Westlife – Hello My Love

“That’s an unfortunate series of three notes.”

Tim: Westlife have gone and got themselves a bit modern – isn’t that fun!

Tom: I didn’t even know they’d reunited!

Tim: Me neither, but apparently all it took was Simon Cowell calling them up every six months and offering then £10 million each. Seriously.

Tim: So we both like a song that you can remember afterwards (with some exceptions, looking at you Baby Shark who I once had going round in my head for an entire eight hour shift at work) – but is it good if gets a completely different song stuck in your head? It’s only a few notes, but it’s that progression towards the end of the chorus of “it’s just my” that gets my brain going straight into “driving at ninety, down those country lanes“.

Tom: Oh, you’re not wrong. That’s an unfortunate series of three notes.

Tim: Now don’t get me wrong, I love Castle On The Hill, and any song that sounds like it, such as this one, probably isn’t a bad track. But it’s not really helpful, is it?

Tom: And unfortunately, for me, it’s all that I can remember. Actually, that’s not true, I can remember the utterly clunky line “hair growing where it’s meant to”.

Tim: Yeah, that’s a bit of an awkward one.

Tom: This isn’t a bad track by any means, it’s just cursed with the Comeback Track Problem: for anyone except the fans, it’s got to be a barnstormer of a track, on a par with their best. It’s got to be a Shine. And as far as I can tell, this just isn’t.

Walk The Moon – Timebomb

“Look at me! I’m complimenting a track!”

Tom: Or “WALK THE MOON” as they’re apparently loudly styled now, but frankly that can do one. The question is, of course, is this ‘new track in familiar style’ or ‘just a slight change Shut Up And Dance again’?

Tim: That is…horrific artwork, once you start to see the silhouette of the guy as if his head’s at the back, the legs are at the front, and the light’s shining out of his, well. But the sound.

Tom: I’ll be honest, I was expecting to be far more cynical about this. I mean, the guitar sound’s the same, and the structure is roughly Shut Up And Dance, but it’s very clearly a different and new track.

Tim: Yeah, it’s pretty good. It doesn’t have the same immediate appreciation from me that Shut Up Dance, Different Colors or One Foot did, but sure – let’s have it.

Tom: And that lead vocal is great, in a way that I’m not sure earlier singles demonstrated: there are shades of Adam Levine in there, and given that he’s one of the best pop vocalists currently working, that’s a compliment. Look at me! I’m complimenting a track! That’s getting increasingly rare!

Olly Murs feat. Snoop Dogg – Moves

“Ugh, WHY.”

Tom: Okay, we’re talking about this. I know it’s been months since it came out over here, I know we said we’re not going to talk about this, but we’re talking about this.

Tim: Ugh, WHY.

Tom: Because I drove through Sweden and Denmark the other day, Tim, and this is in heavy rotation on many radio stations. I heard it four times, including once on the shuttle bus back from the airport that was apparently tuned to an easy-listening station. It’s not even in the charts there. The radio just loves it.

Tim: Hmm…ermm…sorry, just trying to think of a time when we’ve ever even slightly bothered about before. Struggling, I’ll be honest.

Tom: And not only that: it turns out there’s a new trend in music videos, which is a separate vertical video. WELCOME TO THE LATE 2010S TIM.

Tim: 🎉🎉🎉

Tom: Okay, let’s get it out of the way: hearing Snoop Dogg shout out Olly Murs is really, really strange.

Tim: Although less strange than Flo Rida doing a school register call out of the Saturdays.

Tom: Does this track sound a lot like Feels? Yes. Does it have the unmistakable smell of Sheeran all over it? Also yes. Are the lyrics bloody awful in places? Also also yes.

Tim: Yes yes yes.

Tom: But here’s the thing: I didn’t turn it off, at least not the first time I stumbled across it while radio-scanning. It is a very competent track. I’m not going to say it’s necessarily good, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t catchy, excellently produced, and absolutely made for radio airplay. And that’s still a valid way to make a track work: you don’t need to convince the public, just the people in charge of radio playlists.

