It’s been nearly two years since they formed, and now Neon Jungle have finally released their debut album, Welcome to the Jungle, in North America.
Hailing from all over the U.K., members Asami Zdrenka (18), Jessica Plummer (21), Amira McCarthy (18), and Shereen Cutkelvin (17) have said they instantly became a family after starting Neon Jungle in 2012. They have since been turning heads with their unique twist on pop music and their vibrant personalities.
Their funky and raw musicality and style has been quite refreshing; it’s nice to see girl bands like Neon Jungle and their contemporaries, Little Mix, make a splash on the boy-band dominated scene.
So without further ado, here’s my track-by-track breakdown of Neon Jungle’s debut album, Welcome to the Jungle.
Within seconds it’s easy to see why “Braveheart” became a hit single. The bass line immediately hits me and I’m drawn in by the group’s sultry vocals, and instantly impressed with Amira’s sassy rap solo. Without a doubt this song belongs in a nightclub, obviously one with lots of flashing lights and loud speakers. It’s perfect for Electro-pop fans who need a heart-thumping jam.
2. Welcome to the Jungle
“Welcome to the Jungle” is one of the group’s best songs, and the title track off the album. When Amira and Shereen start to sing “Tonight I’ll hunt you down, boy can you make me growl” you know it’s about to go down. But the party really gets started once the ladies start chanting “oh” before the first verse kicks in. From there it’s an eclectic mix of pop, EDM, and R&B. This song perfectly captures the essence of Neon Jungle: sassy, strong, and fun.
This group is fierce and they want you to know it with “Trouble.” We can add this one to the list of tracks that are perfect for the club. It’s like they’re reinforcing their electronic power here, and it’s a nice change from the pop/R&B currently dominating the girl group sound. The chorus is ridiculously catchy and will have you chanting “I don’t look for trouble, but trouble looks for me” while you’re dancing in the club with your friends, or in your room with your hairbrush.
After three straight heart-thumping dance tracks, the ballad “Louder” is a nice change of pace. The rhythmic drumming is booming and the chorus is both emotional and commanding. This track is one of the best vocally; just listen to the notes they hit once the chorus drops. The intensity gets to me every time.
5. Can’t Stop the Love
“Can’t Stop the Love” is an acceptable pop number but I can’t say this one is a favourite. Thankfully the hand-clapping hook we hear in the first half of the chorus gives it some oomph, and the beautiful lyrics are encouraging. Sadly the rest of the song lacks anything dynamic or memorable, and the collaboration with producer Snob Scrilla feels awkward and out of place.
6. Bad Man
Now this is more like it! “Bad Man” is all kinds of sass and power. Lyrics like “And when we move you wanna watch, like yeah we’re just doing our thing” are bound to make you feel as fierce as ever. Neon Jungle love to put rhythmic hand-clapping in their songs, which works in their favour because it brings the ‘catchy’ factor up a few notches. If this song doesn’t get you up and strutting, I don’t know what would.
7. Sleepless in London
Musically, “Sleepless in London” is like “Can’t Stop the Love” — forgettable musically. It’s the lyrics that stand out as we hear the ladies sing about their insomnia over not telling their loved ones how they really felt: “My ceiling fan, I know it well. I lie awake and think of you…wait for the day you want me” — it’s something many of those who have suffered unrequited love know too well.
8. Waiting Game
Covering “Waiting Game” by BANKS was an unexpected and intriguing choice for Neon Jungle. I had to listen immediately because the original track is one of my favourites. While this cover doesn’t quite have the same deep and intense allure that Banks commands with her emotionally delicate vocals, I can’t deny the power Amira and Shereen bring to those runs at the end.
9. So Alive
I’m torn when it comes to this song. “So Alive” was written by British songwriter and hit-maker Charli XCX, which is why I didn’t completely skip over it. The chorus is the highlight, again letting us hear more of the group’s range. The song feels like it has more to give but seems to fall short and doesn’t quite reach the same level as others like “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Louder.”
10. Fool Me
The last song is “Fool Me” and has similar qualities to “Louder.” There’s an understated power in the verses but it comes to life in the chorus. Shereen’s emotionally charged vocals kick it up a few notches. Like “Louder” and “Sleepless in London,” I’m thankful for this song because it reminds me of just how much they have to offer.
Overall, Welcome to the Jungle is a decent electo-pop album, but it still fails to live up to the potential that I believe Neon Jungle have. Luckily the few songs that I love will keep reminding me of their impressive range and their unique style. I hope with future albums Neon Jungle will really focus their sound and step up their game. But the songs that do work make it worth the purchase.