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First Impressions: Justin Bieber, 5 Seconds Of Summer, Christine & The Queens And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 02/12/2020
Justin Bieber

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 we’re looking at Justin Bieber and Quavo’s Intentions, 5 Seconds Of Summer’s album-launching No Shame plus more.

Christine & The Queens – People, I’ve Been Sad

Reece:  ‘People, I’ve been sad’ shouldn’t work this well: its spacious arrangement and robotic tinge lends itself to distance and detachment, but Chris’ bilingual vocal performance is both intimate and magnetic. A patient masterpiece that moves at its own pace, this song pushes convention out of a moving car and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. We’re lucky to be living in the era of Christine & The Queens. 5

Hannah: There is a simple complexity to just how subtle and beautiful this song is. Chris really can do no wrong in my eyes and ‘People, I’ve Been Sad’ is yet another example of her hitting the nail on the head. I haven’t proven this theory yet but I feel like this would be a fantastic driving song. 5

Sam: Christine & The Queens is such a firm songwriter and vocalist that it’s difficult not to sit up and listen immediately. This one hits even harder than others. The weighted step of the beat adds intention and her restrained vocal builds tension which she releases in that soulful chorus. It’s a beautiful display of emotional pop music. 4.5

Kahlee: Christine and the Queens  can do no wrong in my eyes, or ears for that matter. This song sounds how lavender ice cream tastes: absolute magic. The stacked vocals, string section, and pauses throughout this track make it feel so theatrical yet so intimate. I am constantly anticipating CATQ’s next release.  5

Justin Bieber – Intentions (Feat. Quavo)

Reece: There are just so many bad lines in this song! It should be an indictable offense to record lines like “Got that ring, just like Toronto” and “Heart full of equity, you’re an asset” and distribute it for the masses. Maybe, in another world, this song could’ve been fun if either artists had energy or self-awareness, but the entire track is lethargic and way too serious. 2

Hannah: This track is…fine. Although I find it a bit confusing coming off the whole ‘Yummy’ situation. This would make more sense as a slow bop album track (and I think I could get around it in that context), rather than Bieber and Quavo trying to pull some type of God’s Plan charity stunt. 1

Sam: Whether you liked Justin Bieber’s Purpose singles or not, there was a strong feeling that he was on a roll – hit after hit. This time everything feels lifeless. Intentions is mildly sweeter than Yummy but it still coasts at a lazy pace. Interesting that he chooses to use the word “equity” in the chorus because his is falling rapidly. 3

Kahlee: I’m bored. As a follow up to ‘Yummy’ it’s an improvement but I just want to hear something with substance from JB. I don’t hate the production but as a whole it’s kind of a letdown. Hopefully, the next release has lyrics that don’t sound like rejected slogans for soap campaigns.  1

Anne-Marie – Birthday

Reece: ‘Birthday’ gets off to an intriguing start, with metronomic, yelpy production and a swaggering set-up from Anne-Marie but pulls back as soon as it threatens to be great. The chorus is inoffensive and pleasant, but the big anthemic half-sung hook is beyond tired and it’s an instantly tune-out for me. Anne-Marie can’t make a bad song, but this one doesn’t land with her most memorable, either. 3

Hannah: Okay so I actually love the production on this and can put up with the whole ‘birthday’ theme wrapped up in a cute little bop. THAT BEING SAID it is so ridiculously clear to me that they got in the studio to write this song with the sole intention of going viral on TikTok. 3

Sam: Anne-Marie has always played the pop field like a pro hopping from one trend to another. This time around she’s combining two sure bets – a birthday song and a song that sounds like it was made to specifically soundtrack TikTok. It’s much better than a track trying to do both of those things has any right to be. Anne-Marie is incredibly likeable and carries this across the line without it smelling like desperation. 3.5

Kahlee: Birthday is fun, but I just wish Anne-Marie came back with a real bang. I was excited for a big return after no singles for 2 years. There’s nothing wrong with Birthday, it just feels a little contrived. Although it’s not as hard of pop banger as I wanted, it’s a cute enough to track to land on millions birthday playlists. 3

