Tusse Chiza – Rain

“It’s a winner’s single, of course it’s good.”

Tim: The debut episode of a new X Factor show went out on British TV last week, and was beaten in the ratings by, erm, a political talk show aimed solely at under 30s. Idol in Sweden, though, is still going strong, still producing many recognisable names.

Tom: That’s what you’d expect from Sweden, I guess: they’re still where a huge amount of pop music is coming from. If anywhere is still going to have an Idol franchise, it’ll be there.

Tim: Here’s the winner of series 19, as crowned last weekend.

Tim: That right there is an excellent blend of 2019 music, with the vocal samples at the start and then dotted throughout, and good old-fashioned power balladry (and indeed some excellent steadicam shots).

Tom: And again, that’s what you’d expect from Sweden. Not entirely convinced by the song itself, mind: all the component parts are there but I can’t remember any of it afterwards.

Tim: Strong voice, as you’d expect from an Idol winner, top production, and…oh, you know what? It’s a winner’s single, of course it’s good.

Tom: I’m not entirely convinced by that voice, it sounds like he’s straining in a couple of places, but then it’s a live performance on an incredibly stressful night. If he can belt that out under those conditions, he’ll be absolutely fine.

Tim: Will he continue and get further success? Who knows. Right now, I’m enjoying listening to this.

Arvingarna – Låt Oss Skänka Hopp

“CHRISTMAS DANSBAND!”

Tim: Time for another Christmas number, which will score precisely 0 on your ‘likely to join the British Christmas music collection’, but I doubt you’ll have a problem with that, as it’s CHRISTMAS DANSBAND!

Tim: Nice amount of fun, that, isn’t it?

Tom: That’s certainly the most Christmassy introduction that I’ve heard in a while.

Tim: For once, I’m very glad it’s in foreign, because the title translates to ‘Let’s Give Hope’ and it’s in the ‘yes Christmas is great but let’s not forget about the people who aren’t so happy’, and yes I know we need to think about them and I know they deserve charity but sometimes I just want to listen to happy fun Christmas music without being reminded of that, and the music for this doesn’t even slightly fit with that message.

Tom: …are you sure? This sounds very Charity Single to me. I can see imagine a montage of Swedish celebrities belting this out one line at a time. I mean, I can’t imagine it, I don’t think I know any Swedish celebrities, but you know what I mean.

Tim: It is jaunty, it is upbeat, and I love it.

Adam Lambert – Believe

“Who’d dare to cover Believe?”

Tom: Every time we talk about a song with a name like this, the same as an absolutely iconic track, I get a bit grumpy. Why would you release a song with the same name like that? Unless it’s actually a cover. And who’d dare to cover Believe?

Tom: Oh. He would. And really well.

Tim: Well, yeah, kind of. I mean, it’s hardly the honest to God banger that the original was, is it?

Tom: Okay, a bit of backstory: he performed this live at the Kennedy Center Honours a year ago, and brought Cher to tears. She later posted a tweet in her usual style about it.

Tim: Amazing.

Tom: Here’s what I reckon: Cher’s original is a better studio version.

Tim: Obviously.

Tom: This isn’t a Johnny Cash situation, where the new cover version is now the definitive version of the song. (Twice.) And honestly, I don’t think this needs to be a studio single: I think that live performance stands well on its own.

Tim: Okay, we’ll come back to that Johnny Cash claim in a bit, because…yeah, later. As for this, sure, that’s a good performance, if you like that sort of thing. I think I’m just too pro-banger to really get this. Just leaves me a bit ehh.

Tom: That said, without the single, I wouldn’t have heard the live version.

Harry Styles – Adore You

“I’d like to present a new (and very strong) contender for Most Bizarre Video.”

Tim: We’re getting to the end of the decade and there’s a number of chart things going around; I’d like to present a new (and very strong) contender for Most Bizarre Video.

Tom: I only know of this because of the disappointed nerd outcry when a brand new exciting alternate reality game turned out to be… an ad for a Harry Styles song.

Tim: Ha, I’d completely missed that – though the December 2nd update made me laugh a lot reading it. ANYWAY, there’s a lot of pre-amble, but summary: the village doesn’t like Harry, he’s basically decided to leave, then he found a fish that has been similarly exiled. And then…

Tim: …he puts it in a cafetière, nicks a rucksack when it outgrows that, spies on a beardy guy, buys a massive fish tank which the fish then explodes out of because it is horrified by the fish market, which is somehow the part of the video that makes most sense.

Tom: Mm. Yes, I can see why the folks hopeful for an ARG were disappointed.

Tim: As for the song – it’s alright. It helps that it’s a strong chorus, because there’s basically nothing else to it, and I guess if you don’t like that main hook then you’ve probably not got much love for the song as a whole.

