Tom: Lyric videos have on-screen director credits now. That’s not relevant to the music, I just thought I’d get that observation out the way before we get on with the music.
Tom: Remember when Kygo had just one tropical-sounding synth pad and it was either “this is another boring Kygo track” or “this doesn’t sound like Kygo, so it sucks”? Well, I think he’s finally managed to get beyond that.
Tim: Yeah – though this is still definitely a Kygo track, with pineapples and coconuts aplenty, whatever the video might imply. There’s just quite a lot else in there was well.
Tom: Granted, it’s only a slightly-different synth pad, but it’s still a step in the right direction. It still sounds like Kygo! (In fact, it sounds a lot like It Ain’t Me, despite not having any chopped-up vocals.)
Tim: It helps that he’s coming straight off his biggest track since It Ain’t Me (last July, Higher Love cam out, and still getting played regularly), so he can afford to go back to being himself.
Tom: But it shows there does seem to be an escape hatch for him, and that, I reckon, is a good thing.
“It feels like they’re aiming for a Sia track and video and not quite getting there.”
Tim: So let’s go back to Sweden, and hear this one. Spoiler alert: writing credits include Thomas G:Son (whose work we all know and adore) and Peter Borström (whose work includes Loreen’s Euphoria, Eric Saade’s Manboy & Popular, and the phemonemal We Own The Universe, which you may have forgotten so do yourself a favour and listen again).
Tom: All right, that’s a decent back catalogue, which means my expectations are going to be high.
Tim: Takes a while to get really good, but when it does it gets really, really good, doesn’t it?
Tom: It gets okay? I’m not convinced by this. “Ballerina / dark arena” is so clunky that I think that it’d get consigned to the bottom half of the table based on that alone.
Tim: Yeah, but the rest: the choruses are good enough, mind, and in a lot of songs I’d be happy enough if that was the level of the best part. But here, oh, we’re just getting started, and that closing chorus truly is a special moment – though that might just be because it’s a relief to be out of the creepy looking middle eight.
Tom: I’m fairly sure that middle-eight vocoder wouldn’t be allowed in the actual Contest — and I’m not convinced by those staccato hand movements, either. It feels like they’re aiming for a Sia track and video and not quite getting there.
Tim: Hmmmmm…maybe, though I’d say that’s a tad harsh. I get what’s meant to be ballet-style dancing, though it comes across as ballet on speed. And I’m really not sure those outfits work, bringing to mind more Maria von Trapp than anything fancy.
Still, top notch song, with an appalling injustice in it not getting to the final – more votes than its opponent, but knocked out due to demographic weighting. Disgraceful.
“The PR guff says it ‘has a very boss ass bitch vibe’, and I don’t know where to start in listing the things that are wrong with it.”
Tim: We’ve more or less agreed on every track this week, which I think is not that common an occurrence. So as to not ruin it, then, here’s a song we will both find entirely appalling.
Tom: You had to break the streak, didn’t you?
Tim: Well, at least we’ll agree.
Tim: I want to think this is a parody of some sort, but nope, she’s an established with several tracks already out there; this is an entirely genuine track.
Tom: Maybe, but with around 500 subscribers on YouTube and less than a thousand views on it, I’m not sure it’s fair to hate on a small indie arti– huh. This is in Content ID. It’s got a record label attached to it. Like, a reasonably-sized Swedish record label. I figured this was either an overconfident small act or a Rebecca Black situation, but, uh, no, this has been Properly Signed Off.
Tim: Indeed it has – the PR guff says it’s “a euphoric party song about being freaky and fun” and “has a very boss ass bitch vibe”, and I don’t know where to start in listing the things that are wrong with it.
Tom: But let me guess: you’ve going to?
Tim: Absolutely. We’ve the ridiculous artwork. The purple tinge throughout so much of the video. The rest of the video – why is there an intermittent Iron Man style HUD? Since when did Bugattis fly into space?
Tom: Which, again, is not unreasonable for a small artist! If this was someone just messing about on YouTube it would be rude to do this!
