It stands to reason that there isnt much that 25 year old ZICO cant do when it comes to music.
Hes a nimble rapper who shifts between delicate introversion and striking takedowns, hes been the leader and main songwriter of idol group BLOCK B since 2011, had a successful solo career that began in 2009, and written and produced for other Korean artists including PSY, Wanna One and Mino (WINNER).
At the time of writing, his 25th solo single, SoulMate (feat IU) is in the top five of three Gaon charts (South Koreas main chart platform) and, despite having performed solo overseas, hes just completed his first ever solo domestic concert, entitled The King of The Zungle. The two dates fast sold out their 10,000 tickets, and ZICO is next headed for Japan before returning to Europe in the Autumn, including one show at Londons Shepherds Bush Empire.
After delving into and taking inspiration from anti-fans and the difficulties of the creative process for 2017s singles Anti and Behind The Scene respectively, ZICO has turned to gentler matters for SoulMate, on which he sings instead of rapping.
He and IU (the wildly popular 25-year-old singer known as Koreas little sister or sweetheart) are repeatedly kept apart and joined together in the retro-looking video, while his lyrics – such as Hello, my soulmate, Everything became more like you, A transparent knot has been tied, You cant leave this place, not even for a moment – capture the lightness and joy of having such a deep connection.
ZICO first collaborated with IU back in 2009 on her song Marshmallow, and speaking about why it took them so long to team up again, ZICO told Metro.co.uk: Since the first collaboration with IU on Marshmallow, wed communicated with each other in relation to music and Id been a guest singer at her concert. However, nothing had progressed when it came to collaborating. We waited the right time, kept thinking of when we can do the work and when it will be possible, and finally, we got the chance to do it.
I really want to express my appreciation to IU; the recording took a very long time to finish, not because of me being unsatisfied but because IU doesnt come out of the booth until shes really satisfied [with her vocals]. I was really impressed by her attitude and inspired by her hard work, and decided to work better whenever I have an opportunity to collaborate with others.
ZICO – real name Woo Ji-ho – made sure to keep IU in mind while working on SoulMate, saying: First, I suggested she do a feature and got the approval from her, and started to have the general concept of the song. (Then) I kept sending her different versions of produced songs, asking, like, what do you think? and “do you think the song is okay for you?”. Whenever I release a new song, I try a new concept and genre. SoulMate has more vintage and analogic tones and atmospheres, and IU has realized 100% of what Id imagined.
In the video for SoulMate, the friendship between the pair is crystal clear, with ZICO explaining: IU and I are shaking hands together in the video but if you look closely, we smile at each other. It wasnt planned out, it just happened because we felt the situation was funny.
The elevator in the music video has a special meaning. In our daily life, we meet a person behind or ahead of us in an elevator. We can go up without encountering anyone. People walk in the elevator in the moment that the door is about to close. Its the closest space wed meet a destined connection in our lives and I used it with various meanings, that you could already pass soulmates or not be in the same space with soulmates.
So does ZICO believe in soulmates himself?
I do believe in the concept, and thus I made the song. But in my opinion, the meaning is for the sharing each others soul, and if there is someone that I think does that, then he/she will be my soulmate. In this, my friends and family would be my soulmates as I think I understand them. I guess most people in this world, not only me, already met their soulmates or havent met their soulmates yet. They could have had a chance to meet them but hadnt noticed the existence of them.
ZICO may have a fresh, boundary-pushing sound, but next year, hell have been in the industry for ten years, with seven years as an idol – so he is aware of the changes in Korean music more than most.
He said: Everything is so fast in the Korean music industry. Once people start to talk about the current mainstream genre, the mainstream has been changed already. Its really hard to read and follow the stream, so I dont look closely at music charts anymore. If I focused too much on them, I feel quite worried that I could lose my identity.
In my opinion, this fast change has helped to create development and tension in the Korean music industry but, on the other hand, it could erase artists individual identity and judgement. I believe fighting for my own way and knowing what I do as an artist is destiny.
ZICO brought his King of the Zungle tour to Seoul on 11 and 12 August, marking his first solo domestic show – and despite his success, the rapper still had concerns.
During preparations, Id doubted myself as to whether I could do it well, but from the opening to the end of the concert, I felt I was becoming the one with the audience and was especially thankful for PSY and IU [who did guest spots].
They were popular already when I debuted, so I was honored to collaborate with them. I felt like they gave me a really huge present! I was nervous but excited at the same time, and once Id finished the first concert, I felt like I successfully completed a big challenge, even though theres some regrets left.
And those going to see ZICO in London and Europe have a treat in store.
He said: The staging in Korea was experimental – the normal setting is where audiences are in front of the stage. My idea was to have the stage surrounded by the audience so they could feel closer to the front, wherever they sat. The world tour stage will be a little different from Seoul but I plan to show new versions of previously released songs with more originality. There are more plans coming… but those details havent been sorted out yet!
ZICO European tour dates
26 Sep – Madrid, Spain
28 Sep – London, England
30 Sep – Berlin, Germany
3 Oct – Warsaw, Poland
6 Oct – Amsterdam, Netherlands
7 Oct – Moscow, Russia
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