“Sorry, I am literally sitting here just repeating the word ‘geslided’ to myself out loud.”
Tim: Now, before you press play, be aware that there are a number of moments in the lyrics that will make you wince and let out an ‘oh, mate, just no’.
Tom: From our favourite ridiculous schlager channel? I’m shocked. There are certain traditions here that I’m going to miss when we finish writing this, Tim, but cringing at dodgy lyrics is not one of them.
Tim: Hmm, that’s fair. There are two things to know this time, though: everything is justified within the narrative of the lyrics (and they do tell a heartwarming tale), and all the awkwardness is stuck in the first verse, so the chorus and second verse are fine.
Tom: “Geliked” and “Geslided”. Geslided. Geslided. Sorry, I am literally sitting here just repeating the word “geslided” to myself out loud. Incredible.
Tim: She found him on Insta, you see, and checked out his feed, and went for the old DM slide, and he liked her photos right away, and, well, he’s got an inspiring bio that quotes Goethe so really what else is a girl meant to do but sing a really pretty good and banging dance tune about it?
Tom: Plenty more fish in the sea, love. That said, this is exactly the sort of song we set out to find when we started ten years ago: yes, it seems a bit by-the-numbers, but there’s clearly been work put into the composition and production. DJ Herzbeat knows what he’s doing.
Tim: It’s love, you see, Tom, IT’S LOVE. AND NOT JUST A DREAM. IT’S LOVE.
“YES HONESTLY CAN’T YOU SEE I’M ENTIRELY FINE, FINE IS WHAT I AM, I’M FINE”
Tim: NOTD, a Swedish production duo we’ve featured a couple of times and who are just starting to make waves over here, and Nina Nesbitt who’s off Scotland and has been fairly successful over the years. Together, this.
Tim: Love those lyrics, with the great sense of self-denial, going through all the possible reasons she could be crying with the sole insistence that it’s not You, until at the end we’re stuck wondering who she’s actually trying to convince, the target of the song or actually herself.
Tom: I’m not quite as convinced by the lyrics: I recoiled slightly at that “issues / tissues” couplet at the start of the second verse. And I’m not sure “outstanding” works in that chorus either. But setting that aside: does this sound a bit like it’s in the spirit of “Dancing On My Own” to you? It’ll never be as good as Robyn, of course, nothing could be, but it’s in that spirit .
Tim: It does, yes – both songs have a “look at me I’m doing fine without you YES HONESTLY CAN’T YOU SEE I’M ENTIRELY FINE, FINE IS WHAT I AM, I’M FINE”. It’s a hell of a song musically as well, mind – really good beat, and melody, and production, and I can absolutely see why they’re getting big over here.
Tom: The fact I’m not immediately slating it with that Robyn comparison means it must come off fairly well. There’s a lot to be said for this.
Tom: We do. Europlop is approaching ten years old. And after more than 3,000 posts — and more than 3,800 emails back and forth, during which we’ve never changed the subject line — that ten-year anniversary is also the time to bring this to a close. Ten years is an achievement, and I reckon it’s better to go out on a high, while we’ve got something to celebrate.
Tim: Indeed – I think we can say it’s been a fairly good decade musically, even if we did have to struggle to get through dubstep.
Tom: As the old showbiz saying goes, always leave ’em wanting more. So, with that said: one last week of new music?
Tim: Let’s do it. We have, broadly, both been in favour of Sigrid’s previous tracks; here’s her latest, a cover of a track from thirty years ago, and you can probably guess what the title translates to.
Tom: Well, that’s another track I can describe myself as being “broadly in favour of”.
Tim: Good, that, isn’t it? It’s basically a ‘remember that? That was great, any chance of it happening again?’ message, and it pretty much checks all my requirements for an upbeat pop song. Great vocal, yep, Tinkly background with lovely synth patterns, yep. Smooth and catchy melody, yep. Nothing that I want to get rid of, also yep.
