“Moderately funky, but entering low and falling swiftly.”
Tom: Remember LunchMoney Lewis?
Tim: The name, yes. The song…no, remind me.
Tom: He was the sound of the summer back in 2015, and — although we talked about the song a bit too early to cover it — that one song did end up being a smash on both sides of the Atlantic. Since then, he’s… well, yes, “one-hit wonder” would sum it up pretty well, albeit a one-hit wonder who’ll be doing well from the songs he’s written for other people.
So: here’s the next attempt at the charts. And the result from today’s Chart Forecast is:
Tom: Moderately funky, but entering low and falling swiftly.
Tom: I mean, it’s a little retro, and it’s a bit Radio 2, but there’s a lot of really good influences that have been pulled together into this — a bit of Fleetwood Mac, maybe a bit of REM.
Tim: And put together in a really good way.
Tom: Shame about the low-effort middle eight and final chorus: there’s a lot of opportunities missed there. Even a simple ‘shift the main melody to the harmony for a couple of notes’ would’ve been better.
Tim: Yes – my one moan was that about three minutes in I was thinking “so, anything new going to happen here?”
Tom: Still: not complaining. This is actually a really nice track.
“Oh I know this, and it’s really good, what is it?”
Tim: So, you ever get that thing when you listen to a song and you think ‘huh, it’s okay’, and then you hear it in the background a bit later and you think ‘oh I know this, and it’s really good, what is it’?
Tom: Yes! Normally on the radio days later. I once asked Shazam about the same song three times in a week, and I feel like it should have been more sarcastic by the end of that.
Tim: I ask, because that’s basically what happened here.
Tim: According to what she told Zane Lowe on Beats 1 last week, her Queendom is what she basically wants to be a home for all her fans who need a place to be alone together.
Tom: I think the most startling part of that sentence is that anyone actually listened to Beats 1. Anyway, yes, you were saying, alone together.
Tim: I don’t really know if that works or not, but I do know that, like I said earlier, it didn’t really do much for me actively the first time I heard it, but then actually it turns out I really like it.
Tom: Whereas I’ll be honest, I’m judging it on the first listen here. It’s… it’s okay, I guess, but if it turns out to be a grower I’m really not sure I’d give it enough a chance.
Tim: And I’m fairly sure that’s not a bad thing – sure, if it was a Eurovision track or similar where one play was all we got, it’d be a significant drawback, but as it is, just a couple of plays in it sounds great. And that’ll do me. Very nicely, in fact.
“It’s Whigfield! With some incredibly distracting dancers!”
Tim: It’s Whigfield! With some incredibly distracting dancers!
Tom: Wait, that actually is Whigfield! Singing… well, let’s just say that Damon Albarn might be wondering if he’s got a case about that chorus.
Tim: Ideally, in most cases, the singer’s the one we should be looking at – sure, sometimes there are exceptions, if they’re really there to make something of the choreography. But here, although I’m certain they’re not meant to be so distracting – there’s that one guy, front and centre when they’re all sitting down, standing directly behind her in that second chorus, and taking attention on the right at the close. I don’t know why (no, it’s not because of that), but he seems to steal it every time he’s there. Just me?
Tom: Just you, mate. But the fact you haven’t written a word about the (sadly, fairly dull) song says a lot.
“A combination of familiarity and novelty is generally what sells pop music.”
Tim: I do like it, Tom, when very good looking people turn out to also be very good at making music. Today it’s the turn of Birgir Steinn Stefánsson, whose previous track we both largely liked. Quick heads up: the sound quality on the YouTube clip is somewhat atrocious, so if you’ve got access to a streaming service of some sort, you might want to use that instead.
Tim: The main criticism we had previously was that it sounded slightly derivative of other tracks; this one doesn’t have that problem remotely as much.
Tom: A combination of familiarity and novelty is generally what sells pop music, and I still reckon there’s a lot of familiarity here. You can trace the elements here back to all over the last ten years, but they’re pulled together well.
