First Impressions: Sam Smith, ZAYN, Kelela And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 09/12/2017

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 Sam Smith, ZAYN, Kelela, What So Not, Tove Lo and The Americanos face the jury.

Sam Smith - Too Good At Goodbyes

Michelle He: This is so classic Sam Smith, from the clicks to the melody, this could’ve easily fit onto the last album. But I feel that artists are damned if they do and damned if they don’t with new directions, so this is just Smith playin’ it safe. Which is fine. But beyond the gospel choir interludes, there’s just nothing new. It’s still a gorgeous tune, I’m probably bias because I still put Money On My Mind on repeat. 3

Jackson Langford: Look, I was completely prepared for another Sam Smith snoozefest. Besides a few choice tracks and a few Disclosure collabs, to me Sam Smith was nothing but an inferior, male version of Adele. Enter ‘Too Good at Goodbyes’ and I’m completely eating my words. Packed to the brim with vulnerability he’s never quite tapped into before, this song sees Smitho accepting his flaws as a lover – he’s always ready to shut you out just in case you try and shut him out first. Chuck in a gospel chorus and you’ve got me singing to my third glass of red for the night. 4

Alistair Rhodes: There’s no doubt that we have all known for years that Sam Smith has an outstanding voice but Too Good At Goodbyes takes his signing and music ability to another level. At the start of the song I thought it was just going to be more of the same from Sam Smith but once those back up vocals hit it it really brought that added oomph needed. 3

Sam Murphy: It’s phenomenal that it took him three years to do this. I could’ve told him years ago grab a piano, gather a choir and hop in the studio. More predictable than the days of the week. That’s not to say it’s bad. I’m happy to hear his voice again and goddamn can he sing but it just doesn’t feel weighty enough for a lead-single. If you want to do this kind of thing for a lead-single, consult Adele. 3

ZAYN - Dusk Till Dawn (Feat. Sia)

Michelle: I’m going to get my objections to the cover art out of the way first. It had so much potential, but it feels low-rent for such a huge song. Melodically, all I can hear is the kind of emotional bigness that is prime soundtrack material. Sia’s vocals are harking back to the days before she started warping the pronunciation of lyrics and it’s so beautiful with Zayn’s vocals, which are also under-utilised on ballad-y tracks. This isn’t horribly original pop, but boy it’s beautiful. 3

Jackson: Do you ever come home shitfaced and try to cook something completely wild by pairing two ingredients that wouldn’t normally go together in the hopes you’ll create magic, but instead it creates a sad pile of broken dreams, wasted talent and lost time that could’ve been used making something much better? I’m guessing that’s what happened when this song was made. 1

Alistair: What the hell was with that monologue during the middle of the song? The rest of the song was boring and repetitive. I’ll be generous with my score because ZAYN does have a decent voice. 1

Sam: Well, clearly all the Harry stans have infiltrated First Impressions this week. The hatred is uncalled for quite frankly. I love this. ZAYN has never sounded better and the sweet spot that he and Sia find with their harmonies is so on-point. I probably wasn’t expecting a ballad from him but I’m totally sold on this vibe for him. I mean, it’s no Pillowtalk but it’s also no Sign Of The Times which means ZAYN remains the best member of One Direction. 4

Kelela - Frontline

Michelle: I love Kelela and last time I saw her, I became an embarrassingly huge fan of her work. For some reason, Frontline feels weaker lyrically than her last major release and though the instrumentals carry it forward, I’m just not in love with it as much as her last single (but let’s be real, LMK was always going to be hard to top). The chorus is easily the winner of this whole song, it’s pointy and sassy but the song overall doesn’t have the momentum of her other work. 3

Jackson: Kelela is completely owning 2017. ‘LMK’ was a perfect mix of both nostalgia & the future, and ‘Frontline’ is the perfect follow-up. The subtle, Blade Runner-esque production doesn’t once compromise her stunning vocals and the lyrical daggers she’s chucking at a shady ex. Her take on R&B has always been next level, and this song once again cements her as a serious heavyweight. Between gorgeous vocal runs and that harsh chorus, Kelela is making sure her voice is well and truly heard. 4.5 Jackson’s Pick

Alistair: I’ve been a massive fan of Kelela for a couple years now. I think she’s always pushing the limits with her vocals and production on her tracks. The production at the start of Frontline has intrigued me the most. It built towards her vocals nicely and kept you breezing through to that one minute mark when you get hit with deeper beat heightened vocals. It only took me two minutes of this four minute song to add to my music library. 4.5 Alistair’s pick

