ZAYN & Taylor Swift – I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)

Tim: The first film gave us Love Me Like You Do and that dodgy version of Crazy in Love.

Tom: Dodgy? It was absolutely brilliant. Anyway.

Tim: The sequel brings us both Taylor Swift’s first new music in over two years. Would you like a music video which absolutely definitely was filmed with the two of them together at the same time?

Tom: Astonishingly, it actually was, although heaven knows why they bothered.

Tim: Huh, weird. But also there, amongst other things, is Zayn Malik showing us exactly what sort of vocal range One Direction missed out on when he wandered off, and it’s quite impressive.

Tom: That’s some impressive falsetto there – particularly for what’s usually the masculine role in a song like this. I can’t help feeling that I actually want him to hit some notes in a lower register at some point. Surely he’ll knacker his voice?

Tim: I don’t know, he’s been doing it a while now.

Tom: Anyway, I don’t know whether the song was written for them, or whether it was tailored afterwards, but it really does match both their vocal styles.

Tim: There are a lot of other bits in there that are good as well – right from the start, that backing vocal is great, and I’m also a fan of how the drums pretty much leading the instrumental throughout.

Tom: It’s also a good chorus, by which I mean I can sing it after one listen and it’s not irritating. Those are my main requirements for a good chorus.

Tim: And so much as I didn’t think I would like it the first time I heard it, I’ve really grown to like this. Doesn’t mean I’ll see the film, though.

Future Duper feat. Hilde – Fever

“Takes a turn for the strange at the pre-chorus”

Tim: Certainly a strong attempt a pun from this new Norwegian act; it just about works…

Tom: Pun?

Tim: Off Super Duper, surely, otherwise it means nothing, surely? But even if the pun doesn’t work, does the music?

Tom: Well, that takes a turn for the strange at the pre-chorus, doesn’t it? Sounds almost like a video game, gets really excited, and then drops down again. I think you’re right when you say it “just about works”.

Tim: Sort of, but I’d rather it had a bit more melody in places. In particular, coming out of the middle eight feels like it’s really missing a trick, as there could be something memorable with a decent tune there, rather than a few sentences said at us fairly quickly.

Tom: I think it’ll take a few listens — or, rather, a few tracks like this — before I can actually get the hang of this. Right now, it sounds like a rather more experimental genre than it should.

Tim: To me it feels like a natural progression of the Alan Walker sound – the same squeaks and squeals, but faster and a bit heavier, and that I quite like. Seven a half out of ten, then, or possibly an eight if I’m feeling generous.

Smorgasbord – Let It Go On

Tim: Smorgasbord, because it’s lots of different bits, like the three members of this band, apparently, with “different, but solid, musical backgrounds.” With this debut, they’re providing “an exotic tempting sound, a hybrid with sticky choruses”. How fun. Or gross, something anyway.

Tom: It’s a stock footage music video! I didn’t think those were still a thing! But more importantly: it’s actually a proper dance track. It… it does go on and on a bit, though, doesn’t it?

Tim: I do like a song where they don’t let you, ever, forget what it’s called. Sure, you have your Unchained Melody and your Bohemian Rhapsody, but that’s hard to remember and sometimes you just need it drilling right down into you. Eiffel 65 knew it, Alexandra Burke knew it, and now Smorgasbord know it as well.

Tom: Even the instrumental bit of the chorus follows the same rhythm, so I keep singing it anyway. At some point I’ve got to admire that, but it does get old. I actually said “yes, I get it” out loud at one point.

Tim: I suppose I could take it as part of the song, the forceful nature of the instruction that it must never, ever, under any circumstances be allowed to stop. Or just slightly lazy lyrics, I don’t know.

Tom: I mean, I could at least sing the chorus after one listen. I’m not sure I wanted to, though.

Tim: As for the rest of it: it’s a solid debut as a dance track, with that intense repetition presumably mainly intended to get stuck in your head, wanting to dance and keep dancing to it. And for that, it kind of works, though I can’t help feeling they think it’s going to be bigger and more anthemic than it probably will be. Still a good start, though.

Loïc Nottet – Million Eyes

We’ve found a male Mopey Yet Trying To Be Anthemic.

