Zedd, Elley Duhé – Happy Now

“Plinky xylophone not-quite-tropical synths.”

Tom: This song’s been around for ages, but they’ve just released a new video, so that’s good enough for me to feature it here. Yesterday we talked about a song that didn’t reach its full potential, and I think this is the same — but I’m worried that, both here and yesterday, “full potential” just means “not enough bass”.

Tom: Because that vocal chorus is so incredibly good, even down the 80s-style synth vocoder. And then just as you’re preparing for a big chorus, you get… plinky xylophone not-quite-tropical synths. It’s like a kid’s toybox suddenly got a “half-arsed remix” button.

Tim: I know exactly what you mean, and you’re not wrong – that did seem like a sudden anti-climax. On the other hand, it’s there as a style, and people like it a lot.

Tom: I know, this is what Zedd does sometimes, and I know, this song is astonishingly popular. But you know what? I think it needs to be more like Hourglass, which is still my favourite track off Clarity.

Tim: ‘Needs’ is a strong word there, even though I agree with the sentiment. It’s fine as it is – though I too would like more.

Tom: Maybe it didn’t reach its full potential. Or maybe I just like different things.

Tim: Crazy, this subjectivity thing, isn’t it?

Elina – Here With Me

“Here’s a song that doesn’t live up to its potential.”

Tim: So you’re not disappointed when what could happen doesn’t: here’s a song that doesn’t live up to its potential.

Tim: I mean listen to it. The vocal’s great, the backing’s nice, throughout the first verse I’m sitting wondering what’s going to happen in the chorus. The pre-chorus comes along, we get a little extra in the backing, and then her voice ramps up a bit..and then 30 seconds later I’m thinking ‘so, wait, that was the chorus?’. I don’t want to be thinking that.

Tom: I had exactly the same reaction. I did not realise we’d even reached the chorus. And there’s nothing wrong with having a quiet ballad, it’s just that — based on prior expectations — this sounds like it’s going to grow into something bigger.

Once you manage those expectations, sure, it’s a decent quiet song with a bad sound mix. Those clicks from the piano keys and the overly-stereo effect aren’t helping its case.

Tim: I want to be thinking that this is our next Rachel Platten, that it comes with a chorus that is enormous, that leaves me stunned and desperate for more. I don’t want this. I’m upset, dammit.

Beatrice Egli – Was geht ab

“I’m distracted enough by that corset that I’m finding it difficult to complain.”

Tim: So I have a friend at work who is absolutely convinced that She-Wolf by Shakira will go down in history as one of the most under-appreciated tracks of all time, and that twenty years from now it will be treated with as much reverence as classics like Imagine and Hallelujah.

Tom: He’s wrong.

Tim: I, and everybody else, think he’s off his nut, but he won’t listen to reason. Anyway, here, in an attempt to resolve your musical boredom, is seemingly what you get when a German schlager artist tries to do Latin pop.

Tom: I mean, the intro is very Cheap Thrills, but frankly I’m distracted enough by that corset that I’m finding it difficult to complain.

Tim: There’s not a huge amount of depth in the lyrics – it’s basically a case of “I’m feeling proper raunchy right now, so we’re going to have sex”, which fits the genre perfectly well enough.

Musically it gets off a great start – diving in with the chorus is a good choice here, and overall I think it keeps it up.

Tom: I’ll grant you, Tim, I’m not bored, but I think that’s mostly due to– yep, I just put it in a background tab and there’s really not much left here. It’s a solid middle-of-the-playlist dance-pop song.

Tim: I’m not sure Latin schlager works entirely as a sub-genre, but I’ll take it as a bit of fun.

Shirley Clamp – Självklart

“There’s not a lot to say about it, beyond: it’s lovely.”

Tom: BORED, Tim. I’ve been BORED of pop music lately. It’s all the same. And I realise this seems a bit like the start of Flash Gordon, but: what’ve got you for me this time?

Tim: Hmm, a fair amount of pressure you’ve laid on me there, but I’ve got this, from the queen of Christmas herself. A nice jolly track; song title translates as Obvious, and I’ve no idea about the rest of the words.

Tom: If there was a button marked HOT HAIL in front of me, I’d be pushing it. (That is not a compliment.) Most of the lines in the verse are just going between the same two notes, up and down. The chorus just seems to plod along. And for a singer with, as I recall, a pretty damn good voice, there’s really not much here that couldn’t be done by any session singer.