Tim: It’s short. I’ll give it that.

Rasmussen – Go Beyond

“Stylistically it’s similar but PUMPED UP”

Tim: You may remember Rasumussen from the fairly impressive slightly Viking-y Higher Ground at Eurovision last year; here’s his somewhat belated follow up.

Tim: And I LOVE that.

Tom: And I’m indifferent! Business as usual, then. Why do you like it so much?

Tim: Stylistically it’s similar but PUMPED UP, and I don’t think that ever fails to improve a pop song (Time To Say Goodbye doesn’t count, wasn’t a pop song in the first place). We’ve similar millennium old instruments, even if they are almost entirely synthetic this time round, and they always work well for me.

Tom: So that does all make sense: but imagine if you hadn’t thought much of Higher Ground? Then PUMPING IT UP would just seem… well, still not that impressive. Admittedly I can remember the chorus after listing, which is usually a good sign, but this time I just don’t want to.

Tim: Higher Ground was one of my Eurovision favourites last year, and this just builds on that.

Saturday Flashback: Sam Smith – Too Good At Goodbyes (Galantis Remix)

“Still a largely dull track, but there are significant improvements”

Tom: I’m assuming you know the original Too Good At Goodbyes, Tim.

Tim: Correct. As with much of Sam Smith’s output, it is dull, tedious, insipid garbage, albeit slightly redeemed by the backing choir in the chorus and middle eight.

Tom: In which case, you should get ready for the biggest case of pop mood-whiplash you’ve had in a while. Because Sam Smith’s sad, slow, soppy song is about to become a BANGER complete with a euphoric build that sounds like a washing machine spinning up.

Tim: That…that is an unusual yet entirely correct description of that euphoric build.

Tim: It’s still a largely dull track, but there are significant improvements – not least, chopping over a minute off the runtime.

Tom: Here’s the thing: I have no idea how, but I’d managed to miss the original Too Good At Goodbyes entirely. I just, somehow, never heard it. So when I heard this on the radio somewhere, I remembered the name of the track, searched for it later, and found the original instead of this. It was one of the most disappointing listens I’ve ever had.

Tim: Whereas this is…well, still one of the most disappointing Galantis listens I’ve ever had, but it’s still better than the original.

Galantis feat. Sophia Carson – San Francisco

“It’s good! I like it! That’s unusual! “

Tim: This slipped me by when it came out last month because it was the Friday before Christmas, but here it is – Galantis’s latest, featuring the same singer who was on Alan Walker’s latest track as well. Coincidence? Very probably.

Tom: That’s the best introduction and first verse I’ve heard in a while. Full marks for having the confidence to use just a vocoded acapella: with a bad melody that would have completely killed the track. But it’s good! I like it! That’s unusual!

Tim: So, Galantis haven’t had a proper hit since Love On Me, the brilliant track that came out…a little over two years ago. I would argue that’s a shame, but then I think back and much as I typically very much enjoy their output – it’s not exactly memorable, is it? I think this kind of demonstrates why.

Tom: That’s harsh but not entirely untrue. I really did enjoy this track, almost as much as I still enjoy Satisfied. But I think it’s fair to say that given both tracks are about two and a half minutes, Galantis knows exactly how long people will want to listen to their tracks for. That repetition of “San Francisco” got old on a second listen. But hey, at least I gave it a second listen.

Tim: It’s okay, it’s standard as Galantis fare seems to go nowadays…but it’s not anything really special. I miss that, really, I do.

Hugo Helmig – Young Like This

“I’m well aware I’m going into Grampa Simpson territory”

Tim: It almost saddens me to say this, but we’re dragging out the ‘we’re young so let’s have fun’ trope again.

Tom: Two rhyme schemes I hate in a row! “Young like this / dumb like this” may be the most irritatingly trite lyric I’ve heard in a while.

Tim: I dunno, I think it’s alright. But it’s the message I want to discuss, because, while I’m well aware I’m going into Grampa Simpson territory, here’s the thing: it’s bullshit.

