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First Impressions: Robyn, Normani, Ellie Goulding And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 10/30/2018

First Impressions is people with opinions reviewing people with songs out of five. This week Robyn, Normani, Ellie Goulding and more face the jury.

Normani x Calvin Harris – Checklist

Liam: Although I did want Normani’s first solo venture to be completely solo, I cannot complain about this pairing – Calvin Harris provides gorgeously bizarre production, and Normani steals the show with a song that proves both her diversity and sheer unpredictability (like she had anything left to prove, anyway). A bop for the ages. 4.5

Ti: Right in the pocket for Normani. The creative people of YouTube and whatever Musical.ly is called now will be doing videos to this for a while. 3.5

Kate: Definitely was not expecting this sound to come from either Normani or Calvin Harris but it certainly is a winning combo.  Normani and WizKid, again surprisingly, mesh well together as they exchange verses with seamless transition. 3.5

Sam: I didn’t really get this song until I saw her perform it live and then I listened to it about 15 times on repeat. Normani totally owns it. There’s very few people who can do a Calvin Harris dancehall song as much justice as she does. She’s an absolute superstar. 4

Robyn – Between The Lines

Liam: I was overwhelmingly excited for Robyn’s first album in eight (!) years, and Honey absolutely didn’t disappoint. This is perhaps my favourite non-single from the album – the 90s house flairs, a booming four-to-the-floor beat and the sincere lyricism oozing over the top are a solid showcase of Robyn’s self-confessed love for the genre, as well as a shining example of what makes her such an important artist even to this day. 5

Ti: I was lucky enough to attend one of the Robyn Honey album listening parties. The room was, on reflection, kind of split into two distinct tribes; people who wanted an album of Dancing On My Own and Call Your Girlfriend-style hits (me), and people who just love everything Robyn’s ever done, who dig the really clubby sound, and were up and dancing for most of the night. This was one of the few songs that managed to unite both tribes (the others being Missing U and possibly Ever Again). I think it’s… fine, but I’m waiting for the Deluxe reissue with six new pop belters. 3

Kate: Everyone has been losing their minds over the single “Honey” but I think I prefer this track TBH.  I’m not a massive fan of Robyn’s music – and yes I am aware that I’m the only one – although I can definitely see the merit in her music and this song I shall rate a 3

Sam: There’s literally like two big pop artists around right now that could deliver a song like this and that’s Robyn and Jessie Ware. It’s such a banger of a club record and yet Robyn handles it with this silky delicacy. It’s spacious but sugary sweet, laid-back but moveable. 4.5

Cardi B – Money

Liam: ‘Underwhelming’ is perhaps the best way to describe this track. Money bangs, that’s for sure – but Cardi gave so much ferocity and surprising levels of talent and dedication on her album, so to follow such a promising studio debut with lazy delivery and derivative lyrics doesn’t fill me with hope about what’s to come, and certainly gives the pre-existing sceptics more ammunition. 2.5

Ti: Not as good as her ASMR video. 2

Kate: Ditto to what Liam had to say!  100% agree. The song isn’t bad, but I guess we’re holding Cardi B to her own standard and when comparing her to herself, this is probably Cardi C+ at best. 3

Sam: It’s an extension of Invasion Of Privacy, really. I probably would’ve been way more excited if it sat on the original album alongside Money Bag and Bickenhead but on its own it feels a little lacklustre. 3

E^ST – Friends

Liam: E^ST remains one of the world’s most underrated talents, and Friends is solid proof of that fact – the understated production never grows dull throughout the song’s duration, and E^ST’s lyrics remain as frank and as cutting as ever. She always manages to yank at the heartstrings with her music whether you like it or not, and this time around it isn’t any different. 4

Ti: E^ST is so versatile, and, more importantly, she’s compelling. Every song of hers makes you both want to be part of her world, but at the same time makes you feel like you’ve known her forever. 3.5

Kate: OK, so this song is what I’ll be posting every single R U OK? Day from now on.  Damn, these lyrics! Imagine being lucky enough to be one of E^ST’s mates! I love this whole thing and can we all agree to never underestimate the value of talking shit with your mates when you feel like poo?  Cool. The backing beat feels a little Jarryd James-ey to me also, so it’s all wrapped up in a neat little package. 4

Sam: E^ST has been delivering pop bangers for a little while now so it’s nice to hear her pull it back. This is such a warm, relatable song and Ti’s completely right when she says it makes you feel part of her world. She’s one of the few songwriters in this country that’s able to put her world on paper, unfiltered. 4

Ellie Goulding – Close To Me

Liam: In a similar vein to Normani, I wanted Ellie Goulding to explode back onto the scene with something completely solo. And although Close To Me is great – I loved Delirium, by the way – the reliance on Diplo and Swae Lee, two considerably overused feature artists, is disappointing. They’re fine on this song, but they don’t add any form of spark. I hope she has more up her sleeve in the near future, because she’s certainly capable of it. 3.5

Ti: So was Swae Lee brought in so that it didn’t immediately get the dreaded “adult contemporary” label then? 2.75

Kate: I feel as though the lyrics are way too weak or cliché or something.  I mean I’m a massive pop fan but I don’t think I could sing along to these lyrics – even alone in my car – without cringing hard.  I also feel like Swae Lee’s verse is super out of place in the song, in part due to the fact that it’s the only semi-decent thing about the song.  Lol at the subtly-delayed ‘s’ on the end of ‘rubber’; but yeah he should really burn rubber backing the fuck outta this wreck. 1.5

Sam: I really like Ellie Goulding so I was always going to like this. I think it’s a bop but it’s not the first single after a three years break that you’d expect. Goulding is not the kind of artist that should be featuring with two others, she’s more than capable of delivering a knockout first single on her own. I imagine the label has been doing some meddling here. 3

Nao – If You Ever (Feat. 6lack)

Liam: I was pleasantly surprised by the Nao album – she’s an artist I’ve always meant to get into but never found that motivation to do so. Thankfully, she hit the mark with this one. If You Ever is an undeniable standout, a beautifully melancholic collaboration with 6lack (another very talented artist pushing the genre forward) that proves the magic of R&B has not yet been lost. 4.5

Ti: I reckon this’ll sound better during the heatwave the east coast of Australia will be having later this week. 3

Kate: 6LACK’s flow on this feature is damn near perfect and the production is incredible but the lyrics are a little too repetitive for my personal taste; however, in saying that, this is only a first impression.  It’s likely to grow on me and I’ll probably find that I change my mind. 3.5

Sam: Understated perfection. Goddamn her voice just sends me into heaven on angel’s wings. Her voice wraps around this like honey on a honey dipper and the sweetness gets me feeling all goey inside. I thought I could do without 6lack on this one but he really brings his A-game with a verse stronger than a lot of what featured on his album. 4.5

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