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First Impressions: Anderson .Paak, Montaigne, Cheryl And More

Written By the interns on 11/14/2018

First Impressions is people with opinions reviewing people with songs out of five. This week Anderson .Paak, Cheryl, Montaigne and more face the jury.

Anderson .Paak – WHO R U?

Sam: I’m enjoying what’s coming from Oxnard so far but I am also craving some more tender .Paak moment in the same ilk as Til It’s Over. So far everything has been bold and boastful which is great but it’s starting to get a little one dimensional. 3.5

Reece: Anderson .Paak comes a little full circle, reuniting with Dr. Dre after breaking out on Dre’s Compton album, and this one is a worthy follow-up. The production isn’t close to Dre’s best and lacks the fun and bounce of his earlier work, but .Paak brings some strong fire. We’ve known him mostly as a singer and producer, but between his bars here and with The L.A. Leakers earlier this week, .Paak could be the triple threat we’ve been waiting for. 3.5

Georgia: It took a couple of listens before I could see the value in this one. .Paak’s rapping style reminds me a lot of Kendrick, which is unfortunate because he’s not really as good as Lamar. I don’t think I like it as much as his other tracks, but it’s not bad. 3

Sean: Anderson .Paak will always be cool. This track is super fun in the same breezy style as ‘Bubblin’ so it’ll be interesting to see if his upcoming album is as versatile as Malibu. So far, so good! 3.5

HI LIFE – Slide

Reece: Had to give this a few listens because I kept getting distracted by the hilarious and fun video. For a newcomer, HI LIFE’s production sounds right at home with Future Classic’s superstar talent and ‘Slide’ is going to find itself on rotation at plenty of parties over the summer. Harvie’s vocals are phenomenal too, elevating a potent track to a standout. 4

Georgia: I really really like this track. The production gives me Wave Racer/Basenji vibes, albeit less zany. As Reece said, HI LIFE will definitely be at home on the Future Classic roster. I’d also like to hear a lot more from Harvie! Her voice is perfect for these kind of electronic tracks. I hadn’t seen the video before but it’s worth a watch too. 4.5

Sean: This is one of the most interesting music videos I’ve seen in ages; the song is incredibly chill and soothing. It’s unexpectedly a high point of new music from an artist up until now I’ve never heard of. 3.5

Sam: This is a post-PC Music pop triumph that offers a lesson in restraint. It could’ve been saccharine and kitsch but they pulled it right back in a move that multiplies the emotion of the whole thing. This vocal is a knockout and the production is flawless. 4

Montaigne – For Your Love

Reece: There’s no one out there making music like Montaigne, and I’m not sure anyone could if they tried. Her operatic vocals make every song feel technically impressive but, much like predecessor ‘Because I Love You’,  ‘For Your Love’ transcends that encapsulate fascinating songwriting and catchiness. ‘For Your Love’ pulls a number of tricks to monopolise the listener’s attention, but the most impressive is the devastatingly raw songwriting. Each chorus feels emotionally charged in a different way, and the song blossoms over its full four minutes. 4.5

Georgia: This is a very strong return for Montaigne, and it makes me super excited for what’s to come. ‘For Your Love’ is more complex than some of her previous tracks, and I think it shows a lot of growth. The twists and turns keep you engrossed for the whole track, to the point where it flows pretty seamlessly if you listen to it on repeat. Of course, her vocals are stunning as per usual as well. 4

Sean: Montaigne’s vocals are a welcome sound. The production in this track is slightly more electronic than what I recall from her previous work, but it works well against her operatic voice.  It may play safe, but it accomplishes so much in 4 minutes while still sounding natural. 3.5

Sam: Really nice, mature songwriting. It feels like Montaigne has really grown up since her debut both in subject matter and production. For Your Love takes its time and is so intricate and slow moving that at times you wonder whether the song even has a hook. Once your hear that hook twice though you’re, well…hooked. A great return. 4

Cheryl – Love Made Me Do It

Reece: It feels like Cheryl was aiming for her own ‘thank u, next’ and landed closer to Mariah Carey dragging James Packer on ‘I Don’t’ which is … no compliment. There’s nothing wrong with a glow-up break-up jam (see: Wafia, ‘I’m Good’), but this one flops. The stripped back instrumentation and acapella-led chorus is an interesting idea in the theory, but in an era of sharp songwriting and otherworldly vocal power, this song is a horrendous fit for the concept. 2

