Jill Johnson – Is It Hard Being A Man

“A strong “look, dickhead, appreciate what you’ve got and quit moaning” message.“

Tim: Starting in 1996, the queen of country schlager…

Tom: Wait, I remember saying that modern pop-country was just schlager with a mandolin! And now you’re telling me there’s actually a mixed genre of them?

Tim: Pretty much, yeah – and Jill is the absolute master. She used to release albums on a roughly annual basis, but nothing’s been seen since the end of 2016. Well, until now.

Tim: Pretty good return, no? Nice crash in for the chorus, with a strong “look, dickhead, appreciate what you’ve got and quit moaning” message.

Tom: It is, with the caveat that the part immediately before that crash-in gives me a brief, frustrating flash of either Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, or the Hollies’ ‘Air That I Breathe’. I know that’s a really specific complaint to have, but it’s some odd combination of the melody and vocal style, the particular chord progression those songs share, and the percussion. Listen to the “no” at 0:48, the “choose” at 1:35.

Tim: Hmm…

Tom: Anyway, yes, once I got over that and we got back to the chorus: it’s not bad! And schlager, even down-tempo schlager like this, is always fun.

Tim: Favourite part for me: those twiddly counter melody guitar bits right at the end, which just about stops it getting boring by repeating too much. It’s in danger of it, as I don’t think anyone would really complain if it stopped just before they came in, but it’s saved. And it stays a decent track. It’s good.

Gammal – Blommor Där Du Står

“I wish you’d warned me that this is a quiet ballad”

Tim: I’ve commented before how I like a good male/female duet, and today we have the holy grail: a narrative where they’re actually singing to each other as separate parts, rather than just singing similar lyrics back and forth. How exciting!

Tom: Have you heard of musicals? I think you’d like them.

Tim: Huh, no. I’ll look them up.

Tim: She’s upset with him for breaking with up her how he did, he’s sorry for being a dick but maintains it had to happen.

Tom: Well, that’s certainly a relatable set of lyrics for a lot of folks, but I can’t help feeling there’s a reason that it’s not a common theme. No kiss-and-make-up?

Tim: I’m afraid not, no, though I guess we can’t have everything.

Tom: I wish you’d warned me that this is a quiet ballad, because then I’d have set my expectations differently. Once I got used to it: for some reason I found it oddly relaxing. I think it’s something to do with those vocal harmonies: there’s some really nice work there.

Tim: Both vocals, oddly, remind me of those from Of Monsters and Men, which is lovely (particularly since Little Talk, still a PROPER TUNE, also had a narrative duet vibe). The rest isn’t particularly similar, obviously, what with it being a whole lot quieter and more gentle, but that mood works perfectly well here. I’ll take it.

Greta Salóme – Mess It Up

“I like it.”

Tim: You may recognise Greta’s name from Eurovision 2012 when she was, well, more successful than Engelbert Humperdinck, or 2016, where she wasn’t.

Tom: There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence, but in short: no, I don’t.

Tim: Never mind, because this is entirely different.

Tim: I like it. I don’t have much to say about it, sadly, which could lead to quite a short post, but I like it. There’s a pleasant sound, a catchy and infectious chorus, and so yeah, I like it.

Tom: There’s a lot to like, although I can’t see many folks having more than a ‘like’ reaction to it. It’ll sit happily in a Spotify ‘female light pop’ playlist somewhere, playing in the background at coffee shops, and it won’t offend anyone. That… as ever, that sounds much more harsh than I meant it.

Tim: It’s simple, but good.

The Attic – Radiate

“I’m not sure I like the actual song, but I do very much like that synth line.“

Tim: You know those times when silly internet jokes piles over into real life, and things go wrong, or just weird?

Tom: I try desperately not to.

Tim: Oh, yeah, guess you’ve got history. But I’m talking smaller, like the time I met a new work colleague called Ron and I could barely keep a straight face because of Ron, or this dance music duo who’ve recently got back together, who I can’t take seriously because of the (sadly now deleted) second best tweet of all time.

(The greatest tweet of all time has, fortunately, not been deleted.)

Tim: BOOM and it’s there right from the off, with ENERGY and STUFF and it calms down soon but it doesn’t matter because you’re already in the zone.

Tom: Ha. You say that: the first thing I wrote was “that starts well, doesn’t it? Pity about the first verse”. But, yes, you’re right, there’s a lot of promise.

Tim: Right? And you know it won’t be long before everything gets going again, and sure enough it does come along soon enough, with all those lovely synth noise and drum beats.

