Samir & Viktor – Groupie

Tim: This isn’t necessarily one of the best songs we saw at the final, but I’d like to write about it, primarily because I want to see your reaction when I tell you that this duo consists of a reality TV star and a fashion blogger, and the performance involves liberal use of selfie sticks.

Tom: I’ll allow it if they live-stream video from the cameras on the end of the selfie sticks.

Tom: Oh, they did! Well done.

Tim: BUT, you’ll be pleased to know that despite the mentions, the song is not about the virtues of taking a selfie; more about the importance of discarding those in favour of ‘groupies’, so that’s alright then.

Tom: Groupies“? Really? Is that deliberate? It… it must be deliberate. Surely?

Tim: I would imagine so, yes – presumably intended as some sort of hilarious pun, as indicated with the repeated chorus at the end: “stand up, take out your cameras, stand up, we’ll be taking a groupie tonight”.

Tom: Good luck with that, you’ll need it. But despite their poor choice of wording: I feel like this song is already dated. I feel like this song could have come out last year, and it’d still sound dated. It’s like this horrible song about AOL Instant Messenger.

Tim: I started listening, then quickly thought it couldn’t get worse than all that giggling ten seconds in. Boy, was I wrong.

This, though: yes, it may get dated quicker than a pint of milk left in a sauna, but it’s basically about having a lot of fun with your mates, and with all the bright lights and colourful blocks it was a brilliant opening to the final.

Tom: Yes: as a way to get a crowd, and an audience at home, excited — I can see it working. But I’m glad that’s as far as it went.

Tim: I suppose it’s a bit like John Barrowman’s opening of Tonight’s The Night, really, except actually listenable.

Tom: That’s the second terrible Barrowman Comparison you’ve done on this site.

Tim: Hahaha, somehow I’d forgotten about that. LOVELY.

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Isa – Don’t Stop

Tim: Right then – the Melodifestivalen final review continues, and here’s one of the two songs the UK jury thought was better than Heroes but overall placed just seventh:

Tim: Oh, hang on – wrong video, sorry. Here you go:

Tim: So, with the obligatory, unavoidable and entirely fair comparison out of the way, how does this stand up on its own? Still pretty brilliantly, I think.

Tom: It does, although now you’ve pointed the comparison out I do hear it more than I should. But if it’s taking its cues from one of the greatest closing numbers in Broadway history… well, it could do a lot worse.

Tim: Energetic is the key word, I’d say – a big beat reinforced by the massive speakers on stage, more spark gun usage than in the rest of the competition combined, backing dancers who look like they’re doing aerobics and, of course, the instruction not to stop coming at us a full 64 times.

Tom: Either you actually counted that, which is impressive, or you’re trusting that I won’t bother to double-check, which is… well, it’s correct.

Tim: Bit of both, really, as I think I may have lost count towards the end. However many it is, though, it certainly gets the message across, and I really do like it a lot.

Tom: Yes, but I’m stunned the UK jury voted it above Heroes. It’s good, it may well have deserved to be in the final — but what were they thinking?

Tim: No idea, but, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to shake and shimmy it the best that I can.

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Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes

Tim: Two nights ago, I got a tad intoxicated as Sweden put on the strongest Melodifestivalen final I can remember, so I think it’s only fair we dedicate a week to it, and let’s start with the winner.

Tom: Now, normally I stay away from hearing Eurovision songs until the actual contest itself — I’m assuming there’s something particularly special about this year’s?

Tim: Well, last year saw the closest win in the show’s history; this year, we had the biggest win, with Måns taking over a third of the televotes and top marks from 11 of the 13 international juries.

Tim: And that there is a potential Eurovision winner. A fantastic song, sung by a good-looking guy with a great voice, and what I think is the most novel staging I’ve ever seen.

Tom: Oh my stars, the Melodifestivalen crew have discovered projection mapping. That is incredibly difficult to pull off live – it won’t have looked nearly as good in person, but that doesn’t matter one bit.

