First Impressions is our weekly series that sees the interns’ writers review the latest new music with a score out of five slapped on. This week we’re taking on everything from Xtina to Kanye.
Christina Aguilera – Like I Do (Feat. GoldLink)
Nic Kelly: Ten points to Christina for her choice of collaborator, this is a pairing I literally never heard coming but am impressed it happened. That said, I would have liked to hear something that didn’t just sound like GoldLink had been dragged into a Pro Tools session just before the song was finished after Christina rejected three other rappers. GoldLink’s smooth ability to weave into the core of every song he’s on should have been utilised more in this, a duet of sorts instead of just harmonising every few lines would have been ideal, but it’s nice enough. 3.5
Sean Tayler: A GoldLink, Xtina collab? I’m not a fan of the previous singles from this album, but ‘Like I Do’ differently feels more refreshed, than say, the lacking ‘Accelerate’. This track has some fun and bubbly production that keeps the Xtina parts of the song energetic, but it’s ultimately GoldLink who steals the show – even as the production is much less engaging during his section at the start. 3
Roz Farrell: I was super excited when I saw the GoldLink on this one, and I think there’s definitely a good track in here. That being said, this just falls a little flat for me. It feels like they couldn’t decide on a direction for this track, and wound up halfway between a down-tempo, slinky, chilled out kind of number and a standard Xtina belter. I wish they’d committed more to the former. It’s perfectly fine, certainly much better than the rest of the singles from this era have been, but it’s too long and doesn’t really go anywhere. 3
Sam Murphy: Everything about this new Christina Aguilera project could’ve come of like a reach for relevancy but instead it all feels so natural. Like I Do holds her voice in its absolute element. It doesn’t overreach or oversell, rather just floating with that wobbly Anderson .Paak beat. There’s literally no better rapper to sit on this than GoldLink and while I would’ve never paired the two together in my mind before, I need a collab album now. 4
Kanye West & Kid Cudi – Kids See Ghosts
Nic: I’m so bored of this whole project. And that makes me sad. I can’t hear anything of depth, and considering the recent past of both Kanye & Cudi that feels strange. What am I missing? 1.5
Sean: Kanye has definitely had an interesting few months with his political expression and the release of ye. I had no real expectations going into this mixtape and I’m pleasantly surprised with the titular track. On first impression, Cudi’s verses in the track feel less strong than the more dominant rap verses that Kanye offers, however their exchanges offer a nice contrast. 3.5
Roz: I really don’t know where to start with this one. I’ve always appreciated Kanye as an artist, and I know his controversial statements aren’t anything new, but I’ve just found the last few months exhausting to keep up with and impossible to break down. On top of that, everything was so hyped to death that by the time anything serious dropped, I just couldn’t be bothered listening to either project.
Even without all the promotional and political nonsense, though, I’m still not feeling this. I agree with Nic here; I’m kind of surprised by how flat and bland this feels, all things considered. I definitely need to sit down and process both Kanye projects to form an overall opinion, but from this one track, it’s a miss for me. 1.5
Sam: As someone who has never vibed with Kid Cudi ever, this record has taken me many listens to get my head around. Of the whole album, I think the title track encapsulates what they’re trying to do best. It’s haunting but also strangely spiritual. Cudi leads it melodically while Kanye adds a weight that it really begs for by the time he jumps in. There have been many flaws in the Wyoming records but this song is far from a failure. 4.5
Thomston – Acid Rain
Nic: Just when you start to get familiar with what he’s saying over that simple acoustic guitar, and your heart feels that little more towards the surface, the way he ties in the choir & orchestra gear washes a deluge of feelings over you and makes you yearn for your own better choices & looking after yourself. This is the most perfectly done pop song of the year, and further reason why sometimes less is more. Accessibility is better. Don’t overcook it. Thomston is a genius and this is the most sure of himself I’ve seen him since becoming a fan at the first EP. 5
Sean: This is the first Thomston track I’ve heard and while it opens slowly, the simple if slightly repetitive nature of the song sounds well polished. This may be Thomston’s first release in awhile, but the outcome of his hiatus is the beginning of a refined and personal era in his career. 3
Roz: I’ve been a long time fan of Thomston’s, and I’m super pleased to see him return with some new #content. This track definitely plays to his strengths; his voice fills the whole recording so that even when it’s just him and the guitar, it doesn’t feel lacking. Extended metaphors are definitely in his wheelhouse, and the whole holy water/acid rain concept is a really nice focal point. The syncopation of that particular line is also really precise and satisfying The whole thing ties together perfectly when the backing vocals and beat enter for the final chorus.
