ILY – You Give Me

“Crack open the pineapple juice and bring on the timpani.”

Tim: Still the middle of February and bloody miserable outside, but that doesn’t mean we can’t crack open the pineapple juice and bring on the timpani.

Tom: I mean, apart from the fact it’s 2018 and we should have left this behind a couple of years ago, but yeah, okay, let’s GET TROPICAL.

Tim: Here is one artist who’s done just that, with a song that’s enjoyable but intensely irritating. Let me know when you realise it.

Tim: Right then, ILY, the song is called You Give Me Life. You know that, you sing it, the words are there. So WHY, dear GOD WHY, is there so, so much of “you g’mm me”? In general, I have no issue with twisted vocal samples – they’re in fashion, and when they’re done well they sound good.

Tom: It is entirely possible to do a chopped-up vocal chorus that sounds great — Rita Ora’s Anywhere, for example, even if it leaves her a bit lost during live performances.

Tim: Except, well, Kygo was recently described on here as letting a toddler loose on the volume control, and not only does that sound like what’s happened here, but you’ve actually thought “thanks toddler, that’ll do” and then thrown it liberally around the song without realising that it sounds awful.

Tom: And it’s a strange choice to make, because it’s not as if there are multiple words being combined here. Is it someone stretching “gimme” out too much? Combining two takes? I’ve no idea.

Tim: AARGH it’s so infuriating, because the rest of it is good!

Tom: Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. It’s okay.

Tim: It’s just that one bit, used so so often, completely kills it. For me, anyway. Grrr.

Allertz – Brave

“Tom, I think this video might annoy you.”

Tim: Now, Tom, I think this video might annoy you – it’s basically a three minute compilation of a ‘Kids Are Great’ inspirational tumblr blog (though there’s also a great one of a kid completely stacking it off his bike and ending up in a bush, not sure how that made it in but I burst out laughing).

Tom: And it’s time to put this in a BACKGROUND TAB.

Tim: Anyway, have a listen.

Tom: I’ll be honest, the line “daddy told me to be perfect” put me off from the very first line, and it went downhill from there.

Tim: Now, I’m not sure if I like that just because of the video, because however much of a dick who laughs at videos of kids falling off bikes I may come across as, I do actually have a soft and fluffy heart inside, and so I actually like the video, and was rather engrossed in it throughout my first listen.

Tom: Whereas my heart remains as rock-solid as ever, and it just seems a bit… ugh, the word that comes to mind is “facile”, and I know damn well how pretentious that sounds. It’s not bubblegum or candyfloss pop, because that at least knows what it’s trying to achieve — this is just… slightly sweetened air. Like someone’s sprayed too much air freshener around to cover up something.

Wow, that sounded harsh.

Tim: Yes, yes it really did. And even without the video, I like the message, the sound, the tune and of course the fantastic way it ends with a lion’s roar (yep, that’s in the studio version). A nice track.

Tom: “Nice.” Yeah, I guess that sums it up.

October – 1000 Eyes

“While I’d agree that it’s good, I’m not sure it’s two-reallys-good.”

Tim: This here from New Zealand, and unlike yesterday I know exactly what it is I like about it.

Tim: Because heavens above, that’s a great chorus.

Tom: It is, but I’m not so sure about the song as a whole. There’s some great synth work in there, and even that long outro doesn’t seem to go on for too long, but…

Tim: Yeah, the verses: not so great. They’re dark, a bit heavy, and not really in a good way, because there’s not a huge amount going on with them. That chorus, though, is still dark and heavy but it sounds really, really good.

Tom: That’s two “reallys” there, and, while I’d agree that it’s good, I’m not sure it’s two-reallys-good. What do you like?

Tim: First, there’s obviously that massive synth line underlying it, but also a very slight higher line behind that, which with her intense vocal (particularly that “there’s. so. much. more. I. want. to. sho-. -oow.” part) combine really nicely to make a great sounding part of a song. Just part of a song, mind, so I can’t give this an unequivocal thumbs up, but still. That chorus.

Nova Miller – Turn Up The Fire

“It just strikes me as a Good Pop Song.”

Tim: So here’s a song I’ve had open in a background tab for a good few days now, which I really like but haven’t got round to sending because I don’t really know what to write about it; have a listen anyway.

Tom: That’s not the greatest sales pitch you’ve ever sent me, but sure, let’s try it.

Tim: Thing is, I’m not sure exactly why I like it, other than that it just strikes me as a Good Pop Song.