Tim: Last word on the matter for now, as I don’t want us to get stuck in a rut, but: this got sent in by our reader, Jacko, and I think we’ve found a male Mopey Yet Trying To Be Anthemic.

Tom: Well, it certainly starts out mopey, that’s for sure. That’s quite an androgynous voice — a brilliant one, though.

Tim: Loïc performed for Belgium in Eurovision 2015 and did fairly well, but it was nothing like this. Contrary to my beliefs the other day, this actually works very well, on a similar level.

Tom: Mm. The choruses are decent, I’ll grant you, but I was so numbed by the verse that they actually startled me when they kicked in. Why do you think it works so well?

Tim: Pushes the same buttons, triggers the same reflexes, or certainly goes for it. I don’t think it’s quite as successful, but that’s more down to the music underneath – I’ll always respond better to a complex synth bases than a lone piano with a few drum beats. It’s nice, though, and at least it shows it can work well either way. Nice stuff.

Saturday Flashback: Broods – Couldn’t Believe

“I was actually startled when that introduction kicked in.”

Tim: Broods, a fairly successful New Zealand duo, and this, a track that got used on a recent episode of Teen Wolf, which I rather liked.

Tom: I was actually startled when that introduction kicked in. Wasn’t expecting that.

Tim: And so often, that style of music – the breathy female vocal, light synthy backing – is downbeat and, as you said yesterday, a bit Mopey, and when this started I was fairly sure it’d be another of the same.

Tom: Now you phrase it like that, I wonder if that’s me being a bit sexist? If that was a gravelly male voice, would I be labelling it “emotional” rather than “mopey”? I’d like to think not, but then I also can’t think of a male equivalent.

Tim: Well, I wouldn’t rush to call yourself sexist – there’s a thing about the vocal that I can’t describe – see also Elsa & Emilie – that generates that sensation, and that doesn’t tend to come with a guy singing. Mopey may not have been a perfect word, but it’s more descriptive than just ’emotional’ and it certainly fits. Particularly here in those first few lines – “I burnt my fingers”, “hid under blankets of ignorance” – which all seem to play into that stereotype, so I couldn’t help but break out into a big smile when the true message revealed itself.

Tom: And the chorus revealed itself as well. Finally, something in our recent run that seems like it’s actually uplifting.

Tim: Isn’t it great? And not only was that a lovely surprise – to quote the song, I couldn’t believe my ears – but the music kept on being lovely as well.

Tom: It suffers, as usual, from “middle eight more interesting than the actual song syndrome”, an unfortunately common problem, but hey: it’s still not bad.

Tim: Oh, it’s more than that, it’s wonderful. Upbeat, chirpy, joyous, and great music that, well, certainly borders on anthemic. Love it.

Maia – Du’ Kærlighed For Mig

“Mopey Yet Trying To Be Anthemic”

Tim: Maia’s Danish, the song’s called “You Are My Love”, and it’s a pretty good one. Despite Maia having been mostly just a writer up until now, she says she “instinctively knew that it would be wrong to give it to another artist because the words came from the bottom of my heart and had its base in my own feelings”.

Tom: You’re recommending a lot of Mopey Yet Trying To Be Anthemic songs lately. You OK?

Tim: Mopey, you think? I don’t know, but I can see the Trying To Be Anthemic. Advance warning, though: tomorrow’s is of a similar genre. But for now, well, first off I wish I could find the lyrics for this, because while I’m almost certain that what she’s singing halfway through the chorus isn’t the obscenity it sounds like, I’d still like confirmation.

Tom: I’ll be honest, it took me a while to work out where the chorus was, but… yes, I’m fairly sure that’s just an unfortunate syllable, there.

Tim: And if I can get past that distraction, this is an absolutely delightful song. A backing line that’s just lovely, a fantastic vocal that gets all emotional at all the necessary points, and a beautiful close piling everything in together.

Tom: As with yesterday’s track, it takes its time to get there — but it does, at least, get there.

Tim: All in all, I might go so far as to call it beautiful – it really is.

Smith & Thell – February

“ENJOY!”