Tim: Off, blimey, that’s harsh. So harsh. I’ve been sitting here for quite some time now trying to think what to write about it, and now I’m not really sure what to write. If, indeed, to write anything. Because there’s not a lot to say about it, beyond: it’s lovely. Moves quickly, lightly, almost deftly if a song can be described like that, and sounds happy, playful and somewhat joyous.


Tim: Mate, you’re not in a great place right now, are you?

SYML x Sam Feldt – Where’s My Love (Sam Feldt Edit)

“What’s the point of chilled house?”

Tim: Last year American singer SYML released Where’s My Love – decent enough with some nice piano and aaaahhhh-ing in the background, but nothing particularly worthy of comment (unless you count the horribly depressing video). Now, though, Dutch DJ Sam Feldt has had a go at it, and…well, it has a happier video, for starters.

Tom: About a minute into this, I actually said the word “BORED” out loud. I did perk up at that “Did you run away / did you run away” lyric — it actually did something interesting with the chord progression! — but blimey, that didn’t last long. Why do you reckon this is better than the original, then?

Tim: Because it’s BANGING, or at least it certainly is compared to the original. I found it when I was setting up my amazing new wall lights, and it was a bit late so I wanted music with a decent beat but not too loud so I looked up a Chilled House playlist, and this came right on. I know there are a lot of people (in fact, Tom, I think you’ve mentioned here before) that don’t get the point of relaxing dance music – after all, the point of dance music is hat you’re able to, well, dance to it, with big, heavy, thumping beats.

Tom: Right! What’s the point of chilled house? It just ends up sounding like someone’s trying to have a party next to a funeral.

Tim: I’d argue, though, that this very much has its place – lying on a sofa reading a book, or relaxing out in the sun, and you want music to listen to and you like the genre but don’t want Pendulum rammed through your brain. For those scenarios, it’s great. And so’s this track.

Saturday Flashback: Interactive – Forever Young

“I’m fairly sure even I dance better than that.”

Tim: Remember a few days ago, when I said that it was sad that John De Sohn didn’t give us a dance version of this song? Well, guess what I’ve found! I said when we covered the One Direction version that it sounded exactly like you’d expect a One Direction cover of it to sound like; Interactive were a German dance group active in the mid-nineties.

Tom: And, you’ll probably not be surprised to learn, I know this track well.

Tom: …or, apparently, I don’t, because apparently I’ve always heard a remix of this that added a Proper Thumping Techno Bass. That was confusing.

Tim: Confusing perhaps, but also FABULOUS. It has everything you need in there, and nothing you don’t need. Sure, it’s a bit disappointing that at the start you get just a few syllables before cutting off to a seemingly unrelated dance tune, but aside from that I love this.

Tom: Full marks for the music video just being whatever dancers they could get in front of a green-screen, though. Are any of them actually the vocalist? No idea, don’t care.

Tim: Doesn’t matter in the slightest. And since you mention them, I am ALL HERE for the Greg James look-a-like in the red shirt, because I’m fairly sure even I dance better than that. As I write this, I have a bajillion and one things I need to do, and I was feeling a bit lazy, but this has got me RIGHT GOING. Put me in a club, get this on the speakers, and I’ll be ON THAT FLOOR, because with this track in mind, we can be whatever we want to be. We can, basically, absolutely be forever young.

Magnus Carlsson – Slow Motion

“It just doesn’t seem right, you know?”

Tim: It’s a new one off Magnus Carlsson!

Tom: Brilliant!

Tim: And it’s in English.

Tom: That’s a pleasant surprise!

Tim: And really really doesn’t sound like his usual stuff…

Tom: Oh.

Tim: He’s got all modern, although it’s possibly a 2015 version of modern, but not to worry, because it is still sounding great. Fast (somewhat ironically, given the title), synthy, upbeat, energetic and…and dammit it upsets me there isn’t a key change there.

Tom: The song is a bit… well, Generic Modern Pop, isn’t it? There’s nothing actually wrong there, but that was a nice little niche he had carved out for himself. There’s a bit too much novelty here, and a bit more familiarity would come in handy.

Tim: Right? Take a key change, for example. It would sound lovely, and much as I do enjoy the track, and appreciate what Magnus is doing, I still feel that, in these turbulent times, we should have one constant in our lives to look to, and that one constant should be Magnus Carlsson putting out incredible schlager tracks. Sure, we’ve got old German men doing it, but Magnus…Magnus is the king of it.

