First Impressions, where we write about a bunch of new songs and slap a score out of five on them. And that's it really. Maribelle, Camila Cabello, Jennifer Lopez and more are under the microscope this week.
Maribelle - I’m A Mess Without You
Roz Farrell: TBH this felt a little bare to me at first, but I like this song more as it develops. The production is really punchy and satisfying, and the mini-drop after the chorus gives me chilled-out “What I Need” by Hayley Kiyoko vibes. I’m kinda into the overall minimalistic approach to this and the meaning behind it is really sweet. 3.75
Kate Carnell: Damn Maribelle has absolutely nailed the poppy sound currently smashing commercial radio! ‘I’m A Mess Without You’ would seamlessly slot right in with the Kiiara/Camila Cabello/Dua Lipa crowd dominating the airwaves this minute. Looking forward to her world domination and what’s even better is that she’s taking Australia/The Philippines with her when she does. 4
Ti Butler: So I loved her song Shout, and considered myself a fan, but until right now, I hadn’t realised Maribelle is from Melbourne. Like, I could have walked past her in the street or in a shopping centre or something and had no idea I’d been occupying the same space as this total fucking star. @Australian radio: add this ASAP please. 4.5
Sam Murphy: In my opinion this is one of the first locally made Australian pop songs that sounds like it compete on the world stage in a while. It’s just really slick, hook-y songwriting that’s packed full of feeling. Maribelle’s voice is brilliant and her personality always shines through. If this doesn’t burn up commercial radio then nobody is doing their job properly. 4.5
Pharrell, Camila Cabello - Sangria Wine
Roz: The Latin angle is definitely my favorite sound for Camila. It feels like she’s been trying on all these different personas on her album in an attempt to find something that fits for her solo ~endeavor~, but “Havana” is the best thing she’s put out by far and I’m glad to see her re-embracing that sound. This track apparently came out of the “Havana” sessions and they’ve been sitting on it for awhile, so I’m glad they finally did release it.
I know I’m breaking the whole first impressions concept here, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the vocal on this until I watched Camila and Pharrell perform this at the BBMAs, and it totally worked in that context. Pharrell feels a little unnecessary on the vocal but he’s contributed so positively in the writing and production categories that I can forgive him. Overall the whole thing is less interesting than “Havana”, but a step in the right direction. 3.2
Kate: Pharrell has definitely created an original sound here but I’m not super confident that it works TBH. Maybe like a fine wine it’ll get better with age/more listens but I feel like they were going for that sneaky sangria instant hit – you know, akin to when you’re sitting at a Mexican restaurant downing the sangria and feel completely sober until you stand up and attempt to walk out only to find that you are actually completely hammered. Unfortunately, it didn’t floor me on my first few spins. Camila is flawless though right? It still gets a 3 because I feel like I’ll be telling everyone how good it is in a few weeks.
Ti: Do you get it? Because sangria has wine in it? But also wineing is a dance move? So it’s all about being drunk and dancing? IT’S ALL A VERY CLEVER PLAY ON WORDS. 2
Sam: It’s kind of ridiculous and terrible but at the same time I can’t help myself going back to it. I love the beat, I love Camila’s Spanish parts and I’m not annoyed by Pharrell for once. My only large gripe is the break between Camila’s lines in the first verse is just too long. It feels like we’re waiting a lifetime for that verse to finish. 3
Jennifer Lopez - Dinero (Feat. DJ Khaled & Cardi B)
Roz: Nope. No. I cannot listen to DJ Khaled yell over the top of things for no reason anymore. I’ve reached my limit. This nonsense has thrived for long enough. I cannot sit by any longer.
Also the production on this is terrible. The only redeeming factor here is that the melody is actually pretty catchy, which makes it all the more annoying that the rest of it is so bad. 0.5
Kate: Oh man ditto to what Roz has written here. Another one. Another generic DJ Khaled cut. I mean maybe I’m just dirty on the fact that he expects to receive oral sex from his wife but refuses to return the favour because “it’s different rules for men” and “a woman should praise the man, the king”, and I can’t get past the misogyny in order to appreciate the song; or maybe it’s just a super generic track with weak lyrics and a beat that can’t carry it over the line.
And hasn’t J-Lo come a long way from the block where her love didn’t cost a thing? Now money’s all she wants, evidently.
