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First Impressions: Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, Years & Years And More

Written By the interns on 05/20/2015

FI_20May
First Impressions is an interns roundtable review of songs on their first (or second) listen. Each week we review six new songs from the past week, each giving them a score out of five and awarding our pick of the week. This week we pick apart tracks by Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, Years & Years, Charli XCX and more.

Years & Years
Shine

Alex: Follows on from the major success of previous single King with its distinctive ’80s dancefloor inspirations. It kind of falls flat for me. I wish there was some more power behind it. Instead the track just seems to float along content, not reaching the heights that we know Years & Years can pull out. 3

Sam: I’ve listened to this about 523 times this week because it’s just so damn easy to listen to. I think that’s the mark of a great pop song. You should want to listen to it again and again and only grow tired once one line starts to annoy you and you retire with a headache. It’s like a sugar high and once again Years & Years have delivered the highest quality sugar. It’s a little more down-beat than King but it’s no less beautifully melodic. The chorus is euphoric and the verses are coated in Olly’s soulful vocal that’s familiar yet different to anything on the radio. It’s not groundbreaking but they’ve perfected the electro/pop crossover. 4

Annie: Rarely do I sing along to a song for fear of mockery, but this track makes it increasingly tempting to do so. It’s easy listening at its best, down-beat yet vastly catchy, saccharine yet incisive. The chorus hits every mark that an electro-pop song should, with Olly’s vocals as capturing as ever. Admittedly, I may be romanticising, but I haven’t been able to stop listening to the damn song for three days. 4 Annie’s Pick

Elliphant
Love Me Badder

Alex: Elliphant is bringing some feels with this new track. The Swedish artist I’ve come to know for her fast flowing verses and powerful bad ass persona is taking it down a bit with Love Me Badder. There’s a vulnerability that we rarely see from her and shows a great evolution in her song writing and style. 3

Sam: Elliphant has refined her rough edges a bit on this one a bit like what she did with One More. Some of her dance hall stuff was just too abrasive to penetrate a wider-audience but I feel like she’s hit a bullseye with this one. She’s managed to retain that attitude-filled sound while delivering a chorus that Rihanna would be more than happy to snatch off her. It’s probably the best pop ballad of the year so far and could be the perpetrator of some mighty festival singalongs this year if it’s treated with care. 4 Sam’s Pick

Annie:
Something about this song just doesn’t do it for me.  I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard it all before, but executed on a higher standard. It’s not a bad song by any means as far as pop ballads go, but I enjoy Elliphant’s usual, punchier tracks far more than this attempt. However with that said, it has definitely grown on me after a few listens. Perhaps the only problem with this song is my own impatience? 3

Motez
Tryna Shake It

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/motezmusic/tryna-shake-it-1[/soundcloud]

Alex: Maybe I’ve been listening to too much german deep bass tracks lately in preparation of touring over there but for me this track feels old. Whilst the track is definitely not without its deep house charm it’s really not reaching very far from the shelf of tracks already out there. 2

Sam: The whole deep house craze has kind of been and gone in terms of Disclosure’s reign on the charts and all the rest of that stuff coming from the UK. Instead of changing his style to suit the times though Motez has stuck with it adding a little twist in terms of the breakdown in the verses. It takes it away from being your traditional, throbbing bass dance hit and moves it into a far more interesting realm. I love how it really rushes towards a climax at the end and then pulls it back in, playing the ultimate tease. 3

Annie: ‘Fuckin oafff dis tracks phatt as cuz’, reads one Soundcloud user’s comment on Motez latest, and how right they are.  Motez has created an exceptional deep house track, laidback and catchy enough to do justice to the genre, but just different enough so as to avoid being irrelevant in the wake of deep house’s decline. It’s the kind of track my mum would refer to as a ‘car jam’, but ultimately it would feel more fitting in a club than on a long drive. 4

