Tom: Yep, they’re trying to do a Take That. I don’t mean just ‘a comeback’ here — this is, like, their third comeback, and they’ve been in and out of the media ever since. Doing a Take That means actually putting out new, good, music that the fans want to hear as much as the old stuff. Take That only released Rule the World in 2006. Shine was 2009. The Flood was 2010. All of those deservedly belong on a greatest-hits album, and they were all part of the comeback.
So: the Backstreet Boys’ new track sounds…
Tom: …okay, I guess?
Tim: Yes, but more than that it sounds surprisingly modern. Take That was slightly contemporary, but largely what they’d done before. Here, it’s a like a brand new band. Just, kind of a shame I want to sing “I am not a stranger to the dark…” over that piano line.
Tim: “Amore Amore Amore, all stars explode with you; Amore Amore Amore, I can not exist without you.” That’s nice, isn’t it? Particularly when it comes with music like this.
Tom: Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that guitar in the background. This is half-way between pop song and football terrace chant. Fair play to him, he’s not actually doing anything wrong here.
Tim: And do you know what? Random thought, vaguely led because my sister’s just informed me she’s pregnant: I would LOVE to have this as a first dance at a wedding. Partly because of the lyrics, partly because it’d be a decent one to dance to in the expected fashion, but mostly just to see the expression on all the guests’ faces. You’ve got all your standards, with your Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing, your Amazed, your I Will Always Love You by people that haven’t properly listened to it…
Tom: And ‘Every Breath You Take’ for people who really haven’t listened to it.
Tim: …and my previous plan of All I Want For Christmas Is You, but dammit now I’m going for hefty German pop music, JUST BECAUSE I CAN. And if my future partner won’t go along with that, then let’s face it, the Whitney Houston one would probably be better suited to it.
“Alan in a room with a floating consciousness influencing him with invisible brainwaves.”
Tim: Easy intros first: Alan (producer) and Julie (female vocals) are both Swedish, and we’ve featured them before; Seungri (male vocals) is Korean, and we haven’t. Now, K391: a Norwegian ‘artist’, and I think it’s best if I quote from his website: “The artist called K-391 conceptualizes your musical getaway in the shape of a unique headset.”
Tom: You what.
Tim: Well, quite. It continues: “Instead of an actual person or group of people, K-391 is an innovative headset that is the living embodiment of its creator, functioning as a portal to another reality. When ignited, K-391 enables your escape from reality, with music as the vehicle and the destination only limited by your imagination.” Sounds a bit wanky, I know, but let’s listen to the music (and watch the demonstrative video) before judging him on that.
Tim: As with many tracks with multiple producers, I have no real idea who’s responsible for what – it’s entirely feasible that the K-391 construct provided the melody and Alan Walker provided the rave music, but equally I could be way, way off and it was Alan in a room with a floating consciousness influencing him with invisible brainwaves.
Tom: Or it could just be marketing junk. I’m going to assume that until proven otherwise.
Tim: Either way, they’ve come up with a perfectly serviceable dance track, with some excellent RAVE portions in it.
Tom: I swear I’ve heard that pre-chorus somewhere before, but yes, I suppose “perfectly serviceable” sums it up. It’s a little bit stock-music in places, but then when you have this many people (and, presumably, one artificial construct) working on a track, perhaps that’s always going to happen.
Tim: And, let’s face it, a video that does a good job of showing off exactly what they mean, and how music can help as a means of escapism. So however silly sounding their introduction is, I won’t begrudge anyone that. Nice work.
Tim: I mean obviously it’s not actually mentioned in the song, and whenever he’s asked he just says “no, it’s a song about flowers”, but if you look at the lyrics it’s bloody obvious, and he did tweet “#BopBoutBottoming” briefly before deleting it, and he previously described it as “the most subversively queer song on the album…almost like a little inside joke”, so basically draw your own conclusions.
Tom: I’m sure he’ll get along really well with Inner Circle, although I’m not sure they’ll promise to hold his hand.
