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First Impressions: Post Malone, Camila Cabello, Tove Lo And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 09/12/2019

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 Post Malone, Tove Lo, Camila Cabello, Grimes and more are up.

Post Malone – Staring At The Sun (Feat. SZA)

Abby: This song instantly had my spidey senses tingling… It sounds like the younger cousin of Posty’s earlier 2019 offering ‘Sunflower’, with a similar sweet melodic undertone and prominent Posty vocals. Bonus point for letting a song sit at under three minutes and not shoving in an unnecessary extra chorus or two, but instantly minus that point for criminally underusing SZA. 2.5

Sam: The whole song sounds incredibly lazy to me. It does sound like an extension of Sunflower but the chorus is a little weaker. That said, goddamn those SZA vocals are so good and it’s making me wish we had a new SZA album yesterday. 2.5

Reece: This is the paint-by-numbers chart-topper that Post Malone can produce in his sleep and it’s … fine, I guess. Abby’s on the ball when she made the ‘Sunflower’ comparison and Louis Bell is too good behind the boards to be copying and pasting his own beats like this. SZA’s part is gorgeous, but it’s not enough to make the other two minutes of white noise worth reliving. 2.5

Tove Lo – really don’t like you (Feat. Kylie)

Abby: Artists! Listen up! This is how you nail a collaboration! Rather than just injecting a jarring verse with the sake of grasping onto a chart spot, Madam Minogue’s disco pop perfection is in every corner of this track’s production – particularly that bouncy intro. This song would make just as much sense in the background of a Euphoria scene as it would as a track on the Sex and the City soundtrack – that’s how you know they’ve gotten it so right. 3.5

Sam: I wasn’t expecting to ever hear a Kylie Minogue and Tove Lo collab but I’m glad it’s here. The fact that Tove reached out to Kylie shows that she’s got a real respect for the pop legends. She pulls the pop princess into her world though, giving us flickering, low-key beats that blossom into a glistening chorus. Can Tove write Kylie’s entire next album? 4

Reece: I love how understated the production on this song is. Tove Lo’s smoky vocals work so well alongside Kylie’s iconic voice – it feels like different sides of an incredibly special coin. It’s a wonderfully written song that nails the basic, often overlooked elements of pop music: pull me in at the pre-chorus, pay it off at the burst. Of course, we’d expect nothing less when Kylie’s involved. 4

Grimes – Violence

Abby: One word: ethereal. I know! I’m as surprised as you are that a song literally called ‘Violence’ could be described that way but that’s exactly what it is. Grimes masterfully balances light and dark with a softly-tinged synth-focused track that revolves around a pretty miserable subject matter. 4

Sam: I was expecting for Grimes’ new material to be so whack that it’s almost unlistenable but I’m pleasantly surprised. Violence is far more accessible than We Appreciate Power. It’s melodic, whimsical and danceable. Really not what I was expecting but it makes me thing that this forthcoming album could be good after all. 4

Reece: Grimes! Is! Back! I couldn’t have been the only person re-visiting ‘Gemini’ and Art Angels after the dismal returns on Grimes’ post-Elon Musk era, but ‘Violence’ has me full of home that there’s some genius left after all. Admittedly, ‘Violence’ doesn’t feel as transcendentally brilliant as some of Grimes’ best but that’s a bloody high standard very few reach. More of this, please, and we’ll forget that Azealia Banks stuff never happened. 4.5

Camila Cabello – Shameless

Abby: This song is just a reminder of what we already knew – Camila Cabello don’t need no celebrity relationship/cooked publicity stunt to solidify her spot as the world’s newest global pop star. She knows exactly how to draw you in with her near-whisper verses before quickly punting you into a wall with a giant chorus. 3.5

Sam: I absolutely hated this the first time I heard it. I thought it sounded like a Post Malone cover. I still do a little but I’ve come around to it. Those fast-fire bars at the tail-end of the verses are pretty spectacular, it’s just that the chorus feels sluggish. It’s definitely the weaker track next to Liar but it may actually end up having more longevity. 3

Reece: ‘Shameless’ feels complacent, which goes against the grain of everything Camila Cabello has shown in her blazing start to going solo. ‘Shameless’ suffers from too much guitarist/producer Andrew Watt. When he’s kept in check, Watt knows how to produce pop that creeps on the edge of rock – Lana del Rey’s ‘Doin’ Time’ and 5 Seconds of Summer’s ‘Youngblood’, for instance. On this one, he’s thrown Camila the most generic stripped down Kygo beat and tried to compensate with some barebones guitarwork. Camila’s good, but she’s not good enough to elevate that. 2.5

Mallrat – Drive Me Round

Abby: For the last few years, Mallrat has kept us at arm’s lengths. Songs like ‘Uninvited’ gave us a peek, but in her latest EP, we get a real glimpse of the Lorde-esque suburban magic that produced the gem that is Grace Shaw, her songwriting and production style. ‘Drive Me Round’ is intimate, raw and all round heavenly. 4

Sam: This one gets me. I love that it just hovers in the air, cruising by at a glacial pace and then suddenly grounds us with that gorgeous beat. I also love that the beat change corresponds with her coincides with her getting in the car with someone. It’s a perfect marriage of music and lyrics. 4.5

Reece: There’s an inimitable sense of heart to Mallrat that no one else in music has. ‘Drive Me Round’ is a captivating listen that makes every word count. The first half of the song is yearning, tender and engrossing before the track combusts on a bold beat switch. The result is a pulsating finish that captures the light-headed giddiness of mutual infatuation. Mallrat’s ability to capture those rare, fleeting sensations and distil it into three minute songs is unrivalled and a big reason why she’s quickly becoming a worldwide favourite. 4.5

Mahalia – What You Did (Feat. Ella Mai)

Abby: This song exudes the same formidable energy as two women who join forces to destroy a bloke that two-timed them both. Ella and Mahalia’s chemistry is tangible and that vintage brass sample breathes extra life into the verses. 4.5

Sam: I flicked straight over this song when it was released but then I saw the video and now I’m obsessed. Ella Mai and Mahalia look impeccable together and they have a combined badass energy that radiates over this beat. I know it samples Mary J. Blige but it also takes me back to her Be Without You period which is still, in my mind, the golden era for RnB this millennium. 4.5

Reece: Mahalia has a steady, syrupy voice that could destroy mountains and we’re so lucky that she’s using her superpower for good (ethering lame men) and not evil (Chainsmokers collaborations). Ella Mai’s powerful vocals work in so well with Mahalia and the way they weave through each other’s lines midway through the song is an absolute delight. It’s a thrilling homage that still feels vibrant and fresh. 4

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