Tim: Since we’re apparently just discussing songs for key change reasons, as with Eternal last week, I’ll put this on the table. Now, it’s well known by people who pay attention that key changes are really quite a no go in Eurovision, and have been for quite some time.
Tom: It’s still joyful when it happens, but yes: it’s like 128bpm.
Tim: That didn’t stop Belgium in 2000, though, who decided to play with the format. Guys, it’s time for some musical theory. You see, your standard key change: a semitone. Brings some life in, doesn’t sound too ridiculous. If you want to push the boat out, Linda Bengtzing-style, you might double that and go with a full tone. Sounds ludicrous, but guaranteed to bring an enormous smile/yell of disgust.
Belgium went with six semitones.
Tom: Good grief, that is very 2000, isn’t it? All it needs is a record scratch sound effect.
Tim: Yes. And what with that and it sounding like two completely different songs pushed together: it came dead last.
Tom: A video uploaded to YouTube more than ten years ago, Tim.
Tim: And a song that yesterday celebrated its 20th birthday. Any reason it’s here?
Tom: I know the song, of course. Everyone knows the song. But I heard it the other day, perhaps for the first time in about ten years, and I’d forgot about one thing. I link you to think song for one reason, and one reason only:
Tom: Three. Key. Changes.
Tim: I do love it when a song pushes the boat out. That last one – oof, that’s pushing it a bit, though.
Here’s my problem with this: it never resolves the chorus. Yes, fine, occasionally you’ve got the “got ’til it’s gone” line in there, but the actual resolution is the next line, “they paved paradise” and so on. That’s important. And it’s just not here.
Tim: That’s a very, very good point you’re making, but there’s the question you’re bypassing here which is: why include the sample?Just reusing it because they can? Because the lyrics fit? Or to give it a recognisable hook to hand an otherwise fairly dull track on? Because if it’s the latter: you’ve got the recognisable bit. Who needs the artistic bit?
Tom: Well, apparently no-one. And sure, you could say they’re doing something original and new. I don’t know, you could use a word like ‘recontextualising’ or something. Fine. Except Janet Jackson did the same thing twenty years ago, and that didn’t resolve either.
Tim: I went to see Magnus Carlsson performing a couple of weeks ago, but you weren’t able to; to be honest, you didn’t miss much.
Tom: I’d say “that’s a relief”, but I’ll be honest, it’s more of a “well, that’s okay then”.
Tim: He stuck mostly to his Alcazar stuff, which not only meant he didn’t play Glorious, but he didn’t even play Wrap Myself In Paper! DISGRACEFUL. However, the warm-up DJ did play this, one of the finest schlager songs of the past decade and one which I was astonished to discover we’d never covered.
Tom: Echoes of Mika’s Grace Kelly at the start there, but fortunately it goes down a… well, “original” isn’t the right word for a schlager track like this, but at least it goes down a different route.
Tim: It sailed through to the final Melodifestivalen final in 2008, as is correct, but lost out to, amongst others, the even better Hero by Charlotte Perelli, so I’ve no problems there. Title translates to “How Hard Can That Be?”, song’s basically “I can be whatever you want, how hard can that be?” A curious message perhaps, with a mix of submission but also knowledge that he won’t want much anyway, but one I suppose works nonetheless. Particularly when you apply this sort of music to it – the big beats, the powerful voice, the key change accompanied by the screaming vocal.
Tom: It’s a bold choice to actually just do a shouted scream in the middle of your second verse, but somehow she pulls it off. And it’s a song that needs that key change — that’s not a bad thing, I’m just glad it was there.
Tim: This has been a favourite of mine for a long time, and I’m not sure it’ll ever stop being.
Tim: This came up on a recommended tracks playlist, and I thought it was great, looked it up, and was surprised to discover it was left as an album track.
Tom: For the second time this week, I said “bloody hell!” after the introduction. That’s a strong start.
Tim: It is, and what makes the album track status particularly surprising is that a lot of the ones that were officially released were damp in comparison and performed abysmally; this one, though, is brilliant.
Tom: It’s weird, isn’t it? My memory of his singles was… well, I’ll be honest, I don’t have any memory of his singles. But this is a proper Big Shoutalong Track.
Tim: The shouted intro, that repeated 1-2-3-off beat in the verses, the a cappella lead in to the chorus (and if you’re wondering where you’ve heard that muffled effect before, it’s in the six-months-later Melodifestivalen entry by State of Drama). We also have a good chorus, with that yeahhh-eahh staying strong throughout, and a good rhythm to hold it up.
Tom: Strange lyrics, though: I’m not sure that “knocked up father on the ground” got translated correctly.
Tim: Yeah, I looked up the lyrics, and to be honest they’re basically a load of nothing. But you know what? I don’t even care that the title is never explained. What are we beating down? Not a clue. But the music and general theme is good enough that I just don’t care. Opportunity missed, record label.
Tim: Tom’s off sick at the moment, sadly, but never fear, I’m still here! YAY! So, here’s this, and there’s an interesting story behind this band: they were formed when singer Laure found the basics of a Basque-style opera while she was clearing out her recently deceased grandfather’s attic in Spain, and she and four mates decided to finish it. They did so, toured it a few years back, then kept going. Anyway, here’s their latest from last summer, with a trigger warning for ukuleles.
