Klara Hammarström – You Should Know Me Better

“I really don’t want to be left humming a different song after this one’s finished.”

Tim: Formerly of Swedish Idol; more recently of a family-based Swedish reality TV show; here’s a song from her.

Tim: So there’s two parts to that chorus: the first, which starts “you think I might be” is excellent, and lovely; the second, which consists solely of “you should know me better than that”, takes me right out this song and straight into Zayn & Taylor. And that’s a shame, it really is. It’s not that I Don’t Wanna Live Forever is a bad song; it’s just that I really don’t want to be left humming a different song after this one’s finished, which unfortunately I entirely was.

Tom: Whereas for me, I’ve got no memory of that other song at all, so I’m just left with a fairly pleasant second chorus. I say “fairly”: I’ll be honest, I was a bit bored by the end of it after all those repetitions, and I was surprised to learn it’s only about three minutes long.

Tim: Again: first part of the chorus: lovely. Verses, middle eight, instrumentation, all very good. But that second part, aaaargh.

Charlotte Qvale – Turn On The Light

“It’s a stylistic choice that makes perfect sense.”

Tim: Fun thing: the artwork for this looks exactly like the music sounds.

Tim: So, yes, eighties stuff. For me, though, it’s not the instruments, or the vocal effects, or rather, obviously it’s both of those things but nowhere near as much as something else: the volume levels. Unlike pretty much every current-sounding song made in the last thirty years, there’s no big volume jump between the verse and chorus, nor much in the way of excitement build.

Sure, the syllables double in frequency, but her vocal volume remains level and there’s not much of a boost in the instrumentation either. And that’s not a bad thing – it’s a stylistic choice that makes perfect sense, and works really really well when combined with everything else here. Music’s pretty good, production’s faultless.

Dami Im – Crying Underwater

“Yeah, I do need to give it a bit of time.”

Tom: This is a traditional builder. I’m not saying it’s good, just give it a bit of time.

Tom: I’ve not actually got much to say about the track itself, though, other than to note how traditional the song structure is at a time when pop seems to have mostly left middle-eights behind.

Tim: Hmm, wouldn’t say that – dance music may certainly have done so, but standard pop music’s still got it. It’s a decent track, though, even if, yeah, I do need to give it a bit of time.

Tom: Here’s my question, though: the very first sound you hear in this track. The odd rising-note synth, the one that comes back during the choruses. Where have I heard that before? Who else uses it? Because it’s really frustrating me.

Tim: I’d love to be able to help you, but beyond an answer of ‘more or less anyone who’s done any sort of modern pop song since about 2016’ I can’t give you much, as I don’t specifically know it from anywhere.

Tove Lo feat. Kylie Minogue – Really Don’t Like U

“Well, that’s… hmm. I mean, it’s certainly a song. I’m not sure I can say more than that.”

Tim: Full disclosure: I’m not much a fan of this song. However, I was out on Saturday night with a fellow gay and All The Lovers came on, and it emerged he had never heard of Kylie Minogue, and he is American and stuff but REALLY that’s just not on.

Tim: So, um, RT to raise awareness, yeah?

Tom: Well, that’s… hmm. I mean, it’s certainly a song. I’m not sure I can say more than that.

Tim: See, the most annoying thing about this is the fact that both artists have produced tracks that are so, so much better, and we go into this expecting that: combining the talents, we should get something that’s as good as Timebomb and Can’t Get You Out Of My Head combined.

Tom: Ah, see, there’s a chance that’ll happen, if you’re really lucky: but chances are that you’ll end up with a weird mix of creative styles and opinions, and a mediocre track.

To be fair, by the end of it, I think I sort-of understand what they were aiming for. I just don’t think they hit it.

Tim: Why have we got this, with its unpleasant backing, tedious melody, and somewhat rubbish video? It’s just upsetting.

Saturday Flashback: Frederikke Vedel – Jeg har hele tiden vidst det

“What on earth’s going on with the staging?”

Tim: Just having a rummage around my ‘songs we never had time to talk about when they were relevant’ pile, and here’s a reject from Denmark’s 2013 Eurovision selection. Next time I see you, Tom, I’ll give you one whole penny for every second you’re actually able to focus on the singer here; I’m fairly sure I’ll be at most 50p down.

Tom: I mean, it’s a strong outfit she’s wearing, but yes: what on earth’s going on with the staging?

Tim: So initially we’ve got the most intense stare I’ve seen outside of The Demon Headmaster–

Tom: Which is back, by the way.

Tim: –they they go away and start waving around and even when they’re out of focus I’m wondering what they’re up to and why on Earth he’s picked her up, and then he’s briefly doing some sort of breakdance thing for no reason just for a few seconds, because sure. Then we’re constructing a weird fabric prison for them all, which turns out at the end to be more of a protective layer to save her from her backing singers, lunging forward to grab a hold of her. What’s happening? And why? And does the set designer just not want us to listen to the song or something?

Tom: It’s not a bad song: she can clearly belt out the notes, although given that she was beaten by Only Teardrops, it’s fair to say that Denmark made the right choice.

Any other problems with the staging?

Tim: Well, could the guy not have had a quick shave before going on?

Pet Shop Boys feat. Years & Years – Dreamland

“All it’s missing is a double-clap after every four bars.”

Tim: A pairing here that, in hindsight, is notable largely for the fact that it took long to happen – I saw this and thought “yes, of course they’re doing a song together”. BUT, the twenty trillion dollar question: is it any good?

