I don’t know if I’ve made enough noise about Neon Jungle but I’ve been anticipating their debut album all year. So much so that I had to take a moment to pause before I streamed it earlier this week. Y’know, just to prepare myself in case I’m disappointed.
These girls are giving me everything I want in a female pop group right now. They seem to have the whole package: edgy streetwise styling, a fierce pop sound and better yet, three Top 10 hits in the last seven months.
But whatever, that’s all well and good, but can this manufactured girl band turn the party with their first full length album?
Amira, Asami, Jess and Shereen – all aged between 17 and 21 – exploded on the charts almost a year ago with ‘Trouble‘, an addictive club pop tune with grinding electronic beats and shouty vocals that resemble Icona Pop and Charli XCX’s ‘I Love It’.
From there a rough blueprint was slowly revealed as Neon Jungle followed it up with two more speaker-detonating floor fillers. ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ saw them work with More Mega, the songwriting and production duo best known for birthing Havana Brown’s US dance chart topper ‘We Run The Night’.
They’ve made filthy electronic production with a hip hop swagger and radio-friendly hooks synonymous with Neon Jungle – and that is exactly what we’re here for.
The girls don’t disappoint with undeniable bangers like ‘Bad Man’: a sinister cut with aggressive horns and hip hop rhythms that mimic Nelly Furtado’s underrated 2012 single ‘Parking Lot’.
The girls step out with Rihanna-like swagger, singing: “Out here on the street lights, after midnight you know we’ll be waiting. Shades on with my whole crew when we roll through, I walk like a bad man!” *drops horns and bass*.
The best album track is surprisingly one they’ve saved only for the deluxe edition: ‘Future X Girl’. The sassy dance track is written by CocknBullKid (who penned ‘Trouble’) and rising popstar A*M*E.
Here Neon Jungle channel an essence of junior Girls Aloud when they taunt, “These boys can’t step to this, so just take a seat ’cause I’m that bitch! They try to run with us. These boys be eating all my dust, only fly guys can come with us!’”
Sonically, this album is a meticulous collage of current trends percolating in pop, hip hop and electronica on both sides of the Atlantic.
It’s almost like the girls (or probably more to the point, their producers) have studied the aesthetics of Rihanna, Angel Haze, Charli XCX and Jessie Ware – and reconfigured it for a pop group.
Welcome to The Jungle ushers you in via the hits but the album quickly loses its potency when you hit the mid-tempo trek.
Tracks like ‘Louder’ and the cover of Banks’ atmospheric ‘Waiting Game’ add diversity to the palette but they also expose Neon Jungle as being quite average balladeers. I know this was the point in the stream where I winced a little.
It’s a shame the mid-tempos on the album couldn’t stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the bangers but really, on the whole, Welcome to The Jungle is a pretty solid pop debut. I think any fan of pop music (if you have no problems with saying ‘the more manufactured, the better’) will get several wears out of these tracks.
The album succeeds in presenting Neon Jungle as a true pop force to be reckoned with. You can see them pitched as a harder, edgier and fiercer alternative to Little Mix – and clocking charts around the world with their brand of industrial dance pop.
Standout tracks: ‘Trouble’, ‘Braveheart’, ‘Future X Girl’, ‘Bad Man’ and ‘London Rain’ (only on the deluxe edition)
3.5 / 5