Tim: But this did give me the most obscure ‘sounds like’ I think I’ve ever had, with a ‘GAH, what I do want that to spin off into’ in the run up to the chorus. Took me a good ten minutes to work it out, but it was in fact the 2012 Belarusian entry to Eurovision. Third from bottom in its semi-final, but I quite liked it.
Tim: BUT ANYWAY, this song. Takes a while to get there, but boy when it does, that second chorus is a blinder, as is pretty much everything that follows it; listening a second time, that first chorus stuck out at me more than it had done previously as well. All in all, lovely stuff.
Tom: And a note for having a Proper Ending as well. It stays exactly as long as it should, no less, no more. That’s underrated.
Tim: New discovery: about two and a half years ago, Smith & Thell removed roughly everything they had every done from the internet, and indeed elsewhere: YouTube videos and SoundCloud tracks all gone, no songs on Spotify or up for purchase, anywhere. All gone, completely.
Tom: Well, that’s bold. Dramatic PR stunt, getting angry with old work, or a Big Massive Change In Direction?
Tim: Big Massive Change In Direction: from dancey numbers like Kill It With Love (still up unofficially in dodgy quality on Vimeo if you want to remind yourself) to more boring standard guitar stuff. So it’s slightly understandable – forget the past, we don’t do that any more – until you realise that actually, their new track is very much closer to the old stuff.
Tom: You’re not wrong there.
Tim: In fact, what we’ve got is a really, really good blend of the two styles, with a U2-esque beginning, and continuing undercurrent, of guitars and drums and standard band-style singing, which then quickly adds on some synths and develops eventually full-blown dance banger territory for the second chorus and what follows. And I absolutely love that idea.
Tom: It does, but there’s something wrong with the production here, or at least in the version that’s been sent up to YouTube. Everything’s been gated so loudly that it’s difficult to make out the vocals: there’s no headroom anywhere in there. There’s a really great vocal quality hidden in there, but it’s been pushed so loud and limited so heavily that it’s almost painful to listen to at times.
Tom: Yes, I’m complaining about the ‘loudness war’, but it’s rare to actually make such a difference. Either that or my ears are blocked.
Tim: Well, I kind of get what going for (and it’s not YouTube, the studio version’s the same), but I don’t find it a problem. The two styles are blended together so so well, and it’s a track I can listen to many times over, particularly once you add the great “luh-luh-luh-love me” bit in that pre-chorus which I find a particular highlight. And that higher melody in the middle eight? Also great. In fact it’s ALL GREAT. So please, don’t delete this.
Tim: Again, the wrong option you’ve jumped in with. No, it’s a new song, and to find out more you can just read the video.
Tom: Well, that’s a really irritating video.
Tim: It is slightly distracting, yes, as I was paying so much attention to reading their story that I had to go back to remind myself what the track was like.
Tom: Yep, background tab right away.
Tim: Fortunately, re-listening didn’t bother me so much because it’s a damn good track that I’ll happily listen to multiple times. The sound is good from the start, it brings a great happy message (‘let it rain, let it rain, let it rain, before you know it you’ll be dry again’ is a lovely lyric).
Tom: I’m not sure it’s enough, really, but it’s… well, it’s inoffensive. I’ll admit I felt unsatisfied by the ending: despite there being one additional vocal line, that last chorus feels about the same as the first one. Just when it feels like the track might be going somewhere, it stops dead. It didn’t need another chorus, it just needed a bigger final one.
Tim: You might be right there, I suppose, but all in all it just seems…nice. And right now, I’ll take that.
Tim: Lots of things have Official Songs, particularly sport tournaments.
Tom: Augh, we’re not doing the Big Horrible Corporate-Sponsored World Cup Song, are we?
Tim: What, with its lyric that is literally just Coca-Cola’s advertising strapline?no, no we’re not. Instead, right now it’s the turn of the 2018 World Table Tennis Championship.
Tom: Never mind.