Tom: And there’s enough eighties influence left from the original — in that middle eight in particular — that it’s still a competent cover.
Tim: Honestly, got nothing to complain about with this. Hooray!
“When Higher Love was such a banger using a near-identical formula, why is this one just… okay?”
Tom: I’ve been holding off on sending this to you, Tim, because I didn’t think it was all that good.
Tim: Same, actually – though let’s have a chat about it anyway, why not.
Tom: But then I realised that raises a question: when Higher Love was such a banger using a near-identical formula, why is this one just… okay?
Tim: My guess is three-fold: firstly, Higher Love is still a big enough track that if people want this formula, they’ll stick with that. I heard that on the radio on Tuesday, four days after this was out, because it is, quite simply, an out and out banger.
Secondly, and slightly more importantly: the formula isn’t actually quite the same. Here, Kygo hasn’t done all that much to it beyond stick in a tropical post-chorus. You press play on it, and for the first minute or so you might as well be listening to the original. Higher Love, though, was vastly different – I actually only looked it up for the first time just now and wasn’t sure I’d got the right track until the vocal kicked in.
Tom: Oh, you’re right there. I was listening to the middle bit, and it was all just Kygo doing his sample-cut-up job. That intro and first verse are very, very different now you point it out.
Tim: And thirdly, the original of this is much more well known. This is pretty much Tina Turner’s biggest track, everyone knows it, and there’s not a huge demand for what’s not much more than a remix, however big the name attached to it might be. Higher Love, though, was only put out by Whitney as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of one of her albums.
Tom: Wait, really? Huh. In which case, you’re teaching me a lot: I knew it, and so I assumed everyone else knew it too.
Tim: No, not at all – when people heard it, it was basically a new track by her and Kygo, and who wouldn’t want to hear that?
Tom: I assumed this would be deviation to the mean, because… well, that’s how this works. But this is really rather good, isn’t it?
Tim: It is – whole lot of things to recommend here. The autotune grates on me a little bit at times, though I don’t know if that’s deliberate or not.
Tom: Two distinct hooks between the pre-chorus and regular chorus, some great vocals, and composition that somehow manages to be simple while not grating.
Tim: Yeah, certainly can’t deny any of that – everything goes together nicely with that good melody.
Tom: And, I assumed Doja Cat would just be coming in for a rapped middle eight, because that’s usually how it works. But no: a noticeably different voice, backed up by some really good string samples. I’ve got nothing bad to say about this track. It’s brilliant.
“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.
Tim: Couple of weeks back, Britain’s best club night did a virtual party over Zoom as it obviously couldn’t happen in person – about a hundred people connected, seven hours of a DJ playing music with frequent cuts to people dancing in their rooms with ridiculous outfits, flags, lights, all sorts. Whole lot of fun, with this being one song that was played that I was surprised to have no memory of whatsoever.
Tom: What an odd choice of brass samples! Flagged up in the performance video, just about audible from time to time, but never actually brought to the forefront. Even in the middle eight, they’re relying on a vocal sample and dance moves. It’s like they wanted to aim for Sunstroke Project but couldn’t bring themselves to commit.
Tim: Ah, a beautiful reference there. I’m not sure why we didn’t feature it in our Rejects that year either – perhaps 2015 was a very strong year, but in any case it’s here now, so finally we have justice. Because what a good song it is!
Tom: It is, but I can most likely destroy your enjoyment of it with one word.
Tim: Ooh, that’s a claim and a half.
Tom: Do name the good things first, though.
Tim: From the moment he starts singing there’s plenty of energy there, a lovely melody into and throughout the chorus (and who doesn’t love a good “screw you” in the lyrics?) with a nice brassy breakdown every now and again. Although, speaking of the lyrics, it’s never actually specified what the ‘it’ is that’s going to sting, nor who it’s going to sting. I’ve been looking at the lyrics for a while now and I really can’t work it out, which is slightly annoying, but, oh well. Music’s good enough for me. Wasn’t for him, mind, as of course Måns won instead, but at least he got straight to the final, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Anyway, what’s that word?
