First Impressions: Britney Spears, Kehlani, Justice And More

Written By the interns on 07/19/2016


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 Snakehips, A.G. Cook, Justice, Dreller, Britney Spears and Kehlani.

Cruel (Feat. ZAYN)

Courtney: Is it just me or is anyone else getting Mura Masa vibes in this beat? I actually think this is better than “All My Friends” and as much as I love Anderson Paak I also think it’s better than Money On Me but what can I say I am a sucker for a pop banger and for anything Zayn touches. Snakehips production is just out of this world on this track, they rarely ever put a foot wrong 4

Sam: Snakehips have tasted a hit with All My Friends and now it seems they’re hungry for more. Cruel is probably the most straightforward production they have ever presented but that said it’s a whole lot more interesting that most of the stuff circulating the radio right now. This is actually exactly the vibe that ZAYN should’ve gone for his on debut solo effort. It’s funky, woozy and dark without sounding like try-hard The Weeknd cut. Good job everyone involved. 4

Harrison: I don’t like this as much as All My Friends, but it’s definitely got massive commercial appeal. I feel like this is pretty dance music, that sure as hell caters for some, but not for me. I think having Zayn on this track really saves it, because overall the sound design feels kind of weak. 3

Average Score: 3.6

A.G. Cook

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Courtney: I am so not a fan of PC music. Whenever I listen to it I feel trapped in a horrible Japanese video game with seizure inducing visuals that I will never escape. It’s all just so sickeningly sweet but this track is actually bearable. The section from 1:40 to 2:45 is probably the highlight. I like how he contrasts super upbeat bridges/choruses with a kind of dark and ominous section 2

Sam: Somehow this is both the most accessible and over-the-top thing A.G. Cook has ever done. It’s kitsch as hell and if you already don’t like PC Music there’s absolutely no way this is going to change your mind. It’s the musical equivalent of a durian and if it’s not to your taste it may make you gag. As a fan of Cook, I like this but it really doesn’t hook me until about the one minute 40 mark. Parts of it feel like he’s simplified his production for the masses so I hope that’s just a one-off because he’s definitely a key visionary in the electronic scene right now. 3.5

Harrison: Cue the PC Music hate. Straight up, this does not do a lot for someone who virtually lives on SoundCloud, where PC Music thrives. Maybe I haven’t delved enough into scene in a while, but the upbeat parts of the song don’t work for me. It’s got some Porter Robinson Worlds which I half vibe. This is probably sitting on a seesaw for me. 2.5

Average Score: 2.6

Safe And Sound

Courtney: To quote a fabulous Youtube commenter “The BASS!!!!! THE BASS THE BASSSSSS!!!!!!” When I listen to this I am instantly thrown into a Disco roller rink and I am totally ok with that. I do think the disco throw back is kind of cliched now, Daft Punk, Bruno Mars have all been there and done that (and they did it well) but let’s be honest Justice had been doing it long before them and with this track they are still in fine form. Studio 54 here I come! 4

Sam: I feel like this track has had its release date pushed further and further back because the disco resurgence was three of four years ago now. There’s nothing wrong with it at all really. It’s grandiose, groovy and charming but Justice were forward-thinkers back in the day and this just doesn’t really do much for my excitement levels. Good fun but it would barely even get a Shazam from me if I was listening to it without knowing what it was. 3

Harrison: Ok, as much as I am all about wanting artists to try new things and like Sam has said Justice were forward thinkers back in the day, I am biased to the fact I love Justice. They are an act I attribute to helping me fall in love with electronic music and it’s just been far too long since i’ve had some booming disco in my life. This comeback has all the hallmarks that make Justice royalty of electronic music. It’s funky, it’s got the classic symphonic flair and it’s got some KILLER BASS. Caress me, as Safe And Sound is one hell of a comeback. 4.5 Harrison's Pick

