RoxSo – Margarita

Tim: You know how, sometimes, you get songs with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever?

Tom: Yeah, sure, they’re called “Cher Lloyd” tracks. BOOM.

Tim: OOF get you, mister fingernails emoji.

Tom: Oh crikey, that’s a horrible introduction. Who thought banjo-picking and… a sax, maybe?… who thought they’d go together? And it just gets worse from there. They’re trying to be Las Ketchup, and what we’ve got is a cheap imitation of Las Ketchup. Basically, we’ve got those cheap sachets of sort-of-ketchup that you get at cheap canteens.

Tim: Pretty much, yes. I suppose there aren’t *no* redeeming features, as the chorus is slightly listenable as long as you don’t pay much attention to it. The problem is, this is a song that is crying out to be performed by the one and only Mr 305, who brings with him the necessary level of awareness that what he’s doing is ridiculous.

Tom: Ha! You’re right, as well. With a bit of a production punch, and some suitably Spanish lyrics, I can actually see Pitbull making this work.

Tim: This Swedish duo just seem to be thinking “let’s put out a summer tune by mixing every single element we can think of.” The thing is, that could be okay, except (somewhat ironically, given the verses) they’ve completely ignored any semblance of recipe that might make this work.

Tom: Agreed. I’m not even sure it’s all in the same key.

Tim: I have given this considerably more thought than it probably deserves, and I will award it exactly 14%, with those few points being awarded solely for the chorus and potential. Other than that: nope.

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Eurotix – Kiss Them For Me

Tim: Okay, this is an odd one. Sent in by Stefan, who directed the video, it’s a synth-driven pop song written from the point-of-view of Princess Diana.

Tom: What.

Tim: Now, we’ve talked about these guys a couple of times before, and the verdict was: music initially dull but improving, videos of a terrible first-year art-school quality.

Tom: Let’s get the bad out of the way first: that’s still a terrible video. Sorry, Stefan. “No one will ever be able to say that we take ourselves too seriously,” says the description, but that’s exactly what I’m saying: it still looks like an over-enthusiastic first year at art school.

Tim: Well my thought on reading that description was simply “…or indeed that we are anything other than batshit crazy.” I mean REALLY, COME ON. You’re singing from the perspective of a posthumous Princess Diana? ARE YOU ON GLUE??

Tom: Well, yes, there is that. Visually, they’ve shot for the moon and missed, and that means it looks really unprofessional. From a ‘selling records’ perspective they’d have been better off just sticking some static album art over the track.

But the music! It continues to improve: there’s some really nice composition here, good work on the synths, and a lovely middle eight.

Tim: Music, sure, it’s good, BUT THE LYRICS! HOW ARE YOU NOT TALKING ABOUT THE LYRICS. They are singing from the perspective of A POSTHUMOUS PRINCESS DIANA – yes, I’ve repeated that from just a few lines ago, but HOW IS THAT NOT THE MAIN THING YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT TOM?

Tom: Because they all sort of just washed over my head. The song could stand to be a minute shorter; it could stand using some sounds that were invented after the 1980s; it could stand to not have that video. But it’s not bad.

Tim: POSTHUMOUS PRINCESS DIANA WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU.

Tom: I feel like we’re watching someone develop their composing and production skills, and it keeps getting a bit better each time.

Tim: And I feel like we’re watching someone slowly inching themselves towards being committed to a psych ward.

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Jess Glynne – Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

Tom: Our reader, Kirsten, sends this in, describing it as “a huge improvement on Jess Glynne’s previous singles”.

Tim: Oh this is interesting – can’t remember if I ever mentioned it, but I actually went to BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend this year, and I saw her perform this there.

Tom: This is the first time I’ve ever listened to a record and thought “that string section’s a bit much”. Have I reached Peak String Section? Is it just a bit too loud in the mix?

Tim: What? No, it’s fine. I mean, maybe it’s pushing the limits of how far any one instrument type will go before taking over, but, as we saw with Tove Ask’s track, there’s room for things to get far, far more out of hand.

Tom: Either way, this is a song begging to be used as the background to an inspiration montage on a talent show. That sounds a bit harsher than I meant it, I think: it’s a great track, the vocals are wonderful, and the message is wonderful.

Tim: Sounds harsh, maybe, but all the best songs are used on talent shows – disappointingly, no-one’s made a YouTube compilation of the number of times Snow Patrol’s Run has been used on The X Factor, though that might be because it’d break the length limit. In any case, you’re right, it could be used for that.

Tom: It’s just that I can already see the pre-appearance stock shots in my head, the subtle mix to the instrumental version as the editor cues up an interview section, and then timing it so that they start to walk out on stage just as the outro fires.

Tim: And shivers would be sent up every spine in the country.