Georgia: I know this is an unpopular opinion but I’ve really never understood the appeal of Cheryl. With the possible exception of my guilty pleasure ‘3 Words’ with will.i.am, her best work was as part of Girls Aloud. ‘Love Made Me Do It’ is pretty bland, and in all honesty even Cheryl sounds bored when she’s singing. If Glee was still on TV, this would be on next week’s episode. 1

Sean: The production is bad but it’s not terrible. What’s terrible are the lyrics, “Breaking all my rules, but love made me do it, shoulda used my head”. Lyrically, one of the most generic pop songs I’ve heard all year, to the point where it sounds like a better song playing in a different room. 1.5

Sam: I’m always a big fan of Cheryl’s first singles off her album because they kind of mimic exactly what’s going on in pop at that moment. It’s not original but she does it really well and it’s a snapshot of commercial music at the time. This is minimal and slender like the sort of stuff Anne-Marie and Dua Lipa are releasing right now and it has a good dose of personality. I won’t be submitting her for a Pulitzer prize but it’s enjoyable. 3

Madison Beer – Hurts Like Hell (Feat. Offset)

Reece: Maybe I’m missing the point, but I’m exhausted by songs that sound like this. It feels like there’s a template that an AI bot could 100% replicate by this point: plodding production over vacuous verses, a lift for the chorus that drops in and out to accentuate the singer’s strength and then a tacked on verse from whichever Migos member is free that day. Offset’s verse warrants a special mention, though, because it has some the worst lines of the year including ‘jumpin’ on the dick like Kermit’ and rhyming ‘looking at you like a bird bitch’ with ‘you can go live on the curb, bitch’. Rakim would be proud. 1.5

Georgia: I’m all for a teen star breaking through into adult themes, but this ain’t it. Madison Beer became famous because Justin Bieber tweeted about her when she was in her early teens, and in my mind that’s pretty much her peak. As per usual, Offset brings absolutely nothing to the track. The first chorus is a lot stronger than the later ones where the pair alternate parts. As Reece has said, it’s a very low grade attempt to emulate what the industry deemed ‘popular’ six months ago. 1

Sean: This sounds like it’s not only ghostproduced and ghostwritten but also ghosted honestly. Who cares? 1

Sam: I have no idea who Madison Beer is and maybe that helps me to enjoy it a bit more. I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s written by Charli XCX and while it sounds like an offcut, I think it’s a great pop song. I do agree it lacks personality but that chorus is an absolute monster and the verses are Charli enough for me to get into it. 3

Aeris Roves – Running Thru 3am

Reece: This has some punch to it! Aeris Roves cites Frank Ocean and Ed Sheeran has his two big songwriting influences and you could probably place his music somewhere between the two on a map. There’s that accessible sensitivity of Ed Sheeran, but Aeris Roves isn’t afraid to make his sounds a little bit darker. This is the kind of song that could make someone into a very big deal. 3.5

Georgia: If someone told me this was Khalid with a cold I’d believe them. ‘Running Thru 3am’ has a similar vibe to some of the slower tracks on American Teen, and Roves really does just sound like Khalid with a slight British accent. That’s not to discount this track though – I think it has the potential to become pretty popular. The production is reserved, but it works to highlight Roves’ vocals. I’d be down to listen to a lot more of this. 4

Sean: I have mixed thoughts about this one. On one hand, the lyrics seem cliched, but they match well with the tone of the song and still feel genuine. I’m really into the looped backing vocals that seem to give the song a greater depth than it has, however it does still feel forced. The song gets to a climax in the final third, but it feels rigid and unnatural and I think it would work better if it was less poppy. 2.7

Sam: I’ve had this on repeat all week. It treads a really fine line between pop and modern RnB, doing a really good job at not falling too far into either. I do agree it has a real Khalid vibe to it but I think it’s a little bit more ambitious in terms of the sonic size of it and I like that in a debut. It’s a really great hype-grabber for an artist that will surely do bigger things. 4

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