Tim: It would, but it isn’t! We’ve also got the unnecessary expletives. The vocal distortion that makes it hard to make out the lyrics. The occasional lyrics that are audible rhyming “talking” with “balling” and talking about spilling Bacardi.
Tom: Also, Bugatti doesn’t have a long A in it, and somehow she’s managing not to voice the ‘g’, which is a difficult trick to do when you’re singing.
Tim: It’s just…god, awful. The only good thing about it is that it ends.
Tom: Weirdly, I don’t have a visceral dislike-reaction to this, which I’ve had in the past: it’s more of a tired “oh, for crying out loud”.
Tim: So, Alan’s got a new one out, and OH BOY. Part of me is tempted to go for (and would be justified going for) a lengthy history of Alan’s logo worshipping cult thing he has going on, but I won’t, partly because we’re (in theory) just here for the track, and also because I could easily get a 2,000 word piece out of it and this really isn’t the place. Quick recap, then: his first trilogy of videos had various post-apocalypse groups of people worshipping his logo; we got into the details here and here, and he actually posted an explanatory video (which is actually quite interesting with some behind the scenes stuff as well).
Tom: How much must all this cost? Is it worth it? I’d love to know whether his fans are viewing these as just “music videos” or whether a lot of folks are treating it like new releases in the MCU.
Tim: Yeah, it’d be interesting. I checked the comments to get an idea, but they’re all linking a song called Heading Home with the coronavirus lockdowns, and I can’t BELIEVE I missed that opportunity.
This new trilogy he’s got have started with On My Way and continued with Alone, Pt II. If you’ve got time (and let’s face it, who doesn’t right now), you might want to spend 7 minutes or so catching up, but basically: a student’s found historical clues based around, yep, his logo, and they’ve all led up to archeological discoveries, and now she’s going just a little bit further…
Tom: …and ending the world, apparently.
Tim: I dunno, let’s not be too quick to point fingers. First note, though: D.H. Lawrence did actually compile a book called The Symbolic Meaning, so props to them there for not just making something up; on the other hand, it’s not actually about the meanings of symbols, so she’d have been better off consulting The Da Vinci Code, but LET’S MOVE ON. We’re closing the story with another cult worshipping that logo, almost mirroring the beginning of his first trilogy, preparing for an apocalyptic event by burying a Walker-embedded time capsule. To be honest, it’s almost a disappointment – not because I was expecting anything sane, but because the first two were at least grounded in the real world (obviously still bonkers, but realistically so) and then this one takes it vaguely supernatural, kind of breaking the story. Ah, well.
Tom: See, I’ve always come at this from the approach of “well, it’s just a music video, and it’s not like it’s related to the track”. This could happily sit in a background tab for me.
Tim: Oh, absolutely, and the vast majority of the time when people hear this it’ll be via a speaker, not through the video.
Tom: I wonder if there are songs where that’s not the case. Gangnam Style? Any of OK Go’s videos? I don’t know if it’s possible to track that, but it’d be interesting.
Tim: Maybe Never Gonna Give You Up, although admittedly no-one actually chooses to watches that. Thing is, though, and despite what I said earlier, I’m not sure there’s much point in us discussing the music, as there’s not much to say beyond: it is an inoffensive and entirely decent Alan Walker track. Despite what it says in the description about him having worked on this since Faded and it being a very special song, I’m almost certain he’s more interested in the videos than he is in the tracks.
Tom: Right! And there’s nothing wrong with that, OK Go have based a career on it, but at that point I’m wondering: do you even count yourself as a musical artist? Or are you a filmmaker who scores the stuff you’re producing?
Tim: Exactly, and he’s certainly getting into full filmmaker levels, as it’s not just the over the top storylines: that behind the scenes video I linked to earlier shows a hell of effort (and money) goes into the videos, with filming in five different countries and physical versions of those drones and ‘prophecy discs’ being made. That’s not entirely a criticism, mind – I was saying only yesterday how I wished songs could come with narratives, and these certainly fit the bill – though it does make me wonder if five years from now he’ll have been hired by Marvel to write a new Fantastic Four movie.
