Every week, a panel of writers for The Corner will focus on a bunch of recently released local singles and grade them. We call it Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad. We might have borrowed this idea from thesinglesjukebox.com but we love that site and we hope that you like this.
Dan Trevarthen: Whoa. Ruby Frost and Zowie have their moments, but this is another level for performance, originality and musicality. Great arrangement, the way it uses the ‘Be My Baby’ beat but in a non-obvious way, and despite those nods to 60′s girl group stuff it doesn’t feel retro. I LOVE this, but it cycles through a lot of ideas in four minutes – you wonder if its ambition will hurt it a little in the charts? Girl can really, really sing, and I can’t get enough of that joyous, cascading chorus. Check out her vocals shifting up a gear at 2.20, sheesh. ‘Something On My Lips’ and her initial singer-songwriter material was lite, funky and cheesy as hell… but I remember talking This Night Creeps appreciation with her years ago, so I think she’s always had taste — I guess the music’s caught up. 
Tim Gentles: Just when you thought twee pop was dead… ‘Cameo Lover’ actually opens somewhat deceptively with a dry electro beat. Within 20 seconds though, my suspicions had been aroused by the presence of a glockenspiel line that quickly explodes into a joyous exaltation to “Open up your heart.” The New Sincerity anyone? This is pure dross for the Regina Spektor set, for whom quirk has become a commodity. 
Louie G: Finally, a music video with a higher whiteness ratio than the Orewa Rotary Address. 
Chelsea Nikkel: Kimbra used to make really boring bland female Christian singer-songwriter Kiwi flava in the background of your mommas BBQ BS but in the last four years she has miraculously transformed into the vintage indie minx frontwoman of a four-minute multi-genre musical called “extreme makeover the Kimbra edition” and normally I hate intentionally zany shit but this song is a truly impressive melting pot of perfectly executed ideas including but not limited to Serge inspired orchestral pop arrangements, cues from 50′s and 60′s girl group recordings, (that drum loop hasn’t sounded as appropriate since ‘Be My Baby’) soul, and modern R’n’B combined with ultra modern 2011 experimental disco production and Kimbra’s strong, dynamic and nothing like Cat Power vocals hold it all together allowing this epic masterpiece to build, drop, and then soar even more in all the right places but still not ever taking itself too seriously as it casually shits all over every other hyped NZ pop starlet. Kimbra – you should’ve be the one wiping the floor with Katy “quirky girl” Perry at Vector Arena. 
Phyllis Gabor: This is what great pop music sounds like. Kimbra is so incredibly talented, I remember her from the Smokefree Rockquest and thinking she was gonna get snapped up and chucked into the top 40 to be bled out as soon as it was over. But Kimbra proved better than that, obviously nurturing her own talent for the past few years and coming back with an amazing sound, fine tuned to suit her perfectly and strongly stand alone against any pop trend. I think ‘Cameo Lover’ has certainly proved that. This song is like genius artistry – it’s chopped into a few quite musically different parts that it always seems on the verge of messy, but they always get reigned in at just the right moment to get the full intensity of each masterfully differing bit and allow them to work harmoniously together to build the song while still sounding refined. Kimbra’s got a strong, soulful voice that also helps keep the song together, and I really like how she doesn’t try to play down her accent at all. This is a burst of perfectly orchestrated and executed pop chaos. With such a strong single, I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the album. 
Luke Warm: Perfoming Arts Student..? This is so forgetable. Bogus bogus bogus. Okay one point for the hairdo. 
Dan Taipua: This is probably as Australian as a NZ-funded act could hope to be. Kimbra’s side-stepped the awkward phase of slogging in a small market with a banging single then trying to leverage that success half a year down the track. Instead, she put on her prettiest dress, gassed it to Oz, and started working from there. That equates to the most gangsta move I’ve seen since Suge Knight dumped a bag full of live snakes in the Ruthless Records boardroom. That’s up there with Ladyhawke winning Dance/Electronica VNZMA for a record mostly recorded in London and released by an Australian label. Expect Kimbra to swag into Auckland and scoop her trophies, then boost back out, gold-heavy.
Kimbra’s label (management agency) doesn’t deal in music all that much – instead, they mainly offer contacts for ‘Lifestyle Talent’. I don’t actually know what that term actually means, but I think the gist is “people to go on the telly for stuff”. That’s some star alchemy right there – Pour in production from Architecture in Helsinki and you’ll be laughing all the way to #1 on NZ’s shout, along with a guest judge spot on Australian Top Chef. So. Gangsta. 
Fraser Austin: I read she is like anti-abortion somewhere, I read that she is anti-gay and I also read she responded that her best friends are gay. I’ve read interviews here in street press where they say the gay community love her and she talks awkwardly around the fact. None of this is important of course, none of it I can hear in the song. In the song I hear another female musician riffing on an obnoxious “it’s oh so quiet” theme. “Quirky” is one of those words that’s so internationally abused in music press, there is nothing unexpected in someone like Kimbra. 
Kim Gruschow: Kimbra starts it like Kylie Minogue in this nod to Florence’s ‘Dog Days’ (complete with white background in the sprightly and black in the slower bit). The vocals are more heady than gutsy and sometimes she switches up weird like she suddenly got a wet willy in one ear, but she’s having fun regardless, especially in the 10 seconds of disco style that kicks in at around 2:20 (my favourite part, and it should have lasted longer). She’s hooked on bum bum bums and the horns could be more real but this is variety-pop, it’s apparently on-trend and comes with pom pom frock trim. Her moves are Stepford wifey and they work, her voice is versatile and I think it’s her strongest single, despite being all over the place. 
Maryann Savage: Cheap and cheerful. Good music for Supre. To me, it’s not uncanny enough to be supra-pop. 
Julie Petsounds: There is so much dank shit coming out of NZ pop land that just doesn’t really cut the mustard, but MY GOD Kimbra has next leveled it for all of you pop darling wannabes. There is so much overstudied pop at the moment it feels like they think that the first chapter of “How to write Pop Music and make a Pop Persona 101″ is Deleuze and Guattari. Kimbra has written something smart & enjoyable and everything has clicked together and fuck yeah I want to listen to this song every day. It’s fucking joyous. Sounds a bit like Orange Juice and I fucking love Orange Juice. 
Michael McClelland: The only way I was able to listen to this song was via my failing internet connection, at only 30 seconds of music a time being streamed to my ears. Thankfully, there are so many subtleties here that it didn’t get tiring: those cheaply plucked harpstrings, the shadowy sudden echo of the word ‘home’ in the first verse, the bluesy guitar lick after ‘you take to me to depths I never knew’… such clever attention paid to the best features of pop music history and amalgated into the catchiest thing I’ve heard in a long time. It’s motown as fuck, which is possibly half the appeal – it’s refreshing to hear some taste of history after the latest samey trends that have homogenised pop. “Boom, boom-boom CHA!” is there of course, at one point suggesting another proud chorus – but our expectations are cockblocked, and instead served with the most sensitively delivered bridge/refrain I’ve heard since ‘Good Vibrations’. The thing that keeps astounding me each time I come back is the way that there are no similarities between different parts of the song – even repetitions are strongly contrasted, and with such intelligence. The thought and care that went into the words, notes and beats of this single makes it an outstanding example on an international level. Not just ‘good for a (21 year-old!) kiwi’. The production is so so crafty, the lyrics are clever, and the form of the song is overall a refreshing piece of greatness that’s headed straight for number one. If you take a look at Kimbra’s charismatic live delivery, you’ll agree that there’s no reason not to award her this song and her talent a .