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Anna Naklab feat. Alle Farben & YOUNOTUS – Supergirl

Tim: Anna’s a German singer who’s been a featured vocalist on a dance track before, but this is the first track with her name on the door, as it were. It’s a cover of a 2000 rock track, and it’s a bit lovely.

Tim: It’s a curious track, largely due to the lyrics. They’re interesting, in an “I Will Always Love You” fashion, because the main line is HAPPY and GREAT and SUPERGIRL, but actually it’s a bit grim. We’re just putting off everything that’s shit and hoping that we won’t have to deal with the inevitable fall out, pretending we don’t know what inevitable means.

Tom: Ah, the “Semi-Charmed Life” effect.

Tim: Pretty much, yeah, which in turn leads to further discrepancies in the lyrics; compounding that, though, we’ve subdued vocals throughout on top of high, happy and relaxing instrumental lines.

Tom: Yep: it’s the kind of thing that’s going to turn up on a “chilled dance” album at some point. Maybe not in the first CD, but it’ll still get picked for it. That’s probably harsher than I intended it to be.

Tim: Possibly, because it is that relaxing part that stand outs for me, and I love it. THANKS BEATS 1 FOR INTRODUCING IT TO ME YOU’RE GREAT!!

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Saturday Flashback: Sigga Beinteins – Surrender

Tim: RIGHT THEN. Remember yesterday, with Rebecka Karlsson’s track that turned out to be a not-quite-seamless cover? Yeah, well here’s the original, from Reykjavik Pride 2014. They do like their Pride songs in Scandinavia, don’t they?

Tim: And that there sounds a WHOLE LOT BETTER, and not just because it’s more of a unified track, actually.

Tom: A string section! Much better production! Oh, that’s fantastic time. Although I’m sure I’ve heard that guitar part in the intro somewhere before.

Tim: Yeah? Not sure I recognise it. But the rest, WELL. For a start, there’s the lead-in to the chorus which comes straight from Je Ne Sais Quoi, and anything that involves Hera Björk get ten points in my book. The same can be said for any dance track that brings in a key change – I’m happy to accept that on standard pop tracks they can be overused, but on a dance track like this, it’d be criminal not to have one.

Tom: Yep, I broke out into a big grin. Hearing the cover version first is weird: in my head, this is the “fixed” version, not the better original.

Tim: Well, either way, we’ve got twenty points out of ten already, and we’ve only looked at a few seconds of it. It’s got top notch strings on there as you’ve pointed out, and, most importantly, everything blends nicely. So sorry, Rebecka – I’ll be sticking with the original.

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Rebecka Karlsson – Surrender

Tim: New track off her who we first met last November, which happens to be the official song of Malmö Pride 2015. TUNE, therefore.

Tom: I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t.

Tim: Weird thing: despite being a completely original song, it sounds exactly like it could be a Cascada cover version of some older track, especially in the chorus.

Tom: Blimey, you’re right, but “Surrender” isn’t exactly the easiest song title to search for. I kept getting French songs.

Tim: It may just be the vocal stylings, but I think it’s some slight disjoint between the vocal line and the backing track you might get – as good as Truly Madly Deeply was, it’s blindingly obvious it wasn’t originally written that way. Is that the case here? I don’t want it to be, because its a good dance track and I don’t want to lay into it unfairly when it could just be me hearing it.

Tom: It’s good, although like other Cascada songs, it’s perhaps a bit… generic. There’s nothing here to set it apart: the melody is good but unremarkable, the vocals are competent, and the production is okay. The middle eight at least breaks it up.

Tim: It does, yes, and like I say, it’s a decent enough dance track – well, I’d put it as getting to Andra Chansen at Melodifestivalen decent, at least – and it’ll do as a celebratory song, but dammit I just can’t shake the feeling– WAIT HANG ON so it turns out it is a cover. More later.

Tom: Did you just do a cliffhanger ending to a blog post?

Tim: I KNOW RIGHT!!?!?!!?

Tom: Bloody hell.

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Rita Ora – Poison

Tim: X Factor auditions have kicked off this week, so let’s have a listen to this, which I’ve been enjoying very much recently.

Tom: Oh! Perhaps surprisingly, I haven’t heard this one, and my reaction’s the opposite of normal: I very much enjoy the verses, but it took me until the final chorus to start liking that… at which point I started singing along. I suspect it’s a grower, from that: put this on a radio playlist and I’ll be singing along. And what a middle eight!

Tim: There’s a proper video here, but it doesn’t add anything and has a load of filler gaps interrupting the music, so we can ignore that, because interrupting the music is NOT AN OPTION here, with its immediately IN THERE piano introduction with her decent voice on top, before going OUT THERE for the chorus which a proper head filler which I like and I should probably end this sentence about now, but really I’m just listening to the music and carrying on typing, because it’s the sort of track that just keeps going and going and going, in a VERY very good way.

Tom: You… you want to breathe there, Tim?