Average Score: 3.83

A Signal That Comes Back

Courtney: For some reason when I listen to this I hear it as a sort of new age James Bond theme. I think it’s the lingering synth in the background and syncopated lead guitar riff which totally sounds like a spin off the main James Bond theme. Personally I feel like a James Bond movie with this as its theme instantly sounds more interesting than anything that’s been done so far. 3

Sam: This is very good and I’m very happy that this is coming out of Australia. A Signal That Comes Back sounds like a roughed-up CHVRCHES to me, like the gloss has been scratched and run through the dirt. It’s flawlessly produced with every detail shining through as another sonic treat along the way. Dreller’s vocal is impassioned but not forced and the final two minutes or so are pure bliss. A beautifully put together song that provides reasons for everyone of its many levels. Very impressed. 4

Harrison: Oh so smooth. Everything on this track works extremely well together. The beat is smooth and Dreller’s vocal flows naturally and sounds really great. This is the track of the week that will make its way into my playlist, and thank heavens for its place in this week’s First Impressions. 4

Average Score: 3.6

Britney Spears
Make Me (Feat. G-Eazy)

Courtney: Ahhhh Britney, I love you, I really do. You will always hold a special place in my heart but let’s be honest you haven’t released anything that will stand the test of time since Toxic. You were close with Till The World Ends and Work B**ch but alas no. This track is no different. You can recruit as many it-rappers as you want but it won’t make it ‘lit’ as the kids say. 2

Sam: This is very exciting because for the first time in about ten years we can actually hear that flirtatious, sultry tone in Britney’s voice that made her such a star in the first place. It’s still produced but it’s the least produced her voice has been in a while and it’s infinitely better than Work Bitch, the lead-single of her deserved flop of a last record. It’s just nice to hear Britney deliver the key melody instead of a synth or a silly British accent. It’s her best single in I don’t know how long and I just feel like flying to Vegas and giving her a high-five. She’s finally back and it’s ABOUT BLOODY TIME. 4

Harrison: If it wasn’t going to be Britney, then it would have been Katy Perry. Is Britney really back though? I don’t know, this isn’t really grabbing my attention like I wanted it too. It’s not a “It’s Britney Bitch!” comeback, but I can understand what all the fuss is about. My love for Britney will forever stay entrenched in the late ‘90s and really early ‘00’s. Because those were some damn good times for pop music. 3

Average Score: 3


Courtney: Saving the best for last I see 😉 Following up the massive trap jam that was Did I and the heartfelt fan track 24:7 with this just feels so right, you get the feeling that the album is going to be so cohesive. The amazing thing about Kehlani is her unfailing ability to, as Aaliyah would say, “dust it all off and try again”, working through an emotional suicide attempt to come out with CRZY and lyrics like “If I gotta be a bitch Imma be a bad one”,  “I’m just counting counting blessings” and “all the shit I’ve been through only made me more of an assassin, I kill em I kill em I kill em with compassion”. Her optimism and determination is never-ending. The perfect role model for girls nowadays, if we could all only try to be 1/10th of what Kehlani is the world would be a better place. This track gave me my new life motto, “Live for the challenge, only makes me stronger, one more reason to turn up on em”. 5 Courtney’s Pick ?

Sam: It’s been a pretty difficult year for Kehlani and Kehlani fans, despite starting off with a Grammy nomination. The good news is Kehlani always delivers and this is no different. Taking the fierceness of Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money, she delivers a fire flow, using every piece of instrumental to inject her charismatic, attitude-filled vocal. “If I gotta be a bitch Imma be a bad one,” is a t-shirt waiting to happen and potentially the line that will make this a hit for her. After all the drama, she’s kept quiet and decided to speak through the music and it’s so potent. 4 Sam's Pick

Harrison: Every 10 seconds I have to tell myself that this isn’t Rihanna, with Kehlani really really bringing it on this. Hot damn, my playlist just got another addition. Although this has CRZY massive commercial appeal, everything about it cancels this thought out. The beat is tight and the lyrics speak volumes. Kehlani: bra-f*cking-vo! 4

Average Score: 4.3

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