Tom: It has all the hallmarks of that, yes, but I’m not convinced that there’s any part of it that stands out especially. It sounds… maybe a bit like stock music? Really good stock music, don’t get me wrong, but stock music.

Tim: It’s loud and hefty, a sound that very much fits in with a lot of stuff on the radio right now, but there’s no real part of it where I can say “YES, this is what I like about it”.

Tom: Then I think the problem’s with the composition: there’s just not enough in there to make it memorable.

Tim: Well that’s true enough – even after several listens, I’m not sure I could really sing along to much of it. I think, in the end, it’s just modern pop that sounds like it’s made really, really well. And I guess that’s all I need to like a track.

Saturday Reject: RAYA – Crazy

“There’s a debate to be had over what makes a good song to send to Eurovision.”

Tim: Yep, it’s that time of year – three months to Eurovision, time to look at the songs that have been binned off in the selection processes. We’ll start close to home, I think, with my favourite of our six.

Tom: A new high for number of syllables put into the word “ha-a-a-a-a-zy” there, beating Britney Spears’ previous record of four. But this is… mediocre at best. Why do you like it?

Tim: See, there’s a debate to be had over what makes a good song to send to Eurovision. Should it be a song that sounds typical of your country’s output? Arguably, yes – that’s kind of the point of it, to display and experience the best your country has to offer. But, well, we tried that with Joe & Jake, and then Lucie Jones, and neither of those ended particularly well.

Tom: Let’s not forget Electro Velvet. Well, actually, maybe we should.

Tim: Excuse me, you’re forgetting that that electro swing is really big right now. Alternatively, though, should it be something that sounds closer to other countries’ output, to pick up some votes from there? And that, you see, is where this comes in.

Tom: The trouble with that is: you’re never going to pick up points from everyone. To win Eurovision these days, you need to send an absolutely world-beating pop song (“Heroes”, “Love Shine A Light”, “Euphoria”), or you need to send a person or song who stands out from the crowd well enough to charm everyone (Conchita Wurst, last year’s Portuguese bloke whose name I’ve already forgotten).

Tim: We all have, I think.

Tom: Just ripping off another country’s style isn’t going to be enough.

Tim: No, but then it’s a good track on its own, and it also sounds, to me, remarkably like something that’d arrive via Turkey, Azerbaijan, or various other eastern European countries; while they may be all tiny and fiddly and far away to our eyes, there are a lot of them and they do all have 24 points to give away.

Tom: And a load of other, potentially better, people in the same style.

Tim: Ooh. Oh, yes, that is a good point. And also, it’s slightly dodgy tactics – but if dodgy tactics is was it would have taken to get us to host a European love-in in May next year, I’d be all for it.

Tom: No, I can’t get behind this. The vocals are okay, but the song’s dull: it’s not a standout pop song, and it’s not a standout performance. But judging by the winner, none of them were — and that’s down to the BBC.

Lauv – Getting Over You

“Gentle, twinkly synthpop”

Tom: Without knowing Lauv’s nationality, what would you guess?

Tim: Hmm…voice has a British sense to it, and the styling could be from here – in the right area?

Tom: A combination of the style, the voice and the name made me assume Lauv was from Norway or Sweden, but no. This is an American, whose LA-based team — as far as I can tell — are doing their best impression of the gentle, twinkly synthpop coming out of the Nordic countries.

Tim: Huh. Yeah, not a bad job – though I think the synthpop (which I flipping love, by the way) is becoming global enough now that, well, as we’ve just proved, assumptions can’t really be made confidently.

Tom: And they’re nearly there. Just one problem: this is about a minute too long. It’s a great sub-three-minute track that just doesn’t need to be extended for one more chorus and a long outro.

Tim: The chorus I don’t have a problem with – but yes, I’m fairly sure we could cut the song off nicely at 3:31 and it’d be a good’un. Otherwise, though: lovely.

Vargas & Lagola – Roads

Tim: Back with their own track after last month’s brief pairing with Avicii, and it got me on board right away.

Tom: Agreed! That’s one of the best openings to a track that I’ve heard in a while. Except…

Tim: Except…then it was a full two minutes before it really did anything remotely different, and so I started getting actually quite bored. The annoying thing is, what’s there is actually quite good – it’s a good strong verse, and hell, it’s a better chorus than a lot of the tracks we feature.

Tom: And I think that’s partly because it’s a really familiar melody — not actually taken from anywhere, but filled with a lot of easy-to-recognise progressions of notes.

