Ranking One Direction members’ debut Solo singles

All five One Direction members have now officially released at least one single as solo artists, with Liam Payne being the last one to release one and Zayn Malik being the first. It only seems right to compare how they’ve all done and see who out of Harry, Niall, Louis, Liam and Zayn gave us the best first impression as a solo artist with their debut single. I will eventually do the same with when they’ve all released albums but at the moment it is just Harry and Zayn who have brought out full LPs. Who will come out on top? There’s only one way to find out.

5. Steve Aoki & Louis Tomlinson – Just Hold On
As soon as I saw that this was the avenue Louis was going down, collaborating with trash EDM artists, I just sighed and shook my head. My early predictions sure weren’t wrong, as we were given a dull song with what can only be described as the mother of all mum drops courtesy of Steve Aoki, who’s comedic value went through the roof after this shocker. Louis sounds out of touch vocally, he doesn’t suit the track in my opinion and appears to be missing the support of his fellow 1D members far more than they are. There’s not much more I can say about this track other than that it was a certainty to be at the bottom of this list.

4. Liam Payne ft. Quavo – Strip That Down
Every figment of my being wanted to enjoy this song far more than I did. First of all, he has Quavo of hip-hop group Migos on here, suggesting it’s going to be an upbeat R&B/Hip-Hop song, perhaps of a similar ilk to Zayn’s ‘PILLOWTALK’. What it actually is, I’m afraid to report, is a cheap Ed Sheeran tribute track, from the instrumental right up to the vocal delivery. Liam sounds identical to how Ed sounds on ‘Shape Of You’ while he does the pre-chorus of this one and it’s a real shame to say that; but it truly is half-hearted and unoriginal. I do still really like the Quavo feature, however, simply because he’s one of the greatest treasure’s this planet has ever produced.

3. Niall Horan – This Town
This acoustic atmosphere is something I actually expected from more of the members once they departed the pop boy band label they were granted as One Direction, but Niall is the only one who truly stuck with that. ‘This Town’ is a pleasant listen and is a solid demonstration of his ability as a songwriter and solo performer; where his voice passes the difficult isolation task that comes with solo artists who have previously transitioned from group work. Ed Sheeran comparisons spawned from this song’s release but I don’t really see Niall quite reaching that level, selling out stadiums and headlining festivals on his own, smashing records just seems a bit too far for Niall so to compare him to that so early on in his career is a poor decision. The song itself doesn’t have truly remarkable features but it does the simple things well and can be enjoyed in a chilled out environment, it does leave you wanting a bit more, however.

2. Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times
When I first heard this song I was filled with anger and frustration, because it sounded like a really shoddy version of a classic ballad, but the more I’ve listened, the more I’ve warmed to it. I can’t quite put my finger on what made it click in my head, but whatever it was I’m grateful for it; because now I can truly appreciate how great of a song it is, especially as a debut single. A song about love and the world around us, Harry takes on a level of maturity that you don’t even get close to seeing from the other members’ singles, as he seems the most suited to being a solo artist with his vocal variations and this colossal progression on the song’s progression. He doesn’t lose pace as the song goes on and it’s a five minute enjoyment fest. Despite all of this, it isn’t my number one, though.

1. Zayn Malik – PILLOWTALK
Contrary to how I feel about his album as a whole, I absolutely loved ‘PILLOWTALK’ from the moment it was released. I enjoyed the fresh sound we were given from Zayn as he justified his decision to be the first member to walk away from 1D and pursue his own aspirations in the music industry. In terms of invention he takes the cake against his fellow One Direction members as he gives an R&B flavour to us all to bleed out his true identity to the musical spheres. The attitude and swagger within the song makes it a standout hit of it’s time as it flew to the top of the charts and has gone on to generate over 500 million Spotify streams. His voice is powerful and fits with the moody atmosphere he creates with an incredibly catchy instrumental. A very raunchy concept which had plenty swooning over him all over again, and had Music fans intrigued about what the future may lie for Zayn.