Tim: It’s a lovely song, either way, with both the lyrics and music bringing that sense of vulnerability that most people can relate to, be it about that specific situation, or first times in general.
Tom: Is it, though? Those two-note verses aren’t really pleasant to listen to, and the chorus doesn’t have much more going for it. The weird whisper-echo in the middle eight grates like fingers on a blackboard for me. It’s got one chorus too many, too.
Tim: Oh, shame, because I’ve got none of those issues. The video I’ll go with as ‘mildly disconcerting’, because I know that’s not meant to look realistic or anything but it still creeps me out quite a bit – like, I know it’s your first time and all, but do you really need that much lube?
“Let’s talk, briefly, about what happened on Saturday night.”
Tim: Okay, so let’s talk, briefly, about what happened on Saturday night. I’m not talking about our result, because that’d lead to a wild and inaccurate chorus of ‘everybody hates us’, or about the stage invasion, because enough has been said about that elsewhere. Nor do I want to talk about the winner, which really just sounded like someone had raided the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Tom: Harsh. Not entirely unfair, but harsh.
Tim: Part of me wants to talk about the massive jury/televote disparity that occurred with a surprisingly high number of songs this year – to name just two, Sweden was fourth after all the juries, but immediately (and joyously) second from bottom with the televotes, while Ukraine was bottom with the jurors. but top 10 with the viewers, despite performing first.
Tom: The jury voting calculation was changed this year, too, so one juror couldn’t drag down the vote from a country.
Tim: What I really want to talk about is this one.
Tim: Because OH MAN, talk about an injustice with it finishing second from bottom. It actually got very similar points to us – 25 from the jury, and 23 vs our 25 for the televotes – which isn’t particularly surprising, given that they are very similar styles (which I suppose does mean somewhat that I’m moaning about our placing, but never mind).
Tom: So when we ran through all the tracks before Eurovision, you rated this as your third best — whereas I rated it as “I have no opinions about this song whatsoever”. Which makes sense, because even listening back to it now, I can’t actually remember having ever heard it before. Why on earth did you like it?
Tim: Well maybe it’s just a preferred genre, then, but I see this as a damn good track, particularly once you add in the staging, which has everything there but the knife thrower, and that death-defying (ish) leap at the end. It really, really surprised me when I realised it was getting so few points. Mystifying, it is. Downright MYSTIFYING.
Tom: I think it’s more than it’s just… it’s just a middle-of-the-road song. Competent, sure, but there’s nothing to make it stand out.
Tim: Actually, there is one other thing worth noting: smug irritant Alexander Rybak came top in his semi-final but finished left hand side of the table. Funny old thing, Eurovision, isn’t it?
Tim: And while obviously it’s not a bet that could ever be called, I’d put a lot of money on there being an alternate, and better, timeline where That’s How You Write A Song was sung by some random Olaf, and then got correctly knocked out in the first round before this was crowned Norway’s representation, because OH MY DAYS is it a cracker.
Tom: It’s a bloody good Big Emotional Song, isn’t it? Given the right competition, so it stands out, that could win Eurovision. And yet it’s not going to get the chance.
Tim: The thing is, it plays by every single Eurovision ballad rule there is, except not quite. The first minute or so is obvious: a raw display of sensitivity and weakness in a quiet verse, a rising sense of emotional growth and empowerment into the chorus, and a whole load of massive instrumental moments that the crowd can go wild for.
Tom: Or turn their phone lights on themselves so they can mug for the camera. I see you, random Norwegian narcissist in the front row. Anyway, yes, massive instrumental moments.
Tim: Repeat for a second time, though a just tad louder, EXCEPT we don’t then drop into a middle eight. That’s it. That second chorus was SO BIG, SO POWERFUL that the audience is left with the plain and simple knowledge that Rebecca is an incredible woman who can have the world, and doesn’t have to play by the rulebook to get it.
Tom: And it works. Alas, Rybak got in the way.
Tim: It doesn’t matter that the message in the lyrics is remarkably confused, what matters is that REBECCA IS QUEEN. (But out of respect for you, Tom, I won’t type what I really really want to.)
