First Impressions: Drake, Lady Gaga, Peking Duk And More

Written By the interns on 10/25/2016

first-imp-gaga

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 Drake, Lady Gaga, Peking Duk, Nicole Millar, Fortunes and Jai Wolf.

Drake
Fake Love

Annie: Four new Drake tracks were dropped on OVO Sound Radio’s birthday edition, but “Fake Love” will likely be the biggest hit out of all of them. The song is vaguely familiar (it has many of the same elements that made “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance” so popular), but it stands strongly on its own. This is Drake at his most comfortable, infectious pop with his usual lyricism. 4

Reece: Drake’s been in my dog house this week for the unsavoury Kid Cudi diss, so maybe that’s why I’m so cold on Fake Love. It was intriguing when OVO started dabbling in dancehall twelve months ago, but it’s now feeling like a processing line and this is another forgettable VIEWS offcut that ended up on his radio show. 2

Sam: I can’t help but feel this sounds a little like Hotline Bling pt.2. And that’s not really a bad thing at all, it just sounds a bit familiar. Still, where Hotline Bling felt like an instant meme of itself, Fake Love has a little more depth to it. It’s paranoid and anxious with Drake singing with more emotion than he has in a while. It’s the first Drake pop song in a while that feels too deep to actually make memes out of it and in 2016 that, somewhat surprisingly, says something. 4

Average Score: 3.3

Lady Gaga
A-YO


Annie: I have mixed feelings about this track. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard from Gaga before, but it’s still not interesting enough for me to hit repeat. As usual, her vocals are stellar and she’s continued to innovate from her signature style, but it still feels lackluster. Perhaps in the grand scheme of the full album it would strike my interest, but not as a stand alone track. 2.5

Reece: I’ve been enjoying Joanne a lot over the past few days, but I still can’t figure out whether it’s a good album or not. A-YO falls into the trap of many tracks on the album – it’s a perfectly fine song that doesn’t really push the limits. When Lady Gaga releases songs, we’ve grown to expect her to meet her high standard of polished pop that is imaginatively bold. A-YO is only holding up one part of the deal – being a superbly polished Taylor Swift/Shania Twain fusion (a compliment, I swear) but falling a little bit short of the boundary-pushing we love from Gaga. 3.5

Zanda: Every Lady Gaga song that I don’t end up skipping through must be doing something right. I actually don’t even mind the country vibes, although i’ll also always be skeptical about big name singers singing “country” because it sort of defeats the purpose of country music being about honest lyrics and experience. Bo Burnam explains it a lot better than I could here3

Sam: If there’s a song off Joanne that has any chance of being a hit, it’s this one. I think this is arguably the best song on the record because it pairs together the melodic, over-the-top Gaga of old with the new grassroots Gaga. Everything about this should feel contrived – Gaga goes country after a failed pop record – but unbelievably it doesn’t. In fact it’s quite the opposite. A-YO is vivacious, personable and catchy-as-hell. Those horns at the end have Mark Ronson written all over them and his distinct retro touches help this to be the best thing he’s done since Uptown Funk. 4

Average Score: 3.25

Peking Duk
Stranger (Feat. Elliphant)

Annie: Elliphant was the perfect choice for vocals on this major track. Her distinctive voice elevates this single to new heights, creating what will probably be one of the most played songs of Australia’s summer. Even if, like myself, you’re not a huge fan of Peking Duk- this track is too catchy to deny. It’s great progression for the duo. 3.5

Reece: Peking Duk are seasoned veterans when it comes making pop bangers. Stranger fits in well alongside High and Take Me Over, riding the talents of their incredibly strong vocalist (this episode’s guest is the wonderful Elliphant) over production that’s a little generic but well executed. Stranger is infectious and if this is what I’ll be hearing all summer, I’ll bloody well take it over The Chainsmokers or the new Bruno Mars. 3.5

Zanda: This is the first song from Peking Duk since High that I can see them going out and absolutely destroying festival crowds with (and the Hottest 100). Yes, Take Me Over was great but i’m putting that down to SAFIA more than the Duks. Stranger is crafted in a very specific, methodical way, but it’ll definitely work well for the boys – and they’ll be able to continue partying as hard as ever with this one. 4

Sam: I really don’t wanna like this because it’s so formulaic but goddamn it works. It’s basically High part two but it’s really hard to manufacture that commercial dance sound and still deliver the euphoria but these two do it time and time again. Elliphant brings so much personality to the song which is probably what saves it from vanilla territory. I predict this will go to number one here. 3.5

