JCY feat. Sisqo – Thong Song

“I’m sorry, WHAT?”

Tom: I’m sorry, WHAT?

Tim: Well, yes. If the question “what irritating late ’90s ear worm would you like to be redone for 2017” was put out to the general public, I’d put money on very, very few people saying Thong Song.

Tom: For me, it’s Aqua. I could go for a full-on remix of Turn Back Time about now. But yeah, not this.

Tim: Ah, see I’d have gone for Cher’s Believe, I could see that working. But no, JCY (pronounced Juicy) decided to get on the phone to Sisqo and say “hey, mate, here’s a thought…”

Tim: To be fair to them, they’ve done a bang on job with the whole bringing it up to date thing, because it does sound entirely 2017.

Tom: I actually had to go back and listen to the original — and I blame you for that —

Tim: You’re very welcome.

Tom: — and I’m surprised by how minimal it is. Maybe I heard a remix or something? Either way, yes, this is Very Much Now.

Tim: It also, though, and rather unfortunately, sounds very very Thong Song, which is just as awful and just plain offensive as it was 18 years ago. I don’t know why they did it – scratch that, I know exactly why they did it, we all do, it was because they figured it’d be easy money – but I really really wish they hadn’t.

Tom: Everything about this is unnecessary, but then that was true of the original too.

Tim: That song was consigned to the dustbin of history for a good reason, and it really, really didn’t need to be brought out again. AAARGH I HATE IT.

HRVY feat. Redfoo – Holiday

“Are those lyrics, or just a Markov chain trained on Thomas Cook brochures?”

Tim: Is 1.2m followers on Instagram a lot? Like, massive?

Tom: I mean, sure. It’s a million. That’s a big number.

Tim: Yeah, but in terms of Instagram celebrity. I ask because apparently it’s enough to get this guy a record deal. Question before you press play: do you think it’ll be any good?

Tom: I get the feeling that’s a rhetorical question.

Tim: Your insight serves you well.

Tom: I dislike him and his floppy undercut hair immediately, and I’m aware how hypocritical that statement is.

Tim: Good, as I was considering pointing it out. Now, it’s almost impressive, really, quite how rubbish this is.

Tom: Are those lyrics, or just a Markov chain trained on Thomas Cook brochures? What happened to the bass? What’s with the bizarre colorised flash effects?

Tim: To all of those questions, I can only answer: I just don’t know. Thing is, it’s not even enjoyably awful, like INJU5TICE (there’s a blast from the past for you) – there’s no way of sitting back and laughing at how terrible it is. It’s just utterly bland – pointless lyrics, no energy in the music, nothing to stand out at all.

Tom: He hits the notes competently. That’s the only compliment I can muster.

Tim: Even Redfoo’s appearance just sort of happens, without bringing anything to the table whatsoever.

Tom: “When I walk the street / all the girls drive by and they go beep beep”. He does bring something to the table, and unfortunately it’s terrible. It’s not even parody-terrible, it’s just terrible.

Tim: I think we may have a total low for the music 2017, right now. And not in a good way.

Tom: By the way, Tim, we wrote that INJU5TICE review seven years ago.

Tim: Yet when I read the lyrics “I need some loving, I’m a long long way from home” the tune immediately came back to me. That’s the sign of a good bad song. This isn’t even that.

The Script – Rain

“Modern enough to slot perfectly well into any standard current generic new pop playlist”

Tim: On Radio 1 the other day Danny said they had to change their sound up a bit for their new album because it’s “difficult for regular bands to get played” which (a) is a bloody odd way of vaguely attacking inauthentic music and (b) sounded utterly moronic two minutes later when they played Arctic Monkeys. BUT ANYWAY, here’s their NEW SOUND.

Tom: …does anyone remember what their old sound was?

Tom: All joking aside, that is a fantastic introduction. That’s one of the most promising piano-and-vocal introductions I’ve heard in a while. Shame about the weird electronic samples, but I can let that slide.

Tim: Yes – but then they’re really the only things that single it out as being different from said old style, aren’t they? I’m struggling to hear any real difference. Though that’s not necessarily a complaint, mind.

Tom: It’s got a catchy oh-oh-oh chorus, and normally I’d slate that sort of thing as being lazy, but… well, it’s really catchy.

Tim: It is. And actually despite my earlier disagreement it is modern enough to slot perfectly well into any standard current generic new pop playlist, so I guess if generic new pop is what they’re going for: good work lads.

Tom: That about sums it up, doesn’t it? “Good work”. It’s not a banger, but it’s certainly not a disaster either. This is a decent track.

Kesha – Praying

“The vocals are brilliant, the emotion’s clear, and the music backs all that up.”

Tim: Yesterday was a bit dark, so shall we have some (punctuation-less) Kesha fun to cheer us up, with her first proper song since Timber?

