First Impressions: Tkay Maidza, Zara Larsson, Travis Scott And More

FirstImpressions6Sept

First Impressions is an interns roundtable review of songs on their first (or second) listen. Each week we review six new songs from the past week, each giving them a score out of five and awarding our pick of the week. This week we pick apart tracks by Tkay Maidza, M.I.A, Zara Larsson, Sampha, Travis Scott & Sylvan Esso.

Tkay Maidza
Carry On (Feat. Killer Mike)

Sean Singh: This nursery rhyme beat with new god flow is so Tkay, it’s unbelievable. She’s harnessed her vibe, catching this unique niche in the rap market that nobody is filling. As an Australian artist, it’s so hard to stand against American rappers and still come off as a credible talent, but Tkay has absolutely done it, naturally and with no hint of inauthenticity. The pop sensibility of Carry On combined with its harkening to 80s sample-based rap is unreal. Tkay’s on the road fast track to crossing over to pop stardom, and I think we’re in for more surprises when her album drops next month. 4.5 Sean’s Pick 

Harrison Kefford: I’m not a huge Tkay fan, but i feel likes this track is totally what you’d expect and want from Tkay Maidza. It’s fun, gritty and i can totally feel this being a massive hit when she performs this live. Linking up with Run The Jewels’ Killer Mike is a huge for her career, as it not only keeps us Australians hooked but will hopefully open her up to a lot more fans abroad. I wasn’t expecting much from this, but I think Tkay may finally have won me over with this.  4.5 Harrison’s Pick 

Sam Murphy: This is Tkay on absolute fire. It’s fun to hear her do stuff in the dance world but this is where she really shines, finding the sweet spot between Charli XCX pop and hard-hitting hip-hop. I love the little sister, big brother vibe that Killer Mike and Tkay deliver here and it may just have taken her from a local hero to an international superstar. Without a doubt one of the best local releases of the year. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

M.I.A.
Freedun (Feat. ZAYN)

Sean: Stop. Someone’s just put my two favourite sub-continental artists on the same track. M.I.A. is so unique that she’d sound at home over just about any backing. She has such an intensely pointed ability to vocally challenge a beat, and this time is no different. It’s dreamy, and Zayn is the absolute perfect chorus to this track. Anyone who reads my input on First Impressions will know I’m a sucker for a track that shows restraint, and Freedun is exactly that. 4.5

Harrison: M.I.A is an artist you either really vibe or completely miss the boat with. In terms of her music, her tracks almost always hold a greater meaning and this can sometimes be her downfall as it can equate to people misunderstanding her. But, not for me. Her importance to music today reaches further than most and it’s once again great to have new music from her. Collaborating with ZAYN is not as left field as you may think, because like Sean said he nails that chorus. It’s not an M.I.A ‘banger’, but I still really really like this. 3.5

Sam: M.I.A. is such a brilliant writer and sometimes I feel as if she ignores that. Not on Freedun though. She’s back in the zone of Bad Girls, cleaning up the production and giving us something weird but ultimately richly melodic. I loooooooove ZAYN’s voice in this song. It’s so cool to hear his voice distorted and sitting back with the instruments instead of leading the way. He’s got this caramel-like tone that sounds best when sliding through non-obvious melodies. This is a total winner for me. 4

Zara Larsson
Ain’t My Fault

Sean: This track was co-written with MNEK and that’s enough to warrant a more intent listen from me. But I just don’t see the point to it. It’s danceable, and it definitely has its place in a club, but would I listen to it again? Probably not. 1.5

Harrison: Her rise since Never Forget You reads as the arrival of a fully fledged pop star. In terms of commercial value, for me it’s not as good as Never Forget You but it’s still a really solid piece of pop music. Ain’t My Fault should speak more about Zara’s hold and currently place within pop music rather than just another filling for commercial radio. 3.5

Sam: Hmmm. I do like this and I do like Zara Larrson a lot but I’m not sure If I’m totally vibing on the hip-hop verses she’s throwing down on this. There’s no doubt she’s got great attitude and tackles those big horns like a beast but for me, this song hits its stride in the bridge Like Never Forget You it glides and then soars, using that big ‘ol voice to take the songs by the reigns. 3

Sampha
Blood On Me

Sean: Sampha is the sort of artist who can captivate over just about anything, and Blood On Me will definitely get on my high rotation on Spotify. It’s racy and the beat is journeying, which really drives his lyrical content. This is a little dangerous and I’m into it. 3.5

Harrison: Blood On Me is great, but Timmy’s Prayer still takes the cake for me. Coming from someone who has never really delved into Sampha. But, this new upbeat cut keeps to that same rhythm Sampha delivers. 3.5

Sam: His last track Timmy’s Prayer was so immediately beautiful but I feel like this one is going to take a little more time to get into. I do love hearing Sampha take on a more aggressive beat and stretching himself in the choruses vocally but there’s something about this song that scream slow-burner. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t really have an easy-to-devour melody. I’m still a fan of everything he’s throwing at us here though, I’m just waiting for something to click and make me love it. 3.5

Travis Scott
Guidance 

Listen on Apple Music. 

Sean: I’ve said before that this style of hip hop isn’t up my alley, and I’ve never really picked up what Travis Scott has been putting down. But this is the most listenable track I’ve heard from him. It’s not jarring, it’s not baffling, and while I still wish he’d stick to fashion over music, it does give me some hope for the fact that he’s allegedly executive producing Cruel Winter. 2

Harrison: I’m not a fan of Travis Scott and hip hop, but Guidance is one of the more pleasant sounding tracks from the genre to hit my ears. I neither hate nor feel like I should rave about it. 2

Sam: You guys are both nuts. I’m loving everything Travis Scott is giving us at the moment and Guidance was the cut of the new record that struck me first and that’s because it’s got that dancehall vibe that’s so ‘in’ at the moment. There’s something different to this than what Drake brought to One Dance or Rihanna brought to Work though. Scott’s auto-tuned voice juxtaposes the sunny vibes of the dancehall beat giving something a little off-putting. I say that in the best possible way though, it’s intriguing and addictive at the same time. 4

Sylvan Esso
Radio

Sean: This is the kind of non-offensive electronic pop that you’d hear in a blue light disco. It’s very safe, but gosh darn if it isn’t catchy as all hell. Slave to the radio… OK. It’s not bad. 2.5

Harrison: There is so much of this pop music out there now, that i feel like this may get lost somewhere in the midst of it. In saying that, it’s necessarily bad by any means. I just feel as though Radio isn’t really challenging me so to speak. If i went to see Sylvan Esso live I could definitely see myself vibing this live, but it’s value to electronic pop isn’t bringing forth anything new for me. 3

Sam: Sylvan Esso’s first album didn’t really connect with me but I am in love with this newie. I feel like it’s a bit of Robyn with a touch of Chairlift and some Roisin Murphy thrown in too which is basically the perfect pop equation. The chorus is vibrant and catchy without being obvious and the verses are quirky and intricate. Exciting stuff. 4

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