Tom: Can’t be worse than any of the previous ones.
Tim: You know, I was about to leap in with a vague defence of the 2005 one, but then I remembered the 2015 abomination, and oh god yes.
Anyway, final thought (I promise): I was at an Alan Walker gig not too long ago and naturally he had those face masks available at the merch stand; I didn’t buy one, because they were fifteen quid, but it’s just struck me they might have been quite useful right about now.
Tim: He’s got a crush on her (or him); she (or he) is way out of his league; whenever they’re in the same room the time seems to go very quickly, or to be more precise “Hour like a minute”.
Tom: Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? There’s a lot of good, calm melodies in there: it builds really, really well.
Tim: Disappointingly there’s no happy resolution, Teenage Dirtbag-style, at the end of this, it’s just a “yeah, I like you…okay then”, and we as listeners are left to wonder if anything did ever come of it.
That’d be nice, sometimes, if romantic songs had sequels, so the first one could be like this, and the second could be that yeah, she decided to go for it, and ooh, then we could have a whole SERIES of songs, each one documenting a further stage in the relationship, going through multiple dates, marriage, tricky patch, kids to make it better, everything becoming wonderful, growing old together and seeing the grandchildren go off to school and write songs of their own. As it is, we’ve got nothing. Ah, well.
Tom: Lockdown’s going okay, then?
Tim: Music’s alright though.
Tom: It is, and I was going to write some more about it, but honestly I don’t think there’s anything I can add now.
“Hey, it’s Mia – sorry, how long exactly did we say that final ‘nicht’ should sound?”
Tim: Germany has some very strict lockdown rules in place right now which means that, while feats. with separate ‘you sing one bit, I’ll sing another’ will probably be okay, proper duets, with both acts singing at the same time, might suffer a little. For example.
Tim: It’s so close. So, so close. Many bits are perfect, in fact – typically, the start of each line, they’re all in on time. But agh, the sibilants, and the drawn out words. “Hey, it’s Mia – sorry, how long exactly did we say that final ‘nicht’ should sound?”
Tom: Every part of the broadcast and entertainment industry is having to deal with lockdown rules in their own way: this is, at least, more competent than all the American late-night hosts trying to record shows on their phone with no lapel mic.
Tim: That’s very true, and to be honest even the small amount of negativity introduced by this is pretty much cancelled out by this actually being a pretty good song in many ways – there’s a good melody (especially with the unexpected key change), and the production’s surprisingly good given that half of it was recorded in Dorfrocker’s bedroom and the other in SchoKKverliebt’s living room.
Tom: Right! And the audience will forgive a lot for something like this. Even the dodgy stock footage.
Tim: I can’t find the lyrics online, but it’s a nice message as well, a song of thanks to all the ‘Silent Helpers’ keeping the country running right now. All in, turned out nice. I guess you work with what you’ve got (or, hopefully, haven’t).
Tim: Here’s a fun start to the week for you, but be aware it’s not remotely our usual.
Tom: I know we push into other genres sometimes, Tim, but my reaction to this is basically the same as your reaction to Choke a few months ago: oh, mate, why?
Tim: Because I like it, and I like it for exactly the same reason that I like Na Na Na (which it does sound very similar to, and I’m fairly sure you could lay the chorus of one directly on top of the other) and the occasional Dropkick Murphys song – it’s loud, it’s fast and it’s very very shouty.
Tom: There’s a few other melodies off Danger Days that could fit in here as well. And yes, once I adjusted my expectations: there are good bits in here, and at two and a half minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Tim: It first came out in 2018, and I’ve no idea why, but it’s suddenly getting a lot of play right now on the radio, and, yeah, I’m really really glad about that. Greg James is currently playing it every morning, and every morning it gets me out of bed, maybe jumping around a bit but definitely shouting along to it, forgetting everything everything else that’s going on and just having fun.