Harry Styles – Harry Styles: Album Review

Harry Styles began his music career as one of the five members of British pop group One Direction, a group that were without question one of the most popular acts of our generation. Massive hits such as ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ and ‘Best Song Ever’ made 1D global phenomenons until they announced their extended hiatus in January 2016, allowing for the members to try their hand as solo artists. Zayn Malik had relative success, Niall, Liam and Louis are starting their projects off; but the level of intrigue and excitement around borderline frontman of the group Harry Styles. His album is now out and here is my review of the self titled LP.

The first thought I had before approaching this album was that the direction he chose to go in was essential. Even if it wasn’t the best album of last year, Zayn Malik went down his own avenue of music and created a sound he’s always wanted to make. Harry has done exactly this here but instead of the R&B moody vibes of Zayn, he has elected for a stripped back acoustic sound alongside some classic ‘dad rock’ riffs. The tracks ‘Carolina’ and ‘Only Angel’ are some of my favourites on the album despite being accused of sounding like something you’d hear on a classic rock compilation. The reason I like these so much is the energy Harry brings to the track, with screams and shouts of passion demonstrating his rock star attitude.

The singles were also very good songs that grew on me massively. Upon my first listen of ‘Sign Of The Times’ I was frustrated by it, as Harry sounded like he was out of his depth, trying to dabble in something that he wasn’t capable of. The more I’ve listened to it, however, I’ve come to terms with what it actually is; plus it sounds far better surrounded by the album’s concept. The same sort of thing applied with ‘Sweet Creature’. Despite it’s simplistic acoustic sound, there’s an atmosphere of true emotion and heart which I thoroughly enjoy and have loved more and more with each listen.

I’m not crazy about the whole album, however. I just knew I wouldn’t like ‘Kiwi’ from the second I saw the title, it sounds pretentious and an attempt to be too conceptually creative, ‘Ever Since New York’ is somewhat underwhelming too. There are times that I feel a bit led astray by this album too as he switches the styles of tracks a bit too frequently for my liking and there are moments it was a tad rough around the edges. With that being said, there’s far more good than there is bad on here.

Best Three Songs: Carolina, Only Angel, Sweet Creature
Worst Three Songs: Kiwi, From The Dining Table, Ever Since New York
Overall: 7/10

I am pleasantly surprised by this album. Harry has done exactly what he needed to do and by doing so increased his already likeable persona and figure in today’s culture. His musical influences have been demonstrated very efficiently throughout the project and these songs give us a personal insight into Harry’s thoughts and emotions. As a debut project this is very mature and a good start to what I am predicting to be a long and prosperous career for the 21st century heartthrob. With that being said it’s not perfect and there are still issues that need to be addressed before he reaches his full potential, but the groundwork is there and he has plenty of time on his side.

Gorillaz – Humanz: Album Review

Gorillaz are a virtual project band put together by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and artist/cartoonist Jamie Hewlett. They have been one of the most intriguing and perceptively challenging groups of the 21st century as the virtual aspect of the band is displayed in the form of fictional characters who introduce us to their alternative world through the use of music and art. This latest release is the fifth album of their discography spread over a 16 year period, with 2005’s ‘Demon Days’ being their most successful project to date, boasting memorable hits such as ‘Feel Good Inc.’ and ‘DARE’. Can they emulate that success with this comeback album? Let’s find out.

The variety of genres in their collaborations is something which Gorillaz pride themselves on and this album is no different. About 75% of the features on this album do fantastic jobs and provide a really nice twist to the track they are on. My favourite features are, for the most part, the rappers on here, with Danny Brown (‘Submission’), Vince Staples (‘Ascension’) and Pusha T (‘Let Me Out’) being the highlights of the project without a doubt. Danny’s psychotic sound works in perfect harmony with the Gorillaz attitude and that makes the song a personal highlight for me. It’s not all smiles in terms of features, though, despite Jehnny Beth of Savages smashing it, the Blur/Oasis duo of Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher proved a tad disappointing on ‘We Got The Power’ and De La Soul were far from dazzling on ‘Momentz’. I’m also a bit gutted that we didn’t hear more from D.R.A.M. on ‘Andromeda’ but what he does is still very pleasing.

