Nova Miller – Singin in the Rain

Tim: As I write this, I’ve just got home from work and it’s been one of those days when all you want to do is drink. Let’s see if this’ll help me, and if I can get over my irritation at the missing ‘g’ in the title.

Tom: Never mind that: why on earth would you take a title from one of the most well-known songs of all time? Did they not Google it? Even that original has the missing G, although at least got an apostrophe. Does that help? Or failing that, does the song at least soothe it?

Tim: I think it works, on all counts – it somewhat does help me cheer up, and it works very well as a good followup to her debut, June’s Supernova.

Tom: Really? Because this is musically great, but lyrically awful.

Tim: I still have my misgivings about incessant chirpy whistling, and a lyric video really isn’t the best way for me to ignore spelling idiocies; on the other hand, “don’t need an umbrella, I’ll make it through the weather” is one of my favourite chorus intros in a while–

Tom: What. No, no, no. It’s terrible.

Tim: Oh, come on – it’s FUN!

Tom: I actually swore under my breath when I heard it. It’s mainly the intonation, I think, but it needs to leave and it needs to leave immediately.

Tim: — and while I suspect the vast number of repetitions of “singin singin singin in the rain” has enormous potential to irritate, I flipping love it right now.

Tom: And the thing is, I can see why. It’s a good track, apart from those lyrics — and the fact that she’s pronouncing “smiling” as “smelling”, which puts a whole different spin on it. And that the whistling sounds a bit like they’re about to go into a Coldplay riff.

Tim: Pah, niggles. I’m going to be honest: writing that intro, I was feeling massively cynical and figured I may end up wanting to chuck my iMac out of the window. As it is: nope, and I’m on my fourth play now with a massive grin on my face.

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Sam Smith – Writing’s On The Wall

Tom: You remember how Skyfall was a slow ballad, piano and brass, made incredible by Adele’s soaring vocals?

Tim: YES, and it was GREAT.

Tom: Well, Adele’s not on this one.

Tim: Oh, boy. I may need to get my fingers warmed up.

Tom: And that about sums it up, doesn’t it? Taking on a Bond theme means that you either need to break from the traditional Shirley Bassey style, and have modest but not great success (You Know My Name, Another Way To Die) — or you have to absolutely nail both the vocals and the writing (Skyfall). And this… isn’t quite there.

Tim: Quite? QUITE? Mate, there’s “there”, and then there’s where this is, which is the other side of the freaking universe. Because, oh, that writing. Sam Smith actually boasted, like it was a good thing, that he wrote the lyrics in twenty minutes. This is pretty much an actual first draft, and boy can you tell. This is a slow song, and presumably was always going to be a slow song, so the lyrics have to be clever. I don’t want to both (a) have time to think “so you’ve sung ‘been here before/always hit…’ so the line’s going to end with ‘floor'” and (b) be correct about that – make them fast or make them inventive, just don’t make them slow, dull and therefore predictable, especially if there’s nothing in the music to get excited about.

And also, “when you’re not here I’m suffocating”? This is JAMES SHITTING BOND, mate, not some desperate forty year old at the end of act two of a crappy rom com. And also also, the title. IF ADELE CAN RHYME SKYFALL WITH CRUMBLES, YOU CAN MAKE THE EFFORT WITH SPECTRE. Plenty of things rhyme with it: off the top of my head, director, ‘decked her’, sector, Bo’ Selecta!, projector, Hannibal Lector. USE THEM.

Tom: It’s not bad. It’s just outshone by everything around it. It is the Quantum of Solace of Bond themes.

Tim: Oh, it really isn’t. There are just so many things wrong with it, even after dealing with the lyrics. For starters, can we have a drum beat? Just one, perhaps? Just some semblance of life, really – cause I got nothing. No emotion, no stirring feelings, no sense of passion or energy or ANYTHING. Except, well, all the life on the planet after the lead in to the chorus, when I just want to shout AH-AH-AHHH-AHH-AHH-AH-AHH-AH-AH-AHHH. OO-OO-OOOH-OO-OO-OOH-OO-OO-OO-OOOOH. AH-AH-AHHH-AHH-AHH-AH-AHH-AH-AH-AHHH. OO-OO-OOOH-OO-OO-OOH-OO-OO-OO-HMMMM.

Other people could maybe have got away without a drum beat. Take Skyfall, because this is so clearly trying to emulate it, it’s almost shameful. Adele had an enormous voice. She could pull off a song with backing like this, without drums, because her vocal could fill in for it. Sam Smith, with his weedy falsetto? Really, really does not cut it, remotely. My honest thoughts? There is precisely one person who comes out of this endeavour well, and that’s Madonna, because Die Another Day doesn’t appear quite as atrocious as it previously did, now it’s got this to be compared to.