Tim: The perfect syncing is impressive in itself, and anybody even slightly tipsy might find it hard not to get emotional at the friendship on display. Slight shame his trousers are too tight for him to put his light back in his pocket, but I guess we can’t have everything, and the quite frankly “how the hell did that happen???” camera shot starting at 2:25 makes up for it as far as I’m concerned.

Tom: And let’s actually talk about the music here: that sounds like a good Robbie Williams track. Maybe not a “Let Me Entertain You”, but certainly at least a “Bodies”. You’re right: it might just be a winner.

Tim: In fact, as far as I’m concerned right now, we really are the HEROES OF OUR TIME, and I’ll be amazed if this doesn’t do brilliantly in Vienna.

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Saturday Reject: Kalle Johansson – För Din Skull

Tim: This here is a guy who won a Swedish radio competition, Svensktoppen Nästa, to get onto Melodifestivalen, and in the tradition of all such winners, was likely to come dead last. So it was a pleasant surprise when he actually only came 6th with this, translating to For Your Sake.

Tim: And I’ll tell you the problem with this: he looks like he’s on Glee.

Tom: Oh my, he really does. The stares into the camera, the happy walk through the crowd. The jump as he comes out of the middle eight.

Tim: And that is quite the jump – it’s all there. It also doesn’t help that he bears more than a passing resemblance to evil competing singer Grant Gustin, but all combined together it’s really the enthusiasm that makes it – obviously it’s necessary with any major-key performance, but he comes across less as “this is great, join in!” than “OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M HERE”.

Thing is, it’s a very good song – they’re giving it everything with the lights and the glitter and the backing band–

Tom: Speaking of which, are his backing band in fast forward or something? It’s like they’re being played back in the wrong speed.

Tim: They do look a bit sped up, don’t they? Huh. And the song’s also co-written by the ten-trips-to-Eurovision Thomas G:son, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with his voice.

Tom: I think it’d be a solid middle of the table at Eurovision: there’s nothing to make it stand out, but it is at least a good song.

Tim: Harsh as this may sound, I can’t help feeling that a more experienced singer might have done very well with this; I do hope he doesn’t get discouraged by this, though, because there’s a lot of future potential.

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Madeon – Home

Tim: Madeon’s releasing his first album in a few weeks’ time; here’s the new track from it.

Tom: It’s been a long time coming, but the tracks he’s released in the past have generally been good. This one…

Tom: …is pretty much exactly what I expected.

Tim: It always feels like I’m doing an artist a disservice if I ever say “don’t get bored, wait for it”, which is why I didn’t earlier; typically it’d imply that the verse is dull but the chorus more or less makes up for it. Here, though, well, yes, the first verse can get a bit tedious once you’ve got over the pleasant-but-not-all-that-interesting bottom line, especially if you’re not a fan of his vocals, but the chorus made me sit up and really go “whoa” and remember who I was listening to.

Tom: Yep. Same reaction here.

Tim: After that, sure, there was the obligatory dip for the second verse, but that was kept nice and short and then it’s hefty and hard-hitting all the way from two minutes onwards, with a by and large very good track.

Tom: It’s… well, yes, it’s not bad at all. I’m going to do my standard complaint about overcompression here, though: this is full-on wall of noise, and you can actually hear every other instrument dip when there are big percussion hits. Normally that doesn’t bug me, but here the effect’s been dialled up so high that, for me at least, it’s a little bit tiring to listen to. But yes: the track itself does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

Tim: So let’s have that album, please.

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Dream Lake – World of Dreams

Tim: 100 Songs, a reliably excellent label, having previously brought us such wonders as Amazing and Wasting Water (which incidentally I remembered this morning and listened to it a full twelve times, because I’d forgotten how incredible it is), seem to have been a bit more successful than they originally predicted; here’s number 106.