Tom: I’m not sure I like the actual song, but I do very much like that synth line.

Tim: Sounds tinkly, sounds upbeat, with radiating and sunny and neverending JOY and PASSION and all that’s just great really. Isn’t it?

Tom: It is! I wish the main vocal melody line had SIMILAR ENTHUSIASM, but I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Tim: Good.

Michael Rice – Bigger Than Us

“That’s right: for the first time in a decade, we’re sending a key change.”

Previously, on Tim & Tom’s Twitter DMs:

Tim: In case you’ve not been paying attention to the UK’s contestants, we have three decent, one below average and two garbage.
Tom: and no potential winners?
Tim: Hmmmmmmmmmmmm…… There’s one with a good chance of ending up left side of the scoreboard, and another that’ll either be top five or bottom five.

Tim: Now then, Tom, prepare to hear that last one, which the Great British Public, given only the tiniest of tiny pushes by the stage designers, decided upon.

Tom: You know my test for British Eurovision entries, Tim. Is it as good as Love Shine A Light? Will the entire nation be singing it? Two decades from now, will one of us be visibly going berserk in the crowd, as the original singer belts it out a manner that’s reminiscent of a tent revival? (0:32 in, right hand side of the frame, incidentally, and several more times in wide shots.)

Tim: One of my finest moments, that – I think I look particularly strong at 1:01.

Tim: That’s right: for the first time in a decade, we’re sending a key change.

Tom: And a lot of innuendo. And at least an homage to the opening bit of See You Again, surely?

Tim: Hmm, vaguely, but nowhere as much of an homage that one of the other tracks had to Johann Pachelbel, that one was an embarrassment.

Tom: That said: it’s not a bad track. It’s not Love Shine A Light, it’s a bit generic, but it’s definitely not a bad track.

Tim: If you think it sounds familiar, it’s because three of its four writers also wrote the masterpiece that was John Lundvik’s My Turn last year – you know, the one where they made him look like the messiah. Now, to be honest, I’ve mixed feelings about this result: yes, it was my favourite of the night by a long way, I’m looking forward to seeing it on an enormous stage in Tel Aviv, and I like that I’ll be able to listen to it in the Music app on my phone. On the other hand: this isn’t a Eurovision 2010s song. Hell, it’s barely a ’00s song. It has a key change, for crying out loud.

Tom: At least he can sing live. And it’s a key change into a triumphant middle eight, which at least sounds a bit fresher than just doing the chorus one more time.

Tim: I suppose, if he tours all the national finals and gets it heard around Europe, and if it gets some amazing staging, and if any of the other big ballads aren’t as good, then it might do well – but those are some big ifs.

Saturday Flashback: Buranovskiye Babushki – Dlinnaya-dlinnaya beresta i kak sdelat’ iz neyo aishon

Tom: You’re kidding.

Tim: Not even slightly. We all remember these ladies with their Party For Everybody oven on stage at Eurovision 2012, and how they ended up in a remarkably strong second place.

Tom: Second place! How on earth did they get second place?

Tim: A standard combination of novelty factor (oven, biscuits and dancing octogenarians) and an unexpected and surprisingly banging chorus.

But not as many (if indeed any at all) of us remember their attempt to compete for Russia two years previously, with this track. Since you’re wondering, the title translates to “Very long birch bark and how to turn it into moonshine”.

Tom: I was about to say, “let’s be honest, it just isn’t a very good pop song”, and then that chorus came along. They have, at least, got an interesting chorus. I don’t want to listen to it, but it is interesting.

Tim: An entirely fair judgment, and one I’m roughly on the same level as.

Felix Sandman – Miss You Like Crazy

“Well, there’s a name that Peter Dickson would enjoy shouting on the X Factor.”

Tom: Well, there’s a name that Peter Dickson would enjoy shouting on the X Factor.

Tim: Felix, you may or may not remember, came close to representing Sweden at Eurovision last year with an incredibly dull track. Here, not so much. Although, well, have a listen.

Tom: Oh, good heavens, video director, you’re producing this for the internet. I know you like cinematic aspect ratios, but that’s just ridiculous.

Tim: See, that’s not a hugely exciting song. It doesn’t get particularly loud or frantic at any point, despite being in a genre that almost demands it, and there’s definitely no YEAH moment. And yet, I really like it.

Tom: That’s because it’s got a brilliant chorus. One that I’m sure I’ve heard all the constituent bits of before elsewhere: there’s shades of Stand By You in there, along with a half dozen other tracks.