Am I overreacting? Well, mayb– actually no, I’m not. This is a James Bond theme, it should be GREAT, and I have every single right to be BLOODY FURIOUS if some tit like Sam Smith (yes, tit – quote from Radio 1 last Friday, “I actually thought Mexico was near Berlin”) doesn’t put the effort in. Most of all, I don’t want to be sat in a cinema wanting to sing Earth Song at the top of my lungs, because with nothing to do other than read opening credits for four and a half minutes I probably won’t be able to resist the temptation. Anything to drown out the soulless sound of this.

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Little Mix – Love Me Like You

Tom: This isn’t so much Motown-inspired as “how close can we get to the Ronettes without getting sued“.

Tom: “You might got the biggest ca-aa-ar.” I completely misheard that on the first listen, and I suspect from the following lines that I was meant to.

Tim: Yes, I got quite disappointed when I realised what it actually was.

Tom: Leaving those nitpicks aside, though: how good does this sound? Incredibly clear production, Motown-style harmonies, and successfully recreating the Wall of Sound with some more modern instrumentation chucked in there.

Tim: Aye, it’s very good. I do like this style that Little Mix hit on every now and again, because they seem to do it very well indeed – it’s certainly better than when they advocate roofies, at any rate.

Tom: There are very few other groups you could get away with this right now: without the existing fanbase, I think it’d be rejected as being too retro and too weird. But with a solid fanbase and a track record of switching up styles and genres with every single: yes. I can see this doing very well indeed.

Tim: Well, here’s hoping it does, then.

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Saturday Flashback: Erik Segerstedt – I Can’t Say I’m Sorry

Tim: Erik Segerstedt, Idol 2006 runner-up and the E. out of the band E.M.D. while it existed; this was his first track released.

Tim: And that’ll do me fairly well. I’ve got no real reason to feature it here other than I was listening to my Melodifestivalen 1958-2013 album, which contained E.M.D.’s Baby Goodbye (also fairly good) and felt like exploring from there. Glad I did, really – this is a very good track, as far as the American pop/rock/tinge of country melange goes, with plenty of arms in the air moments, which the video takes full advantage of. It’s really a case of “by the numbers, where the numbers are very very good”, and I’m generally happy with that. You?

Tom: Much the same: that’s some proper mid-2000s piano-pop there. It’s like a lost Train single, even down to the over-emphasis on a couple of words in the verse to keep it interesting.

Tim: Yeah, that’s a good comparison – I was thinking late Bryan Adams, but Train works very well too.

Tom: I think I meant that as a compliment, because yes: it’s a lovely song.

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Will Young – Joy

Tom: He’s still going! Well done him.

Tim: Aw, round of applause for not dying there.

Tom: First off: that’s a really poor directing call on the video. The nuclear-test gag’s been done plenty of times before, and besides that: the combination of make-up and “mannequin” acting just makes it look like he’s having a really bad trip or a serious brain injury.

Tim: Hm, see I was fine with all the mannequin stuff, but that nuclear whatsit just seems a bit unnecessary and whuh?

Tom: Really? Man, you’re missing quite a reference there.

As for the song: it sounds a bit like a modern Take That single, only without quite as many harmonies.

Tim: It does – a very good chorus, although perhaps not as joyful as a song with these lyrics deserved. There should have been a moment there, just one transition, that should have made clear, in no uncertain terms, that we should be joy. And when I say transition, I basically mean key change. I know I say a lot of songs would be improved with a key change, but boy, this song would really have been improved with a key change.

Tom: It’s certainly competent, but I’m not sure it’ll elevate him much further than the Radio 2 C-playlist.

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Iben – God Morgen Alle Samme

Tim: Tom, you’ve probably read that title, and I reckon you’re feeling fairly confident you can translate that, and I also reckon you’re already predicting you won’t like it, because it’ll be too twee or something – stop me if I’m wrong.

Tom: No, you’ve pretty much nailed my reaction so far.

Tim: Just to top it all off, though, I’ll tell you it’s an Aplin-esque version of a nursery rhyme, recorded for a Norwegian meat advert. STICK WITH IT, TOM.

Tom: This is the Norwegian equivalent of a John Lewis ad, isn’t it?

Tim: Now, it would be very, very easy to dismiss that as basically awful, and that is indeed what I did for the first thirty seconds. Because until, ooh, probably about when she finishes singing for the second time, all we have is the vocals for a decent song and then the instrumental bits for a decent song except one after the other rather than together, which is stupid. On the other hand, for the final minute or so, it’s really quite lovely.

Tom: Really? It’s… it’s an advertising jingle. It’s beautifully sung, I’ll grant you, but I’m not sure it qualifies as much more.

Tim: The instrumental is at a high enough level that it becomes worth listening to on its own, and while her voice isn’t really enough to carry the song with nothing behind it, when everything comes together: well it’s just lovely.

