Saturday Flashback: Thirty Seconds to Mars – Kings and Queens

Tim: We demonstrated on Wednesday that sometimes you get choruses that are so good any other fault can be entirely forgiven. Here’s another.

Tom: Bird noises and sound effects. That’s a good start. Mind you, once that intro actually kicks in…

Tim: Once that happens, then yes, the verses are a bit dull. Yes, it’s almost six minutes long with a sillily long middle way-more-than-eight, which the civilised world has no need for. Yes, the lyrics are overinflated self-important guff. But then there’s that chorus line, so powerful, so outstanding, so memorable that you just don’t care about all that.

Tom: Yep. That’s how you do good anthemic stadium-pop-rock. Add some strings and big percussion, and start wailing on your guitars. Not an insult, that — it’s damn good.

Tim: It’s just a great, great track.

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Patrik Isaksson – Slåss För Oss

Tim: ‘Fight For Us’. And, rather appropriately, it can only be described as a TRIUMPH. This is a brassed-up live version; the studio version’s on Spotify if you want it.

Tom: See, I’ll always favour something with a brass section.

Tim: Differences between this and the studio one: this has a whole lot of brass; the other has a bit more backing under the verses, so they basically balance out. And really, they’re both great. Vigorous, with exactly the level of power you’d expect a song called that to have.

Tom: Agreed: this ticks all the boxes for a song like that: that final chorus is wonderful.

Tim: It’d be lovely if I knew what the lyrics were, because this is a song I’d love to be able to shout along to the chorus with, entirely drowning out his perfectly good vocals but never mind, because I’d be FIGHTING FOR US. FIGHTING, you hear me? It’s what we NEED to do, and I’ve got this on in the background and all I can really think is that man, that’s some good brass on there.

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Mapei – Change

Tim: Fancy some bored looking people holding bits of cardboard?

Tom: You sure know how to hype up a video.

Tim: In my defence, there aren’t many other ways of describing it.

Tim: Now that’s a good song. Sort of. Melody’s alright, production’s very good, vocals are on top form.

Tom: It’s that “sort of” I find myself agreeing with. That chorus is pretty, but I’m not sure about the rest of it, and as for the sort-of-rap interjections, well, the less said about that the better.

Tim: Yes, there I’d agree. But it’s the lyrics that get me, because they leave a lot to be desired. Now bear with me because I’m about to get analytical, because I think this song deserves it, unless I’m massively overthinking it.

Here’s the thing: we have bored people in the video. Bored people who are disappointed with their life. They want something more. Something special. Hell, they deserve it – they are, after all, “royalty waiting to be crowned”. So what do we do? How do we make this big change happen? Easy! We, erm, oh. We wait, apparently. Even though “you’re in control, you got so much soul,” we’re all just waiting.

Tom: Mm. When you analyse it like that, it doesn’t really put a good message out, does it?

Tim: No, but perhaps I’m misinterpreting it – perhaps really what it’s trying to do is point out this, that we could be doing something but all we’re doing is sitting on our arses, except I don’t get that vibe from it. With the emphasis vastly more on the waiting that the in control, I get a “you’re in control, so just sit back and everything’ll be great.” And that just doesn’t work for me.

Tom: Agreed. And you know who I’d pick for a more positive message? Oddly, it’d be Eminem.

Tim: You know, here’s where I should be suggesting a pleasant schlager track instead, but no, can’t think of one. Maybe it just has to be angry.

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Twin Atlantic – Brothers And Sisters

Tim: This is getting a lot of airplay on Radio 1, and I don’t think it’s just because the Commonwealth Games were in Glasgow.

Tim: Rather, I think it’s because it’s got a great chorus in it, and an especially brilliant closing line to that chorus.

Tom: And the build isn’t bad either — there’s a Biffy Clyro ‘Many of Horror’ vibe here, and it’s not just about being Scottish.

Tim: There are times when a wonderful chorus will make up for everything else that might otherwise not be great about a song (say, verses that lack much substance, the implication that no-one really wants to talk to their siblings except as a last resort or that bit at 3:22 that made me think my doorbell was going), and this is one of them, because it’s just FABULOUS.

