Whoa Nelly, this is a very good pop song. A very good pop song is what this is. What we have here, people who listen to music, is a very, very good piece of popular music.
London DJ Jax Jones is quickly establishing himself as the most exciting purveyor of pop music since Xenomania. Following on from his fantastic 2016 track ‘You Don’t Know Me’ featuring RAYE, the pop innovator has teamed up with American teen idol Demi Lovato and the most thrilling rap artist to come out of the UK – maybe of all time – Stefflon Don. It’s a bizarre pairing, Lovato representing the sleek, polished face of modern pop while Don is currently the poster woman for the resurgence of the UK’s gritty grime scene.
To begin with Lovato, she gives a strong performance here, although due to the heavy production on her vocals, she is barely recognisable during the chorus. Speaking of the chorus, this is surely one of the best of the year, springy and addictive, bursting with colourful, carnivalesque vibes. It’s where we find the best part of the whole track, lying in such a tiny detail you might miss it. It comes during the second iteration of the chorus which is exactly the same as the first, aside from one minuscule alteration. Between the words ‘the’ and ‘left’, Jones inserts the tiniest little pause. It sounds almost like a glitch, an error even, but it’s this quietly ingenious little gap that sets off the chorus’s gleaming robotic appeal, its throb made all the more irresistible.
For those unfamiliar with Stefflon Don, this track isn’t the best starting point. Listen to her remarkable Real Ting Mixtape from last year featuring the insanely good ‘16 Shots‘ and you’ll see what I mean. She really is the real deal, a star in waiting, brimming with energy and boundless talent. It’s a shame that she doesn’t get much of a look in on ‘Instruction’, seemingly shoehorned in for the benefit of having a credible name on the cover. Her verse is short but punchy, leaving us wondering whether she should have been at the helm of this track all along. As good as Lovato is, Don could have done something special, ramping up the attitude, giving it an added kick. At the very least, she could have sung the bridge.
Aside from the lamentable squandering of Don’s hotpot of talent, ‘Instruction’ is a track that ticks all the boxes on pop’s checklist. Both women are credited as writers, along with Jones and UK singer-slash-producer MNEK, making this very much a collaborative effort, the strengths of each individual artist combining to make an instantly lovable pop smash. Coming in at just 2 minutes 45, ‘Instruction’ leaves you hungry for more, that enthralling chorus calling you back, the replay button just asking to be pressed again and again and again. And if that isn’t the sign on a true pop success, I don’t know what is.