The only points I’m awarding this song are given solely to Cardi B and I’d love to ask her about working with douche turkey Khaled, as she seems like the kind of woman who wouldn’t put up with any bullshit bedroom inequality and even delivers the line, “I got the box that got the most flavour”, in this very song. Don’t worry Khaled, I’m sure she scrubbed the house clean before her man sampled the flavour. 1.5
Ti: How about the bit where J-Lo switches up her pronunciation of “dinero” and sings “I just want the D… nero”. Clearly they’ve only made this for the money, because they certainly haven’t done it for the artistry. 1
Sam: DJ Khaled’s inclusion on this is so unnecessary that it makes me hate the song immediately. Thankfully, J.Lo pulls me back in, flipping effortlessly from Spanish to English and keeping the whole thing coherent. I know Cardi is going to be cashing in from plenty of features over the next year or so but as a combo J.Lo and Cardi make sense. It all works and I’m not blown away but I’m certainly not mad. 3
Christine & The Queens - Girlfriend
Roz: I’m really into this. The production is super retro and crisp and the writing is really clever. It builds really smoothly and the whole thing is complex without taking itself too seriously. Really excited for this new era. 4
Kate: Damn what a late 80’s/early 90’s inspired funk jam! Super cool tune but without sounding like a douche – about halfway through I was already Googling to see if there was a French version and I found it and it’s better IMO.
Ti: I love a bit of word salad. 4
Sam: This sounds like absolutely nothing else around right now and goddamn it’s just so fresh. Christine is such an asset and I have a really good feeling about this new era. It feels very inspired. 4
G Flip - Killing My Time
Roz: Everything about this is just so, so excellent. Georgia’s voice sounds incredible here, especially in the pre-chorus. I’m completely obsessed with the percussion on this track; everything fits together so intricately but still manages to feel minimalistic. Another imminent smash from G Flip. 4.75
Kate: Hard 5.
Do I have to continue? Um... well, pause reading here, open a new tab – click that YouTube link, listen, put it in your Spotify playlist and then come back here and thank me. I’ll wait.
Some advice for G Flip though after reading her blurb about the song on her YouTube page: babe get a second studio somewhere else that isn’t your bedroom, so you don’t have to break up with chicks that sound like fun – (and while the taco reference is 100% by coincidence) ¿por qué no los dos? Why can’t you have your taco and eat it too? 5
Ti: Can I just highlight one little production flourish? On the pre-chorus where the vocals begin to wrap up and there’s just a tiny little bit of pitch bending that sounds like your tape deck is running out of battery. This is an absolute monster of a song. G Flip is the real deal. We better bloody see her at the ARIAs this year. 4.5
Sam: This is not fair to any other artist around right now. I can’t even include her in ones to watch lists because she’s so far beyond every other new artist right now and that’s no disrespect to anyone else. She just gets it. She knows how to write a bloody phenomenal pop song and she may have even bettered her debut with this one. I could go on but it would be an incoherent mess because I have so many feelings about this song and G Flip. 4.5
Clean Bandit - Solo (Feat. Demi Lovato)
Roz: Popjustice’s preview of this song a couple weeks back had me so excited, but I’m really just not clicking with this one. I was ready for Hailee Steinfeld's “Love Myself” meets “Tears” feat. Louisa, and I was profoundly disappointed. Demi is such a powerhouse, and I feel like the amount of vocal manipulation in the pre-chorus just renders her presence on this track moot. You can’t even tell it’s her after the first verse.
It’s a perfectly fine song, I just had really high hopes for this collaboration and some of the production choices seem misguided. It loses an entire point for that god-awful noise they used to censor her in the pre-chorus. 2
Kate: While the manipulation of Demi’s vocals is well justified for the sound they’re looking to achieve in the chorus, I’m not a fan of the way producers are messing with the vocals of such talented singers for seemingly no reason, as Clean Bandit have done in parts of this track. Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong. Anyhoo, only a minor gripe of mine. Apart from that, the song is ace. 4
Ti: There are two-- nay, three-- very important points to be made here: one, doing a song about a date with Pamela Handerson is always a good idea; two, the f-WOOP WOOP WOOP! bit is actually a lot of fun and very good, and three, this thankfully is not a tie-in to the new Star Wars spinoff out this week, because that would be a very different film which I’m not sure would not be distributed quite as widely. 3
Sam: The two most vanilla artists in pop music teaming up for a mildly fun song is a concept. 2.5