Tim: True, actually, because it is partly that melody, which just seems to get me interested, and keep me. I’m now involved in the song, and I like it, and I want to keep listening to it. I still don’t really know what it is, but whatever it is that gets me liking a song, this song has it.

Tom: As ever, it’s a good combination of novelty and familiarity. And, in this case, profanity. I’m less sure about that, though.

Tim: Yeah. Yeah, that’s not so great.

Saara Aalto – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

“Two options for you here: the regular version, which is a fairly nice piano ballad, or the UK Radio Edit, which is much more BANGING.”

Tim: Two options for you here: the regular version, which is a fairly nice piano ballad, or the UK Radio Edit, which is much more BANGING. Which would you prefer?

Tom: I feel like I’m being given a choice so obvious that it’s going to backfire, but: BANGING. OF COURSE.

Tim: That is the CORRECT answer.

Tim: So, presumably hoping to cash in on her continued success on Dancing On Ice, this has been released to UK stations, where it’s had, erm, well, not much success, but never mind, because this really is a track and a half.

Tom: Are you sure? I mean, it is certainly a track, I’m just wondering where you’re getting the other half from.

Tim: It’s very much in the ‘be true to yourself’ vein (so much so that the video for the original version was made in conjunction with the trans support charity Mermaids) and it’s nice that it works on two levels – the ‘shout the chorus line’ level which gives it a standard ‘let’s have a hell of a good night’ vibe, and the deeper lyrics in the verses where the more personal stuff comes out.

Tom: I think you may have raised my expectations too high by describing this as BANGING, Tim.

Tim: Well, technically I described it as ‘more banging’, but yes, fair enough.

Tom: There’s nothing actually wrong with it, and the message is laudable, but it’s very much a standard ballad without much else to say for it.

Tim: Incorrect, it is a BEEFED UP version of a standard ballad, and so musically, I also love it: the standard banging ballad formula of a quiet first verse, crash in with the chorus, slightly less quiet second verse, and so on, and she’s got a voice that suits that formula brilliantly. All in: this is great. Properly great.

Pet Shop Boys – Give Stupidity A Chance

“It would have been PERFECT for Eurovision, can you IMAGINE.”

Tim: SATIRE.

Tom: I mean, satire traditionally has some subtext or subtlety to it. This feels more like a rant.

Tim: Perhaps, but a fun rant nonetheless, and also just under three minutes long which means it would have been PERFECT for Eurovision, can you IMAGINE.

Tom: Ha! Oh, if only. It’d never get past the BBC or the Eurovision rules, and it’d almost certainly die on the scoreboard, but I would have loved to see it.

Tim: Oh, well, never mind. Start out with Brexit, move through to Trump, it’s basically 2016 summed up in a pretty piece of music, because the melody of that one single line is just great.

Tom: It’s a bit of fluff, all simple and insipid melodies that… oh. Huh. I guess that’s the point. Clever.

Tim: It’s a shame, really – the lyrics mean this song will seem dated fairly quickly (hopefully, at least), but the tune, of the chorus and indeed throughout, is absolutely brilliant, and deserves to hang around a lot longer. OH WELL. There’ll be a few more tracks coming out over the next few days, with an EP of them all on Friday, and hopefully they’ll all be as fun (except for today’s, where Neil gets all old Man Yells At Cloud about social media). Super!

Tom: No, “Super” was the last album.

Tim: CORRECT.

Rein – Electric

“Most of this is just a load of noise”

Tim: “Hej, is that Patrik? Yeah, so I don’t know if you know it but there was a song came out a while ago called Electric and we wondered if your client Rein would fancy covering it for us, we’re really into electric right now. We’d pay for a fancy video for it and everything, and no-one’ll really know we’re involved. Sound good? Cool, I’ll send the deets over now.”

Tim: So. Much like the original, most of this is just a load of noise and, let’s face it, garbage.

Tom: Most of it, sure, but that is a very, very good synth line under that verse. The vocals might grate a bit, but that at least kept me from switching off.

Tim: If you can bear to stay with it for a minute or so, turns out it has a pretty good chorus. And if you keep listening for another minute or so, it would seem to have really good version of that chorus.

Tom: It’s an odd one, isn’t it? I don’t know what genre this counts as, other than “sounds like it’d turn up on a Japanese rhythm game soundtrack”.

Tim: And the weird thing is that the way it’s done, and the style of the chorus, mean I could genuinely see this being entered to Eurovision by some eastern European country thinking “sod it, this sounds good”. Wouldn’t get past the semi-final, mind, but I could absolutely see it happening.