Plenty of artists released quarantine projects this year. From Charli XCX to Taylor Swift, the global experience of isolation served as a breeding ground of creativity for the music industry. For 80-year-old Ringo Starr, this was no exception. Recorded in his home studio from the early months of isolation up to October of last year, Starr produced the Zoom In. Filled to the brim with messages of hope, cheeky lyricism and guitar solos that sound like they were ripped straight out of a corny ‘80s action movie, Zoom In serves its purpose as a cheerful, easy-to-listen-to compilation of songs. However, it doesn’t travel much further than that.
The EP begins straight off with one of the aforementioned guitar solos, a running theme throughout the album’s entirety. This is an interesting creative choice, for the solos don’t seem to add any nuance to the arrangements and are, for lack of a better word, predictable. “Here’s To The Nights” places friendship centerstage; with lyrics such as, “Here’s to the nights we won’t remember/ With the friends we won’t forget,” the piece seems to be in direct response to the loneliness that much of the globe has felt throughout the pandemic. The instrumentation, though, remains bland, and the backup singers are oftentimes mixed louder than Starr himself. The saving grace of the song is its lyricism, as it creates a fun atmosphere of middle-aged buddies partying and singing way too loud at a bar. Yet, even with its “fun” aspect, “Here’s To The Nights” isn’t quite worth a second listen.
In the EP’s title track, “Zoom In Zoom Out,” playful lyrics continue to shine through, yet this time with a more fitting instrumental. The song is one you’d imagine a pair of hippie grandparents listening to while picking their grandkids up from a Waldorf school in their Prius. Beginning the song with, “They used to think the world was flat/ And there’d be dragons at the end of the map/ Til’ Galileo put on his thinking cap/ And changed things forever,” Starr creates a childlike atmosphere reminiscent of Peter Paul and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon.” The Blues-y guitar and backup vocals only add to the simple yet happy tone of the piece, and create a lighthearted listening experience.
“Teach Me To Tango” is the EP’s ray of light. While the rest of the arrangements seem a bit overproduced and lacking in self-awareness, “Teach Me To Tango” understands exactly what it is: an upbeat, hopeful tune about sitting in a cabana and getting what you want. Starr’s voice stays the centerpiece of the song, and the guitar solo within the bridge is much more bearable than the others in the EP. With lines such as, “Just hitch a ride with your favorite drummer,” or, “You gotta live it up/ Until you get what you want, my friend,” the song is extremely catchy and avoids delving too deep into more complex subjects.
Other songs on the EP, though, are much less enjoyable. “Waiting For The Tide To Turn” attempts to be a Reggae call for peace, yet comes off as an out-of-touch, boomer meme. With an 80-year-old white guy singing, “Just play some Reggae music/ And it will be a better day,” the track was doomed to fail from its inception. The final track, “Not Enough Love In the World,” attempts to portray the struggles of quarantine, yet its songwriting comes off as lazy, and the piano backing seems incredibly similar to Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” (and not in a good way). While the most “Beatles-esque” of the tracklist, the song is missing the crucial, “Octopus’s Garden,” wit of Starr’s early writing.
Overall, Ringo Starr’s Zoom In EP is just okay. When Starr plays into his childlike style, he shines, yet for a good amount of the EP, it seems as though Starr forgot what makes his music likable in the first place. With a couple of gems, such as the lyrics of “Zoom In Zoom Out,” or the overall arrangement of “Teach Me To Tango,” Zoom In isn’t completely unlistenable — just an EP that will by no means go down in the history books.
Contact Ian Fredrickson at [email protected].