Tim: It kicks off in a couple of weeks in Helmstad in Sweden, and here’s the song, with a lot of things to like about it.
Tom: Huh. Bluegrass fiddle. That is not something you usually hear in pop music. Neither is that vocal quality, and to be fair, neither’s that key change.
Tim: No, and yet I think we’d all benefit if that situation changed. I heard it on my standard New Music Friday playlist when I was in the shower, and got out just a few seconds before the key change came along, and suddenly my day was all set to be happy and fun. The strings leapt back in, Helene’s vocal and upbeat lyrics returned, and the whole thing just put me in a really, really good mood. Obviously I played it again, and could hear the rest of the song properly (particularly that fantastic middle eight), and yep – it’s made me feel really, really great.
Tom: It’s genuinely lovely, isn’t it? It’s not going to light up the world any time soon, but it’s actually got a really good balance between regular pop structures, interesting new things, and good composition, performance and production.
Tim: In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard a song that’s had this effect on me in quite some time, maybe not since I first heard voXXclub a few months back. I love it.
“That’s… actually pretty original as song concepts go.“
Tim: Last seen around here being my favourite finalist of Melodifestivalen 2016, but now Oscar’s back from the hairdresser’s and all singing in Swedish.
Tom: I love titles that I can translate by just reading them out loud.
Tim: You can probably guess the title yourself, though the rest of song’s slightly in reverse – kind of a “what are we waiting for, it’s been ages, just kiss me, but slowly so it’s nice and sensual and all that.”
Tom: That’s… actually pretty original as song concepts go.
Tim: A fair mix of pressure and romance, which sums up the song as well really, as we’ve a gentle and somewhat soulful verse combined with a heftier almost dance-y chorus, which I’d say works well enough – he certainly has the vocal skills to pull it off.
Tom: I’m less sure about what appears to be a synth imitating a motorbike in the background, and I reckon that middle eight changes the style in an odd way that doesn’t really fit in. But yes, there’s nothing actually wrong here.
Tim: The production and melody are all good as well, so it’s all pretty great, really. Nice one.
“Gold-painted boobs on his jacket, but I’ll overlook that.”
Tim: One of the things I like about watching the various selection shows live is the communal experience that Twitter provides – in fact, one of my proudest moments is still when I drunkenly yelled at Portuguese broadcaster RTP asking what their official hashtag was so I could join in. The drawback, on the other hand, is that I typically come up with a quick one liner but have nothing else to say. This may be quite a short post, then, but for this, from Spain: “Slytherin’s entry to a Hogwarts Battle of the Bands.”
Tim: I stand by that, mind, for a variety of reasons: there are green lights, they’ve got Proper Instruments, and the song’s not particularly brilliant.
Tom: Wait, what? I think this is my favourite Reject so far this year. It’s got a horn section! It’s got a lovely melody! It’s got a competent live singer, too, who admittedly appears to be wearing gold-painted boobs on his jacket, but I’ll overlook that.
Tim: Oh, all of that’s true – it’s certainly very enjoyable, and I suppose I may have come across as a bit harsh earlier. It also got a hell of a reaction from the audience, which counts for a lot – though it did very poorly in the televote.
Tom: Admittedly it’s also pretty unoriginal. There’s nothing actually ripped off here, as far as I can tell, but I’ll bet you can find that chord progression in a lot of places; basically, this sounds like a lot of old indie-pop songs that I like, so therefore I also like it.
Tim: There’s also a dedication to frequently being as loud as possible, right down to shouting the last chorus line which is actually about whispering his secrets to the song’s target (presumably his girlfriend Amaia, who you’ll recall we met last week). Obviously this would entirely not do well at Eurovision – unless you’re Lordi, actual bands are Not A Good Idea – but it’s not a bad entry, and since Alfred ended up as part of the winning duo, no-one’s really lost out.
Tom: You’re right that it probably wouldn’t do well at Eurovision, which I think is a shame. I’d have given it full marks.