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First Impressions: Ariana Grande, Flume, Billie Eilish And More

Written By the interns on 04/03/2019

First Impressions is our weekly series where our writers zone in on new music from the week past and dish their opinions. This week we review another newie from Flume and the highlight of Billie Eilish’s debut album.

Flume – Friends (Feat. Reo Cragun)

Roz Farrell: I’m really into this. I love the mixtape Flume dropped last week, it felt like a really refreshing blend of his older stuff with the intensity of some of the more industrial sounds ratcheted up a notch (him and SOPHIE is the collab of my dreams). That mixtape actually feels like one as well, and not a half-assed album that someone is trying to pass off as a finished project by using that label.

I wasn’t expecting another release so quickly, I figured they’d try to milk a single off of that project for a bit, but this song is really great. I love the mix of rap and vocal styles delivered here, and it certainly has more mass appeal than a lot of Flume’s more aggressively approached tracks. As your resident American, I am also pleased to report that Reo Cragun is from my home state, Washington. I’m always excited to hear some more diverse sounds coming out of here, so that’s just another point in its favor for me. 4.5

Jake Daniel: Flume has come back with a vengeance. I have no words for this. I like it, i like it alot. 4

Sam Murphy: I’ve never been overly fussed by Flume but after this mixtape and now this maybe I’m a stan. Wow, I’m growing and learning and it sounds like so is Flume. I was wondering how he was going to find something commercial after how odd the production on the mixtape was but he’s managed it on Friends. It’s disjointed and glitchy but it’s bound by a thunderous chorus that makes it accessible. 4

Billie Eilish – bad guy

Roz: I’ve been Billie’s biggest fan from day one, but lately she’s just felt really hit or miss to me. Her don’t smile at me EP was pretty masterful, and it felt super authentic. She’s rocketed to superstardom in the last couple of years, and I was all the way on board with that, but the bigger she’s gotten the more on the fence I’ve felt about her releases. I know that sounds so terribly cliche, getting bored with an artist when they make it big, and I hate it as much as you probably do, but that’s where I’m at. (Also the marketing for this record has been shoved so far down my throat that no matter how much I was planning on listening to the album, I’ve been almost avoiding it out of sheer irritation).

Tracks like “watch” and “bellyache” have a heart-wrenching intimacy that drove home the dark vibes in a way that felt sincere. Releases like this one, however (or “you should see me in a crown” and “bury a friend” for that matter) feel sort of forced in their angstyness by comparison. I’m not saying her writing is necessarily less genuine, but it reads that way to me at least. Plus, the “I’m the might seduce your dad type” line made me uncomfortable enough to stop enjoying the aspects of the song I was into, and the music video only exacerbated that. The production, particularly the breakdown at the end, is immaculate, but this type of track isn’t what sold me on Billie in the first place. 2.5

Jake: Billie Eilish is quickly becoming one of, if not, the most influential artist of this generation. The maturity in her vocabulary and melodies are incredibly rare. I understand that some people aren’t ready for what she’s doing right now, but give it time. She is ahead of the game right and is paving the way for artists to be extremely more creative and open with their stories. Billie is here to stay until the day she is no longer physically here on this planet. Strap in and watch a prodigy do what she wants. 4.99

Sam: I’ve always found Billie Eilish’s music to be a little lacklustre post-Bellyache but I was happy to hear some harder-hitting stuff on the album. Bad guy is the highlight of the album and it’s a highlight of the year too actually. It’s wicked and humorous while also managing to be instantly catchy. I can leave the video but I’m super impressed by the direction of the song. 4

ROSALIA x J Balvin – Con Altura

Roz: I’ll be first to admit I’m realllll late on the ROSALIA train. I’ve been meaning to listen to her most recent album since it came out and it just hasn’t happened, but I do like this. It’s super clean and energetic, it sounds vibrant, and her vocals sound great. I love the personality she conveys in her delivery. That said, J Balvin feels fairly inconsequential on this one. 3.5