Average Score: 3.63

Nicole Millar
Signals

Annie: Can Nicole Millar do any wrong? The juggernaut has finally refined her sound with “Signals”, a superb piece of work that cements her in as one of dance musics most interesting artists to watch. This track is easy listening, in the best kind of way. 4 Annie’s Pick

Reece: Bit by bit, the artistic profile of Nicole Millar is shaping up. Signals has some spacey cuts on the production, but is led by Millar’s stellar vocal performance and command of the track. Her presence is on the track is phenomenal and it’s the first time Nicole Millar has, to me, had the sound of a real megastar. 4

Zanda: With production assistance from the likes of Perth producer Sable; this was always going to be a big release for Millar. She’s becoming a regular on the Aussie festival circuit and you had a feeling that she probably needed another big single to really justify her spot there – and boy does she deliver. A killer blend of electro vibes and her Millars dulcet and understated vocals, Signals is a perfect follow up to Tremble and is further proof that she’ll continue to stand out from the pack. 4

Sam: I really like the verses of this. Millar’s voice softly floats through this beautiful melody and same goes for the pre-chorus but I can’t help but wish for a little more of that when it comes to the chorus. It’s definitely a taste thing but drops keep stealing my choruses and I want them back. That said, Millar keeps stepping it up and she’s conjured one of the most dedicated fanbases in the country. It’s great to have an artist like her who genuinely looks like they’re going from strength to strength. 3.5

Average Score: 3.88

Fortunes
501’s

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/futureclassic/fortunes-501s[/soundcloud]

Annie: Fortune’s ode to Levi Jeans 501’s shows the duo more in sync than ever. Connor Mccabe’s voice is as dreamy as it gets here, creating a sensual, yet funky vibe for the track. There’s nothing to really critique here, the song is perfectly refined. The duo just signed to Future Classic, so it will be interesting to see where they can go from here. 4

Reece: So I’ve always had a soft spot for Guy Sebastian, and always thought he’s had a bucketload of untapped potential. Reality show beginnings aside, Guy is a legitimate Australian music veteran and has some real indie cred – see: collabs with PACES and Lupe Fiasco. All of this is relevant because Fortunes. have remarkably fulfilled that potential already. So thank you, Fortunes., for being the silky smooth R&B crooners Guy Sebastian never was for me. May all your future releases be up to this lofty standard. 4

Zanda: Woah, the start of this could be by any number of US R&B crooners but then you get that strong NZ accent. Lots of Aussie/NZ singers sing with an American accent but Fortunes are really forging their own path. The production is just soul vibes for days, and those harmonies are absolutely killer. 4.5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: This deserves all the praise that it’s getting at the moment. So much so that I reckon it’s the best single Future Classic has released for a good while and that’s saying something. So often when Aussie acts dip into the soul genre, they take on Americanisms and strip it off basically anything that could be traced back to Australia. This actually sounds like it’s from Australia/NZ which is so refreshing. It’s also so effortlessly laid-back but it also makes you sit up and take note which is rare. Sam’s Pick

Average Score: 4.13

Jai Wolf
Like It’s Over (Feat. MNDR)

Annie: This song’s really not for me. While objectively I can see how this track could get big, I’m a fan of instant gratification and things only really kick in at around the 2:40 mark.  MNDR’s contribution shouldn’t be ignored though, her distinctive vocals help give this song the extra kick I was waiting for. 3

Reece: Jai Wolf has been following a similar template for his past few tracks, with each getting better along the way. Since Indian Summer, he’s been making dance music that has some sappier humanity in it. Indian Summer was immensely catchy and quirky, but it felt a little mechanical. Drive felt a little sleepy. Like It’s Over is the best take yet on the humanist electronic sound Jai Wolf is edging towards perfection. MNDR’s airy vocals were just made for tracks like this. 4.5 Reece’s Pick

Zanda: This is finally the next track from Jai Wolf that could potentially go close to the enormity of Indian Summer. His production is suits MNDR’s vocals so well, not hitting too hard but perfectly tight – and the scalic melodic runs are just gorgeous. A slow builder, its worth the wait to hear MNDR in full flight towards the back end as she absolutely belts out her top line. 4

Sam: I really love Jai Wolf’s production on this one from that oriental synth to the organic percussive sounds towards the end but it’s just really not sticking with me. I agree with Annie that it’s really quite slow until the 2:40 mark which is kind of what Porter Robinson does too but the difference is he really holds you close up until that point where this one feels sort of cold. 3

Average Score: 3.63

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