Tom: Instead, we have a track that could have pretty much any vocalist and sound much the same.

Tim: Don’t get me wrong – if this was any other artist here, I may well love this. But from Magnus, it just doesn’t seem right, you know?

Bernhard Brink – Mit dem Herz durch die Wand

“Only in Germany.”

Tim: It’s a tale as old as time.

Tom: Beauty and the Beast?

Tim: Slightly different one – the relationship is forbidden, but the love is just too strong. Will it end in accidental mutual suicide this time? SPOILER: no, no it won’t.

Tom: Not Beauty and the Beast, then.

Tim: You know, if that last bit is the clue that makes you realise that, you really ought to rewatch the film…

Tom: GOOD NEWS: I could sort-of sing the chorus after one listen! BAD NEWS: I was singing it in a Vic Reeves Club Singer style.

Tim: What I so love about the German pop industry is that, unlike any other in the world that I’m aware of, it positively encourages throaty old men to abandon their roots and jump into dance music.

Tom: And schlager dance music as well! Where on earth is that still being seriously published?

Tim: Only in Germany. Take Bernhard – he’s been going over forty years, his debut release was a jaunty folk number, but now here he is at the age of 66 pumping out dance bangers like there’s no tomorrow and getting to number 14 in the charts with them. Accompanying him he’s got Matthias Reim, Alf, Nik P. (Austrian, but still), all of whom we’ve covered before, and so many others, and I absolutely adore that.

Tom: It is a bit of a shame about the video, because I honestly can’t tell whether that’s meant to be a father-daughter relationship or a May-September relationship and frankly that’s just a bit creepy. But yes, keeping careers alive with schlager is just lovely.

Tim: I also adore this track, because it’s everything I want it to be: a dance background that’s verging on euphoric, that vocal style that, whatever anyone outside Germany thinks, works so well, and then that key change at the end to emphasise just how strong the love is and how inseparable they are, sod the forbiddenness of it all.

Tom: Agree about the key change, still a bit creeped out by the vocals.

Tim: It’s just great: the track, and the fact that it’s encouraged to exist.

John De Sohn feat. Liamoo – Forever Young

“I have a feeling it’d be one of those songs where the best bit is the middle eight.”

Tim: Sadly, this isn’t a dance version of the One Direction classic; nonetheless I think you’ll like it.

Tom: You made my eyelid twitch slightly there, Tim. Well done.

Tim: You think I’m joking, but I do listen to that version way more than is probably healthy.

Tim: I’m sure I’ll get bored of moaning about it eventually, but I’m still not enjoying the habit of cutting off the song before a middle eight comes along.

Tom: There’s probably some thoughts to be had there about reducing attention spans, about the requirement of always-on streaming where your audience can’t get bored, about the slow death of the album… or it might just be fashion these days. I can’t say I like it either, though.

Tim: Sure, we shouldn’t necessarily keep doing things just because they’re traditional, but they’ve always provided opportunity for messing around a bit, getting a little bit more creative, or revealing that the target of the song is also a teenage dirtbag. Abandoning that makes the songs that much less interesting, and it is a shame, particularly when the rest of the song is as good as it is.

Tom: Is it really, though? That chorus is basically just going up and down scales. It’s not bad, but I have a feeling it’d be one of those songs where the best bit is the middle eight.

Tim: And yet we’ll never know. I want to hear more, I want to see what else is possible, because the track’s great – it’s just too short.

Birgir – Glorious

“Tubular bells! I think they actually used tubular bells there!”

Tim: Bit of pressure laid on the song from the title here; see what you think.

Tim: Let’s be honest, it’s never going to beat Andreas Johnson.

Tim: It’ll probably beat Cascada, though.

Tim: And the main word I would use there is ‘pleasant’.

Tom: Tubular bells! I think they actually used tubular bells there! That’s basically going all-in, these days.

Tim: Aren’t they lovely? It’s nice to hear, the unambiguity of the message is quite sweet, and the chord progression on the titular ‘glorious’ is pleasing to my ears at least – however many times it’s repeated I’m fine with it.

Tom: I’m… not, really. Sure, it gets into your head, and at least a repeated word is less irritating than a repeated line, but I’m not sold.

Tim: Really? Because as I see it, the post-chorus melody is good, the middle eight works well (again, whoever came up with those tubular bells in is a genius), and the big shouting towards the end just reinforces everything. The only extra thing I’d ask this for is a big climactic final note, rather than the sudden drop-off we get. Other than that: lovely.