Contextually the album is subterranean and magnificent, as is always the case with a Gorillaz project. The singles unexpectedly became integral pieces of the album’s context, particularly the Vince Staples featured ‘Ascension’ which is faded into play beautifully by the introduction track. The interludes have their place and help the album become a flowing listen despite the colossal feature list.

The album’s production is nothing short of stunning, I truly believe you’ll struggle to hear a collection of beats and instrumentals that are better than the ones on ‘Humanz’ all year. I always knew Damon Albarn was a genius on multiple fronts and this just confirms it. Far away from the cockney cheek of Blur as we now have a triumphant vibe of electronics and synthesisers, it’s almost completely foreign to what you’d hear on a Blur album. ‘Hallelujah Money’ has some magnificent production to go alongside Benjamin Clementine’s ghoulish vocals. The production and style twinned with the features means that this album acts as somewhat of a gateway to neutral listeners, who have now been introduced to artists they didn’t even know existed before they were on a Gorillaz album.

Overall: 8/10
Best 3 songs: Submission, Ascension, Strobelite
Worst 3 songs: We Got The Power, Saturn Barz, Momentz

This is all I wanted from a Gorillaz project and more, I was treated with Damon Albarn’s sensational production, perhaps some of the best he’s ever crafted. We also had some absolutely brilliant features and a wide array of talent and genres throughout the album, helping with the concept and the wackiness of the group. If I had one fault with the album it would be that we just don’t get quite enough of that iconic ‘2-D’ aka Damon Albarn voice through the album, we were only given it in stages. With all things considered, however, it was a worthy sacrifice for the quality of featured artists we were given. I rank this alongside their debut and ‘Plastic Beach’ but it just doesn’t rub shoulders with ‘Demon Days’ which remains a classic of this century.

Hip-Hop Power Rankings (March/April)

This brand new series of mine will help decipher who is the true commercial king of hip-hop at the time. Is it Drake? Is it Kendrick? Could Future sneak his way in? Who is the new kid destined to become the top dog? All these questions will be answered every other month by this top 10, which will take into consideration chart positions, commercial value and current relevancy as we find out who is the rapper on everyone’s lips at this moment in time? So without further ado, here is the March/April edition of the Hip-Hop Power Rankings.

10. Rick Ross
With his highly anticipated ninth studio album ‘Rather You Than Me’ being released on St. Patrick’s Day this year, Rozay has continued his legacy as a pop rap icon, going 15 years strong as a truly relevant artist. His longevity is unrivalled in this list and the commercial success he has enjoyed from his latest album has been right up there with his biggest to date. Lead single ‘Trap Trap Trap’ with Young Thug and Wale is a chart smash hit while ‘I Think She Like Me’ with Ty Dolla $ign is a slick hip-hop vibe track. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 which suggests that Rick Ross is far from a finished entity and he still has plenty left in the tank yet.

9. Lil Yachty
He’s announced his debut album, ‘Teenage Emotions’ and is releasing it on the 26th May. The cover prompted excitement and joy across the internet as it embraced all walks of life, from homosexuality to mental health sufferers. Lil Boat also released two singles alongside this announcement, the most successful of this being ‘Peek A Boo’ featuring Migos, a song which has charted well in America upon its release. Yachty could well leap above a couple of these names if his album is a success; if it is a failure, we could see the beginning of the demise for Yachty as a limelight artist. Only time will tell.

8. Joey Bada$$
He may well have released album of the year so far in ‘ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$’ but that wasn’t enough for him to dominate the charts quite like other artists higher in this list have. Nonetheless, Joey has seen a big push into the commercial limelight as a result of his album, with singles ‘DEVASTATED’, ‘LAND OF THE FREE’ & ‘ROCKABYE BABY’ have gained millions of plays over the last month and created a new radio-friendly sound for the New York Rapper. Despite this, don’t expect a rapper like Joey to feature regularly here, as he has his Lane of conscious rap which will bring its own fans.

7. Young Thug
Perhaps a harsh placement for Thugger seeing as he had two highly regarded features on Drake’s ‘More Life’ project, as well as a standout involvement on Rick Ross’ lead single ‘Trap Trap Trap’; but you just feel as though Young Thug will be soaring up this list for the next couple of months. The reason for this is the announcement and buzz around his “singing album” titled ‘Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls’ which has, according to Jeffery himself, been executive produced by Drake.

