SuRie – Black Dove January

“Aadvance warning: the club banger style has been entirely discarded.”

Tim: SuRie, off Eurovision and getting stage invaded last year, has brought us an album, Dozen, which was released a couple of days ago. Interesting concept: twelve tracks, each related to a month.

Tom: Huh. I mean, I’ve heard much worse ideas for concept albums. Let’s be honest, my expectations are pretty low: ‘Eurovision contestant’s follow-up album’ isn’t an easy sell.

Tim: Here’s the first one, and (advance warning) the club banger style has been entirely discarded.

Tom: She’s got a beautiful voice, and she knows how to use it well. Pity that the song sounds like it’s playing during the bleak interlude in the middle of a made-for-TV Christmas movie.

Tim: When she was on Eurovision: You Decide she sung a John Lewis version of Storm, and it almost seemed like that was how she’d rather have performed it all along, and this kind of reinforces that.

I don’t mind that too much, though, because it sounds nice enough and now at least she can do what she wants.

Tom: What a bizarre set of lyrics, though. It’s like someone wrote a prog-rock song and then decided to score it for strings and piano.

Tim: Sure, it may drag along a bit, and sure, if you’re not in the mood for a piano ballad this won’t do much for you; on the other hand, though, when the time comes for her to raise her voice and get enthusiastic, she’s more than capable of that. So fair play to her – unlike most of our unsuccessful Eurovision entries, she’s done something. And, indeed, something worth listening to.

Tom: This isn’t aiming for the pop charts, and that’s absolutely fine. I do hope there’s an audience for this: I’m not part of it, but I hope there’s an audience out there.

Tim: As for the rest of the album, I’ve not yet had a chance to check it all out, but I can tell you that (a) as implied above, it’s all in this style, (b) the Green Day cover is pretty nice, and (c) the December entry is upsettingly non-Christmassy.

Rat City feat. Isak Heim – Kind Of Love

“Fun, dancey, excitable, brassy, with a very weird video thrown in on the side.”

Tim: We’ve featured Rat City a couple of times before, but the last time was well over eighteen months ago so I’ll refresh your memory: it’s basically a rebranded Donkeyboy.

Tom: And the name’s just as bad!

Tim: Different sound, same people.

Tom: I actually said “huh, that’s good” out loud at the first chorus, which means I wasn’t expecting it to be good.

Tim: Nice, isn’t it? Fun, dancey, excitable, brassy, with a very weird video thrown in on the side.

Tom: I’m not entirely sure that reducing the female character to a large pair of lips on a lingerie-clad body is something that generally flies in the late 2010s. But given the whole thing looks like a fever dream anyway, perhaps it’s best to talk about the music.

Tim: Vocal that sounds right and good, and I particularly love what’s going on with that in the chorus – the call and repeat with the backing is the complete reverse of what you’d expect, yet it works brilliantly.

Tom: I was singing the chorus after one listen, and I didn’t mind. This isn’t bad at all.

Tim: All in, really quite special. Lovely.

Saturday Flashback: Jill Johnson – Crazy In Love

“Right old country banger that even Shania would be proud of, and then a key change thrown in just for fun.“

Tim: I described Jill as ‘the queen of country schlager’ yesterday, but didn’t actually provide any justification; here’s her entry for Melodifestivalen 2003, where it went straight through to the final and placed fourth.

Tom: Not a Beyoncé cover?

Tom: Definitely not a Beyoncé cover.

Tim: No, and not least because it came out several months previously. It is, however and somewhat presciently, a PROPER TUNE. Right old country banger that even Shania would be proud of, and then a key change thrown in just for fun.

Tom: And, like a lot of good schlager, it sounds like bits of a dozen other fun songs glommed together into one. Not a complaint, just an observation, made while tapping my foot.

Tim: Nothing much on stage, except for four singers and dancers (who really do reinforce my recent realisation about early ’00s haircuts), with their perfect timing at 1:28. Turns out that with a good enough song, you don’t need the rest of it to do very well. You might need it to win, but not to come a pretty good fourth. Nice one Jill.

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.