Tom: You are entirely correct, although how much of that is based on the no-doubt-reasonable explanation you’re about to give, and how much is based on me being in my thirties now, I’m not sure.

Tim: Hugo (from Denmark) is university age right now, and yes I will accept that it is good to have fun at university and engage in one’s youth. But it is arguably so much better to have fun in your early to mid twenties, when you don’t have to worry about essays and dissertations, and the worst that’ll happen is you’ll get a stern ticking off for turning up to work with a hangover. You have experience and knowledge under your belt to stop you making a complete prick of yourself and dying, and you’re also not so worried about waking up tomorrow needing reading glasses and a toupee that you feel you need to get it all out of your system.

Tom: Harsh.

Tim: But fair. Basically, RELAX HUN, you’ve got at least a decade left of enjoying yourself, so stop moaning.

Tom: Welcome to your thirties, Tim.

Tim: A pleasure to be here.

Kevin Walker – Send Me A Card

“Boy is it jaunty.”

Tim: Kevin’s still jumping back and forth being being a singer and professional footballer; here’s his first track since his 2015 Christmas one, and boy is it jaunty.

Tom: Here’s a complaint I’ve never, ever made before here: I despise the rhyme scheme of this song. I don’t know why, but that “all / wall / tall” just grated in the first verse and I could never let it go after that. This is a really petty complaint, I know, because like you say, the rest of this is pleasantly jaunty.

Tim: Okay, Tom: you often mention your Good Pop Song tests – do you immediately want to press play again, can you remember the chorus afterwards – and they’ve kind of buried their way into my head as well now. And with this one, I was ‘yes, but no’.

Tom: The exact opposite for me: I didn’t want to press play again, but I could remember that damn chorus.

Tim: Except, half an hour later, i had a tune going round in my head, and I couldn’t place it, until I realised it was this one. So does that count? Because I do absolutely want to keep pressing play here – the melody is great, decent enough lyrics, and all in all it just makes me feel good. Happy, in fact.

I think that’s because there are a lot of familiar components in there – nothing copied, but things like the layered vocals, the call and return in the middle eight – going together to make a song that’s basically just reassuringly enjoyable.

Tom: I’ll grant you that my heart did soften a bit for that final chorus. He needs to go to a harmony line (or perhaps even just up an octave) on that last note, though.

Sval – Breathe Easy

“That’s a good introduction!”

Tim: Bit of lovely pop for you today, from Sval who’s been off for aaaaaages, but has now started singing in English for us.

Tom: That’s a good introduction! And a promising first verse.

Tim: Isn’t it? A quiet verse perhaps, but with that intermittent high note that reminds remind of a lovely Sound of Arrows track, so that’s fine by me, and then that’s just an all-round great chorus.

Tom: It is, although I think again you’re being a bit too generous with “great” there. It’s good! It’s not bad! I mean, it’s not awful, certainly. It’s, sure, it’ll do.

Tim: The clapping back in from the middle eight works well, although it’s possibly a tad uninspired, and everything’s just pretty good, really. It’s a nice track.

jens – Any Other Way

“One of the strongest closing sections I’ve heard in ages.”

Tom: What, he couldn’t afford a capital letter?

Tim: ‘jens’ is off Norway, bringing us this, with a promising start, dipping occasionally, but with one of the strongest closing sections I’ve heard in ages.

Tim: Am I wrong?

Tom: Thanks to a particular cadence and chord in that first verse, I kept singing “I Can’t Go For That” over this for a while. But, you’re right: that’s a really strong recovery out of the middle eight, and it almost saves the rest of the track.

Tim: The less enjoyable parts for me come at the start of each chorus, with the iffy vocoding; on the other hand, from 1:45 onwards it barely puts a note wrong. There’s almost a slight genre shift, really – from brooding electropop to regular upbeat pop, and I love that. The backing vocals that come along thirty seconds before the end? Marvellous.

Tom: And at three minutes long, I can deal with the slower parts. Sure, it’s not going on my regular playlist any time soon, but it gets a solid “Sure, That’ll Do” from me, which is practically an endorsement by my standards.