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First Impressions: Chloe x Halle, Teyana Taylor, Shamir And More

Written By Sam Murphy on 06/18/2020
Chloe x Halle

First Impressions is our weekly review features. We take six songs and give our writers the chance to give their two cents on each. This week, we’re zoning in on Shamir’s triumphant return to pop, a Chloe x Halle album favourite, Teyana Taylor’s pre-album drop and more.

Surfaces – Learn To Fly (Feat. Elton John)

Reece Hooker: Is this song a joke? If I hated this cliche magnet chorus the first time I heard it, imagine how I felt the sixth or seventh time Surfaces limply sleep-sung it back to me. This track is tailor-made to soundtrack a house party on a warm summer night if you hate all of your friends and want them to leave instantly. Props to Elton John makes as much as he can with the very, very little he’s given to work with. I would love to never hear this song again. 0.5

Jefferson Blinco: I really wanted to like this song given that it’s got Elton featured, but it’s just… Bad. The vocals from both of them sound grating as hell on this song and they do not complement each other at all and the whole thing is just so unpleasant to listen to. I can’t say I ever thought I wanted to hear a Christmas jingle-sounding song with Elton John on it and this aural tragedy is proof of why. 1

Sam Murphy: Sir Elton has gone from the bonkers and theatrical Sine From Above to a song that I would wash right over me if I heard it at a café. The melody is nice enough…actually, that’s a good way to describe the song in general – nice enough. I don’t hate it but I’m not pressing replay. 2.5

Aluna – Warrior

Reece: It’s a simple impression on this one: I’ve heard these two do this style of song one hundred times but yes, I still quite enjoy it. It’s basically the same as AlunaGeorge’s last link-up with SG Lewis, except George is AWOL. That being said, Aluna’s warm, honey-dipped voice is still a natural complement to SG Lewis’ airey, throbbing production and ‘Warrior’ is still an easy, instinctively enjoyable dance joint. 3

Jefferson: This is really solid. I’ve not kept up with a lot of AlunaGeorge’s more recent output because it felt very samey sounding to me but I am really digging this. Instantly bopping along to the production from SG Lewis and Aluna’s vocals sound smoother than chocolate as usual. 4

Sam: I really like that Aluna is stepping out on her own and bringing a slightly different vibe with it. I was a big fan of Body Talk and while I don’t like this as much I still dig it. It’s a bit of a strange song. It has these really soft, subtle melodies juxtaposed by a strong message. That balance works really well at the hands of Aluna’s syrupy voice. Shout out to SG Lewis too who is having one hell of a year, producing for Dua Lipa and also Khalid and Victoria Monét. 4

Shamir – On My Own

Reece: This song is utterly arresting. At first, the soft wash of the guitar riff feels coarse against Shamir’s strident, gliding voice but when ‘On My Own’ ramps into the chorus, it’s unstoppable. This track is spine-tingling and triumphant, taking the well-worn concept of an ‘introvert’s anthem’ into stunning new territory. I’m already going back for a second and third impression. 4.5

Jefferson: By far the best release from Shamir since Ratchet. The lo-fi feel to the song suits his vocals really well and his falsetto vocals sound as clear as ever. This one will definitely be on repeat for quite some time and I hope this signals more engaging material from him moving forward. 4

Sam: I’ve been watching Shamir do his thing from the sideline for a while now knowing it was important for him to go his own way. With On My Own, however, I’m firmly back on team Shamir. He’s found a way to combine the pop aesthetics of Ratchet with the indie sensibilities of his latest work and the result is one of the best songs he’s ever made. It’s gritty and vulnerable but also cocky and colourful. 4.5

Chloe x Halle – Forgive Me

Reece: ‘Forgive Me’ has all the right ingredients to be a smash: the songwriting is solid, Chloe and Halle’s vocal performance is strong and the production supporting them is stellar. For me, it’s just missing the distinct personality to break out from an unfathomably talented field of contemporaries. For the first minute, it looked like ‘Forgive Me’ would fully embrace a colourful, hammy vision reminiscent of the early 2000s but unfortunately, it swerved back into something more serious. 3.5

Jefferson: Stan Chloe X Halle. Seriously. These girls are SO underrated and this song is an absolute serve. Their new album which this is lifted from is one of if not the best RnB albums released so far this year. Their vocals are the highlight on this song but everything else about this song is stellar too. Do yourself a favour and listen to the rest of this album. 5

Sam: This is an absolute serve. Admittedly, I hadn’t given enough attention to Chloe x Halle before Do It but I’m glad I’m on board now. Forgive Me is the album opener and it drips with newfound confidence. They have grown up but not in the sort of way that teen stars usually market. This feels completely organic. There are definite tinges of Destiny’s Child in here but Brandy, Mya, Keyshia Cole’s influence can all be seen here too. Basically, it’s a nod to the past but also an effortless push towards their future. 4.5

Teyana Taylor – Wake Up Love

Reece: The most selfless act of love really is letting your husband try rapping on your song after his basketball career flames out. I guess three-point shooting is no longer Iman Shumpert’s biggest professional liability? The man really got through a whole verse without rhyming once. That’s almost strangely impressive. As for Teyana Taylor, anything she releases is lovely because her voice feels like a warm blanket. ‘Wake Up Love’ is a sweet song carried by a great chorus, though the songwriting is a little spotty around the verses – maybe Iman wrote “It’s like a turban/I can’t wrap my head around this shit”? 3

Jefferson: Not sure what compelled Teyana Taylor to feature her husband on this track or why she thought it was a good idea because he’s the weak point of an otherwise decent song. Her distinct sultry vocals sound stunning as expected and the production is lowkey and groovy but Iman rapping on this song is not the business and he sounds like a mumble rapper with marbles in his mouth. Nope. 3

Sam: I’m more ready than anyone for this new Teyana Taylor album but she’s luring us in slowly. I’m sure this isn’t going to be close to the best songs on the album but it’s a pleasant teaser. The vocals are there as are those classic R&B vibes, it’s just missing a little grunt. Iman’s presence is unnecessary – Taylor is more than capable of handling this on her own. 3.5

Moyka – Kanazawa (Maybe We Don’t Have To Go There)

Reece: During the first part of ‘Kanazawa’, Moyka feels like she’s fighting to stop the song from exploding. With a matter-of-fact delivery, Moyka wrestles with a twitching, impatient instrumental that is daring her to let loose. When she finally gives in, magic happens. Moyka taps into a special feeling, like weightlessly drunk dancing underneath strobe lights, that only the masters of the craft can usually muster (think Lorde, Robyn). I do wish the track let its euphoric top gear run for a little while longer, but that’s just me being greedy. 4

Jefferson: There’s not a lot of artists releasing great dance-pop right now, so I am thankful for anything that sounds like this when it comes out. This is great. Pop from Norway and Sweden is typically very good and has a distinct sort-of sound to it and this song is no exception. The pulsing synths, the accented vocals and the instant appeal – it’s all there like I expect from pop from that region and it’s very good. 4

Sam: I’m instantly hooked in my a pulsating beat, always, so naturally this one got me immediately. Sometimes, however, it feels like the writing is not good enough to compliment a beat like that for the full song. That’s not the case here. Moyka leads us in and out of the climaxes with stunning control. I love how it subtly builds with each chorus until you’re at a giddy peak without even realising you’ve climbed there. 4

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