Tom: Oh, listen to those synths! All it’s missing is a double-clap after every four bars. (I’m joking, but also, I did start adding them myself at one point.) You’re right, it’s good, although…

Tim: YES, even if I do want to sing FREAK OUT on top of the chorus.

Tom: Right.

Tim: It does, in fact, sound pretty much exactly what I’d expect a Pet Shop Boys feat. Years & Years song to sound like: nice electro beats, fairly gentle with nothing too heavy but an interesting backing nonetheless, and lyrics that are fairly interesting.

Tom: Along with a really innovating music video.

Tim: I like it – there’s a new album out in January, and this is a decent lead track.

Nea – Some Say

“What.”

Tim: So, I could introduce this by saying that New is the stage name of previously writer-only Linnea Södahl, or that the song is about love that will never be reciprocated, but neither of those things is even vaguely important, relative to what actually happens in the song.

Tom: What.

Tim: So, that is one of the most bizarre things I’ve heard in a long while. Straight sampling: fine. Redoing in a different genre: sure, why not (unless you’re Calum Scott). Doing this to it: again, can be okay (and in fact I’ve feeling this has already happened earlier this year, but I’m damned if can remember the specifics). BUT, what ludicrous set of circumstances would make you think “ooh, Eiffel 65 wrote a melody that everyone associates with late 90s novelty eurodance and it was a big one-off hit, I should use on this ballad I’m writing”?

Tom: It is very, very strange. Maybe it’s targeted at Gen-Z kids who won’t know the original well but might know the melody? After all, that’s basically what Pitbull did with Feel This Moment, albeit in the other direction, and he mostly got away with it.

Tim: Well, mainly because that was just Pitbull being Pitbull, we expect stuff like that. The cynical part of me is wondering if she’s only decided to launch her singing career because every established artist she’s sent it to has given it a hard pass but she was certain it’s a winner; I’m sure as hell not certain it is.

Steve Aoki feat. Backstreet Boys – Let It Be Me

“Way better than I thought it was going to be.”

Tom: Steve Aoki, DJ who isn’t throwing as much cake at people any more. And the Backstreet Boys, who don’t need any introduction. The result is…

Tom: …huh. Way better than I thought it was going to be.

Tim: Hmm, see I’d have put it at ‘roughly what I was expecting’, though I guess either works.

Tom: I think that’s mostly because the main artist and featured credits are the wrong way round here: this is a Backstreet Boys song (and a good one) with a well-remixed chorus and some probably-unnecessary goose-honk synths.

Tim: Maybe, though it’s very much the remix bit that takes the focus – I’d posit that if it were a less well known act providing vocals, this could get away with being an uncredited session singer.

Tom: Good chorus, though.

Matthias Reim – Eiskalt

“It’s really interesting to hear this sort of dramatic, dark effect applied to what is, in the end, still schlager.”

Tom: We’ve talked about Matthias Reim before, Tim, and we seem to settle on the same thing each time: SCHLAGER BANGERS. What’s he got this time?

Tim: Well, throughout my years, Tom, I’ve heard hundreds, probably thousands, of songs that build through the verse and smash into the chorus. And yet, until today I don’t think I’ve ever heard one that could genuinely be described as having a sense of foreboding about it.

Tim: Those opening piano notes, straight out of some sinister ‘hide in the wardrobe, there’s someone creeping around with a knife’ scenarios.

Tom: I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere before, but all my brain can come up with is Cutting Crew’s Died In Your Arms. It’s really interesting to hear this sort of dramatic, dark effect applied to what is, in the end, still schlager.

Tim: Those beats arrive, upping the tension further. His deep raspy voice with its distinctly serial killer vibe. That heart in the lyric video smashing into pieces. The drums build, he’s approaching the closet, you’re holding your breath, and suddenly WHAM, we break out into a truly fabulous eurodance chorus.

Tom: “Freezing”, in case it wasn’t obvious from context. You’re right though: all electric-guitar, power-chords and heavy percussion. He’s managed it again: BANGER.

Tim: We can breathe, no-one’s trying to murder us, we can have a heck of a time, either throwing our limbs around trying to approximate some sort of rhythm, or just watching that absolutely gorgeous lyric video. Either way, everything is good, and we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us to appreciate it.

Tom: This got more existential than usual. Cracking schlager song, though.

Saturday Flashback: Watermät – Bullit

Tom: I wouldn’t normally send over a deep house song, Tim, but I heard this track from 2014 for the first time, and it stood out to me.

Tim: Any particular reason?

Tom: Because every single individual part of it is irritating, and yet somehow, I like it.

Tom: Who seriously picks synth patches like that? Who decides that a distorted foghorn should try to become the sound of the summer? Who adds a tweeting-bird-car-alarm effect last heard when Dario G remixed Jeff Wayne? Who writes what is basically a two-note melody?

Tim: So, I get your point, and I don’t know how to answer any of your questions with anything other than “well, this guy”, but it was a big song. And it might only be two notes, but it’s a catchy melody nonetheless, and that I still remember five years down the line even though I’ve probably not heard it much since.

Tom: You do? Huh. I missed it somehow. Which rather takes the wind out of my big question — who gets it into the Top 20 in the UK, and to number 2 in Belgium?

Tim: Well, it’s as you said: somehow, you like it. And so did a lot of other people.