Tim: Says Ms Smith, about last February: “All we could see around us were hollow-eyed people on the subway walking into each other and stepping on each other’s feet, drowsy from too little sleep and too much darkness. We said ‘let’s just be honest with ourselves that life sucks for the moment.’… Sometimes you want a song to pick you up – but sometimes, at least for us, we just want to rest in our feelings and embrace the lows for a while.” So ENJOY!

Tim: And however grim and depressing you may find the message – thanks to a back injury, I’m in more physical pain as I write this than I can remember having ever been in, so I wouldn’t mind some e.g. Katy Perry Firework joy – you can’t deny that’s a fairly good piece of work.

Tom: An offhand and sudden confession there, Tim, hope you’re OK. And you’re right: the song takes its own time to build, but by the time backing vocals appeared, I was actually starting to get behind it. For a song that is deliberately Not A Banger, that takes some doing.

Tim: If we’re going to have a song dedicated to the most miserable time of the year, you could do a lot worse than this, with its minor key, moody strings and slow piano line all contributing. And those backing vocals towards the end: wonderful. I reckon this can be enjoyed however you’re feeling – to make you feel better, knowing there a whole load of people with you, or to make you feel happier, knowing that you’re doing a whole lot better that most suckers out there. It’s lovely.

Robin Stjernberg – Feed On My Love

‘It’s a mix of “eww” and “hurr”.’

Tim: Just ten days ago we were saying how we couldn’t remember much about Robin’s single releases – here’s a new one for you to try. Oh, and if you’re about to point out that ‘Feed On My Love’ sounds a bit dodgy…

Tom: I was.

Tim: …see if you can make it through the first verse.

Tom: It’s a mix of “eww” and “hurr”. I wonder if the translators did that deliberately?

Tim: Well it’d have been the lyricist, not a translator – but I really don’t know.

Tom: Good melody in the first verse, though: and even the quiet bits are melodic enough.

Tim: We’ve also a big chorus, there’s no denying that, and as for the rest of it? Well, there’s heft in that piano line, and the backing vocal, but it really is all about that chorus, and the contrast that silence beforehand brings.

Tom: And a heck of a voice too.

Tim: Indeed, and all in I rather think it works. I don’t think it’ll go down in history, but it’s definitely a track to be reckoned with, and it’s enough for me.

Martin Jensen – Solo Dance

“Hey, it’s another Galantis-a-like!”

Tim: Hey, it’s another Galantis-a-like! Ish, take a listen.

Tim: Curious video given the song’s message, really, showing at is a whole load of people all very happily dancing in a group, but never mind that.

Tom: It’s not like they’re all doing their own choreography, either. I mean, it’s still impressive dancing, but yes, you’re right.

Also, full marks to Martin for managing to pretend he’s actually doing something on the decks all the way through the video.

Tim: It’s a fun song, and who won’t like that? It is, really, a song that you might want to dance in a group to, so maybe the entire song’s wrong OH I DON’T KNOW. Either way, it’s danceable, it’s a good style, and all round I don’t think I’ll complain.

Tom: And it’s basically Galantis. They’ve had a lot of influence.

Lucie Jones – Never Give Up On You

“There is literally nothing memorable in this song.”

Tim: Tom, I have just got back from watching our Eurovision entry (this one) being chosen, and I am FUMING, for a reason I shall return to another time. For now, though, we have this.

Tim: And…it’s dull. Yes, the vocals are there, and she’s got a good howling voice on her, but there’s really just nothing else.

Tom: And as usual, we’re joining the inevitable crowd of countries who’re going to choose a song similar to the one that won last year. If we were the only country sending something like this, we’d stand a chance: but we’ll be buried among twenty other Dull Ballads.

Tim: Right – there is literally nothing memorable in this song. No big moments, no crowning glory out of the middle eight – just a very standard song, running mediocrely throughout its three minutes, and very quickly forgotten. Now don’t get me wrong, I would *love* us to do well – this year more than any other, as if we win then we’ll get to host a European love-in right in the middle of vicious Article 50 negotiations – but I really can’t see much coming from this.

Tim: It’s not actively bad or divisive this year, it’s just… it’s just a song. Good vocals though. Good vocals.

Tom: When she was on the X Factor, she came eighth out of twelve finalists. Mathematically, the equivalent would be about 17th, and to be honest – I think we’ll be lucky to do that well.