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First Impressions: Beyoncé, Charli XCX, Sam Smith And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 07/26/2019

First Impressions is our weekly chance to go head-to-head on the new tunes of the week. Each of the contributing writers reviews the track and then slaps a score out of 5 on it. This week Charli XCX + Christine & The Queens, Bey and JAY, Iggy and more are up.

Charli XCX – Gone (Feat. Christine & The Queens)

Reece Hooker: You knew this was special based on the artists alone, but ‘Gone’ really is that good. It’s as perfect a pop song as you can get: the verses are razor sharp, the talent is magnetic and my goodness, the chorus is phenomenal. ‘Gone’ feels like a moment: Charli and Chris sing with the ferocity of someone caught in the pouring rain and A.G. Cook’s production rattles with thunderclaps and bassy distortion. One of my favourite first listens of the year. 5

Sam Murphy: This song is monumental. There’s an ambition to both Charli and Christine that makes you think they’ve always been striving for a classic and here it is. Over that muscular beat the pair capture the feeling of anxiety while also inhabiting this sense of liberation that comes through the pair’s union. They both push each other to be better and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. 5

Sam Smith – How Do You Sleep?

Reece: I haven’t listened to Sam Smith in a hot minute and it’s nice seeing some progression from his big ballads. ‘How Do You Sleep?’ feels like a step towards making pop music divorced from the dancier Disclosure/Calvin Harris tracks he’s usually on and a positive one at that. The songwriting and production is a little generic, but Sam’s voice breaks through to make a tad more memorable. It’s not a show-stopper, but it’s always nice when established artists step into something new. 3

Sam: I’ve always found it difficult to connect Sam Smith’s personality with his music. He seems like he loves a good time in the club and yet we’re always served this dreary music usually reserved for 50 year-olds. How Do You Sleep? Is a great pop song. In itself, it’s not revolutionary, but Sam’s delivery is. He finally feels liberated, like he’s stepping into the artist he wanted to be and that’s very exciting. 4

Beyoncé – MOOD 4 EVA (Feat. JAY-Z & Childish Gambino)

Reece: Beyonce is name-dropping Dikembe Mutombo on a Just Blaze beat. Jay-Z is rapping about wine, jet-skis and lacing his bars with references to rap history. Childish Gambino sticks to singing. This song is everything I could have wanted and so much more. 4.5

Sam: Beyoncé usually carries the track’s with JAY-Z but he’s a rapper reborn post 4:44 and this is one of the few times that they’ve felt like true musical equals. Bey is throwing down afrobeat-tinged bars with ease and JAY powers through beginning with a laugh and ending with “peace”. As always, I can take or leave Gambino but as a whole MOOD 4 EVA is pretty electric. 4.5

Hayley Kiyoko – I Wish

Reece: In a crowded pop landscape, what’s Hayley Kiyoko doing that separates her from the rest of the field? ‘I Wish’ is mind-numbingly limp and complete obfuscates Kiyoko’s bright personality that we’ve seen on other singles. The songwriting is lacklustre and the production feels toothless. I wish I was listening to something different. 1.5

Sam: I wasn’t sold on this at all on first listen. The hook felt really lacklustre but after a few listens I am being won over. It’s all to do with those verse. They’re so hypnotic and yet they’re juxtaposed by some rock solid Kiyoko vocals. It’s one of the first times I’ve found something truly unique in her tone. 3.5

King Princess – Prophet

Reece: Every King Princess release is a must-listen and ‘Prophet’ delivers as a pleasing left-turn. It’s much bluesier than her other work and runs patiently, like a filler track on a great album. ‘Prophet’ drags a little over its four-minute runtime, but it’s an easy pill to swallow when it starts off at such a high level. 3.5

Sam: I fear that King Princess’ momentum is slowing a little. I think it’s actually because her music is maturing and we’re going to need the album to really get her full vision. As standalone tracks, both this and Cheap Queen don’t really make you yell from the rooftop but this is a pretty gorgeous moment for her. It’s smokey and alluring, really giving us a chance to hear the intricacies of that vocal. 3.5

Iggy Azalea – Fuck It Up (Feat. Kash Doll)

Reece: Iggy Azalea faceplanted on the scene about five years ago and somehow, we’re still not rid of her. She’s maintained commercial relevance despite a total absence of lyricism, creativity, charisma or even a modicum of likeability. First Impressions icon Nic Kelly said it best: she’s a low rent Bhad Bhabie. ‘Fuck It Up’ is particularly insulting because Kash Doll – one of Detroit’s most promising rising stars – gets dragged into it. Kash been killing her features for a solid year and out of nowhere drops this dud. 1 

Sam: You know what? I kinda get kicks out of this. Don’t get my wrong, I have multiple issues with Iggy but this is kinda her acknowledging what she is. Like Fancy, she nabs a ‘90s movie for the video and somehow finds some magnetic chemistry with Kash Doll. The hook is absolutely ridiculous but the beat is sugary enough to make it worse. If this became a hit I actually wouldn’t be surprised. 2.5

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