“It’s Whigfield! With some incredibly distracting dancers!”
Tim: It’s Whigfield! With some incredibly distracting dancers!
Tom: Wait, that actually is Whigfield! Singing… well, let’s just say that Damon Albarn might be wondering if he’s got a case about that chorus.
Tim: Ideally, in most cases, the singer’s the one we should be looking at – sure, sometimes there are exceptions, if they’re really there to make something of the choreography. But here, although I’m certain they’re not meant to be so distracting – there’s that one guy, front and centre when they’re all sitting down, standing directly behind her in that second chorus, and taking attention on the right at the close. I don’t know why (no, it’s not because of that), but he seems to steal it every time he’s there. Just me?
Tom: Just you, mate. But the fact you haven’t written a word about the (sadly, fairly dull) song says a lot.
“A combination of familiarity and novelty is generally what sells pop music.”
Tim: I do like it, Tom, when very good looking people turn out to also be very good at making music. Today it’s the turn of Birgir Steinn Stefánsson, whose previous track we both largely liked. Quick heads up: the sound quality on the YouTube clip is somewhat atrocious, so if you’ve got access to a streaming service of some sort, you might want to use that instead.
Tim: The main criticism we had previously was that it sounded slightly derivative of other tracks; this one doesn’t have that problem remotely as much.
Tom: A combination of familiarity and novelty is generally what sells pop music, and I still reckon there’s a lot of familiarity here. You can trace the elements here back to all over the last ten years, but they’re pulled together well.
Tim: But this did give me the most obscure ‘sounds like’ I think I’ve ever had, with a ‘GAH, what I do want that to spin off into’ in the run up to the chorus. Took me a good ten minutes to work it out, but it was in fact the 2012 Belarusian entry to Eurovision. Third from bottom in its semi-final, but I quite liked it.
Tim: BUT ANYWAY, this song. Takes a while to get there, but boy when it does, that second chorus is a blinder, as is pretty much everything that follows it; listening a second time, that first chorus stuck out at me more than it had done previously as well. All in all, lovely stuff.
Tom: And a note for having a Proper Ending as well. It stays exactly as long as it should, no less, no more. That’s underrated.
Tim: New discovery: about two and a half years ago, Smith & Thell removed roughly everything they had every done from the internet, and indeed elsewhere: YouTube videos and SoundCloud tracks all gone, no songs on Spotify or up for purchase, anywhere. All gone, completely.
Tom: Well, that’s bold. Dramatic PR stunt, getting angry with old work, or a Big Massive Change In Direction?
Tim: Big Massive Change In Direction: from dancey numbers like Kill It With Love (still up unofficially in dodgy quality on Vimeo if you want to remind yourself) to more boring standard guitar stuff. So it’s slightly understandable – forget the past, we don’t do that any more – until you realise that actually, their new track is very much closer to the old stuff.
Tom: You’re not wrong there.
Tim: In fact, what we’ve got is a really, really good blend of the two styles, with a U2-esque beginning, and continuing undercurrent, of guitars and drums and standard band-style singing, which then quickly adds on some synths and develops eventually full-blown dance banger territory for the second chorus and what follows. And I absolutely love that idea.
Tom: It does, but there’s something wrong with the production here, or at least in the version that’s been sent up to YouTube. Everything’s been gated so loudly that it’s difficult to make out the vocals: there’s no headroom anywhere in there. There’s a really great vocal quality hidden in there, but it’s been pushed so loud and limited so heavily that it’s almost painful to listen to at times.
Tom: Yes, I’m complaining about the ‘loudness war’, but it’s rare to actually make such a difference. Either that or my ears are blocked.
Tim: Well, I kind of get what going for (and it’s not YouTube, the studio version’s the same), but I don’t find it a problem. The two styles are blended together so so well, and it’s a track I can listen to many times over, particularly once you add the great “luh-luh-luh-love me” bit in that pre-chorus which I find a particular highlight. And that higher melody in the middle eight? Also great. In fact it’s ALL GREAT. So please, don’t delete this.
Tim: Again, the wrong option you’ve jumped in with. No, it’s a new song, and to find out more you can just read the video.
Tom: Well, that’s a really irritating video.
Tim: It is slightly distracting, yes, as I was paying so much attention to reading their story that I had to go back to remind myself what the track was like.
