First Impressions: Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 02/05/2020
Dua Lipa

First Impressions is our weekly chance to go head-to-head on the new tunes of the week. Each of the contributing writers reviews the track and then slaps a score out of 5 on it. This week we’re looking at Dua Lipa's bombastic return Physical, Justin Bieber's Kehlani collab and more.

Dua Lipa - Physical

Liam: Nothing short of pop perfection. It’s actually hard to sum up the sheer magnitude of this song - the blaring Eighties synths, the driving bassline and Dua’s signature vocals make for an undeniable disco masterpiece, and one that sounds phenomenal in the club (trust me). She’s evolving into a worldwide superstar in front of our eyes, in real time, and it makes this song even more powerful. I think she might be in for releasing the album of the year. 5

Sam: It's so bizarre to me that making a straight-up pop song is unusual in this era. Dua is bringing back big electro-pop and it feels good. Even if she's reaching to the past for inspiration, Dua has enough charisma to make it sound current. Physical goes even bigger than its predecessor Don't Start Now giving us synths, grunt and one hell of a video. Absolutely brilliant. 5

Justin Bieber - Get Me (Feat. Kehlani)

Liam: I’m lowkey a Kehlani stan, so I had a slither of hope that she may have been able to save this tepid, undercooked Justin Bieber tune. Sadly, that was too tall an order. There’s such a lack of excitement and innovation throughout this new era so far and, although he’s never been pop’s leading pioneer, it’s disappointing to see him not even trying. 2

Sam: I love Kehlani to death and she sounds great on this song but Bieber is on cruise control right now. There's nothing particularly individual about the beat and the melodies just aren't delectable enough to carry it. It all feels limp. 2.5

Kesha - Tonight

Liam: I’m also a Kesha stan, but not lowkey at all. Tonight is the song I and every other fan begged and pleaded for after she teased it late last year, and it’s the riot we anticipated. She employs her signature “shit-talk” rapping across the verses, gets her pals in for a drunk karaoke session and rounds it off with a Rainbow-esque, anthemic chorus, tying up the beautiful chaos that is 2020 Kesha in a scrappy, glittery bow. It’s a return to form that evokes her debut sound, but in the most satisfying way possible - and although it isn’t my favourite from the album, it’s a nice way to escape the world and soak in my teenage nostalgia. 3.5

Sam: I feel like this is what everyone, including me, was after from Kesha and now I wonder whether we really needed it. I love that big, camp hook and the "bitch we're going out tonight" drop. Kesha has truly got her balls back and that's exciting. The only problem is, she's proved she's capable of so much more now. I think the rawest moments on High Road like Honey and Resentment could be her finest. That said, Tonight is ratchet fun. 3.5

Meghan Trainor - Nice To Meet Ya (Feat. Nicki Minaj)

Liam: One of the most intriguing and exciting surprises in pop in recent memory, and I mean that entirely sincerely. Meghan Trainor, often considered to be past her peak, and Nicki Minaj, who “retired” from music last year, come together over sparse, bass-heavy production with some interesting electronic flourishes that elevate Trainor’s sound beyond the juvenile doo-wop shtick she’s renowned for. The song rumbles towards one of Minaj’s best ever feature verses, hands down. It’s nice to see these two back in the spotlight after a few years of (arguably) unfair criticism and shunning - especially when they’re doing it with this much fun. 4

Sam: It's hard to believe that Meghan Trainor, who has been white-girl-rapping for years, has never actually featured a rapper on her song until now. Nicki is a good fit. She tends to make anyone look good and always puts in the work on her verse no matter who it is. I can't stand the video - it looks like a Staples advert made by a millennial. The song, however, is one of the more tolerable Trainor songs. She sounds good and the verses are instantly likable. The hook is annoying but, hey, we're taking baby steps towards standing her.

Amber Mark - Generous

Liam: I’m a big fan of Amber Mark’s airy, subdued delivery throughout this song, with the swells of strings over that booming 808 making for a majestic take on a genre that is inarguably oversaturated with unoriginality. It takes a lot for an artist to do something even slightly different with the same trap stylings embraced by everyone from Normani to Ariana Grande - the fact Mark sticks out to me as someone to pay attention to from this song along is a testament to her star quality. 4

Sam: Amber Mark sounds expensive. Her music is so decadent and sleek that she's like a luxury item. Generous is an intimate song that she takes slowly, allowing her syrupy vocals to wrap around that rich beat. In love. 4

Taylor Swift - Only The Young

Liam: For what it’s worth, I loved Miss Americana a lot, and I admire Taylor Swift for coming out and speaking on what’s right - but this song isn’t as powerful as the film it follows. I appreciate the sentiment behind it, and it’s by no means bad, but the cloying children’s choir combined with the borderline-stale Joel Little production is no new territory for Swift. Although it’s probably miles away, I’m excited about the possibility of her stripping things back for the next era. 1989 was excellent, reputation was necessary (for her, perhaps not for us) and Lover was good - but Only The Young reminds me just how much I’m craving something new. 2.5

Sam: Apparently this song is meant to be politically motivating. The only thing it might motivate me to do is go to Toys 'R' Us. The "Only the young can run" hook feels juvenile given that she's dealing with heavy subject matter like school shootings. Taylor Swift is a great songwriter but politics has never been her wheelhouse and while speaking out about it is absolutely necessary, she's using the wrong toolkit here. 2.5

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