First Impressions: Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Sigrid And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 02/14/2017

First Impressions are our weekly roundtable reviews sifting through all the fresh new music. Our writers take a listen, slap a score on it and then justify said score. This week DJ Khaled, Sigrid, Dirty Projectors, Katy Perry, Anne-Marie and Roland Tings face the jury.

DJ Khaled
Shining (Feat. Beyonce & Jay Z)

Zanda: I like DJ Khaled, but i’m not sure why. I don’t think i’d accept his catch phrases if they were coming from anyone else, but for some reason it’s okay when it comes from him. Beyonce and Jay Z on the same track was always going to be a truly amazing event, and wow, do they both deliver or what. Bey’s vocals are tight, and pretty much flawless, and Jay Z has lost absolutely nothing from his well-articulated and well, pretty much iconic rapping ability. 4.5

Sam: The only time Jay Z seems to be on form these days is when Beyonce is involved and Shining is no different. It takes us back to the rap Bey aesthetic of her self-titled record which I love so much and initially really missed on Lemonade. She manages to take the loosest song structures and turn them into tight jams by basically ad-libbing. DJ Khaled’s involvement takes a backseat but that’s always going to happen when you’ve got Bey and Jay on a track. 4

Michelle: Remember that time he filmed his  fiancee’s labour on Snapchat? Remember how he became an internet hero getting lost on a jet ski somewhere in Miami (probably)? Yeah. I can’t separate his snapchat antics from his music, even though he’s obviously got something going there, with a support slot on the Formation tour and nearly every rap star worth mentioning on the new album, Major Key. This track is bouncy and certainly Beyonce and Jay Z’s presence helps, along with mildly interesting lyricism, but it is, unfortunately, much the same as the rest of DJ Khaled’s hip hop: mostly hype. 2

Average Score: 3.5

Don’t Kill My Vibe

Zanda: There’s so much horrible, commercial ‘pop’ out there that it’s so heartening when an artist like Sigrid emerges with clean, fresh pop music. Sure, this track plays into some of the more common pop stereotypes, with the clapping and stuff, but so many pop artists these days try to do way to much to distinguish themselves and it’s awesome to hear Sigrid keeping it sweet and simple. Can’t wait to hear what’s next. 4

Sam: Every so often you stumble upon a debut that’s so good you can basically already certify a big future for the artist. Don’t Kill My Vibe by this young Norwegian is exactly that. It’s a big, bold tune that grabs the chorus by the horns and rattles the hell out of it. It’s such a hearty tune and I love when an artist comes out fighting like this. It demands you to listen and when you think of all the biggest popstars around right now, that’s what all their debuts did. 4

Michelle: The song title was misleading for me - I expected some vague double-take of Kendrick’s “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” with perhaps an unoriginal DJ track and bad lyricism. I was wrong. Sigrid’s debut reminds me of an excellent fusion of sadgirl pop, 90s dance and modern electronica (the kind that just won’t go away these days). The clapping is the standout for me, and the buildup is legendary. Definitely my pick this week.  4 Michelle's First Pick

Average Score: 4

Dirty Projectors
Cool My Heart (Feat. DAWN)

Zanda: Where do you even start with a track like this. I am a massive fan of Dirty Projectors and his consistently unconventional style, and although i didn’t expect this collaboration it makes perfect sense to me for him to feature an artist like Dawn whose creativity is making her an innovative force in the industry of her own accord. ‘Cool Your Heart’ brings just the right amount of Dirty Projectors’ glitchy production and he uses his effects just enough to enhance and bring out the best in his and Dawn’s vocals. I think this is only the second 5/5 I’ve ever given. 5 Zanda’s Pick

Sam: I’m kind of getting sick of saying DAWN’s underrated because at this point I’m just perplexed as to why she isn’t one of the biggest names in music, or at least alternative music. Dirty Projectors’ jangly, glitchy production and steady vocals are needed in this but it’s DAWN’s smooth touch that takes it to greatness. It’s like Dirty Projectors took notes from Solange’s cover of Stillness Is The Move and came up with this. It’s the best thing they’ve done in a very, very long time and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. 4.5 Sam's Pick

Michelle: This is magical, it’s soft, and it warbles from side to side. I opened this track with no expectations, and I drew no conclusions. It is neither dance nor pop, it’s some sort of weird love child of glitchy electronica and soul (and a dash of reggae). It could easily be overwhelmed by the glitchpop sound effects, but Dirty Projector handles these with a light touch, managing not to overwhelm even those most averse to gimmicky music (ie me). The standout for me is the brass section, a clever incorporation of instrumentals that are dissonant and consonant with the vocals in ALL THE RIGHT PLACES. 4 Michelle's Second Pick

