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First Impressions: Kesha, Kanye West, Selena Gomez And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 10/31/2019

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 Kesha, Selena Gomez, Kanye West, Doja Cat and more are up.

Kesha – Raising Hell (Feat. Big Freedia)

Liam: She’s back. It’s no secret that I’ve been a self-professed Kesha ‘stan’ for the past ten years, so to see her embracing the debaucherous, rowdy pop music she’s known for as we approach the tenth anniversary of Animal is… jarringly emotional? The song itself is a brash, loud party slammer which I’m always impartial to, and although it lacks the punch that Praying had, it’s still admittedly a fun ass time as well as a satisfying insight into what’s in store. To say I’m excited is an understatement. 4

Sam: It’s really cool to see Kesha back in this mode again. I actually thought we’d never see the day but she’s back on her bullshit in the best way. It’s a big party song but not in the way that her early hits do. This one has a spirituality to it that comes from her largely unaltered vocal performance and those stirring organs. She’s earnt the right to finally party and that comes across strong here. Getting Big Freedia on that drop was a genius move as well. I honestly think this is one of her best songs to date. 4

Reece: Three and a half minutes of high octane energy. Kesha’s personality is what her early work so much fun and it still translates strongly into her songs in a few way others manage. However, the smirking half-raps we’ve always heard are complemented here by a passionate, uplifting vocal performance. Adding in Big Freedia and giving the song a dab of New Orleans bounce is just the icing on an already eye-catching cake. 4

Victoria Monet – Ass Like That

Liam: This one has snuck its way into repeat listenings for me over the past couple of days — from the hypnotic beat to the double entendre-laden lyrics, Victoria Monet is establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with (as if her track record with Ariana and co. didn’t tell you already). This is a gorgeous R&B number, soothing and sexy, warm and sensual, complete with horns to take it even higher. One of the most pleasant surprises of the year for me, and one that I can see myself coming back to for months and years to come. 4.5

Sam: I don’t know if many people are going to give this the time of day because it’s such a vintage R&B cut that starts slowly but this girl’s writing is just unbelievable. For such a simple song instrumentally, she delivers this rich, complex melody that never tries to hard. There are no tricky runs or overbearing harmonies, it’s just her delicate, beautiful voice and some killer songwriting. This is right in the pocket of Teyana Taylor or Ciara and it’s so up my alley. 5

Reece: An incredibly well-written song that feels like an enduringly pleasant listen. Victoria Monet has managed to step outside of Ariana’s shadow by giving her original songs are harder R&B turn and it’s proving a very successful venture. The way the chorus swells without erupting is beautiful. The song only simmers on a low flame but it doesn’t take too long to leave you completely and utterly melted by Monet. 4

Selena Gomez – Lose You To Love Me

Liam: Without trying to sound shady or cutting, Selena Gomez has never been renowned for her vocals. Why she and her team decided to plan a comeback that puts her vocals in the spotlight in this stripped ballad is beyond me — and although she sounds considerably better than she has done previously, that doesn’t change the fact that this song is entirely unremarkable. A generic instrumental with strings cut and pasted straight from Issues, co-writer Julia Michaels’ debut single, make this offering as dull as dishwater for me. Look at Her Now is a lot more exciting. 2

Sam: I get it, Selena had some things to address. She had things that needed to be said and now it’s been said. She sounds great here and there are a few clever lyrics (“Sang off-key in my lyrics because it wasn’t yours”) but it doesn’t do much for me honestly. Look At Her Now is a bop though. 3

Reece: There’s some really brilliant little touches on this song, like the plucked strings and an anthemic chant of a chorus that gets bounced around and echoed. Unfortunately, these interesting inclusions hang in the fringe of a core that just isn’t that interesting. A promising start that fizzles out a little too soon. 3

Kanye West – Water (Feat. Ant Clemens)

Liam: The Kanye phenomenon is interesting, isn’t it? Through all his “slavery isn’t real”, MAGA-lite sentiments and very explicit support of Trump in the recent past comes Jesus is King, a rushed, unfinished 27-minute album consisting of many reworked, squeaky clean cuts following a substantial number of leaks. The album is marred with production errors, bad mixing and questionable lyrics as a result, but Water is one of its rare highlights — the gospel choir underlining Ant Clemons’ “we are water” refrain makes for one of Jesus is King’s standout moments. It’s a shame it’s bogged down by so much waste. 2.5

Sam: The production on this is beautiful and the choruses could also make me turn to religion but Kanye’s contribution is…well, it’s a contribution. The “Jesus is” bars are just so sloppy and without thought. I get it, he loves Jesus, that’s fine but if you’re going to make an album about finding faith tell us how you got there. Give us some sort of humanity or connection to any sort of complex thought. This is beyond basic. 2.5

Reece: ‘Water’ feels like an underdone version of a good song from an entirely different project. The Sunday Service Choir has starred in every opportunity they’ve been given and Ant Clemons weaves in as a symbiotic collaborator, matching their earnest sincerity with a stirring vocal performance of his own. Kanye’s verse is a notable blight – it’s badly written and the execution is far worse. After also factoring in a boring forty second outro on an already-short song and we’re looking at about … 90 seconds of quality. I’ve never had to work so hard to unpick moments of brilliance in an otherwise terrible album. 2

CXLOE – Devil You Don’t

Liam: Low Blow was one of my favourite songs this year, and Devil You Don’t takes CXLOE’s brooding alt-pop and twists it into a driving, pulsing banger that’s perfect for a Halloween getdown. Add to that the harmonies, standout songwriting and production flourishes and it all makes for a big, big song that will hopefully push CXLOE further into the spotlight come 2020. 4

Sam: CXLOE stays killing it. I feel like her previous releases all stemmed from each other but Devil You Don’t sounds like an outlier in the best kind of way. I’ve never heard her voice so uncrowded than it is here on the verses. That changes in the chorus but we’re instead gifted with a pulsating, rousing beat. 4

Reece: Every CXLOE song takes me on a similar journey: I start excited because her track record is impeccable. I get 15 seconds and start to worry that I may not going to enjoy this one as much. I get 30 seconds in and it dawns on me how well-written the song is. I get a minute in, the build hits and I’m totally in love. ‘Devil You Don’t’ feels a little more lowkey than some of my favourite CHXLOE songs, but remains an engaging listen that constantly grows throughout its runtime. Still yet to release a bad song. 4

Doja Cat – Rules

Liam: An incredible song with an even better video. Doja Cat is quickly taking over in rap, her fanbase growing daily, and with her output being of this standard so early on in her career, it’s easy to see why. This is career-defining, laying her cards on the table and saying “I’ve arrived”. Cat’s flow is unrestrained, wilding out all over the hazy beat for three straight minutes. This goes so hard, I literally cannot give it a lower score — I’m way too excited about Doja Cat to even consider it. 5

Sam: This is cool. I’m admittedly not as into it as Bottom Bitch but I like the Americana vibes. She’s making music that sounds different to the rap climate right now and I appreciate that from her. Everything sounds fresh and exciting. 3.5

Reece: Doja Cat has built an audience off plugging her quirky persona into a dizzying spectrum of songs, wafting her vocals over Anderson Paak’s one minute, growling bars alongside Rico Nasty the next and going viral off R&B-tinged bedroom pop somewhere in the middle. ‘Rules’ isn’t so much a left-turn as it’s a culmination, delivering Doja Cat’s most well-rounded song to date. The chorus is a delightfully bruising flurry of punchlines, the verses are skillfully executed and overflowing with personality. If you’re not having fun listening to this, I’m afraid you’re dead inside. 4.5

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