Still entirely unnecessary, mind, and I’m struggling not to giggle at the record label’s claim that she’s about to become huge just because her voice is now associated with a load of processed meat – at least Gabrielle Aplin had a snowman. What’s Iben got? Sausages. Sausages and spam.

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Tove Lo – Moments

Tim: This, the new track to go with the deluxe reissue of Tove’s last album, and we’ve got a slightly adult-rated lyric video here, so you might want to make sure you’ve not got any impressionable kids wandering past.

Tim: And, well, that’s at least got an air of honesty about it, making a change from any fairly desperate “I’m brilliant I’ll love you forever I’m dedicated to you and will be forever” that we may more typically see.

Tom: “I can’t be the perfect one / but I’ll make you come” is a wonderfully understated lyric, too.

Tim: That it very much is. It’s funny – I was first thinking that the end of the chorus might just be there for shock value, but then I tried switching it for another word or rearranging it, but I couldn’t make anything work anywhere near as well. Obviously I’m not a songwriter, but that does kind of imply that sometimes, you’ve just got to be a bit rude, and when you are it’s highly effective (especially if you’re claiming to be incredibly charming).

Tom: Absolutely agreed: there are times when absolutely nothing else will work, and I suspect this is one of them. I believe various broadcast guidelines describe it as “editorially justified”.

Tim: Music: eh, decent, but taking a back seat, really. Weird how one single chorus line can overpower a whole song, but there it is.

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Freja Kirk – Red Light

Tim: Summer may have just about dipped below the horizon, but that’s apparently no reason to give up on the summer-themed disco pop. So shall we?

Tom: Why on earth do you have a hosepipe on a beach? And, to be honest, I’m getting a bit sick of videos that are just “look how much money we have to go places and do things”. Hmf. Anyway. Sorry.

Tim: No, it’s justified – that is exactly what this video was (perhaps lazily) designed to show, how great summer was. But let’s move on to the music.

Tom: The music.

Tim: And that…do you know, I’m going to be generous and assume that whoever wrote this was feeling a bit drained by the aforementioned calendar placement, because this isn’t what it should be. It’s good enough and it ticks the boxes, sure, but where’s the sense of joy, and energy, and just general funk that you’d normally find in a track like this.

Tom: I don’t know: there’s certainly a decent bassline going on there, but I think I know what you mean.

Tim: I might be being too harsh on it – am I? – but I just can’t help get a sense that they were more concerned with getting out of the studio as soon as they’d got something laid down that just about worked for a single. I don’t know – tell me I’m wrong, and that right now I just have very high standards, can you?

Tom: It’s okay. It sounds a bit like it’s off a stock music CD. It’s in the middle of the bell curve. This is an ordinary track. And here’s the thing: this is how I feel about most of the tracks that go past us. There are diamonds out there, Tim, but they’re few and far between.

Tim: Such, alas, is indeed the nature of the bell curve. Fairly sure it’s worth it for the good ones, though.

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Fallulah – Social Club

Tim: Here’s a song with lyrics we can all identify with: the constant worry that you’re not cool enough for your group of friends.

Tim: How willing are you to bend your personality to fit in? How confident are you? Can you ever be relaxed when you worry like that? Or are you always, indeed, scared of fucking up?

Tom: Hell of a line, that, but I can’t deny that it rhymes, it’s an appropriate word, and the shock value is justified.

Tim: Well, quite – those are all questions posed by this song, and reassuringly answered for those of us like Fallujah herself. Musically we’re in a good spot as well, with plenty of decent beats and a strong aggressive vocal.

Tom: Agreed: there’s a good contrast between that aggression, and the slightly ethereal quality to some of the “spin around” lyrics in the middle eight. I don’t think it’s going to end up on my playlist any time soon, but it’s certainly not bad.

Tim: What I really want from this now is a video in the style of Mean Girls, focussing on one particularly insecure one of them, as I think there could be potential there. Hurry up please.

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Saturday Flashback: Basshunter – Now You’re Gone

“But…why?” is the question I’m sure you’re answering. Have a listen, I’ll explain.

Tim: So, it’s time for celebration in the Basshunter household: last week this song finally went platinum in the UK! Eight years on from its initial release, enough people are still buying it for total sales to have climbed past 600,000. Mr Hunter himself was presumably delighted, or perhaps disappointed because he thought it already was.

Tom: Let’s not ignore that streaming count, either: 170 million views on YouTube is astonishing.

Tim: Certainly, though consideration must be given to the fact that the video, lest we forget, is the first chapter in the story of him and his girlfriend Ayla, continued in most of his other videos; it doesn’t quite match the dramatic heights of American Horror Story so I can’t bring myself to watch through them to remember the story, but there’s probably heartbreak but then a happy ending and stuff. Whatever it is, CONGRATULATIONS!

Tom: And never forget your roots. Your techie, Swedish roots.

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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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