Tim: OOF, that’s chirpy, and unusually for me I don’t hate the fact that the ukulele is there to force the chirpiness, because it just works so well. I hear this, and I want to party. Party all night, and then we might as well party all day as well. Grab the maracas, do some form of drumming, whack the inevitable piñata, probably some beer pong going on somewhere as well. This here is a song all about having FUN, whatever the instrument, and I LOVE it.
Tom: We’ve covered lots of songs this year, Tim; this wasn’t one of them. In hindsight I think that was wrong, because inexplicably, more than two months after release, this is still on my regular playlist.
Tom: I say “inexplicably”, because on paper everything about this should annoy me. The repetitive chorus, for a start — and it doesn’t even have a counterpoint, the melody line underneath is repeating the exact same notes!
Tom: The lyrics aren’t exactly clever; and the rap bit in the middle eight feels lazy, too. I shouldn’t be able to stand any of this.
Tim: That would be my prediction.
Tom: And yet, here I am. End of 2016. Still listening sometimes. Absolutely no idea why.
Tim: Simple: it works. As a call to arms to keep a party going, it’s got all it needs. It’s got stuff it doesn’t need – that appearance for Lil Yachty can certainly do one, in my view – but it’s hefty, powerful and beat-y. All as it should be.
Tom: Tim, we should tell our reader about a bit of the behind-the-scenes discussions we’ve had this year. With Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday, we’ve been hunting for a Saturday Flashback that’s suitably… Christmassy enough.
Tom: The trouble is, I’ve got zero Christmas spirit this year. You’ve sent me syrupy Christmas track after syrupy Christmas track, and while I could happily write a couple of hundred words ripping each of them apart, I just can’t bring myself to write anything positive. It’s rare for me to veto a track; to veto two in a row is entirely unheard of; but I killed three in a row here.
Tim: Reader, I’ve tried, I really have. It’s been distressing.
Tom: So I’ve suggested this. Because it’s simple: you can enjoy how Christmassy it is, and the fact that, unlike almost every other Christmas cash-in single, it’s actually pretty good. And I can shout the word “bell end” as loud as possible.
Tim: You remember Gregorian – they’re from Germany, and typically do covers of songs in a medieval chanting style.
Tom: For once, I actually do remember them. They… left an impression.
Tim: You’ll be ASTOUNDED to hear that they’ve made a Christmas album, cunningly entitled Christmas Chants. It’s hard to pick a stand-out track, largely because most of them are tedious and forgettable.
Tom: Like almost all Christmas songs. And almost all novelty Gregorian chant covers.
Tim: Cynical, but very true. However, there are a couple of gems on there. Try this.
Tim: It’s safe to say this has always been a somewhat ridiculous (albeit excellent) track, what with the whole reimagining of Jesus being from space, and the idea that something weird like God aliens impregnating a woman does indeed happen every couple of thousand years (genuinely, it came from a poem and everything).
Tom: I think my main complaint about this track is the phrase “light years of time”. Light years are a distance, damn it.
Tim: Top marks for pedantry. Reimagining the song as a Gregorian chant (which it definitely is and I won’t have you convince me any other way) doesn’t really do anything to change the ridiculousness – in fact, the ah-ah-ah-ah-etc almost sounds more suited here than with Chris de Burgh’s original, which basically amounts to yelling.
Tom: If you ignore the lyrics, it almost sounds like a genuine religious chant. I’ll give them that. But aside from that: just no.
Tim: Either way, though, guess we need to start preparing for those aliens.
“It seems more like they wanted to do a Christmas song.”
Tim: It’s December, I’m waking up to sub-zero temperatures, and Christmas tracks are all out in force, so LET’S JOIN IN, but we’ll begin with a Yuletide tale of days gone by.
Tom: And I’ll provide a bit of context for our new reader: over December, Tim sends me Christmas tracks. I’m a lot more cynical about Christmas music than he is. Actually, I’m a lot more cynical about many things than he is, but here it’s just a bit more obvious.
Tim: And every year, I change to change his mind. So, waaaaaaaaay way back when, in their 1996 heyday, Backstreet Boys did a Christmas song, Christmas Time. It was typical Backstreet Boys ballad and, much like *NSync’s one, was ill-advised and generally a bit shit.
Tom: That’s 99% of Christmas music right there.
Tim: Sixteen years later, though, when they got back together they decided to have another go, with a pleasing self-referential title.
Tim: And that’s one that’s really not shit. It seems more like they wanted to do a Christmas song, rather than were just told “you need to do a Christmas song so we can release a Christmas version of this album”.
Tom: It’s not like they just took an old track and added some sleigh bells over the top. It’s actually not all that bad, is it?
Tim: I don’t know if it’s partly just because I’m judging it from a 2016 perspective – 20 years ago the first may have seemed perfectly acceptable – but this is just so much more fun. More life, more instruments, more general bangingness…
Tom: Excuse me?
Tim: You heard. Quite surprised I’ve never used that word before, to be honest. Still, though, they’re keeping in all the standard bells, chimes and twinkliness of a typical track.
Tom: And some incredibly unflattering artwork. But yes, I’ll grant you, this is at least above average as Christmas tracks go.
Tim: Ah, we’re off to a good start then. Incidentally, what first drew my attention to this was the fact that the typically reliable Ida LaFontaine covered it last year; it’s not on YouTube, tediously, but is very much worth seeking out on Spotify or Apple Music or indeed any other musical provider, whatever floats your festive boat.