Sam: I loved LMK but I still felt Kelela had something better in the tank and here it is. This one is a slinky, sultry epic that earns every second of its near six-minute duration. Kelela sounds unbelievably and the wonky melodies she leads us through are so unpredictable but so satisfying. I’m sure if Aaliyah’s heyday was in 2017 she’d be making music like this. 4.5 Sam's Pick

What So Not - Better (Feat. LPX)

Michelle: What So Not knows how to put together a dance track alright and this is no exception. I can’t get over Lizzie Plapinger’s LPX solo work and this is another jewel in her crown. This isn’t the most original dance track - it has all the classic drops, chopped vocals and percussion elements - but LPX vocals make it just that much better. I probably wouldn’t listen to it through headphones because it’d be a bit much but hoo boy, SUMMER IS COMING. 4

Jackson: Anyone who knows me knows I live for crunchy synths and an unabashed drop and this WSN track delivers on both fronts. The staccato riff that underlays LPX’s soaring vocals in the pre-chorus gets me so hype for those booming synths of that drop. Emoh has always had a knack for making me feel music vibrate every extension of every limb, and ‘Better’ is no exception. 4

Alistair: Emoh always knows how to take you on a magical journey. Starts off nice and easy and then builds up to that high energy beat that we all love whilst still combining the two ever so smoothly. Better continues to carry  WSN’s signature elements. 4

Sam: This is a big, bloody pop song and I’m here for it. Totally wasn’t expecting something so pop-centred from What So Not but he totally delivers here. Lizzie from MS MR sounds more soulful than she ever has. I can imagine this really ripping up British radio because it sounds like a much less beige version of Rudimental. 4

The Americanos - Everyday (Feat. D.R.A.M. & Kyle)

Jackson: In a genre that is so often aggressive and energetic, this song is a refreshing dip in an ocean of harsh and relentless hip-hop. With incredibly well chosen features, this song is made for sipping a margarita by the pool as opposed to downing Ciroc in the club. It’s completely relaxed in both production and vocal delivery and is by no means a monumental point in any of their careers, but all three players still give ‘Everyday’ an irresistible flavour that has me thirsty for more. 3.5

Michelle: With bubbly synths and an extremely catchy chorus, this track feels very pool party with inflatable swans and pineapple drinks which is where I’d rather be right now because it’s like 10 degrees in Melbourne right now. I’m feeling the Latin American and Spring Break influences, but it’s so laid back and distinct from their other release, I’m wondering how distinct this change in direction will be from these guys. 3

Alistair: Pop-hop is far from my favourite music genre. So I wasn’t one bit feeling this song at all. 1.5

Sam: This was always going to be pretty good but I’m hardly jumping out of my skin because of it. It’s super smooth and effortlessly moves through the paces which there’s nothing wrong with but it’s kind of like three Porches in a parking lot. Once they’re all together, it’s far less impressive. Each of their distinctive talent is swallowed here. 3

Tove Lo - Disco Tits

Jackson: I’m pretty sure Tove Lo is incapable of doing any wrong. With every single release, she surprises me with her unabashed approach towards pop music, sex, drugs and everything in between. ‘Disco Tits’, a song title that is too good to be true, is one of her best offerings yet. It’s completely electrifying, addictive and honestly I’m gonna need another hit, pronto. 4

Michelle: The start was disconcerting (is that a husky?) but man, this song gets into it real quick. Tove Lo may not be known for disco pop, but I can hear this song across dance floors the world over already. It’s so much fun, even as I’m sitting at a desk writing this and every element is pieced together really well. I love it. 4.5 Michelle’s Pick

Alistair: I’ve never been completely sold on Tove Lo but this song has changed my perspective. I think it the deep catching beat at the start of the song that got me really into it. Disco Tits is a perfect name for this song. I didn't even notice the name of the song at first, halfway through the song I thought this has song has a strong disco feel to it and lo and behold ‘disco’ is a part of the song name. 3.8

Sam: This actually could be the best song she’s ever released. Big call, I know, but she’s always felt half-baked for me. This one finds a distinct direction and goes for it, upping the sleaze on the dancefloor and somehow making the classiest damn dance-pop song of the year. It’s made for that moment you slink onto the dance floor feeling like the absolute shit. 4

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