Tim: Indeed, and spoiler alert: this song sounds exactly like you think a Scandinavian Eurovision song called ‘I Am Gay’ will sound.
Tom: Millennial whoop in the first few seconds, and… well, yes, that’s certainly a track, isn’t it?
Tim: It entirely and definitely is. It got through to the final, and then the gold final, but not to the gold duel, which is…well, I’ll be honest, probably about right. It did respectably enough, Liza can go home with her head held high, and Norway get to send a sensible song to Eurovision which might have a fair amount of mass-market appeal.
Tom: The lyrics are… well, I think it’d be wrong to say “trite”, but let’s go with “simplistic and so on-the-nose”. This is a specific simile, but: it feels like the sort of song a sitcom would put together as a cheap joke. It feels like Minimum Viable Pop Song.
Tim: In case you’re wondering, Liza is entirely not gay, but apparently the song was written by her and submitted with the intention that NRK would find someone else to sing it, but then they asked her anyway; my feelings on that are muddled at best, really, so actually I’m kind of glad it didn’t go through for that reason as well, so I don’t have to spend time working out whether or not that annoys me. Well done Norway, sensible all round.
“Okay, we’ve had completely different reactions to this.”
Tim: Cathrim Gram is from Norway, has a spelling unusual enough that she can go by just her first name, and last week presumably got a call along the lines of “right, song’s lined up for release on Friday, but obviously we can’t now get together to do the video. You able to sort something out, maybe with your family?”
Tim: So first up: yes, the song drags on a bit, though it does sound good, but that’s not why I wanted to feature it. It’s the video, partly because it’s fun regardless, but mainly because I’m not sure they’d have done one anywhere near as nice if there were people involved.
Tom: Okay, we’ve had completely different reactions to this. I understand the reasoning behind the video — and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing — but I think it takes away from the song so, so much. When I put it into a background tab and just listened, the song became a lot better.
Tim: Hmm. You know, I was so taken by the video that I’d not listened to it without it, and now I’ve done that you’re absolutely right. Paying attention to it properly, it comes across like a good Bright Light Bright Light track (new one out today, incidentally, and we’ll probably get to that at some point), and that’s never a bad thing.
Back to the video, though, and for me it captures the mood of the song perfectly, mostly because it just takes large parts of the song and acts them out directly. My main thought, really, is that if it was actual people playing out the scenes it would just come across as irritating mawkish. As it is, acted out with smurfs (and lots of them, they must have a hefty collection), for me it comes across as less cloying and more ‘aw, cute’. Just me?
Tom: Just you, I think. Honestly, this is a really good track: there’s a lot of interesting counterpoint melodies going on in the background, it’s novel enough to be interesting without being off-putting. I’m not convinced about all the lyrics, and I think you’re right that it could use being a bit shorter, but — without that video — it’s a decent, interesting track in a genre that I can’t quite place.
Tim: Good thing most speakers and headphones don’t come with displays, then.
Tim: There’s probably some sort of logic in getting rid of two letters from each of the first two words so you need to add to to the third one, but let’s not focus on it. Look! Happy flowers!
Tim: So, here’s the thing: if this came from, I don’t know, Niall Horan, I’d be entirely “huh, yeah” and then move on swiftly.
Tom: Which is actually what I did a few days ago — I thought about sending you this, but I really couldn’t find much to talk about. It’s… no, see, that’s the problem, I literally don’t know how to continue that sentence.
Tim: It’s nice guitar stuff, sure, but there are also a number of things to dislike about it, not least the vocoding on the ‘you and I’ (sorry, ‘u n eye’) in the chorus being the main one. And yet because it’s Boy In Space, I like it.
Tom: Huh. I wonder if that’s because you’re used to his music, or because it’s just a genre that works for you? That vocoding irritates me, and the rest just leaves me cold. But that’s just personal taste: and we know well that ours differ.
Tim: I don’t know if I’m subliminally predisposed to liking his music somehow, or just that I mostly like his style and therefore always give him the benefit of the doubt, but either way: I like this. There are flaws, I’m aware of them, but I like it.