Tom: Given all the news about her over the last couple of days, I suspect this might not be what you’re expecting…

Tim: Yeah, it really isn’t. According to a rather moving piece she’s written about it, this has come from emotions when she was struggling with severe depression, but it’s about “that moment when the sun starts peeking through the darkest storm clouds, creating the most beautiful rainbow.”

Tom: She’s gone full Lady Gaga in the video, then. Religious imagery, minute-long spoken prologue. It’s even filmed at the beautiful Salvation Mountain. Less sure about that mock-Devangari font, but let’s set that aside.

Tim: Takes a looooong time to get going, but I guess that’s somewhat the point – moving through the song, we discover a way through, a way of surviving, a way to be happy. And wow, that really works for me.

Tom: Really?

Tim: Well, as a piece of artwork, which it kind of is. A song on a playlist, oh hell no – but in terms of the song it is, the journey it represents, it’s just marvellous.

Tom: The vocals are brilliant, the emotion’s clear, and the music backs all that up. If this is a permanent new direction, then I reckon her fans will, unusually, be more than willing to change direction with her.

Zedd, Liam Payne – Get Low

“Gellow! Gellow! Hanson-yehwes-lestgo!”

Tim: Hey, remember six weeks or so ago when no-one in the world could believe quite how useless Liam’s solo debut was? Well here’s a speedy follow-up.

Tom: “Gellow! Gellow! Hanson-yehwes-lestgo!” I wouldn’t normally pick on someone for their diction in a song, but it’s like he’s deliberately slurring.

Tim: I mean it’s still not remotely brilliant, and I think what we have here is very much what we had with Niall: first single is entirely shit, so the second single can only really go up. There are definitively good things about it, though: the music is good, although most of that probably comes from Zedd so, erm, hmm.

Tom: Right! Liam could be replaced by any generic session vocalist here. Which isn’t bad in itself, there are plenty of vocalists who make their mark in other ways, but… well, he hasn’t.

Tim: It doesn’t have any lyrics like “I used to be in 1D, now I’m free”, though that might just be because by the end of the song it feels like ninety per cent of all the words ever spoken have been “get low”.

Tom: Or, indeed, “gellow”.

Tim: Peculiarly, there is one scenario that no-one seems to have at all considered (except possibly Louis – great interview, that): that not all members of the group should pursue solo careers. I don’t quite know where the expectation came from, unless it’s just that “people will listen to them, so just get on and make them, alright?” But now we’re here, and everyone’s going to compare them, and some will inevitably come off worse. And Liam: well, you’re not in first place right now.

Tom: Harsh, but not unfair.

Steps – Story Of A Heart

“I forgot how much they sounded like ABBA”

Tim: Here’s the second one that Steps have done from their reunion album (still fantastic, every track on it). When I first heard it, I thought “I forgot how much they sounded like ABBA”. Then I realised it was a cover of a Benny Andersson song, and it made sense.

Tom: I mean, that massive YouTube “ABBA” logo kind of gives you a tip-off there, but yes.

Tim: And it’s a good track to cover, it really is – I heard it on the radio yesterday and was absolutely delighted.

Tom: It is. The men don’t have much to do on this track, though, do they? Or is that true for a lot of Steps songs, and I’ve just forgotten it? Anyway, yes, you’re right. It’s a good track.

Tim: However, I do have one criticism: it sounds like it should be faster. The chorus has all the energy of a proper banger, but not quite the speed. So here’s some advice: click that settings cog, and turn the speed up to 1.25x. And oh, it’s so much better, it’s like it’s now the song it was destined to be.

Tom: Bloody hell. You’re right. You’d need to do something good to that percussion to make it work, but yes, that’s an improvement.

Tim: For my money, those few extra bpm take it from good to very very good. And if you want something really really good, well, try this version.

Tim: I’ll be honest, I can think of very few songs that wouldn’t be improved by a 7th Heaven remix.

Tom: They did something good to that percussion.

All Time Low feat. Tegan & Sara – Ground Control

“I just remember it being good.”

Tim: I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I do love how our readers know what to send us – just when I’m a bit worried we might be running out of music, someone anonymous sends this in, reporting that “All Time Low have gotten distrinctly less rocky and more synth-poppy this time round.” And yes, yes they have.

Tom: I still can’t hear “All Time Low” without thinking of Bond theme “All Time High“. And yes, that’s the Pulp cover version of it, it’s brilliant. ANYWAY.

Tom: Well, that’s a good album cover right there.

Tim: It’s very pretty isn’t it? I’ve always had a lot of time for All Time Low, and while this completely ditches their standard style that in favour of a vastly more Tegan & Sara vibe, they’ve still got it, producing a really enjoyable song.

Tom: You know how, for yesterday’s song, I let out an audible “urrrgh” at the chorus? Well, this time I said “oh!”. This is good.

