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First Impressions: Ariana Grande, The 1975, Sam Smith And More

Written By the interns on 08/23/2018

First Impressions is our weekly series where our writers go to town on the latest new releases and slap a score out of five on them. This week, we turn our attention to Ariana Grande, The 1975 and more.

Ariana Grande – breathin

Georgia Griffiths: I’m late to the Ariana cheer team but I’m glad I made it eventually. While I wouldn’t say this is the strongest track from sweetener, it is one of the songs that grew on me with multiple listens. You might not know the name Ilya Salmanzadeh, but he’s responsible for pretty much all the bangers on this album (including ‘God is a woman’ and ‘no tears left to cry’) so it’s not a huge surprise he produced this one too. A slow burner that’s worth the time. 3.5

Reece Hooker: An absolute standout from one of the year’s best albums. I hadn’t made the Ilya Salmanzadeh connection until Georgia pointed it out, but what a string of hits to be behind the boards for. I love the murky production paired in with the simple kick that drives this song. Ariana is enough of a vocal powerhouse to carry anything she lands on, but it works especially well when she’s given such a perfectly balanced soundscape to to shine on.  4.5

Calvin Harris – Promises (Feat. Sam Smith)

Georgia: I loved this from the moment I heard it. It’s so refreshing to hear Calvin making good tunes again. This has that ‘One Kiss’ summer arvo vibe, and I’m expecting some great remixes in the near future. Sam Smith shines through here – I’m not sure what Jessie Reyez really brings to the table that couldn’t have been achieved otherwise. Still a catchy track though.

Reece: Sam Smith has paid off a few mortgages with his powerhouse ballads, but he’s so much sleeker when he’s on these cruisy dance beats. This one marks the latest chapter in Calvin Harris’ transition away from lame duck EDM bro towards an interesting pop maestro, which has been an underrated development of the past few years. While I think this is a step back from some of the gamechangers on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (hello, ‘Slide’), I’m still digging it. Sam Smith, Calvin Harris and Jessie Reyez are all bona fide superstars and this track carries the quiet confidence that proves they all know it. 4/5

The 1975 – TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME

Georgia: This is… not good. I’m not a huge fan of The 1975 at the best of times but this is just boring and over-produced. I vaguely understand what they were aiming for, but in my mind it’s fallen very short of their previous standard. Hopefully the rest of the album is better than this, which I’d barely consider a B-side. 0.5

Reece: The 1975 are making waves fusing their own indie revivalist style into sounds mastered by other artists. Last single they riffed on Joy Division with the grower ‘Give Yourself a Try’ and this time, they’re rocking up Drake’s sad tropical house music. There’s something tender in Matt Healy’s voice on this album that endears me to him (a hard sell given his general vibe, to be honest), but I’m not sure how much this one is going to stand out in a week’s time. At best, it could be a good filler track on a very good album. 3

6lack – Nonchalant

Georgia: This style of music really isn’t my fave but I can see the appeal in ‘Nonchalant’. 6lack has a good flow, and the mellowed-out production is intentionally slow to highlight his clever lyrics. I can always appreciate a “Sisqo/VSCO” rhyme so this track gets a mild thumbs up from me. 3

Reece: 6LACK can be relied on for consistently good, low-ley R&B jams, but it’s a struggle finding many of his songs that separate themselves from the pack. Beyond ‘Ex Calling’, 6LACK’s discography all feels very same-same and this one is another on the pile. ‘Nonchalant’ won’t make me lunge for the skip button, but it’s hard to see me seeking this one out again when there’s a million other guys on Soundcloud doing the same thing. 2.5

Christine & The Queens – 5 Dollars

Georgia: Isn’t Christine & The Queens just so much fun? I get very nostalgic vibes from her, akin to Marina and the Diamonds, and you can definitely feel a little bit of a Michael Jackson creeping through in the beat. ‘5 dollars’ could 100% soundtrack an indie teen coming-of-age film, in the scene where they’re running around the neighbourhood and falling in love. It’s just an all-round nice track. 4

Reece: My elevator pitch on Christine & The Queens goes as follows: it’s like HAIM dared to be really weird, and the risk paid off. ‘5 Dollars’ is a patient, technically precise piece of pop gold that reminds me of all the best bits of Passion Pit, Coldplay and Florence & The Machine. This hits the sweet spot that could easily top the charts without isolating the too cool crowd – commercial radio, get onto it. 4

Young Thug – Chanel (Go Get It)

Georgia: I thought Young Thug wasn’t putting out any music this year because of something to do with his deaf brother? And didn’t he change his name to SEX for a little while there? Whatever his deal is now, I can admit that this track is alright. Gunna and Lil Baby hold their own pretty well, and Thug carries a well-formed chorus. Maybe the drama is key to creating the music. 2.5

Reece: One of the stronger tracks on a very disappointing release from one of rap’s most brilliant creative forces. Is this Thug’s drop-off or a calculated attempt to launch the rappers on his label, two of whom are plastered onto this track? Young Thug is Young Thug, but even he can’t drag this generic throwaway to anything impressive. Gunna has done well to take half a step out of his label boss’ shadow and Lil Baby is desperately trying to keep his Drake-initiated hype alive, but I loathe their contributions here. From their generic names to their generic flow to their generic lyrics, they seem destined to be – at best – this generation’s Beanie Sigel and Freeway to Thug’s Jay-Z. 2.5

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