Tim: But together, there’s just no real variation – a minute and a half in, I’m thinking ‘blimey, are they really stringing this out for four minutes?’ Of course, stringing becomes an entirely appropriate verb soon after, and it’s nice to have that – but then at the end of that middle eight, there’s a drop down and then quick build up to…right back where it was. And that’s just not how a song should work, guys. Summary: what’s there is great, but I just want a lot of it gone.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Happyland

“There’s not a huge amount happy about it at all.‘

Tim: I pressed play on this and wondered why it sounded so familiar, and then I realised it was because it’s one of the best tracks on his 2016 Chameleon album. Annoyingly this otherwise quite nice video’s got multiple “don’t rip this” moments in it, which I thought had died years ago, so you may want to help yourself to a studio recording (though that has a rude phrase, which here has been replaced with “messed up”).

Tom: Blimey, that’s some beautiful, bleak scenery in that video. I realise I should be paying attention to the song, but seriously, that’s beautiful. Sweden and Iceland, apparently.

Tim: So, despite it being called Happyland, the song otherwise makes it really quite clear there’s not a huge amount happy about it at all. Despite that, it’s a hell of a chorus he’s using to sing about it. It’s dark but loud, it’s visceral and emotional, and that video really does pair up with it nicely (though I’m not sure the song earns the happy ending as much as the video thinks it does).

Tom: This feels like a grower to me: I can’t say I was that impressed by it on first listen, but then I went back and listened again an hour or so later. That’s rare for me: this got stuck in my head somehow.

Tim: A strong song in every respect, regardless ofd that, and now I remember why I spent a long while listening to the album.

Robin Stjernberg – Love

“I was confident I wouldn’t miss anything when I went to the toilet.”

Tim: It’s a song that starts quiet, builds up a bit, but you get to the chorus and you think “this has to do something good here”. And then…

Tim: Well. It wasn’t massive enough for me to go “oh, WOW”, but it was enough to keep me listening.

Tom: See, I really liked that first verse, and I didn’t think it overpromised it all — we’ve gone into a decent enough chorus for a slow ballad like this. For me, the verses kept me listening; for you, it was the chorus?

Tim: It was, yes – just enough to be good. Not special, but good. Until the ending, because oh boy, was I very glad I kept listening. Not just because I love that key change, but because I just did not see it coming. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was so surprised by one – sure, it’s a textbook placing here, and if we were living in the good timeline maybe I’d be expecting it, but I think it was more that I’d reached the point where I was confident I wouldn’t miss anything when I went to the toilet.

Tom: Well, that was needlessly detailed. To be fair, you’re right: that “la la la love” was starting to get a bit old.

Tim: I’m fairly sure that means it slots in perfectly with the stereotype of “let’s throw in a key change to liven it up a bit”, but I don’t mind.

Tom: It’s what they’re for, really. And this song, while it is pleasant, does need livening up a bit.

Tim: Well indeed, and while it does liven it up, it doesn’t really save it entirely. Apparently he wrote it for, and then performed it at, his best mate’s wedding, with full choir, and while I can see it working well there, it just sounds a bit bland at home. Sorry, Robin. Nice try, though.

Julie Kedhammar – Incredible Now

“Na-nanana-na-aooouw.”

Tim: The good Olympics are on, and we’ve already had a stunner of an opening ceremony; Julie’s got a song that somewhat ties in. This here video has nothing to do with her, but for some reason is the only place it’s available and embeddable, so have a listen, and watch some clips of random Swedes competing.

Tim: WHAT A SONG, particularly if you like people taking nine syllables to sing “now”.

Tom: Na-nanana-na-aooouw. I’ll be honest, Tim: I don’t like that. I might even go so far as to say I hate it. I don’t think a meaningless vocal line has irritated me so much in a long, long time. I can’t even explain why.

Tim: I do like it when songs about people being incredible or amazing or glorious are themselves Incredible or Amazing or Glorious, and so I’m delighted that this clearly fits that category. That chorus is the highlight, obviously, as it’s brilliantly powerful, but just as good is that the verses don’t even need to go down to minimum to show that.

Tom: And I can see what you mean. There’s clearly something there, both in production and performance. But I can’t get over that… I’m going to go with “playground chant” and its terrible vocals.

Tim: Oh, please, it’s clearly not that bad. What shows the greatness most of all, for me, is the fact that I don’t care that the middle eight is only really a middle four. Normally I’d want proper variety there, but right now I just want to get back to that chorus, because GOD it’s good. FABULOUS.