“She’s tanned, she’s wet, beautiful and wild, I think you know who I mean.”
Tom: Yes! Dansband!
Tim: No-one votes for it, it’d probably have tanked last night, but oh, just listen to this Norwegian studio audience. Though I think that might be partly the lyrics…
Tom: I’m, like, 90% sure that’s Norwegian Alan Carr there.
Tim: Well, prepare for the lyrics, see if they reinforce that. “I’ve fallen in love again, think I’ve found my soulmate; she’s tanned, she’s wet, beautiful and wild, I think you know who I mean.” Yup, so far so good.
Tom: I… I don’t know who he means.
Tim: Well let’s look to the chorus: “I want your mum, I want her lips on my cheek.” SCREAMS OF APPRECIATION, dancing all over the place, he’s the audience’s favourite by a country mile.
Tom: Hahahahaha, it’s amazing, it’s a three-minute your-mum joke, complete with a winking pianist.
Tim: That’s not the only good thing about it, of course: hell, I liked it even before I knew what the lyrics were, because it’s an enjoyable genre and it’s always nice to have a bit of variety in the mix. It also sounds truly heartfelt as he sings it, and the faces of those women at the very end make it all worth it.
Tom: I’m not sure there’s enough material in the music there even for three minutes, but who cares: that was one for the crowd.
Tim: All in all: music’s fun, lyrics are fun, IT’S ALL FUN.
“Every single anthemic component you’d want for a good proper actual riot.”
Tim: Ditte’s here for Denmark, and apparently she’s none too keen on being separated from her bae.
Tim: Slightly weird lyrics, really, because unless one of them’s going to prison or there’s some sort of Montague-Capulet situation going on, I don’t quite see how this situation might crop up in the future, but never mind that, let’s judge the music.
Tom: This is giving me very weird feeling: I am simultaneously sure I’ve heard this before, and sure that I haven’t. It’s like the textbook Melodifestivalen track, like someone’s chucked every vaguely-anthemic Swedish track there’s ever been into a blender and just gone, yeah, okay, that’ll do.
Tim: You’re not too far off, there, and I had a similar feeling. Though, while a “that’ll do” attitude normally results in a bit of a stinker, given the right ingredients what it gives here is, let’s be frank, a BANGER. Hell of a chorus, which like you said has every single anthemic component you’d want for a good proper actual riot, so full points there.
Tom: I mean, yes, it manages that. If I can get over the weird sense of not-quite-deja-vu, I can see what it’s trying for.
Tim: Backing dancers in military outfits also add bonus points, though at this point I’m starting to worry she’s a little over-prepared, and kind of think she might just have beef with society in general. Still, even if that is the case she certainly gets her point across. Criticisms, well, that return from the middle eight goes on twice as long as it really needs to, and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge them a key change there, passé as it may be. Otherwise, like I said: BANGING.
“Pink and yellow lighting! Multiple key changes! Floral headwear! Bleeping out the rude word describing how hard they’re going to dance!”
Tim: One of my favourite things about January is that every year the BBC brings back Death in Paradise, a murder mystery series set on a fictional Caribbean island that has such a high murder rate that you really wonder why on Earth anybody would want to go there on holiday. But I digress – here, cruelly knocked out at Andra Chansen, is a basically an extended version of its theme tune.
Tom: Cruelly knocked out?
Tim: Oh, absolutely – like I said the other day, Andra Chansen was something of a disgrace, and this lost out to a rather generic tropical pop song.
Tom: Which is… well, not unreasonable, really. It may be catchy, but it’s also got something of the Agadoo about it.
Tim: Oh, HARSH. Even if it was never going to win, let’s at least mention the fact that it would sure as hell have brought some extra variety to the final. Pink and yellow lighting! Multiple key changes! Floral headwear! Bleeping out the rude word describing how hard they’re going to dance!
Tom: Which was pretty strange: I thought Melodifestivalen just left things like that uncensored. Fair play for the key changes, though.