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SILVA – É Preciso Dizer

Tom: Another one in from CB in Brazil here, who describes it as “Brazilian synthpop done right”. Now, to be fair, I’ve never heard Brazilian synthpop done wrong, or indeed at all, so I’m not sure what to expect here.

Tom: Now, we’ve talked about music like this before. It mostly washes over me, as indeed this has, but you tend to get excited about it. What d’you reckon?

Tim: Not so much this time – it’s nice, sure, but this isn’t one I find myself getting excited about – the chorus instrumental melody is fairly simplistic, and the lyrics and verses don’t really do anything for me. I don’t think it’s a language barrier thing, as that’s never presented a problem before, so it might just be a sense of almost tedium.

Tom: That’s a shame: there’s clearly potential here.

Tim: I get a feeling, especially in the final vocal section coming up to the three minute mark that there’s just a sensation of “okay, let’s just keep the words coming, almost there now”. Doesn’t really do it for me, unfortunately.

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Bjørnskov – Venner for Evigt

Tim: Danish, for “Friends Forever”. That’s nice, innit?

Tom: Ah! That’s a coincidence. Our Brazilian reader, CB, sent this in yesterday. I’m guessing it’s not a cover?

Tim: Believe it or not, no.

Tim: Yes, as it happens, it is nice, both with the music and because it really is just about friendship. It’s refreshing to have a track that acknowledges that not all two-person relationships are romantic, and as the (entirely predictable and unemotional) video shows, this is exactly what this is.

Tom: Agreed. It’s still rare, even now, to find a smash-hit pop song that isn’t about love somehow. Wake Me Up’s the first one that comes to mind.

Tim: A celebration of two people who’ve just been BFFs throughout their life. I thought it came across a bit aggressive for a pleasant sentiment like that, to start with, but then I checked the lyrics and it turns out the chorus is about the relationship standing strong through all sorts of challenges (“they do what they want, we’re like water over a fire”) so it actually works very well – appropriate aggression with a whole amount of enthusiastic and celebratory energy.

Tom: And musically, it stands up too.

Tim: It does indeed. Lovely stuff.

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Saturday Flashback: Edyta Górniak – One and One

Tom: A prerequisite for this review: go and remind yourself of Robert Miles’ fantastic One and One from 1999. It’s pure Robert Miles: catchy piano hook (this was after ‘Children’), uplifting style, into a gorgeous middle eight and final chorus. It’s even got a key change.

Tim: All of this is true.

Tom: One and One is one of my all-time favourite songs: even now, writing this, I listened to it through, just because I’d linked to it. Which is why this confused me a lot:

Tim: Huh. That also confused me a bit, but only because for twenty seconds or so I thought you’d linked to to a Spanish guitarified version of the Big Brother theme tune.

Tom: I can’t help but admit that this is a great take on the song. Those synths in the introduction pretty much sum up the late-90s pop sound, don’t they?

Tim: And hard-hitting reality TV social experiments, yes. I like it a lot, especially after a couple of minutes when the rest of the instruments have grown up to drown out that distraction.

Tom: The completely new Spanish guitar line really, really works — as does the electric guitar in the middle eight. And those vocals, with their high rising notes, add something beyond the original.

Tim: They do, actually – I’d wouldn’t describe Maria Nayler’s vocals as being weak, but these are much more, well, meaty, probably because they’re not going for the dreaminess that was almost a feature of the original.

Tom: Don’t get me wrong: the Robert Miles version will stay in my heart. But it’s nice to know that a great track can be covered and still remain great.

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Julia Kedhammar – Du Är Inte Ensam

Tim: 15th November, Tom, a date that should be in your diary – the 2014 Junior Eurovision Song Contest!

Tom: That is so not going in my diary.

Tim: Here’s Sweden’s entry (as I’ve a feeling you won’t be worried about spoilers for this).

Tim: Yes, it’s clearly a song by a kid, and it probably isn’t too worried about taking itself too seriously.