Tim: Good, yes, but one thing is strange – I originally wrote there “one of my favourite tracks in a while”, except once the track had finished I wanted to change it. Not because I thought any less of it, it’s still very good, but because I couldn’t really remember it, just a few seconds after it finished.

Tom: Ouch. That’s one of my standard checks for whether something’s a good pop song. And you’re right: I can’t remember it either. I just remember it being good. (Apart from those weird wobbly-synths on the right channel in the verse. One poor decision.)

Tim: I play it again, and it’s great – I honestly don’t think I could fault that chorus even if I wanted to, which I really don’t – so why can’t I remember it afterwards? That’s annoying. It actually really does annoy me, because I want to love this track, and I do – but only when I’m listening to it.

Little Mix feat. Stormzy – Power

“The album version does not feature Stormzy.”

Tom: The album version does not feature Stormzy. That’s because when the album came out Stormzy — while he was well established in his genre — hadn’t hit the mainstream yet. What better way to liven up a fourth single?

Tim: I can think of a number of ways, to be honest, but sure, let’s go with it.

Tom: Incidentally, I just realised that’s a cameo from their mums in the video (and in the thumbnail), and that’s just lovely.

Tom: Putting “Girl Power” on the side of that van in the start of the video can only be a deliberate Spice Girls reference.

Tim: And a good one – “yes, you’ve done this, now we’re here to keep it going”.

Tom: I know we’re normally extremely skeptical of guest-rap-middle-eights, but this is good. That’s partly because it kills off one of those godawful “motorbike-motorbike-bike-bike-bike” bits, and partly because, yes, Stormzy is that good.

Tim: For the most part, yes, and I had less trouble with it than I normally would. “All them dirty secrets that we share, I’ll clear the browsers” stuck out a bit, mind, though it was soon redeemed by “as long as I’m alive, then I’ll be sponsorin’ your pride / you know there’s power in a couple, let me compliment your vibe” – I like that a lot.

Tom: One of Little Mix’s strengths are their incredible voices, so it’s always a little disappointing when they’re hidden behind layers of vocoders — or when one of them tries to do a Nicki Minaj, as here. But leaving aside those points: this is a hell of a track. Fourth singles from fourth albums aren’t meant to be this good.

Tim: No, and to be honest I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did – when the first post-chorus breakdown came along I was a bit “aargh, no, DON’T LIKE THIS”, but somehow the second didn’t seem so bad. A grower, but a quick grower.

Tom: It’s fair to say that Little Mix are this generation’s Spice Girls: but the Spice Girls only managed three albums.

Sia feat. Labrinth – To Be Human

“Love comes with pain, deal with it.”

Tim: With Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. finally created something a lot of people had forgotten was possible: a happy, enjoyable and flipping brilliant DC film. As for the soundtrack that goes with it, I had high expectations as her theme was one of the occasional good things about Batman v Superman. But the proper song that goes with it?

Tim: Well, happy certainly wouldn’t be the perfect word to describe this, portraying as it seems to the idea that love comes with pain, deal with it.

Tom: From your introduction, I was expecting to go in and dislike this… but it’s good. I’m not sold on all of it; that middle eight sounds like it’s come from an old musical, and it’s just confusing. But that chorus — and the transition into it — are beautiful. Not happy, though.

Tim: On the other hand, I’d say enjoyable fits the bill, for a lot of it: Sia’s as on point with the vocals as you’d expect…

Tom: Although it did take me a little while to work out what she was singing. Her initial vocals seem to be a bit… maybe slurred is the wrong word, but certainly unclear, more so than I’d expect from her. Labrinth very much playing second fiddle, but that’s fine: no-one’s going to beat Sia, and he’s providing a damn good harmony.

Tim: The emotion’s layered on up to eleven – though having said that, my favourite moment of it, the bit that sent shivers through me, has no singing at all. It’s there towards the end, just as the final chorus comes to a close and the instrumental climbs back up again. I love that, and it made me realise how good the underlying instrumental is on the rest of the track. That’s the real thing that makes this sound so good. And it does sound so good.

Betsy – Little White Lies

“A voice to rival Annie Lennox”

Tim: Betsy’s British, she’s been around a year or so, and she’s got this lovely track as her new one.

Tom: That is a good piano introduction. I like a good piano introduction. And the rest of the track’s pretty good, too: good enough that I properly sat up and smiled when that first chorus kicked in.

Tim: I say lovely, it’s not the happiest message ever, but it’s a damn good track. She’s got a voice to rival Annie Lennox, the song has a great melody that’s infectious in a very good way, and the video has a good number of good dogs in the video – all signs of a great track.

Tom: I’m not sure about that last criterion, but yes: there’s a depth to those vocals that only a few singers can manage. And what a chorus! That’s such a good chorus that I just used an exclamation mark.

Tim: Less objectively than that: it’s also a track that I immediately wanted to hear again once it finished, and is one I keep enjoying. And that’s really the litmus test as far as I’m concerned. GOOD DOGS.