Tim: Hmm…nice try, but no. Still fine with it. Sorry.
“A really good way of putting a countermelody in without it being distracting.”
Tim: Fancy a sort of rock type ballad track? That’s a terrible introduction to it, but then ‘rock ballad’ doesn’t really describe it properly. I dunno, have a listen.
Tom: Huh. You’re right, that doesn’t easily fold into a genre.
Tim: Number of things in there I like, but I think my main one is the way the melody of the verse sort of floats around, gently moving from one note to another without too much of a leap between any two.
Tom: It’s a fine line between “relaxed” and “lazy”, but yes, it fits the style of that verse well.
Tim: That progresses into the chorus as well, mind, but doesn’t have quite the same gentleness to it, because obviously it needs to be a bit more energetic and forceful – which it really does, and that chorus is where a few other bits happen that I like. That includes my second favourite bit: the trumpety-sounding synth fanfare.
Tom: Yep. That arpeggiated synth line under the chorus is… well, the word that comes to mind is “clever”. That’s a really good way of putting a countermelody in without it being distracting. It’s an 80s-revival style we’re now familiar with, but used in a new and interesting way.
Tim: That’s then echoed by the dah-dah-dah-dahhhh vocal shortly, which sound entirely lovely working together. I love this track, I think it’s great.
“Let’s focus on the good bits, as there are a multitude of those.”
Tim: There are two things about this that will really annoy you, so I’ll warn you about them first: one, the effect in the video, which is even worse than a VHS filter, and two, the fact that the songwriters seem to think ‘medicine’ rhymes with ‘fine’ – which is doubly odd because one of them is the singer.
Tim: Do we blame the English language for being stupidly inconsistent? Hmm, maybe, though there’s definitely no excuse for the poor compression effect – and what I really don’t get about that is that this is just a lyric video, and there’s no reason whatsoever to have it there, as it’s not a reference to anything. So who decided it? And, more importantly, why? Is there a reason I’m missing?
Those two things aside, I really like this.
Tom: I have no issue with either of those things. At least the chromatic aberration and digital glitching is modern — heck, in thirty years’ time, that’ll be retro. And as for the rhyme, I’m not at all convinced that it’s intended to rhyme: I think it’s just a coincidence that the words happened to be spelled the same. I think it’s deliberately meant to break the rhyme scheme.
Does that help?
Tim: Hmmm…maybe – the annoying thing is that other lines in the chorus do end with a firm ‘I’ sound, so it’s not clear what there rhyme scheme is meant to be, but OH WELL let’s focus on the good bits, as there are a multitude of those. The gentle introduction of various instruments throughout the first verse works well, her voice is as lovely as ever, particularly when it’s heard in the almost a cappella bits of the chorus, and all in all it just…works, for me. I like it a lot.
Tom: Yep, agreed. It’s a lovely track, particularly that final chorus.
Tom: Yep, Oakenfold’s back after years! Trance DJ. Prolific remixer. The last big song he produced was Cher’s Woman’s World. And he’s working with the vocalist that most of the world knows from Despacito. Surely, this will be a BANGER.
Tim: I don’t trust that intro.
Tim: Hmm. Well, the first nine seconds were promising, but then, really, Paul?
Tom: …so anyway, it turns out that for the last decade or so, Oakenfold’s also been writing film scores. And once you know that, this does sort-of makes sense.
Tim: Does it? After all, a couple of decades ago he was writing TV themes (twenty years ago today, in fact), and that one was a right old tune. But even if that’s the case – this isn’t a film theme, it’s a mild pop song.
Tom: The fans who made pilgrimages to Tomorrowland to see him are, most likely, going to be disappointed. But if this rolled over the credits of a movie? Well, I’d probably think “that sounds okay” as I got up and left the cinema. Or, these days, stopped the stream and checked my phone.