6. Lil Uzi Vert
Uzi’s remarkable claim that he was the equivalent of a hip-hop rockstar doesn’t seem too far-fetched given his persona and recent successes. Just when you thought he couldn’t top hits such as ‘Money Longer’ and ‘You Was Right’ he goes and brings us ‘XO TOUR Llif3’, a song which was influenced by going on tour with The Weeknd, pretty self explanatory really. It was and still is a top 10 hit in America, gaining tens of millions of streams every week. As well as this he’s recently hit 100 million Spotify streams on a few of his songs and has joined the upper bracket of rappers, easily becoming the king of new wave rap.

5. Travis Scott
As I predicted in my feature post a couple of months ago, LA Flame will not burn out and it’s still shining strong. Travis Scott gained a number one song and album recently with his 2016 release ‘Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight’ and corresponding single ‘Goosebumps’. He’s also witnessed his Young Thug collaboration ‘Pick Up The Phone’ go platinum and his colossal hit ‘Antidote’ go triple platinum in the last couple of months. His features have set alight too as he comes to life on Drake’s hit ‘Portland’ and SZA’s recent banger ‘Love Galore’. It’s been a huge couple of months for Travis and with two projects coming this year, don’t be surprised to see him rub shoulders with the elite in the forthcoming lists.

4. Migos
Is there any stopping these Atlanta trap lords? It started with ‘Bad & Boujee’, then came the album ‘Culture’ which was a phenomenon boasting hits such as ‘Get Right Witcha’ and ‘T Shirt’; and now they have collaboration hits all across the board. Their involvement on Calvin Harris’ smash hit ‘Slide’ is fantastic, they steal the show on Lil Yachty’s ‘Peek A Boo’ and they offer something different on Katy Perry’s ‘Bon Appetit’. Away from the group, Quavo has also seen success by providing a great verse on DJ Khaled’s sure to be summer smash ‘I’m The One’ and he has a collab project on the way with Travis Scott. Anyone who claimed the hype would fade is being forced to eat their words.

3. Future
The only artist in chart history to be number one on the album charts in consecutive weeks with different albums. That is a quote stunning accomplishment and it moved Future from mumble rap pioneer to mainstream god. His monumental hit ‘Mask Off’ went platinum in record time for Future as well as topping the Billboard charts, its plain to see why this Rapper is now amongst the top of the game right now. It seems as though every couple of months Future drops a banger or two that soars up the charts so he will be a regular on this hot list.

2. Drake
He broke Ed Sheeran’s streaming records and still isn’t number one on this list. ‘More Life’ shook the earth when it was released and it completely dominated the charts, with ‘Passionfruit’ becoming one of the anthems of the summer already and remaining in the top 5 for the duration of its release. His ‘Boy Meets World’ tour has been gaining rave reviews as Drake performed to millions of people over its course, solidifying his spot as one of the biggest mainstream artists on earth at the present moment. His influence upon other artists and giving them the coverage they deserve has seen Drake gain more plaudits, particularly his work with Young Thug and UK Artists such as Skepta and Giggs. Chart dominance, huge influence and a name recognised universally, so how the hell isn’t he 1st? Well there’s still one man we are yet to talk about..

1. Kendrick Lamar
Remember those streaming records that Drake broke? Kendrick went on to break those with ‘DAMN.’ and as a result reclaimed his throne at the top of the rap game. ‘DAMN.’ now has the highest first week sales figures of any album this year and also has three top 10 singles already in ‘LOYALTY.’, ‘DNA.’ & ‘HUMBLE.’, the latter of which went to number one. He’s proved that he can not only be a role model and somewhat of a prophet with his words like he did with ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ but also has the ability to conquer the popular market by making chart bangers and slick hooks. If that wasn’t enough for him to be number one, the icing on the cake was his headline sets at Coachella this year, both of which were mind blowing in terms of the numbers he drew in to watch as well as his quality within the performance. Kung-Fu Kenny has also promised his fans plenty of feature verses on fellow artists’ projects this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he stayed at the top for quite some time this year.