Tom: Yep, background tab right away.
Tim: Fortunately, re-listening didn’t bother me so much because it’s a damn good track that I’ll happily listen to multiple times. The sound is good from the start, it brings a great happy message (‘let it rain, let it rain, let it rain, before you know it you’ll be dry again’ is a lovely lyric).
Tom: I’m not sure it’s enough, really, but it’s… well, it’s inoffensive. I’ll admit I felt unsatisfied by the ending: despite there being one additional vocal line, that last chorus feels about the same as the first one. Just when it feels like the track might be going somewhere, it stops dead. It didn’t need another chorus, it just needed a bigger final one.
Tim: You might be right there, I suppose, but all in all it just seems…nice. And right now, I’ll take that.
Tim: Lots of things have Official Songs, particularly sport tournaments.
Tom: Augh, we’re not doing the Big Horrible Corporate-Sponsored World Cup Song, are we?
Tim: What, with its lyric that is literally just Coca-Cola’s advertising strapline?no, no we’re not. Instead, right now it’s the turn of the 2018 World Table Tennis Championship.
Tom: Never mind.
Tim: It kicks off in a couple of weeks in Helmstad in Sweden, and here’s the song, with a lot of things to like about it.
Tom: Huh. Bluegrass fiddle. That is not something you usually hear in pop music. Neither is that vocal quality, and to be fair, neither’s that key change.
Tim: No, and yet I think we’d all benefit if that situation changed. I heard it on my standard New Music Friday playlist when I was in the shower, and got out just a few seconds before the key change came along, and suddenly my day was all set to be happy and fun. The strings leapt back in, Helene’s vocal and upbeat lyrics returned, and the whole thing just put me in a really, really good mood. Obviously I played it again, and could hear the rest of the song properly (particularly that fantastic middle eight), and yep – it’s made me feel really, really great.
Tom: It’s genuinely lovely, isn’t it? It’s not going to light up the world any time soon, but it’s actually got a really good balance between regular pop structures, interesting new things, and good composition, performance and production.
Tim: In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard a song that’s had this effect on me in quite some time, maybe not since I first heard voXXclub a few months back. I love it.
“That’s… actually pretty original as song concepts go.“
Tim: Last seen around here being my favourite finalist of Melodifestivalen 2016, but now Oscar’s back from the hairdresser’s and all singing in Swedish.
Tom: I love titles that I can translate by just reading them out loud.
Tim: You can probably guess the title yourself, though the rest of song’s slightly in reverse – kind of a “what are we waiting for, it’s been ages, just kiss me, but slowly so it’s nice and sensual and all that.”
Tom: That’s… actually pretty original as song concepts go.
Tim: A fair mix of pressure and romance, which sums up the song as well really, as we’ve a gentle and somewhat soulful verse combined with a heftier almost dance-y chorus, which I’d say works well enough – he certainly has the vocal skills to pull it off.
Tom: I’m less sure about what appears to be a synth imitating a motorbike in the background, and I reckon that middle eight changes the style in an odd way that doesn’t really fit in. But yes, there’s nothing actually wrong here.
Tim: The production and melody are all good as well, so it’s all pretty great, really. Nice one.
“Gold-painted boobs on his jacket, but I’ll overlook that.”
Tim: One of the things I like about watching the various selection shows live is the communal experience that Twitter provides – in fact, one of my proudest moments is still when I drunkenly yelled at Portuguese broadcaster RTP asking what their official hashtag was so I could join in. The drawback, on the other hand, is that I typically come up with a quick one liner but have nothing else to say. This may be quite a short post, then, but for this, from Spain: “Slytherin’s entry to a Hogwarts Battle of the Bands.”
Tim: I stand by that, mind, for a variety of reasons: there are green lights, they’ve got Proper Instruments, and the song’s not particularly brilliant.
Tom: Wait, what? I think this is my favourite Reject so far this year. It’s got a horn section! It’s got a lovely melody! It’s got a competent live singer, too, who admittedly appears to be wearing gold-painted boobs on his jacket, but I’ll overlook that.
Tim: Oh, all of that’s true – it’s certainly very enjoyable, and I suppose I may have come across as a bit harsh earlier. It also got a hell of a reaction from the audience, which counts for a lot – though it did very poorly in the televote.
