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K-Pop Double Take: Zion. T Brings Together The Best Of The Past And Present On 'No Make Up' [VIDEO]

By Jeff Tobias | January 25, 2016 08:08 PM EST


K-Pop Double Take is a weekly review column highlighting recent releases that have yet to receive the attention we feel they deserve.

Music has always moved forward on the strength of tiny innovations.

Even the greats stood on the shoulders of the giants who came before them, adding just enough of a twist to stand out and move forward.

On the single "No Make Up," released on Oct. 15, the  26-year-old South Korean hip-hop artist and producer Zion. T puts this premise into action. "No Make Up" is simultaneously a throwback and a very contemporary slice of funk-infused pop.

Having only emerged in 2011, Zion. T has been winning awards and scoring hit singles ever since. On "No Make Up," Zion. T is seen finessing his smooth R&B approach. Similar to other youthful artist-producers like Frank Ocean or The Internet, both out of the Los Angeles-based Odd Future collective, Zion. T invests himself heavily in a thoughtful refurbishing of R&B music's past.

Zion. T leads a trio of instrumentalists (if the music video for "No Make Up" is to be believed) whose backing parts are anything but inconsequential. Guest pianist Yoon Seok Cheol contributes playfully unpredictable chords, giving "No Make Up" a musicality that less sophisticated songs lack.

In the verses, Zion. T and his band interact with one another, bouncing syncopations back and forth between the foreground and background. His interest in creating compositions that not only have hooks and heart but also inventive and imaginative arrangements gives "No Make Up" a quirky freshness that harkens back to the true legends of R&B, such as Prince or R. Kelly.

But this is no neo-soul throwback. Borrowing from a more modern--but equally brilliant--mind, the drums follow a stark, stiff pattern that brings to mind the so-called "drunken style" of late producer J Dilla.

Though, for all of these nods to the past, "No Make Up" is still a distinctly contemporary piece of music.

The production is slick as anyone could want and Zion. T's melodies are as broadly sweeping as anything that could be dreamt up by Usher or Maroon 5.

The song maintains a light touch, moving along at a breezy clip with a premium placed on smoothness. There's a notable absence of the heavy-handed drum programming or gratuitous synth-bass that crops up amongst Zion. T's EDM-influenced peers.

Through this more stripped-down sound, Zion. T is able to reference the purity of classic vintage recordings while still bringing something new to the table on "No Make Up."

Watch the music video for Zion. T's single "No Make Up" RIGHT HERE


Jeff Tobias is a composer, musician and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. As of late, he has been studying arcane systems of tuning and working on his jump shot. 

Tagged :  zion.t, zion.t, no make-up, K-Pop Double-Take, ziont, K-Pop, kpop, review, Reviews


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