Keratin is a protein found in hair, feathers, and the outer layer of skin. The Korean word that ZINGO used to title his EP is one that’s most often used to refer to dead skin cells. But fear not, Keratin Song is not about body horror; rather, it is whimsical and cheeky, playing with sound and texture.
We enter KERATIN SONG with the most simple song off the EP, “Lukewarm.” Moving from a sparse production of vocals and piano, the song kicks into a groove which it rides until it fades back to how it started: just ZINGO’s voice and the piano.
But don’t be fooled; every song after this shows more of a grin like an inside joke as the songs get more complex without getting too serious or losing an air of someone playing with sound.
fairy of sorrow
The next track quickly changes the tone, starting with haunting bell-like synths that aren’t mournful but also aren’t happy. The track settles into a walking pace as ZINGO switches from singing to a sing-rap and back. This continues, lulling the audience to thinking that it would be a steady walk until the end, only for the song to fade to wind then pick up with a buzzing synth that later swaps for a bossa nova guitar. Yet nothing seems beyond the atmosphere of the song; rather, it’s like mini variations on a theme showing different sides of the original idea.
next door girl
Then we switch to the sound of a video game starting. The transition is gentle but effective, also with the sound of heels and a door opening, leading us to ZINGO rapping over a simple beat. But this time, there’s cheekiness to his voice that really comes out when he reaches the chorus:
“Girl, next door / Please open the door
I don’t like awkward relationships
You’re the same, right?
Girl, next door / Please open the door
Who knows, perhaps we can become good friends”
The rest of the song is cheeky as ZINGO pops between rap and singing as he narrates his neighbor and his thoughts. He also adds more ad-libs and laughs in the track, all leading to the end where he asks his neighbor (finally?) if she’d like to have a beer with him. The song cuts out to the sound of someone opening a can and a mini conversation with the girl next door, featuring her dog.
If “Girl Next Door” was cheeky in vocals, then “Bubble” is equally cheeky, but in its production. Playing with the concept of a bubble, there are fun percussive sounds, ranging from popping, water, and snares that have a sort of splash to them. Although the production isn’t thick, it’s still delightful to listen to and busy without being distracting. Rather, it felt like a candy store with all the bits and bobbles of ear candy ZINGO crammed into the song.
The lyrics are also fun, playing off a pun:
“Our love is in the bubble
It won’t burst, unbelievable”
(Note: unbelievable pronounced with a Korean accent sounds like unbeliev-bubble)
After the high energy of “Bubble,” we return to vocals and piano and are reminded that ZINGO can hold just fine with a piano and his voice.
If you didn’t know the name of the song, you’d assume that the song would have an unassuming name. Even the lyrics are that of an ordinary song talking about liking someone. And yet, ZINGO titled it “keratin song.” I’m still not sure if keratin is the narrator/speaker (and therefore the song is a massive metaphor) or if the emotions are like keratin.
Regardless, it’s a well written ballad that has a touch of wonkiness, namely in the sugary synth that returns in the post chorus.
To wrap up the EP, we arrive in a song that starts grand, with a vocal synth that’s somewhat unsettling and reminded me of The Twilight Zone. This sense of nostalgia carries over as the track starts, chugging along a soundscape pulled from 80’s style ballads, complete with a bass guitar studiously bouncing along and glittery synths.
The song stops somewhat abruptly to the sound of someone dialing a phone and rain, only to ramp back into the shiny soundscape. And then it’s almost like it didn’t happen; the song continues onto an outro that’s followed by a synth then slowly fades out.
KERATIN SONG really bounced around styles while also letting ZINGO try different singing and sing-rapping styles. He proved that he could sing well in more straightforward tracks like “KERATIN SONG” but also showed that he could have fun and create fun tracks like “Bubble.” This was my introduction to this artist and it’s enough for me to want to see what else he’ll put out.