I love how he’s managed to stay true to his original alt-pop niche by incorporating concepts from his previous work, while still delving into new territory sonically. Also this video is super aesthetically pleasing and he looks really cute. 4.5
Sam: Thomston was good but now he’s great. He’s obviously thrown all his trust into his own songwriting and rightfully so. Before, he would’ve bolstered this up production-wise but now he’s got the confident to write a bloody great song and give it the space it needs to shine. The way he skirts from line to line with that subtle orchestral instrumentation creeping in is just beautiful. The chorus at the end provides us with a climax but not enough to railroad the song into a territory it doesn’t need to be in. Pretty perfect. 4.5
Chelsea Jade – Laugh It Off
Sean: Something about this track just grabs me. Accompanied by a joyful music video and retro-tinged production, Chelsea Jade’s honest lyrics seem explosive and freeing. 4
Roz: I really dig this. Chelsea has quietly been putting out bops for awhile now, and it’s about time people started paying more attention. I remember being super into “Life of the Party” when it came out last year, and I like this track for a lot of the same reasons. Witty lyricism, crisp production, and a sort of tongue-in-cheek melancholic vibe buried under anthemic pop melodies and airy vocals. This is just some really solid, modern pop craftsmanship and I love it. 4.5
Sam: Some of my favourite pop songs of the year like Rae Morris and Maribelle have just really taken it back to basics. They’ve given us minimal production and a great melody served by an engaging, enticing voice and that’s all they’ve needed. This is exactly the same. Jade knows she’s nailed the barebones of the song and it doesn’t need much else. She’s right. 4
Lily Allen – What You Waiting For?
Sean: I’m so excited Lily Allen’s back! ‘What You Waiting For?’ is emotive, honest and paints a picture of Lily recovering from a bad relationship. The production on this track has quite a different tone to that of her previous work, which caught me of guard but I’m sure I’ll grow to love. 3.5
Roz: This is just really perfectly fine. I’ve been pretty middle of the road on this whole project, to be honest. I love Lily and when the masterpiece that is “Trigger Bang” leaked I had really high hopes for the album, but nothing has really stood out to me since then. It’s all been completely decent and likeable, but I haven’t been blown away by anything and this track just feels like more of the same. 3
Sam: I love the whole No Shame record and this may be my favourite on it. She manages to trade in a very of-the-moment style and still define it as an Allen song. It’s beautifully autobiographical, poignantly wrapping up the degradation of a relationship with fragility while still maintaining her ever-engaging personality. She’s never been this forthright and she’s a far better songwriter for it. 4
Tove Lo – bitches (Feat. Charli XCX, Alma & Icona Pop)
Sean: Oh dear! Listening to ‘bitches’ for the first time is like finding out really juicy gossip about your neighbours, you can’t help but to smirk. It pulls the best aspects of the production from Tove Lo’s BLUE LIPS, but remains fresh through collabs and saucy lyrics. Charli XCX and ALMA are the standouts of this track, which gives me everything I hoped it would and more! 5
Roz: ‘bitches” has been circulating for ages, since it was included in the credits of the “Fairy Dust” short film she put out in 2016 (if you know anything about Tove, it won’t shock you to learn that she’s masturbating on screen while this plays in the background). It just keeps resurfacing: as a Spotify session single later that year, an album track on BLUE LIPS in 2017, and now this rework. Even so, I’m still completely obsessed with it.
Tove is such a great artist largely because of how unapologetically in your face she is about everything she does, and this song is just another example. The video is over the top and ridiculous in a way that’s reminiscent of Rihanna’s 2011 “S&M”; equal parts overtly sexual, cringey, and hilarious. The song actually lends itself really well to multiple features, all of which are well chosen, and the addition of ALMA and Elliphant’s verse is a definite plus. It only loses a quarter point because it lost some impact from being rehashed so many times. 4.75
Sam: I mean, it didn’t really need a remix did it? Since we’ve already got it though, I’ll take it. I love all these girls and they’ve got obvious chemistry. It’s just they don’t really add to or detract from the song and that’s fine. 3