Tom: It’s not bad. It’s a perfectly servicable song. And I’ll admit I can at least sing some of the chorus after listening once. Well, one line of it, anyway.

Tim: On the other hand, is this whole thing really about the song? Or is it just a long-winded way of telling us he’s binned off girls and is going for fish now?

Scooter – Which Light Switch Is Which?

“High pitched sample, shouty bloke yells some nonsensical stuff, RAVE.”

Tom: They’ve been going for 25 years. Or, rather, the shouty bloke has, the folks behind him have changed shift a few times. Which means, in that time, they’ve tried to change up their style a lot, and sometimes get away from the shtick they’re known for: high pitched sample, shouty bloke yells some nonsensical stuff, RAVE.

Tom: I can’t tell if this is genuinely going back to their old style because they like it; or knowingly putting out something the fans will like; or whether it’s self-parody. And I don’t think I care.

Tim: I’m not sure it’s any of those, really: I think it’s just H.P. Baxxter doing what he does well, doing it very very well. Don’t forget that we’ve both enjoyed the couple of Scooter tracks we’ve featured recently precisely because they’re right on their early ’00s game. It’s a great sound (well, great for the fans), and they clearly like making it.

Tom: This could sit on a Scooter album from decades ago. My teenage self would like it. And so do I.

Tim: Likewise.

Saturday Flashback: Ida Corr – Christmas Time

“Let us love, let us live, let us heal the broken heart.”

Tim: As necessitated by December, it’s Christmas Christmas Christmas for the flashbacks, and here’s one from 2016. We never featured it at the time as her label originally only uploaded the first 90 seconds to YouTube, but fortunately, it’s all there now. How fun!

Tom: Mm. I’m not so sure about ‘fun’.

Tim: Let’s face it, Tom: Britain right now is kind of garbage. This bloody election, which initially I was actually excited for, has turned into such a festering dungheap that my preferred outcome would be everybody losing and the whole country being governed by Miss Jenn off High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, who is absolutely my favourite person in the world right now.

Tom: If our reader is wondering, then no, I couldn’t be bothered to Google that reference.

Tim: However, as Ida points out: it’s Christmas time, it’s around. Let us love, let us live, let us heal the broken heart. It’s time to forgive, and get a brand new start. And right now, I’m very up for that. The fact that this message has been brought to us by a fairly decent dance pop track with all the jingles of festivity just adds to that. Let’s feel good.

Tom: I think you’re being overly generous there: I woke up for the middle eight, but other than that, this just seems rather dull. It’s repetitive both within each chorus, and over the whole track — and yes, that can be a good thing, but in this case it’s mostly just putting me to sleep.

That’s not the Ida’s fault: she’s performing it perfectly well. I even tried bumping the playback speed up to 1.25x — it was an improvement, but it’s still just think it’s, well, a bit of a boring song.

SINNAH – Fake

“Basically, ‘stop being a dick’.”

Tim: First single was out in March, I liked it more than you did; here’s number two which is “about a guy who is starting to immediately date a new girl after a break up. The way he is acting is the total opposite to the way he did in the previous relationship.” There’s more guff provided, but it doesn’t really help. Have a listen.

Tim: And there we go – basically, “stop being a dick”, but in not too nasty a way because she’s moving on anyway, absolutely moving on, not at all obsessed by him, definitely not going to do something obsessive like write a song about i– oh, wait.

Tom: His name is Lee, by the way. Ridiculous Lee. He’s the same person that Katy Perry sang about.

Tim: Still, at least it’s a good song, punchy and vibrant and noisy, with a decent combination of melody and shouting.

Tom: Yep, for once I’m really enjoying a track you’ve sent over. I’m not sure I’m going to be singing along with the lyrics any time soon, but it’s one that could sit happily in the middle of a pop playlist.

Tim: All in: slightly confused message, packaged up in nice music though.

Little Mix – One I’ve Been Missing

“Certainly more mopey than any Christmas song ought to be.”

Tim: There is precisely one question that needs to be asked about any Little Mix Christmas song: is it as good as the absolutely outstanding, 10 out of 10, Christmas version of Love Me Like You?

Tim: No. But obviously, it could never be – that song is one of the best Christmas songs of the decade.

Tom: I actually can’t tell how many layers of irony you’re using there.

Tim: Quite honestly, none at all, I love it. As to whether it’s any good on its own: hmm. It doesn’t quite venture into ‘dirge’ territory, but it is certainly more mopey than any Christmas song ought to be.

Tom: Now, see, I disagree there. I’ve got a very direct comparison here: Mud’s Lonely This Christmas. For two reasons: yes, it’s a mopey Christmas song, but also, it literally ends with the same notes of Jingle Bells!