Average Score: 4.5

Katy Perry
Chained To The Rhythm

Zanda: I’m really not buying into the hype around this track. Everything I’ve read about is people gushing about how it’s a triumphant comeback but as far as i’m concerned it’s nothing groundbreaking or even particularly interesting. I get that it’s a social commentary, but it shouldn’t be considered amazing just because of that. Also, that Skip Marley verse doesn’t really add anything. 2

Sam: I’ve got many thoughts about this and I’m going to try and articulate them as best possible. The sonic backdrop of Chained To The Rhythm is great and while it’s a bit of a lacklustre first single, it’s melodic and catchy enough to have some sort of grasp on commercial radio. My issue fundamentally is her approach to this whole era. An English teacher once told me, “show don’t tell,” and I think that carries into every aspect of life. I think it’s fantastic to be an activist particularly in such trying times but to change your Twitter bio to “activist” and then write a song with vapid lyrics that suggest everyone is living in a bubble is really cheap. Beyonce, Gaga, Miley, even bloody Demi Lovato, have managed to spread their political and social message through their art, not by spelling it out but by making people passionate and inspiring them. Gaga doesn’t have to wear a band that says “persist” onto the Grammy stage because everything she does for her fans encourages them to fight for what they believe in and be confident in their individuality. For Katy to reappear after a year on the Hillary campaign with this half-inspired message that suggests she’s seen the light is total bullshit and the kind of song that’s going to make activism trendy rather than necessary. I would give this song a 3 but this just pisses me off beyond belief. 0

Michelle: I’m not a hardcore pop fan, but I know a summer anthem when I hear one. I expect to hear this all over Melbourne under the last rays of summer. This is a full song with something big happening behind the vocals everywhere you look, and I can’t help feel that it’s overwhelming listened to on headphones. No doubt this will work better blasting from speakers, but then again…I would kill to hear this stripped back without the party bass crowding the vocals.

P.S. Given Katy’s affinity for cats, I was surprised she went with mice (hamsters?) for the lyric video. It is gorgeous though, and reminds me of Tastemade’s wonderful Tiny Kitchen series. 2.5

Average Score: 1.5

Ciao Adios

Zanda: She has a fantastic voice, there is absolutely no doubting that. But that snare-driven production is so intensely and frustratingly boring. If this ever came up on my suggested tracks on Spotify I’d cancel my subscription because this is not my vibe in any way, shape or form. 1.5

Sam: It’s certainly not revolutionary by any means but it’s really difficult to make the transition from alt-popstar to fully fledged popstar so I get the middle ground that she’s in. I hope this does well for her so she can get some more creative control and churn out the gold that I know she has in her. 3

Michelle: Anne-Marie’s work with Rudimental was amazing, but like Zanda, I don’t feel the same way about her solo work. I liked ‘Do It Right’ and ‘Alarm’ was a cracker, but she’s repeating many of the same themes in her songs without mixing them up enough. They’re all quality catchy tunes, but this track doesn’t stand out. 2

Average Score: 2.16

Roland Tings
Higher Ground (Feat. Nylo)

Zanda: Oh hell yes, another cracker from Roland Tings. I really think he’s an emerging artist that doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his innovative production and ridiculously catchy vibes. Nylo’s vocals fit seamlessly into this as well, and Roland has clearly crafted the whole track around them to great success. It rises, it falls, and really just does everything right. There is very, very little to fault here. 4.5

Sam: I’ve always been really interested to hear what Roland Tings would do with a vocalist and finally we get to hear it. It turns out he really knows what to do with a top-line. His production is bubbly, malleable and colourful as always but he’s cleared the perfect amount of space for Nylo’s breathy vocals. Really pleasant. 3.5

Michelle: I am a huge fan of Roland Tings and his graphic designer-Memphis style beats, and had I known about the way this song opens, I would have skipped to about 30 seconds in, when Tings moves on into a slower rhythm before again, at  about 60 seconds, going into yet another phase of the song. At 2 minutes, Tings lets Nylo take over, with an almost acoustic interlude that lets Nylo’s delicate whispering vocals shine. I would have preferred if Tings skipped the tinny bears and the Flume echoes at the start, but given how it quickly picks up, I can’t complain. 3.5

Average Score: 3.83

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