Thursday, May 10th, 2018

Liam Payne ft. J Balvin – Familiar

We persist with this familiar face and his rotating order of guests.


Alfred Soto: The score is for Balvin’s lack of smarm, not Liam’s increasingly disgraceful attempts to come up with sexyback worthy of Justin and Nick Jonas. He’ll stoop to anything, including rhyming “familiar” with “feel ya.” Who knows — if he’d given himself the “ft.” credit he might score a “Despacito”-sized crossover. Maybe he still might.

Ian Mathers: I’m surprisingly fond of what may be the very mild “A Milli” reference on the chorus, but the very little of J Balvin we do get (digitally roughed up or not) makes clear that the main thing that could be improved here would be roughly flipping the proportions of the two singers on offer. Payne’s not bad, just nondescript; Balvin’s warm burr is a marked improvement.

Ryo Miyauchi: What’s worse: the rudimentary, familiar/feelin’ ya rhyme schemes, or Liam getting totally shown up by J Balvin on how this should be done? At best, Liam is the springboard for which Balvin bounces from — not the other way around.

Iain Mew: Speaking of familiarity, this is one of those songs that immediately gave me a nagging feeling that it was just like another one. In this case I worked out that it was Alexandra Burke’s “Start Without You,” and it’s a feeling that goes beyond the melodic similarity of the chorus. Many people from many places worked on both, and yet there is something in the half-heartedness of each, the way they glomp onto a genre to dress up a conservative and conventional song, that feels cheap in a specifically British pop kind of way.

Scott Mildenhall: How do you think J Balvin feels at the point of providing Instagram Spanish for a man whose work commitments prevented him ever even having a lads’ holiday in Shagaluf? Actually that’s grossly unfair and does down the extent of his contribution here — in fact for as much as this may be bandwagon-jumping it is somewhat imaginative; it is not HRVY’s “Hasta Luego”, for instance. Concurrently swerving and throbbing, it seems to have somehow eluded Derulo’s grasp and landed well and truly in Liam Payne’s lap. For a moment it even feels like he might be finally finding his feet, but when he fully kicks into his audibly unknowing transatlanticist posturing it becomes apparent that, as has previously been the case, this is good in spite of him.

Juana Giaimo: I understand that Latin American genres are becoming trendy again, but artists should acknowledge that not everybody is made for them. Inviting J. Balvin only emphasizes Liam Payne’s forced vocals which for some reason feel extra-loud — especially in the chorus. Instead, J. Balvin, as usual, has a lower register and his rapped verses are fast and know where to pause. Also, this tweet made me notice that he also knows about sexual consent. It’s probably the first time ever a reggaeton singer recognizes he can’t do anything he wants and instead sings: “I’ll do to you everything you let me.”

Will Adams: At least it’s efficient; within fifteen seconds J Balvin appears to prove whose song this should truly be (his bridge in particular feels cut-and-pasted from some hypothetical club bop), leaving Liam to flail around lines like, “I wanna get inside your… BRAIN” and a nicked “A Milli” cadence for the hook.

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One Response to “Liam Payne ft. J Balvin – Familiar”

  1. I just missed out on this but here’s my blurb:

    More effective in its “A Milli” rip than “Strip That Down” was with “Rack City” or “It Wasn’t Me.” Familiar is the first song from Liam Payne that sounds like a genuine hit; maybe in the era of Hot 100 just before this one, it would have been an outright smash. It feels more like one than even “Despacito”, a clear inspiration, did upon first listen.

    That said, this is an era where smashes have changed; if the success of Post Malone is anything to go by, they’re floaty, meandering pieces of music, with rough mixing and buckets of reverb. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when a production is as solid and clean at this “Familiar” it sticks out – though that’s honestly more refreshing than anything else. The lyrics are silly (“you’re shaped like/vibrato/a model/or some kind of bottle”) but in an endearing, memorable way instead of a sketchy way like “Strip That Down.” After a string of underperforming songs post-“Strip”, one hopes that this will get Payne back on track. At least, this should be the one to do it.


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