Tom: Oh, that introduction is wonderful. The track isn’t the typical kind of thing I listen to, mind, but that introduction was fantastic. After that…

Tim: Well, if you don’t remember Dream Lake, they’re the Swedish act you described as “soft and fluffy” last July; it’s tempting, and not particularly inaccurate, to say that they’ve found a formula and are very happy with it. I have no trouble with that, though, because I’m very happy with it too.

Tom: Yep, and I stand by that description. It’s not going to stand out for me, but it’s not going to annoy me either.

Tim: I tell you what this is: it’s background music. Sure, you can sit and pay attention to it, but you may find your mind wandering (or at least I did; apologies to the members of Dream Lake if I’ve inadvertently insulted their work). Instead, it’s music to listen to while you’re on other stuff, browsing the Twitter or something, there to brighten up an otherwise aurally dull room, and to create a wonderful surprise moment at 2:49.

Tom: Which is basically what happened to me.

Tim: Also a disappointing moment at 3:42, but another happy moment when you press the play button again.

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Bryan Rice – Beat Of My Own Drum

Tim: Danish bloke, presenting us with a pop/rock ballad of the slightly funked up variety. Interested?

Tom: Yes, but I’m still not convinced by this whole 2015-funk thing.

Tim: Me neither, but have a go anyway:

Tim: It has taken me a long time to get onboard the whole funk resurgence; I only recently started enjoying Uptown Funk, and the intro to this almost completely put me off it before it had had time to get going.

Tom: Yep: the slow parts on this are definitely slow. Middle eights are meant to be a good break, not a time to think “is this still going”? And that intro…

Tim: Indeed, but once that backing humming had gone away in preparation for a decent chorus, I became somewhat quite keen on it, and when said chorus finally arrived: actually rather enamoured.

Tom: Mm. I’m wary of writing this off immediately, because Uptown Funk took me a few listens to get the hang of. While there are certainly some good bits in here, I’m not sure that they make up for the slower, and — to be harsh — duller parts.

Tim: Hmm. I’m just about on the side of “yes they do”, and this’ll do me nicely, as a somewhat halfway gap between genres; similar, I suppose to how Still In Love With You attracted me as a halfway gap between swing and electro.

Tom: There’s much better electroswing out there, you know, if it’s now your thing. Is it?

Tim: Well, it was, until you showed me a particular video and now I can’t stop singing “waffely versatile“.

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Loreen – Paper Light (Higher)

Tim: New one off the Eurovision winner, unveiled just in time to be performed on Melodifestivalen’s Andra Chansen show, with one of the weirdest performances I’ve seen there. But here’s the proper version:

Tim: And…and I’m really not sure what I think of it.

Tom: I opened this in a background tab, and I’ll be honest: I couldn’t make out a single one of those lyrics until I actually looked at it. I genuinely didn’t think it was in English.

Tim: I’ve listened to it a good seven or eight times now, over the past few days, and still I’m having trouble forming an opinion; from that, I reckon I can derive two facts: I don’t hate it, and I don’t love it.

Tom: I’m not sure my brain recognises it as “pop music”. It’s verging into the experimental.

Tim: I think it’s the fact that it’s a fairly complex song – you’ve got your standard vocal, which is pretty good, over the light piano instrumental, also good. But then you’ve the chorus, which has the dance part to it, but also has that pitch-shifted vocal, which is where things become unsure for me. What do you reckon?

Tom: Ultimately, we’re a blog about Europop here, and I just can’t count it as being good pop. Musically, it may well be extremely interesting — but I don’t want to listen to it again, and that’s what I’ve got to score it on.

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Electro Velvet – Still In Love With You

Tim: WELL THEN. “Electroswing”, apparently. Obviously EVERYBODY watched that massive, big budget ten minute interview tucked away on the BBC Red Button channel, but let’s remind ourselves of the UK’s Eurovision entry for 2015.

Tim: So here it is: I really really like it.

Tom: And so do I. I was expecting you to be in the majority of folks disliking it, and me having to defend it, but no: we both like it.