Major Lazer
Too Original

Alex: Major Lazer have really been making a big comeback over the past year. First they had those diva vocals of Ariana Grande on their Hunger Games track now they’re recruiting one of my fave Swedes Elliphant for their new track Too Original. The EDM X RNB vibes spewing from this track are absolutely insane. This is Elliphant running rampage in her element and Major Lazer bringing that killer production like we know they can. 4 Alex’s Pick

Sam: Everything I said about Elliphant above kind of becomes redundant when you hear her in this song. Here she is unfiltered and unrefined, rolling off her verse like she’s in her absolute element. What Major Lazer have always done really well is make dancehall accessible to those that don’t really find it that palatable. They meld it with elements of EDM and RnB to create a more commercially viable sound. Listening to this at 11am in the morning is a little like pouring vodka on your cereal but it’s a track readymade for the festival season so good luck to it. 3.5

Annie: I’ll try not to use the word  ‘banger’ here, but this is a good track for those who find the genre difficult to indulge in. To put it bluntly, it’s fun, very fun. I have to commend Major Lazer for putting Elliphant on vocal duties, the vivacious energy that emanates from her singing is absolutely perfect for a track like this. 3.5

Giorgio Moroder
Diamonds (Feat. Charli XCX)

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/giorgiomoroder/diamonds-ft-charli-xcx[/soundcloud]

Alex: Charli as we haven’t heard her before. Donning some spandex and flared jeans for this Giorgio Moroder collaboration, it’s a whole new diamond studded Charli. It’s a full out disco ’90s pop affair that could totally be seen on the soundtrack for something like Clueless.  

Sam: Charli has officially left the country but we’re left with a consolation – this new Giorgio Moroder track. Apparently Charli wrote this when she was 15, around the time she wrote Icona Pop’s I Love It and you can tell. It’s in that same world of abrasive pop, but this one’s notably a little more restrained. It’s definitely more of a Charli track than a Moroder track, but it will no doubt be the sucker punch of his forthcoming album. If someone dubs this over Hannah from Girls dancing in a mesh top after snorting cocaine for the first time, I’ll be sold. 3.5

Annie: This song grows on me with every listen. I love the homage to ’90s techno-pop, a not so guilty pleasure of mine. My feelings towards Charli thus far would be described as ambivalent at best, but this track is solid and may have turned me into a fan thanks to Giorgio Moroder’s input. Definitely worth a listen. 3.5

Taylor Swift
Bad Blood (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Alex: The new remix seems like it was just done for the sake of having it. The addition of Kendrick’s verses to the track really do nothing to elevate the track and if anything the production now takes away from the pop goodness that Taylor had already created. Bad Blood once felt fresh and breezy with that perfect Bring It On type vibe, now it feels dull and deflated. Not a fan. 2

Sam: I love how Kendrick Lamar can release one of the most thought-provoking, socially-charged records this decade and then slips into a pop tune like no one’s watching. We see you there Kendrick alongside country music’s biggest trader. Luckily this is TayTay’s most hip-hop sounding track to date and Lamar slots effortlessly into the verses, replacing Taylor’s original one’s which were a bit stinky anyway. The video with all the celebs felt like a bit of a gimmick when she was teasing it but it turned out to be badass and the added trap-influence in the chorus just made it sound even badder. The highlight is when Kendrick and Tay come together for the line, “If you love like that, blood runs cold.” That’s Ja Rule and Ashanti shit right there and it’s phenomenal. 4

Annie: I tried to listen to this without bias, but I can’t. Ever since T-Swift unloaded Shake It Off unto the world, everything she does makes me cringe. This track seems entirely unnecessary. Although I’m sure Lamar’s addition to the song was an improvement on the original (I can’t bring myself to listen to both for confirmation), it just sounds like two entirely different songs mashed together in a way that just shouldn’t have happened. On a positive note, this is definitely preferable to the ‘sick beat’ that was Shake It Off, by far. 2

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