5 Seconds Of Summer – No Shame

Reece: There’s precisely one interesting thing happening in this song, and that’s the sample of Donna Lewis’ ‘I Love You Always Forever’ through the chorus. If they were gunning to creatively reinvigorate a classic like Selena Gomez did on ‘Bad Liar’, count this one as a miss. Whereas ‘Bad Liar’ spun a familiar sound in a very fresh way, ‘No Shame’ effectively copies and pastes the source material. It’s disappointing to see a band that’s shown real growth fall back sounds and songwriting that feel like dated All-American Rejects off-cuts. 2

Hannah: I literally thought he was singing in a different language for the first few lines, but once we got into it I was grooving along. I agree with Reece about the ‘I Love You Always Forever’ melody being very distracting although I was hearing Betty Who’s cover in my brain as I tried to focus on 5SOS. Not sure I will ever voluntarily listen to again but I can see this getting spins on commercial radio. 3

Sam: I can’t believe I missed the I Love You Always Forever sample on first listen. I can’t unhear it now. I actually think we need to give 5SOS some props for transforming from cocky teenagers to obnoxious but very-passable popstars with ease. No Shame actually really works for me. The verses and bridges are excellent and Luke’s voice is starting to develop real character. 3.5

Kahlee: I’m surprised but how much I actually liked this – but I think it could absolutely be the Donna Lewis sample through the chorus. It feels a bit like it could be a track that didn’t make it onto One Directions ‘FOUR’ album. I’m not in a rush to add it to my regular listening but I probably wouldn’t turn it off. 3

Khalid, Disclosure – Know Your Worth

Reece: Are Disclosure officially underrated as producers? It feels like their link-ups with Khalid are consistently hitting the mark and I love how the instrumental of ‘Know Your Worth’ complements their star frontman. Khalid’s not funky by any stretch, but the Lawrence boys do an excellent job of injecting the slightest dose of dance underneath his dipped-in-honey vocals. This one didn’t grab me by the shoulders like ‘Talk’ did, but it has the pleasant energy of a song destined to sit comfortably on playlists for years to come. 4 

Hannah: I am sad to admit that this was a bit of a miss for me. As always I love Disclosure’s production, but the concept and lyrics are just so boring. I know my worth, and my ears are worthy of Khalid doing something new. This sounds like the type of basic self help stuff Jess Glynne would pop on her Spotify. 2

Sam: I didn’t love Talk but I appreciated Disclosure doing something different with their production. On Know Your Worth they pull Khalid into their house-flavoured world and both acts run on cruise control. Khalid’s vocal delivery is honestly sleep-inducing and with this on top of Free Spirit, I just don’t think I’ll be rushing to hear another one of his projects in a hurry. 2

Kahlee: As a Disclosure fan I love this, and as Khalid fan not so much. It’s that classic Disclosure sound that I know and love but compared to their last team up on ‘Talk’ it didn’t grab me. I think Know Your Worth is missing that magic that talk had. This just feels like a bit of a bland moment for Khalid. 3

Joji – Run

Reece: Any up-and-comer should study Joji’s sound as a golden example of evolving without compromising. Rather than coast on his early wispy R&B, Joji’s spent the past year or so stepping into different lanes and showing that he’s pretty good at basically anything he tries. ‘Run’ is the most rock-infused song I’ve heard from him and I adore how full his vocals feel on this one. While it doesn’t carry the transcendent brilliance that Joji often seems to come close to showing, ‘Run’ is engrossing from start to finish, with a wicked guitar solo thrown in for good measure. 4

Hannah: As someone who usually winces at the first strum of a guitar, I surprisingly love this. He has such a gentle strength to his voice that tells a vulnerable story and I am lapping it up. I am loving a lot of female R&B artists at the moment but I feel like he is stepping in there for the sad boys. Again I am shocked at my love of this guitar. 4

Sam: I’m admittedly late to the Joji train but I’m totally hooked by this. The song rises in such a gentle and organic way that it’s difficult not to be swept up by it. His falsetto in the chorus is beautiful and is perfectly juxtaposed by his delivery in the verses. Run is an emotional suckerpunch that gets you harder and harder as it progresses. 4.5

Kahlee: This is exactly what I wanted. This shift from R&B to this dark alt-pop is everything to me. I tried to pick a part of this song that was a stand out but I just couldn’t choose between the vocals and the guitar.  This track got me in my feelings. I’m so incredibly excited to see where Joji goes after this. 5

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