First Impressions: Justin Bieber, Vince Staples, London Grammar And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 06/14/2017

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 Jorja Smith, Justin Bieber, Vince Staples, London Grammar, Golden Vessel and SZA face the jury.

Jorja Smith - Teenage Fantasy

Dominique: This is seductively sumptuous. I am enamoured by how easily this song glides across genres, gracefully dipping into different veins across the song structure. Jorja’s vocals are captivatingly emotive, and to me, a woman of a similar age, highly relational. I can’t help but drift back and sift through memories of high school crushes and past relationships, evaluating how all of that impacted my sense of self now. I am smitten with this song. What a pleasure. 4 Dominique’s Pick

Sam: Jorja Smith is totally in a different league. You’d think after her Drake collab she would have released some more commercial sounding music but instead she’s stuck to her guns and dropped this smouldering, soulful number. Her voice moulds around that chorus like the pair were always meant to be and the lyrics are the right dosage of nostalgia and class. 4

Bianca:  Another silky jam by Jorja that puts her vocals front and centre. She's slow and careful in the verses and then she packs it on In the chorus with those incredible harmonies. 4 Bianca’s Pick

Average Score: 4

David Guetta - 2 U (Feat. Justin Bieber)

Dominique: Every time I watch a video Justin Bieber is involved with I feel frustrated and tired regarding the portrayal of women. Often objectified, rendered for the male gaze, westernised beauty standards prevalent… I’m SO over it. Anyway, I’m here to review the music, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead on that front. Anyway, fuck this. It’s irritatingly familiar and annoyingly repetitive. I’m bitter about Justin Bieber’s constant manufacturing of drivel lately. Additionally, David Guetta’s production seems worn-out in this one. The song structure is so familiar: 1. Start with some seductive lyrics that generally relate to any girl 2. Build the melody up 3. Slower bridge that focuses on his vocals. 4. Chorus with a “drop the bass” moment. It’s not even an impactful drop. It’s easily predictable and bland.  1

Sam: Justin Bieber and his team are just playing games now. It’s like they’re trying to see how many singles they can make pop outside of album cycle and so far it’s working. This is probably the worst feature he’s had this year because it feels the most copy/paste. Guetta’s production is uninspiring at the best of times and if anything his drop here drowns out all Bieber’s melodic work in the verse and bridge. It feels a little like a cheap Where Are U Now but I’ll take it. 3

Bianca: It's such a shame that the chorus in this song has to exist. The verses are melodic and the bridges build beautifully into an unfortunately bland drop which uses the same overused techniques. I wanted some more oomph but I guess I shouldn't expect that much from Guetta. Excuse me while I spin Despacito for the millionth time. 3

Average Score: 2.3

SZA - Doves In The Wind (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Dominique: This is a chiller of a song, smooth and attention-grabbing. The lyrics are sassy and distinctive. “You could never trivialize pussy”. Yes! The lines in this song are poetic and much deeper than what you’ll get on a first listen. Both SZA and Kendrick offer the female scope of sexuality and investigate dating in a 21st century age. The words also honour the power of female sexuality and give strength to female autonomy. This song offers a great, positive perspective with a charming sound. Delightful. 3.5

Sam: SZA’s album is just so, so good and this is a total breath of fresh air. I love that she goes toe-to-toe with arguably the best rapper in the world and manages to win with this wicked confidence. Kendrick seems to be in a competition to see how many times he can say “pussy” and then SZA walks straight in and sings, “never trivialise pussy”. Like K.Dot she puts so much emphasis on the shaping and delivery of every word and it makes this utterly intoxicating. 4

Bianca: Love the teaming of these two. This song sounds like it slid straight out of DAMN. but SZA definitely makes it her own. 4

Average Score: 3.83

Golden Vessel - Shoulders (Feat. Elkkle & Mallrat)

Dominique: This is accessible and charming. I enjoy the character in the vocals and how separate and crisp they are on top of the main music. The irregular melody line sounds quite metallic and is exciting to listen to. There is a lack of an emotive element that keeps me from loving this however I think all the components really combine to create a successful, upbeat sound. 3

Sam: I’ve struggled to get excited about electronic music in this country at the moment because nothing seems to be overly exciting but Golden Vessel is really grabbing my attention. Along with Alice Ivy, he just seems to be giving a little more. His beats mix the organic with the synthetic and his vocalists are always on-point. It’s Mallrat that wins this one for me though. Her soft, slippery bars reveal a more mature side to her and her harmonies with Elkkle at the end of the song are so beautiful. 4

Bianca: Loving the groove of this. I feel like there's so much of the same kind of electronic music coming out of Australia but this one really stands out from the rest. The change of tempos, dramatic pauses and skittering beat make this a super interesting listen. The addition of Mallrat really tops this one off for me. 4

Average Score: 3.6

Vince Staples - Rain Come Down

Dominique: Starts with a strong bassline but loses me a lot with the autotune. I’m never a fan of that. I don’t think this is a particularly strong one from Vince. There’s nothing especially captivating going on here. The chorus is similar to a lot of stuff coming out of the hip hop/RNB genres at the moment. This is really unfortunate. 1

Sam: Vince is definitely getting a little more commercial with this one but he’s not losing any of his power in doing so. Rain Come Down is giving me Kanye Fade vibes which I really love. It’s cool to hear Staples rap over something that fully embraces the world of electronica. In some ways, it feels like a deconstructed house song, stripped back to the bare minimum. Really cool. 4 Sam’s Pick

Bianca: I'm really liking the sound coming from Staples at the moment. The electronic house vibes combined with Staples & Ty Dolla $ign’s relaxed demeanours really give this song a brooding feel. 4

Average Score: 3

London Grammar - Hell To The Liars

Dominique: London Grammar always manages to majestically capture a sense of melancholy and longing. The vocals are inimitable, so smooth and sombre. This is a slow burning song, with a sweeping emotional uplift as the song progresses. It’s a ‘sit back and reflect’ song; a song to cry to, a song to sit in the bath to. I can’t help but imagine the effect it will have at concerts; truly uniting artist and audience through emotion. Enchanting! 4

Sam: I really like what London Grammar have to offer, I do, but how many times can you simply rely on that voice and a sparse backing? This does nothing to justify its ridiculously long six minute length. It’s like getting on a 14 hour flight only to realise at the end you’re back where you started. I kept waiting for something more to happen and while there is some sort of a climax, it’s just so predictable. The melody in the chorus is beautiful but London Grammar will not get away with another album like this. Nothing sticks. Let's liven it up a bit. They're only 23 and 24 these guys and yet at the moment they're making Celine Dion sound upbeat. 2

Bianca: I'm so bored. Why does it feel like London Grammar keep offering up the same song on this record? 2

Average Score: 2.6

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