer. Rico’s voice is solid and emotive, even hitting falsetto notes without the cheese factor. Not making this album a bomb is ““남김없이,” making it the only reason to go through the slog that is this LP. As a singer, Rico has potential, but The Slow Tape is the wrong first step in his career.

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Contributed to McRoth’s Residence with a focus on Korean indie and hip-hop music.