Tim: Hmm, maybe, but that one has mopey lyrics as well, so at least the mood fits. Here, though, we’ve a lyrically happy and upbeat song. Take the line “I need to show you how much I love you” – like, if that’s the case, put some effort in! And then there’s the line “now that I have you here” – celebrate it! These lyrics deserve to have similarly upbeat instrumentation and vocals – not to be sung along as a tedious ballad, with whiny backing vocals at the end. Basically: do what you’re singing, and sound like you’re having fun.

Tom: That’s fair. But the fans will love it, no doubt.

Robbie Williams – Time For Change

“THE DOG WINKED AT THE CAMERA, TOM.”

Tim: You might be thinking “you WHAT, mate?”; you might be thinking “eh, guess it had to happen eventually”; either way: Robbie’s done a Christmas album.

Tom: I noticed, thanks to all the advertising for it — and for his two-night Christmas special show at Wembley Arena. Fair play, though, if anyone can sell that out and put on a good show, it’s Robbie Williams.

Tim: A double album, to be precise, with one disc of covers and one of new tracks. Here’s one of the latter (with, advance warning: a couple of lines sung by kids in the pre-chorus).

Tom: That guitar introduction reminded me a lot of “Back for Good”, and I was optimistic for a while. And then…

Tim: And then THE DOG WINKED AT THE CAMERA, TOM. TWICE. What a good dog it is, hope it got a great present this year.

Tom: …well, yes, there’s that too.

Tim: Other stuff: yep, that’s a Robbie Williams Christmas song. He said he’s written it in the same vibe as I Believe In Father Christmas (love that one) and Happy Xmas (War Is Over), a mixture of melancholy and optimism, applicable particularly if things are a bit shit – he reckons it could be sung any year because there’s always “some sort of crisis”, but reckons this year it particularly applies to Britain. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t (though, yeah, it is), but either way it’s a valid theme to sing about, so why not? And it’s a good song, as well.

Instruments, lyrics and, yep, kids: it’s all there and Christmassy. Quite catchy, memorable, all in all a pretty good track.

Tom: Agh, and this is where I disagree. It all goes wrong in the chorus for me: it’s just a plodding, funereal melody that’s been given a stereotypical wall-of-sound treatment to make it sound like it should be a Christmas song. And I know, yes, that’s the theme of it, it’s all spelled out, it’s just that ultimately I don’t like the result.

Tim: Oh, shame. Incidentally, those quotes above came of a ‘behind the scenes’ YouTube playlist he’s made discussing all the tracks; apparently this is the one that he really hopes hangs around year after year.

Tom: Ah, “joining the Pantheon of Christmas Songs”. I don’t hold out much hope. But then if Lennon’s dirge can manage it, maybe this can too.

Tim: Fingers crossed, then.

Saara Aalto – Every Christmas Day

“We’re a good twenty seconds in and it’s kind of OH NO WAIT HERE WE GO”

Tim: Alright then: the lights are up, my festive Lego sets are out, so let’s get Christmas going! First up, we’ve an EP from the one and only Saara Aalto, with a song written by the one and only Kylie Minogue. Yes, you read that right.

Tom: I’ve decided that I’ve got a different challenge this year, Tim, because admittedly my usual bleak and bah-humbug outlook doesn’t go well. Instead, I’m looking for just one song that could join The Pantheon of Christmas Songs: one that will still be on a Christmas compilation album in 10 years’ time. If, indeed, Christmas album compliations are still a thing by 2030.

I think there’s only been one song we’ve talked about here, in all the years, that might be there: Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath the Tree.

Tim: “This sounds a bit quiet,” you’re thinking. “We’ve a track written by Kylie, performed by Saara, and there’s nothing much happening,” you’re muttering. “We’re a good twenty seconds in and it’s kind of OH NO WAIT HERE WE GO,” you exclaim in delight, involuntarily moving your body left and right in time with the beat that’s suddenly appeared, sounding exactly as it should do.

Tom: I’m going to assume you’re talking to our reader, there, because all I got, sadly, was a “yes, that sounds like Kylie”. To be fair, that is a strong compliment: there is a lot to like about this song! Almost all Christmas tracks are cheap churned-out cash-ins and this really doesn’t feel like that. Change the lyrics a bit, remove a bit of the jingle, this could be a decent pop track any time of the year.

Tim: Now, I’ll accept there’s every chance I was predisposed to like this purely based on the names involved, but I’ve a feeling this is roughly exactly what a good Christmas dance pop tune should sound like – nothing too BANGING or THUMPING but still with a heavy amount of life to it, and lots of twinkly notes and a few sleight bells to get across the festivity. Lyrics that really keep wanging on about Christmas, sung in Saara’s lovely voice, and what else can you ask for in a Christmas song?

Tom: It’s a strong start to the month, Tim, I’ll give you that. I worry that it’s all downhill from here, but — for once, this year — I’m actually going to allow myself a little bit of hope.