Tim: Ah, and we’ve reached the end. So let’s have another listen.

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Malika Ayane – Senza Fare Sul Serio

Tim: If you’ve never heard of her (as indeed I hadn’t until Apple Music suggested her to me) Malika’s been going a while, but has never had much (or indeed any) success outside her native Italy. Here’s her current one, which recently entered the Italian top 10 (and number two on the Airplay charts).

Tom: Good job getting a product-placement plug in that introduction, Tim.

Tim: No, just a mild recommendation.

Tom: And for the second day in a row, we’ve got a brilliant introduction: a nice combination of synth and traditional instruments, and a pleasing chord progression.

Tim: So from what I can tell with Google doing its semi-reliable translation, it’s something about being serious, and being able to look back about doing stuff not too seriously, or possibly wasting time by being boring, I’m not entirely sure – the video implies just plain dissatisfaction with a repetitive life, so let’s go with that.

Tom: “Perdi tempo” is “lost time”, so yes; it’s along those lines.

Tim: What I am sure about is that it’s a really rather enjoyable track – a bit more melancholy than often I’d like to listen to, but it certainly does what it’s trying to do in a very listenable manner, so good work all.

Tom: I found my foot was tapping half way through the first listen, which is always a good sign: but I found myself waiting for a Big Chorus that never really came. The producers, I reckon, should have kicked that chorus up one more notch; right now, there just isn’t enough to set it apart and the whole song seems to plod a bit more than it should.

Tim: I won’t disagree with you – like I said, more melancholy that I’d like – but for the track it wants to be it’s about right. I’d say it’s a shame she’s never broken out outside Italy, but let’s face it that’ll never happen unless she drops the Italian, and when its doing so well for her, why bother?

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Elin Bergman – Gasoline Dream

Tim: Formerly of Swedish Idol, Elin’s here with her second single.

Tom: That’s one of the best introductions I’ve heard for a while. And with a voice that sounds a bit like Ellie Goulding, it’s promising. It’s just… well, it keeps changing on me.

Tim: And I reckon that can very much be compared to a staircase in terms of enjoyability – many songs segue gently from once place to another, whereas here we seem to have very defined sections, at least for the first two thirds of it. Opening with just the quiet undertones is to be honest a bit dull; the first ‘gasoline dream’ builds up and immediately hits a new level. Trumpets are IN, and we’re up again, before going right back down for the second time around.

Tom: Mm. And it spoils it for me – plus, that trumpet sample is dire. There are a couple of good tracks in here, and a couple of very dodgy ones, but they never work together. What do you reckon?

Tim: I’ll be honest: I find that a significant flaw. I said for the first two thirds of it, and that’s true. Come the end of the middle eight, everything piles in together and it’s good and enjoyable and it all flows nicely – so I don’t get why the disjointedness at the start. Sure, there are individual good bits, but as a whole it’s more than a little ugly.

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Tove Ask – By Myself

Tim: We’ve had Tove Lo, from Sweden, and we’ve had Tove Styrke, also from Sweden (who incidentally recently put out a video for the brilliant Timebomb). Now we have Tove Ask – would you believe it, she’s also from Sweden. Here’s a video, in which she plays at least three miniature instruments.

Tom: I was not expecting that voice from that face! That’s really good.

Tim: So here’s a philosophical quandary: are you actually ‘by yourself’ if you’re with an identical copy of yourself? Linguistically I suppose technically not, unless you’re standing next to each other, but as a concept equivalent to being on your own, well that could potentially raise an interesting point.

Tom: The real quandary is what happens if you’re with an identical copy of yourself on top of a high cliff, and you’re sick of them constantly swearing, so you push them off the cliff. That’s obviously illegal, but is it murder, or are you just making an obscene clone fall?

Tim: Yes, well, we’re not philosophers (or, it would seem, comedians), so we won’t be banging on about that for ages and boring people.

Tom: OBSCENE CLONE FALL, TIM.

Tim: Yes, I saw that, and I will slap you. Let’s do the music, shall we?

It comes across as a bit of a mishmash, especially in the chorus, but not really in a bad way. The main issue I have is that there are at least two dominant backing elements – the eight-bit-sounding sampling and the synth that hits after the first line of each chorus.

Tom: Full marks for saying “eight-bit-sounding”, because “eight-bit” is pretty just a synonym for “chiptune” these days and they’re different, damn it. I do like both of them, though.

Tim: Oh yes, they’re both good – but also unusual enough that they demand the attention of the listener, and everything else either gets forgotten about or just plain drowned, and I’m really not sure that that’s a good thing. Fairly enjoyable, mind, although I’m not really sure which bits of it I’m meant to enjoy.

Tom: Agreed: it’s an odd thing that’s perhaps less than the sum of its parts, but I think that’s down to the production rather than anything wrong with the performer or composition. Still good, though.

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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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