Hurts – Redemption

“I didn’t think a pop song could pull that off, and yet it just has done.”

Tim: Third track off their upcoming album Faith; we didn’t feature their second, and I’m not quite sure why, because it’s fairly good (though the intro’s a bit unpleasant, maybe that put me off). This one, in contrast, is…well. Headphones, please, and sit back, as it entirely deserves 100% of your attention. There’s an official video, but we’ll just have the artwork for now, I’ll explain later.

Tom: “I’ve never felt this far from God.” That’s a bold and devastating first line, isn’t it? And for an album called “Faith”… it’s rare for the first verse of a track to grab me like that.

Tim: Isn’t it brilliant? I first listened to this when I was walking home from work the other night, and for the first minute I was ‘yep, this is a good Hurts track, they are doing what they do very well’; the light backing vocal then confirmed that. Second verse and chorus, still as before, fine, still good – might have expected something bigger, but again I have, well, faith in them, and even just at that base level it still sounds stunning.

Tom: It’s a perfect example of how to construct a song that builds like this: just subtly introducing instruments throughout, occasional pizzicato strings here, a bit more percussion there…

Tim: And then the middle eight, and OH BOY. Gentle electric guitar, sure. Fine. But then, just, blimey. Strings come down, and suddenly Hans Zimmer walks into the room, and it sounds incredible.

Tom: It works! Most bands don’t even attempt something like this; those that do, tend not to hit the bar. There are bits I wasn’t sure about at first (the odd dubstep-esque breakdown, the final note) but those qualms vanished on a second listen. Frankly, this is a statement of a song, and I’m not going to argue with it.

Tim: The vocals come back up later, and at the end of it I’m astounded by what I’ve heard. I didn’t think a pop song could pull that off, and yet it just has done. It is, quite simply, utterly marvellous.

Tom: When Hurts are good — and they’re not always good, but when they are — they’re one of the greatest pop acts we have.

Tim: Now, all of that is the case if you’re just listening to the song, but there’s also the video. You can watch it here if you don’t want this discussion to spoil it, but it starts out exactly as it should and as you might expect from this: the two of them standing under spotlights, Theo singing and Adam playing piano, and it stays like that until what we shall call the Zimmer Moment, and suddenly it turns from song to soundtrack. Now, although I’m sure it’s partly there for shock value, I don’t think it’s too gratuitous, that’s not my issue – after all, the idea of redemption by fire isn’t a new one, particularly if you’re bringing religion into it.

Tom: And a note to every video director: this is how you light and grade a dark video for modern broadcast workflow. Faces are clear, there’s a minimum of colour banding. It’s not perfect, compression still ruins some close-ups of the eye with fire, but it’s about the best you could hope for. I agree, I don’t think that’s too gratuitous, there’s no close-up of injury there, it’s clear that it’s a metaphor — and a stunt.

Tim: But it does mean that you go immediately from watching a song being played to watching a film with a great score, and that’s not what I think a music video should be. It’s different from, say, Alan Walker, or Basshunter back in the day, because with them the music is entirely unrelated to the video – you’ve a story and a song happening at the same time, but that’s about it. Here, the music is directly related to what’s happening on screen, and what’s happening on screen is the main focus of the whole piece. And as a music video, I don’t think that should be the case.