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First Impressions: The Weeknd, Selena Gomez, The 1975 And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 02/27/2020
The Weeknd

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 an epic new The Weeknd track and a divisive new cut from The 1975.

The Weekend – After Hours

Hannah: Listening to this track I am truly confused. It’s really beautiful and with every listen I like it more and more. But my initial reaction was to think it kind of went nowhere. But also does a song have to ‘go somewhere’? I dunno. This song was never going to be the radio hit that Blinding Lights has become, but I don’t think it was designed to be that. It is really lovely and it has me intrigued to see what he does with the album. 4

Reece: We’re never going to truly get the House of Balloons era back since The Weeknd is now a very important commercial pop star™, but this is a mighty good stand-in. I love the way ‘After Hours’ subtly moves from a brooding stomp to a nefarious, dancey glide, it feels like a marriage of the two sounds that have defined The Weeknd’s career to date. At its core, ‘After Hours’ is fan service for older Weeknd fans – it runs six minutes, it’s loaded with angst and the little references to his previous songs sprinkled throughout are a cute touch. As a great man once said, if you know you know. 4

Sam: It’s been so long since we’ve had a Weeknd song of this length that actually deserved to run long. I feel really invested in this new project and After Hours is exactly why I’m excited. This goes from a moody blur to a pulsating dance cut that features some of his strongest melodic work in a while. It’s pop-leaning but it’s also full of vocal licks that are weird and wonky. 4

Selena Gomez – Feel Me

Hannah: This is a very… Selena Gomez kinda song. Like I think if you typed in Selena Gomez to some type of music AI robot it would spit this track out. Apparently it is a track from 2016 that the stans have been begging her to release so that’s cute for the Selenators out there. It’s cute, but it’s not groundbreaking. 2

Reece: I wish I liked this! The explosion of joy from Selena Gomez fans when this song dropped was one of the more wholesome music moments of the year to date, but it doesn’t have much of an impact on me beyond the context. It’s a fun time warp back to the tropical house obsession of 2016, but it doesn’t hold up in today’s innovative pop landscape. 2.5

Sam: A very odd move to put out an old unreleased track within weeks of a new album. It feels dated and while I like the verses a lot, it’s just an unnecessary trip into the past. Most of Rare is better than this. 2

5 Seconds Of Summer – Old Me

Hannah: EXCUSE ME I LOVE THIS. My face was doing all types of screw face at the changes in pace and the cute little high notes and the anti drop situation. The production and vocal on this is 10/10. Wow I can’t help but stan. I am shocked and impressed by these local heroes. 5

Reece: I’m convinced there’s a sleeper agent involved with this 5 Seconds of Summer album whose sole mission is to make it bad. It’s a tough ask given the considerable talent in the room, but the spy has done well to drag down ‘Old Me’. It’s a shame: Luke’s vocals are electric, sounding like a pop star one second and a country singer the next. It’s a tour de force genre whirlwind with a chorus that is ready-made for arenas. Still, it all somehow gets muddled under this way-too-clean production and an arrangement that feels packed with overplayed cliches. 5SOS are at their best when they’re allowed to be unshackled and dare to be different from the crowded field of contemporaries – everything around them on ‘Old Me’ does the opposite. 3

Sam: I hate nostalgic moments like this one complimented by old baby photos. Old Me is fine in every way possible, its mediocrity defined by a terrible hook lyric – “shout out to the old me.” 5SOS have done some really exciting stuff recently but this is not it. 2

Gracie Abrams – 21

Hannah: Is it bad that this is my first time listening to Gracie Abrams? But I am a new fan. I mean… with the combo of Sarah Aarons and Joel Little on the credits for this one there is no possible scientific way that this could not be a hit. The harmonies the chorus are really really lovely and I am happy to have discovered a new pop voice. 4

Reece: Sorry Jaden, Gracie is my favourite celebrity kid now. She’s magnetic. ‘21’ feels like standing outside of a nightclub when it’s too late and you’re too sober, overhearing someone else’s intimate phone call. It feels dramatic, urgent and sharp enough to slice up anyone who sees personal parallels in the lyrics. Pair the beautiful songwriting with Joel Little’s production, which accentuates Abrams’ room-filling presence with a contrastingly sparse production and you’ve got a stunner that feels reminiscent of Lorde’s early work. 4.5 

Sam: I admittedly had no idea who Gracie Abrams was before this but she’s obviously somebody if she’s getting Joel Little on production. This is a really well-written pop song. It goes down so easy that I’ve had to listen to it multiple times just to remember it. That’s both a compliment and a criticism. Either way, it’s made me excited to hear more from her. 3.5

GRACEY – Gone

Hannah: This isn’t bad, but there is nothing in particular pulling me in. Feels like a demo that could have turned out amazing, but wasn’t given the hours it needed.

Reece: ‘Gone’ is a song of the moment that adeptly manages to bring together a contemporary distortion-tinged sound with a swagger that feels firmly planted the dawn of the century. The song is anchored by a brilliant, swelling chorus but I can’t help but feel suffocated by the heavy Charli XCX inspiration. In fairness to GRACEY, Charli’s so influential that you could hear her in most of the coming wave of pop music, but the overt homage does limit ‘Gone’ from ever standing on its own, despite the considerable potential on show. 3.5

Sam: Not to pit Grace’s against each other but this is my favourite one of the week. I’m a sucker for vocal production like this and the synths on this feel really profound. The bridge is perfect and while the chorus is a little lacklustre, it’s production makes it passable. GRACEY is surely moments away from making it big. 4

The 1975 – Birthday Party

Hannah: This song is what happens when you do LSD and look at too many memes. It’s kinda simple and lets the genius of Matty Healy shine through in the form of the best type of The 1975 song. They have such a knack of projecting millennial culture straight back at their audience. I am super interested to see how this track will fit into the same album as tracks like ‘People’. Side note: The horns section on this song nearly made me cum. Side-side note: I want to go back to year 12 and write my ‘belonging’ essay about the music video for this song. 5

Reece: The 1975’s refusal to stay in one lane has been such a constant that we probably underrate how magnificent that is. However, by wading into the world of folksy emo on ‘The Birthday Party’, The 1975 lose the luxury of hiding weak songwriting that is afforded to them on their more bombastic offerings. And man, they really needed that shield. ‘The Birthday Party’ fecklessly gestures at complex and engaging subjects, seeming more interested in sounding smart than actually saying anything. Matty Healy probably has some fascinating thoughts about Pinegrove’s #MeToo moment, but here seems content to provocatively name-drop, wink at the audience, and move on. It’s poor form from a band we know can do better. 2.5

Sam: I’m really enjoying everything off the forthcoming 1975 record. It’s all felt extremely diverse but very natural for a band who so often are over-thought. This is a really perfect moment of clarity for them that sounds impossibly pure. Unfortunately, it’s brought down by that terrible Pinegrove lyric which highlights everything that annoys me about them. Sometimes Healy’s attempts to enter a conversation feel insincere even if it’s done with the best of intention. Here it feels completely unnecessary. 4

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