Tom: That’s true. Which is for the best, because apart from that build into the chorus — and yes, that key change — I’m not that fond of it.

Tim: Nonetheless, it’s a damn good track, and one that’s substantially better than a lot of entries to proper Eurovision, though I’m aware I might just think that because it’s one of the cheesiest dance tunes that I’ve heard this side of 2004.

Tom: I’ll agree that there are much worse entries in Eurovision, but it seems to have brought the style of 2004 without all of the energy that went with it. It’s not bad, I guess, but the build never seems to turn into a proper chorus. That might be the fact it’s a kid singing it, and not someone with a more powerful voice.

Tim: Well, who cares? It’s a great dance track, and it has a key change, so who needs more than that?

If you’re wondering about our place in the JESC (I’m not typing it all out), well, we competed in 2003, when Tom Morley came third; in 2004, when Cory Spedding came second; and in 2005, when Joni Fuller came fourteenth. We didn’t return after that.

Tom: I’m guessing the viewing figures didn’t justify the expense. I’m not surprised.

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Helena Johanssen – Faith

Tom: Ooh, is it—

Tim: I’ll stop you and your immediate predictability there, and inform you that no, it’s not a George Michael cover. A Swedish lady instead, with a song all of her own.

Tom: That’s one of the best introductions I’ve heard in a while.

Tim: It is yes – it just starts and never stops, does it? A nice example of a track where the lyrics and music go together perfectly – it’s a declaration of self, a confident and powerful statement of YES.

Tom: It works so well: this is a damn good track.

Tim: Everything WILL be great, because we have FAITH. Which I suppose is alright, really. You might want to doubt the reality of it, because if faith is all you need then judging by the number of X Factor hopefuls that say “I really really know I can do this” we’d be able to do a track every hour.

Tom: It could be worse: it could be the nauseating (sometimes literally) No Matter What, the ultimate expression of denying reality.

Tim: Yes, that’s true. Either way, let’s not go down that route because it would spoil the essence of the song, and I don’t want to do that because it’s such a great track.

Tom: And as for the music: listen to that drumbeat. No four-on-the-floor here: that’s sometimes disastrous, but here it just works so well. It’s a testament to her voice that she’s able to compete with instrumentation that compelling.

Tim: That production underneath is just excellent – I genuinely don’t think I can fault it, so good work to everyone involved.

Tom: I’m quite happy that 90s-esque synth pads seem to be back in fashion, too, even if they’re buried deep in the mix.

Tim: Excellent. All happy then.

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Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj – Bang Bang

Tom: There’s not a “feat.” to be seen in that artist credit: it’s all three of them working together. Surely this can’t be anything but brilliant?

Tim: Well, certainly not if you’re a fan of at least two of them.

Tom: Ah, damn. That’s basically a Little Mix album track, isn’t it?

Tim: Hmm. I always really want to like Ariana Grande tracks, though that’s mostly just because she has a name that sounds like a font. Music-wise, I’ve never found a song that fits with me.

Tom: Don’t get me wrong: the voices can’t be faulted. They’re all brilliant performers at the top of their game. And while all the ingredients are there: big-band instruments, vocal harmonies, a middle eight from one of the few rappers who can pull off a decent middle eight… it’s just a fairly dull song.

Tim: Possibly – not sure, this is really not a genre I’m a fan of. It’s certainly true that technically I can’t fault it, but also that there’s nothing there to get me going.

Tom: The production’s great. The vocals are great. But the actual song itself just ain’t up to it.

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    Tim Jeffries was born in the UK a good few years ago now, and regularly dreams of a Busted reunion.

    Along with good music, things he appreciates include the use of correct grammar, well-made banana daiquiris and shampoo for men that smells nice (which he still hasn't found). His favourite colour is what Dulux call 25YY 49/757, and his favourite member of the Felidae family is the snow leopard.

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    Tom Scott is a techie with extremely questionable taste in music. In his spare time, he has too many plans and a worrying tendency to make them happen.

    His greatest achievement was getting five gold runs on Blockbusters, which he still harps on about to this day.

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