First Impressions: Ariana Grande, Khalid, Lykke Li And More

Written By the interns on 04/26/2018

Roundtable reviews of the latest new music; the good and the bad. This week we're putting Ariana Grande, Lykke Li, Anne-Marie, Khalid, Billie Eilish and Matthew Young in front of our writers.

Ariana Grande - No Tears Left To Cry

Nathan Jake: Look... I'm not religious so listening to this song is the closest I'll get to reading a religious text. The vocal is masterful and the production is (of course) impeccable. There's something about the way Max Martin & co. use sets of threes that satisfies my ears every time. Think "Raise! Your! Glass!" and "Tee! Nage! Dream!" - on this song we hear it in those consistent three synth stabs and on the pre-chorus ("co-min out"," can't stop now", "shut your mouth"). It's those little things that make Swedish pop one of my favourite things in the world. Folks, I love this. 5

Ti Butler: This is an instant classic, and an instant classic music video. Welcome back, Ariana. 5

Sam Murphy: You really couldn't have asked for a more perfect return from Ariana. It's respectful to the tragic situation last year and still manages to push her forward as one of the most visionary popstars in the game. There's nothing in pop that sounds quite like this right now but give it a year and there will be plenty. It's effortlessly euphoric without relying on a big, predictable chorus and tailor-made for Ariana's soaring, boundary-defying voice. 4.5

Sean Tayler: On her newest track, Ariana combines some quirky R&B vibes with subtly edgy production that makes for an exciting track especially when paired with such a cool and futuristic music video. 4

Lykke Li - Deep End

Sean: In ‘deep end’, Lykke Li delivers poppy vocals along with a searing, layered production that compliments. There’s heaps more electronic influence than previous work by Lykke Li and it pays off for the better. 4

Nathan: There's definitely a lot to like here but it's all a bit flat. The song is nearly there. 3

Ti: The chorus is a bit of a letdown, which is a pity because it sounds heaps like a Nelly Furtado vocal which would be hella cool. 3

Sam: With every release Lykke Li teases a big pop moment but never quite gets there. That's not a bad thing, it just means it's not what she was aiming for but this time around she is and it's glorious. deep end may not feel big on first listen, it's quite intimate. Give that winding, intricate hook a few spins though and it will whirl faster round your head than any Taylor Swift song. A-grade songwriting from an artist that always had it in her. 4.5

Anne-Marie - 2002

Nathan: This is a song written by an incredible team of people who have helped define pop music in the past decade. Ed Sheeran, Steve Mac, Julia Michaels and Benny Blanco (Anne-Marie also wrote on it, but she doesn't count here). The song is both a tribute to the great pop music that came before them and an extremely transparent attempt to exploit the increasing nostalgia for the 90s/early 2000s - as heard all day on Australian radio since the "old skool" shift took hold. As for the song itself, it's an enjoyable listen. The premise is fun and it's Ed Sheeran at his best. He's great at nostalgia (Castle On The Hill) and using other people’s songs (accidentally copying TLC on Shape Of You). It should be a fairly decent hit for Anne-Marie but it doesn't show much of her personality. 4

Ti: I properly love this, even though, as has been pointed out elsewhere, 99 Problems came out in 2004. I can picture a live TV performance of this and then credits scrolling across the bottom of the screen during the last chorus because it’s the #1 song on the charts. I would be very happy for this to be a hit. 4.5

Sam: Ed Sheeran, Steve Mac and nostalgia was always going to be a winning formula but somehow this doesn't feel forced. Anne-Marie's voice is perfect for these slippery verses and she takes the cheese off the chorus which on paper would've looked horrendous. It should be nauseating but instead it's a bloody great pop song that deserves to burn up the airwaves for the next six months. 4

Sean: Anne-Marie is an artist that I’ve never really stopped to listen to, but damn! ‘2002’ has put her on my radar. This track starts all acoustic and cute, but that leads to an explosive and intimate chorus. Brb world, I’m listening to Anne-Marie! 4

Khalid, 6lack, Ty Dolla $ign - OTW

Nathan: So far, Love Lies has been the only Khalid song/feature I’ve loved and usually I lay the blame with Khalid himself. His voice and delivery has often not worked for me, but on this he’s perfect. My problem with OTW is that it should be all him. I’m really into the chorus and the overall production, I just don’t want to hear the other two. He’s started to really grow on me! 3.5

Ti: I started listening to this and then I forgot I was listening to this. ?

Sam: There's something incredibly warm about the hook of this song that pulls me in immediately. The verses don't match the same brilliance but the hook is so good I'm happy to wait for it. 3.5

Sean: This song has such pretty vocals and is easy to listen to a result but the track doesn’t seem to go anywhere, which is a shame because I really wanted to dig it. 3

Matthew Young - Fix Me Up

Nathan: This is fine! It has more energy than some of the songs I’ve heard from him in the past but that distant vocal production makes me zone out. 3

Ti: Do you ever get déjà vu? ?

Sam: Matthew Young's confidence just continues to grow and this feels like his boldest moment to date. The production of it all is incredibly comforting and I love how the guitar kicks it and gives it a little more grunt in the chorus. His best moment is still to come but this is all building very nicely for him. 4

Sean: ‘Hey’ was one of my favourite songs from New Zealand last year, which is saying a lot since both Lorde and Yumi Zouma also dropped new music. ‘Fix Me Up’ isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t a stand-out like previous Matthew Young tracks. If this shouldn’t have been a single, rather an EP cut, I couldn’t have been as critical. 3

Billie Eilish & Khalid - Lovely

Nathan: This is stunning. They both sound brilliant and I love the drama of it. 4

Ti: This song will be the sentimental favourite halfway through a Khalid live set, after American Teen and Silence, but before we get to Love Lies and Young Dumb & Broke. 3

Sam: The title says it all really. It's lovely, nothing more, nothing less. I'm waiting for Billie to do something that matches her persona. 3
Sean: I love Billie Eilish so much and I was lucky enough to catch her live earlier this year. ‘lovely’ reminds me of some of her quieter hits ‘party favor’ and ‘idontwannabeyouanymore’, which isn’t bad, but I was hoping for more of an ‘&burn’ vibe since it also features a hip-hop artist. So ‘lovely’ is cute, but it doesn’t highlight the aspects of Billie’s songwriting that make her one of the youngest, most fierce performers around. 3

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