First Impressions: Normani, Zayn, Tyler, The Creator And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 11/20/2018

First Impressions is people with opinions reviewing people with songs out of five. This week Normani, Zayn, Little Mix and more face the jury.

Mariah Carey - Giving Me Life (Feat. Blood Orange & Slick Rick)

Holly O’Neill: Mariah is back in the game baby and Ariana is quaking (jk, next). Blood Orange can honestly do no wrong, so of course I love this track and everything he brings to the production. This has that classic 90’s downtempo Mariah vibe but with that extra Blood Orange sparkle in the main melody. And stick around for that ambient switch up at the end complete with guitar solo, v groovy. 3.5

Abby Butler: If you’re not a huge fan of Ms Carey, you’ll probably still dig this track. There’s nothing that screams “Mariah” on this one, instead Blood Orange definitely takes the reigns with super smooth production that oozes 90s R&B slow jam. I’m not convinced that the song needed six minutes to do what it had to do but hey, who am I to question Queen Mazza? 3

Ti Butler: It almost feels like Mariah hasn’t quite known how to reinvent herself to make her new music relevant until Ariana showed her how to do it. It’s still got that Mariah sound, but so many parts of this sound straight from the Ariana playbook. Not necessarily a bad thing. 3

Sam Murphy: No one does a mid-tempo better than Mariah and I’m so glad she just delivered a tight album full of them. Blood Orange could not be a more perfect producer for her and together they’ve created something that’s so low-key but also such a vibe. I love hearing Mariah so raw and minimal, just showing off her voice and songwriting. 4

Little Mix - Strip

Holly: We love a fun empowerment bop! With this track’s emphasis on the vocal performances of the girls and sparse energetic production, it’s a total switch up from anything I’ve ever heard from them. But you would think they would maybe have better diction when there’s so much emphasis on their lyrics ... took me a few goes to actually mentally translate what they’re singing, but trust I still felt the empowerment! Also I have no idea who Sharaya J but wow do I want to. 3

Abby: 100% agree with Holly in that I am still in the process of translating whatever Perrie Edwards is saying in this song. I’m always a lil sceptical of the authenticity of self-love anthems in pop music, but Little Mix’s passion for both the message and one another emanates from this bop from the very get go. For many, LM will always be an X-Factor girl group and in this anthem I love the fact that they’re not afraid to lean into that rather than erase it. 4.5

Ti: The thing with Little Mix is, it’s almost like they write songs specifically so that they work well live, both sonically and visually; and I can already picture how it’s going to look on stage, the kind of visuals they’ll have on stage behind them, the dance moves, the tweaks they’ll make to the song to make it just that little bit different for the live show… it’s true classic Little Mix. (Also, mad props for naming their fifth album LM5.) 4

Sam: This isn’t my favourite song off the album and the accents are a little difficult to swallow at times but there’s no doubt it’s an anthem for Little Mix. There’s something about the confidence of it that feels like a real breakthrough for the group like they’re transforming from popstars into icons. I like that. 3

ZAYN - No Candle No Light (Feat. Nicki Minaj)

Holly: Zayn and Nicki seem like they would be such a potent combo, but on this track they fizzle. No doubt its generic lyrics and production, dancehall flavour and star power means it’ll be rinsed on the radio, but I was honestly expecting way more from these two. Only redeeming factor is one hell of a drum line in the second breakdown, gimme more of That next time around. 2

Abby: With 11/10 pop bops, bangers and slaps being released on the daily, a zesty combo of two big names isn’t really enough. Predictable. Generic. Young Money. 1

Ti: The most interesting thing about this song was the Hamish Blake UberEats preroll ad. Total autopilot. 1

Sam: A monumental hot mess just like every song that’s come from Zayn past the first album. Whoever is A&R-ing him right now, if anyone, needs to really re-think the whole thing. I don’t think there’s a bad song beneath all of the production here but that drop is so dated there’s literally nobody working in music right now who should greenlight a major single with a drop like it. 2

Normani - Waves (Feat. 6lack)

Holly: The attention to detail plus y2k of the future alt-rnb aesthetic across this track is giving me Kelela for the pop palette, and I’m excited about it. This stunning production matched with an equally stunning performance from Normani AND lowkey verse from 6LACK honestly knocks it out of the park. With a vision like this, there is no doubt in my mind that she’s the Beyonce of Fifth Harmony (@ me I dare you) 4

Abby: Forgive me pop R&B gods for I have sinned - this track is actually my introduction to Normani and holy moley all the hype makes sense now. There are so many layers to unpack in this gem, most notably Normani’s vocals which flow from brooding verses to breathtaking falsetto pre-choruses. 6LACK’s verse is fine. It’s there. But in all honesty, Normani had the chops to carry this track by herself. 3.5

Ti: After you’ve been in a girl group like 5H for as long as Normani was, and then you suddenly have the freedom to do whatever you want, it can take a while to find your sound as a solo artist, and your identity away from the group. Normani has absolutely found her sound. Truly first-class production. 4

Sam: I love how Normani’s just out here making the jams she wants to make without worrying about what sounds like a current hit. People once told Beyonce there were no hits on Dangerously In Love. I imagine people have told Normani the same thing about this and Love Lies. The self-assurance to make music that defines you as an artist no matter what is the sign of a superstar. 4

Tyler The Creator - Lights On (Feat. Santigold & Ryan Beatty)

Holly: I swear this boy’s soundtrack contribution to The Grinch might be the one thing that will convince me to give money to the same company that created Minions. There’s something about those drum hits that are a little off the beat that is just so charming, and matching Santigold’s raspy delivery with Beatty’s liquid gold voice just weirdly works. So wholesome, so forward thinking and so very Tyler 3.5

Abby: Truly still pondering why the latest Dr Seuss offering wasn’t released solely as a Tyler the Creator album rather than an Illumination cartoon. The festive synths, Santigold’s signature cool drawl, the pure bliss of Ryan Beatty’s verse and Tyler’s somewhat Seussically inspired rhymes all combine to become a song that’s seriously worth celebrating. I’m all about it! 5

Ti: Adding this to my O Christmas Ti playlist. 3.75

Sam: The most unexpected Christmas song of the year absolutely bangs. I don’t care what season it is, I’m going to listen to Ryan Beatty’s voice over Tyler The Creator beats all year round. 4

Broods - Everything Goes (Wow)

Holly: With so many earworms under their belt in this new era of Broods I was expecting ‘Everything Goes (Wow)’ to be yet another, but they can’t all be 5’s now can they. Not that this track isn’t lovely, it just sounds like something my too cool high school “you’ve probably never heard of them” hipster ass would have loved 2.5

Abby: Unlike Peach, there’s nothing particularly powerful about this new one from Broods. It mightn’t stop you in your tracks or indeed make you exclaim “Wow”, but it’s a catchy lil fun one that will surely add a spring to your step. For that, I have no complaints! 4

Ti: I believe it was noted philosopher Holly O’Neill who once said “they can’t all be fives, can they”. 3

Sam: The visuals and the album title are so wacky I’m surprised by how incredibly normal this song is. It’s not a bad song at all, I’m just not overly blown away by it. 3

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