Tom: Admittedly it’s also pretty unoriginal. There’s nothing actually ripped off here, as far as I can tell, but I’ll bet you can find that chord progression in a lot of places; basically, this sounds like a lot of old indie-pop songs that I like, so therefore I also like it.
Tim: There’s also a dedication to frequently being as loud as possible, right down to shouting the last chorus line which is actually about whispering his secrets to the song’s target (presumably his girlfriend Amaia, who you’ll recall we met last week). Obviously this would entirely not do well at Eurovision – unless you’re Lordi, actual bands are Not A Good Idea – but it’s not a bad entry, and since Alfred ended up as part of the winning duo, no-one’s really lost out.
Tom: You’re right that it probably wouldn’t do well at Eurovision, which I think is a shame. I’d have given it full marks.
Tim: Nice quick Friday dance number for you, and there’s a lyric in the chorus here that’s a nice cross between quite weird and pretty good.
Tom: “Doing our thing like Yoko Ono.” Well, yep, that is certainly an interesting lyric.
Tim: Hard to know whether ‘our thing’ involves breaking up bands or living with deep and strongphilosophies, but I’m hoping it’s the latter because that’s a lot more pleasant, and a bit more inspirational as well. Take that thought, and then just a few seconds later dance all over the place inspired by it, because this is a good song to dance to.
Tom: I think I’ve gotten numb to dance tracks lately. This is another one where I just go “yep, that’s a dance track” and then move on. What is there to say?
Tim: Nice combination between good beat and strong melody, and while it would of course be improved as a straight dance track if the beat kept up underneath at least the second verse, I guess that’s what remixes are for. It’s nice, and I like it.
Tom: Okay, yes, there is that to say. It does its job. Maybe I just need to listen to something different for a while, and then come back, but right now I’d love a dance track to something interesting, different and — crucially — uplifting. It’s just not happening right now.
“Apparently I’ve got literally nothing to say about this.”
Tim: This Swedish dance outfit’s most recent track, One Nation Under Lasers, released a few days ago, got sent in to us yesterday, but it’s a bit noisy and not very pleasant. This previous one, though, just a few weeks old so still nice and relevant, is quite a bit nicer.
Tom: Nicer, or just… well, it turns out I don’t actually have any adjectives that sum up “I literally can’t remember any of this after it finished”.
Tim: Oh, Well, I say quite a bit nicer for two reasons: firstly, there’s the existence of a vocal, which not only here has a great tune to it but also serves to take attention away from the slightly less great underlying synth line. For me, that might be a bit too heavy otherwise, as that’s certainly my problem with the vocal-less follow-up. Here, though, we’ve got that chorus, with its simple but lovely melody, to keep the focus.
Secondly, of course, there’s the video, which has a more interesting narrative than part two, viewable at the above link.
Tom: I’m just not sold. Maybe it’s that I was distracted watching the video — but it also says a lot that I wasn’t really watching the narrative, just trying to work out how the animators made the shadows move properly. I… yeah, apparently I’ve got literally nothing to say about this.
Tim: Upsettingly, that second part still doesn’t explain where the green guy came from – maybe that’ll be an exciting revelation in part three, and I’m hoping it’ll be something nicer than just a big bogey that was stuck in the wine.
Tim: Question: if you’re dropping f-bombs fairly prominently in the chorus, and making no attempt to hide them, is there actually any point whatsoever in censoring them in the lyric video? Seeb has chosen to find out.
Tim: Sure, you could argue that it means you don’t have to slightly redo it if you ever wanted to put out a version with edited audio, but why not just do that to start with?
Tom: I’d say ‘money’, but honestly, it doesn’t really doesn’t take much effort by a motion graphics designer to change out one word. Although, they would be changing it in a lot of places.
Tim: It’s a pity, really, because that line could work perfectly with a ‘hell’ or a ‘damn’ or even just using a longer ‘I’ sound, but oh well, it’s done now. Nice dance track, mind, despite that, with a memorable hook and, I suppose, lyrics. Good production, good vocals – all well done, really.
Tom: Yep, it’s a competent middle-of-the-playlist dance track that does exactly what it’s supposed to. Not spectacular, but not terrible either.