As a pandemic plays out across the globe, one-time Beatle percussionist Ringo Starr has seen fit to invite every last music celebrity he knows to create the Zoom In EP.
Among the list of guest vocalists are fellow Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, brother-in-law Joe Walsh, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Steve Lukather, Chris Stapleton, Jenny Lewis, Corinne Bailey Rae, Sheryl Crow, Yola, and more. Among his co-writers are the great Diane Warren, Steve Lukather, Walsh again, and Panic! at the Disco’s Sam Hollander. The result? I’d like to zoom out from this virtual happy hour, please.
Starr, who continues to market himself as being all about peace and love, man, has produced an overstuffed pillow of an EP that seeks to calm all of the world's aches but just ends up sounding schmaltzy and smothering.
Kicking things off is the Warren-written “Here's to the Nights”, which opens with a syrupy guitar solo and moves forward with Hallmark card lyrics about togetherness and “reaching for the stars” and “living out loud”. The entire throw-your-arms-around-your-neighbor ballad aims for “We Are The World” but hits closer to Gal Gadot and friends' cringe-inducing “Imagine” serenade.
Little improves on “Waiting for the Tide to Turn”, where Starr literally sings, “Let's make some reggae music / and it will be a better day”. Not that finding inspiration in other genres and Jamaican culture is wrong (and he’s done it before, specifically collaborating with Toots & the Maytals and Ziggy Marley in recent years) – it's just that Starr's interpretation is so cut-and-paste two-dimensional, all good intentions are lost.
Peace and love are fine concepts; certainly the world is just as complicated in 2021 as it was 50-odd years ago – if not more so. Except the conversations driving 2021 are more nuanced than ever, and slapping peace signs on everything is about as helpful as a black Instagram box with PR-approved copy from an advertising agency. Starr's aims are entirely pure with Zoom In, I’m sure, but his internet connection is unstable.