Tim: Unusual? Yes – standard song structure has gone so far out of the window, that there’s no actual chorus.

Tom: But there is a hook at least, and here’s the reason I think it works: I was humming it after only one listen.

Tim: And surprising in parts? Very much, because where the hell did at that scat stuff come from?

Tom: Agreed. That bit is shameful — out of place, bizarre, and closing with a horrible spoken interjection that grates badly.

Tim: BUT fun and catchy? Absolutely. (Those are, by the way, the three words from that “programme”, if it can be called that, that aren’t either boring, irrelevant or total bollocks. “Electroswing’s a really popular genre at the moment.” Sorry, love, but I have LITERALLY never heard that word before in my life.)

Tom: Oh yes you have.

Tim: All of which I had forgotten, but fine: sorry, love, but I have LITERALLY only heard that word three times in my life. But enough with semantics.

I watched it on my phone on the way home from work (via the pub, but that’s not important), and my immediate reaction was: huh. Because while I’m not really sure what I was expecting, I sure as hell wasn’t expecting that, and yet (unlike just about every Eurovision fan I follow on Twitter) I really liked it.

Tom: Which could be good or bad: let’s not forget the French entry about a moustache last year: horrible on first listen, but popular among those who’d heard it a few times. Growers don’t work in Eurovision.

Tim: There are bad parts – the first visit to the Tron soundtrack grates somewhat, and, as previously mentioned, that bit where he goes all Scatman John is just aurally offensive.

Tom: And many of the lyrics are dreadful — but perhaps that matters less when most of the countries voting don’t have English as a first language.

Tim: Other than those bits, it’s by some distance our best entry since 2011, and I can count on one hand the number of entries in my lifetime that I’ve preferred.

Tom: It’s no Katrina and the Waves, but it’ll do.

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Saturday Reject: Andreas Kümmert – Heart of Stone

Tim: Well here’s a funny thing, because this really doesn’t deserve the title of Reject. Nonetheless, the song competed to represent Germany, and it isn’t going to, so it sort of fits (and there’s a performance video here, if you’d rather).

Tim: Pretty good track, right? Especially for just one guy singing with a band behind him. It’s more or less got everything, and it’s a lot better than his first one, where he just sat on a stool and sang so hard he almost fell off.

Tom: It really is good: I wasn’t surprised to learn that he won The Voice, because he’s got a ridiculous voice, and the kind of everyman appearance that’ll do very well there.

Tim: And then there’s the song: quiet start, big chorus, message in the lyrics that’s easily got across in one single chorus line – at the very least middle of the table, maybe top ten.

Tom: Yep. Given how bad Germany did with its wildcard entry last year, that’s a good choice.

Tim: The Germans certainly thought so, anyway, because after three rounds of voting and right down to the last two, he won the votes, and was duly announced as the winner. Audience cheered, everyone’s happy; well, everyone except the second placer, Ann Sophie. Except no, because he’s suddenly got cold feet about performing to the whole continent, and doesn’t want to do it any more, cue much booing from the audience.

Tom: Wait, what? He waited until… huh. You know, I’ve been in that situation before, Tim — let’s not go into the reasons right now — and I’ve got to say, choosing not to go would take a lot of courage too.

Tim: Suddenly representing Germany, Ann Sophie (as it happens, this year’s wildcard) who couldn’t quite believe what was happening.

I suppose it’s not all that different from the juries overriding the public vote, as happened with Ireland this year or Sweden in 2013, but at least there it’s built into the system. Here it was just “nope, I’m off, thanks for the opportunity, but SCREW YOU GUYS”.

Tom: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Perhaps he’s known that he didn’t want to perform at Eurovision for a long time, but assumed he wouldn’t win and so didn’t want to rock the boat. It’s a heck of a way to bow out, though.

Tim: And so, to people who ask me why on earth I bother watching all the national competitions: partly music, but also DRAMA (see also: Ireland 2014).

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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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