Jake: Not going to lie, I’ve never heard of ROSALIA, but this was nice. Her vocals sound crisp and the production is tight. It’s just a simple case of ‘just not my style…’ Sorry 🙁 I also don’t think this needed J Balvin. 1

Sam: This is Rosalia moving into hit territory and you better believe that I’m here for it. She makes anything sound hypnotising and the fact that she’s able to jump on something more commercial without losing any of her charm is a testament to her. I love the video too, she looks like an absolute superstar. I realised I haven’t said anything about J Balvin but that’s because there’s nothing he could do to steal the show from Rosalia. 4.5

Georgia – About Work The Dancefloor

Roz: This is a BOP. This is some high energy, Robyn-via-CHVRCHES level vibes, and I’m obsessed with this. The synths on this are massive. I don’t know what else to say, really. This is the most excited I’ve been about a song in this stylistic vein in quite awhile. The production, the vocals, the writing, it all delivers on what it promises. 5

Jake: WHAT THE HELL! Where did this voice come from? Where did this production come from?! Never even heard about Georgia until now and I’m so stoked. What a nice surprise. The intricacies in the production on this track is bedazzling. Huge tune! Excited to discover more of Georgia. 4

Sam: I agree with Jake. WHAT?! Imagine how long Georgia was sitting on this earth-shatteringly great song, knowing that she was about to change pop forever. It feels like listening to Dancing On My Own or Bulletproof in the sense that it just sounds so effortless but it’s still so powerful. I only needed one listen to decide it’s iconic and that’s an opinion that I’m going to hold until the end of time regardless of what Georgia does next. Complete and utter perfection. 5

Zara Larsson – Don’t Worry Bout Me

Roz: I was so, so excited to hear that Zara was working with Tove Lo and her team. Two of my Scandipop faves with incredible attitudes and Zara’s vocals to boot is the electropop dream, which made this even more disappointing than it otherwise would’ve been. It sounds like all of Zara’s energy has been sucked into a vacuum, and the processing on the vocal is kind of heinous. I’m normally obsessed w the crispness of the production that the Struts are able to knock out with Tove, but it just feels kind of listless here. It’s not bad per se, but it’s not good either. I really hope they’ve got more in the tank for this upcoming album. 2

Jake: Holy. I love this. That lil chorus drop is to die for. Incredibly mellow and intimate. A Zara Larsson special. Not quite as powerful as some of her past tracks, but still not a complete miss. I can see this getting quality radio play. 4

Sam: I don’t know how somebody who was on the verge of being one of the biggest popstars on earth is being brought down by mediocre songs. There’s nothing wrong with this but the production is so middle-of-the-road and she just sounds bored at points. 2.5

Ariana Grande & Victoria Monet – Monopoly

Roz: This isn’t good. I was excited to hear Victoria actually feature on one of Ari’s tracks, given how much they’ve worked together over the years, but this is just absolute minimum effort and execution. We all know they can do better. Plus, I know Victoria has spoken about her sexuality before, but I think Ariana has to know what she’s stirring up in her fanbase by continuing to tease her sexuality like this. If she wants to keep that stuff private, that’s absolutely her right, I’m not trying to encourage people to invade her privacy, but continuing to draw speculation to it and then avoiding addressing it feels pretty queer-baity in my opinion. I’ve been rooting for Ari for the last couple of years but this just isn’t it. 1.5

Jake: The classic, ‘let’s make a song with the same melody and production as every single song that’s been released in the last 2 years’. I can’t understand it. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s not good. I just don’t understand it.. Never have, never will. Sorry. Ariana is better than this, anyone who decides to go down this route is better. It’s lazy. 0

Sam: There is literally no other big pop artist on a major label that would be allowed to release this. It would’ve come together over a matter of days and the fact that Ariana can just drop it when she likes is powerful. I love that it sounds real time, like it’s not going to last forever but it’s perfect right now. Victoria and her sound completely unbothered. That’s actually really refreshing. 3.5

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