Saturday Flashback: Cascada – How Do You Do

“It makes me smile every single time.”

Tim: And now, for no reason whatsoever other than “well duh, why not?”, let’s have some beautifully textbook mid-’00s Eurodance.

Tim: Not a lot to say about it, really – it’s a cover of Roxette’s (rather more successful) original song, and it makes me smile every single time it pops up on my phone.

Tom: There’s a lot to be said for a good cover like this: yes, Cascada could basically be any session singer, and yes, it’s a by-the-numbers remix — but in a style that I grew up with. Now I’m older, I’m aware that “repeating the chorus with one particular Eurodance synth patch” is not an objectively great bit of music: but that doesn’t stop me liking it. And let’s be honest, the talking bit does not fit in this song. But…

Tim: …it has a ludicrous dance beat, lyrics that are great to sing along with, and all in all I just love it. Unapologetically.

Tove Styrke – Mistakes

“Until I get used to this I’m just going to get grumpy at it.”

Tim: Just as you reported yesterday there wasn’t much around from Europe, YouTube threw this up in my recommendeds, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you take the pre-chorus as the chorus and the chorus as the post-chorus, at least for the first half of the song.

Tom: I actually swore out loud at that chorus.

Tim: As well you might, because just like yesterday, that’s a great pre-chorus section with a sudden dip.

Tom: Right. I know that pop’s going more experimental at the moment, and I guess that’s to be commended, but until I get used to this I’m just going to get grumpy at it.

Tim: That’s fair, although the second part, with the title in the lyrics, is still pretty good, as we’d hope for with it being the official chorus. It’s more than capable of holding up the song on its own in the closing section, with the built-up instrumentation underneath it.

Tom: Nope. Don’t like the simplistic synths — they’re like chiptune, but bad — and I don’t like the style. It’s just… not enjoyable.

Tim: MI don’t know, I can just about take it. But much like Kygo & Selena Gomez, though, for me it’s the pre-chorus that wins it, and wins it well.

Macklemore feat. Kesha – Good Old Days

“Basically four minutes of musical blueballs.”

Tom: As there’s not much in the way of good European pop music being released at the moment, I thought I’d take us over and have a look at what’s coming out of the US. And I’ve picked this one, not because it’s representative of what we usually talk about…

Tom: …but because it could be so much better if it were a bit more European.

Tim: Oh yes?

Tom: Because I’m listening to it through our pop-music lens, that’s basically four minutes of musical blueballs. Slow start. Great intro verse from a brilliant singer. Military drums starting to build. And then…

Tim: UGH. Kesha’s singing is nice, but by the end of the first verse I wanted something more. Macklemore came on, the drums started, I thought YES, let’s BEGIN…but then nothing. Just a massive anti-climax.

Tom: This could be (should be?) a banger. Instead, it just drops down again for the hook, every time. And I realise that’s a deliberate decision, and it’s all emotional, and it’s probably the point, but in my head this should have CHOIRS and BRASS SECTIONS and VIOLINS and basically a WHOLE DAMN ORCHESTRA.

Tim: Oh God, now I’m imagining this with a massive choir behind it, and DAMN YOU Tom now you’ve made me realise even more how much better it could have been. DARN IT.

Saturday Flashback: Peter Maffay – Nessaja

“A little green dragon called Tabaluga”

Tim: Now, until I flicked back through Scooter’s history for Wednesday’s post, I had absolutely no idea that their follow-up to The Logical Song, and their only other UK top 10 track, was a sort-of cover. Now, press play, sit back, and please allow me to educate you – the history is fascinating.

Tom: I knew this was a cover – and there’s a KLF sample or two in there as well – but I did not know there was a long history.

Tim: Oh, yes. You see, Peter Maffay is a German musician, and was well known in the 70s & 80s – his first single, Du, was 1970’s biggest selling track in Germany, and he holds the German records for most million-plus selling albums (14) and most number one albums (16). Now, in 1983, he decided to get a bit experimental. He began a series of musical fairy tales, all starring a little green dragon called Tabaluga, which so far span five albums.

Tom: Right. Okay. Well, I guess everyone has a hobby.

Tim: The first (which contains this song) was called Tabaluga…or The Journey to Reason (but in German), and since then there have been tours, books, cartoons, a full size musical and even a long-running TV game show in which contestants win prizes that they donate to schools and children’s homes.

Tom: And Scooter decided to come along and cover it, along with a video containing a lot of scantily clad women. Well, it was the early 2000s.

Tim: Oh, and you might be wondering why it’s called Nessaja. Simple: Nessaja was Tabaluga’s mentor, a giant turtle who here is singing about how he never wanted to grow up, but that Tabaluga has his whole life ahead of him. And you know, typing that last sentence almost got me a bit tearful – no wonder Scooter wanted to honour it.

Steps – Neon Blue

You think “How on Earth can a song called Neon Blue be a ballad?“

Tim: You press play, you think “How on Earth can a song called Neon Blue be a ballad?”

Tim: Well it turns out it can’t. They did perhaps leave it a little too late to develop – thirty seconds in I was wanting a 7th Heaven remix, and I was within a few seconds of giving up when that build came along.

But then, oh, there’s even a sort of dance routine.

Tom: And full marks for what appeared to be a genuine bit of laughter during the middle eight. It’s been a long time since a music video made me smile like that.

Tim: Yes, I want it a bit bassier, a bit more banging (so, actually, maybe I do still want a 7th Heaven remix).

Tom: Agreed: it’s almost like someone’s put a high-pass filter on it or something. It needs just a bit of bass drum in there or something… ah, there we go. Although it still seems a bit weedy somehow, but maybe that’s just my headphones.

Tim: Ah, yes, that is what I wanted. But even without, “come on, come on, and dance with me” is a message I can 100 BILLION per cent get behind. I’m so happy that they’re not only back but also making an actual proper effort with it. So so happy.

State of Sound – Heaven

“This has already been done, and so much better.”

Tim: Remember how last week we said that tropical pop had more or less finished, and by extension that we were done with dodgy covers of classic songs? Yeah, well apparently that memo didn’t reach this lot.

Tom: It’s a cover! It’s actually a cover. And… I don’t know how I feel about that.

Tim: Well, quite. See, I still don’t really know what it is that makes me like or dislike tropical covers. Why I liked Africa, and why I really, really didn’t like Never Gonna Give You Up. This…this doesn’t actually get me going either way, and in fact I’m entirely neutral on it. It’s certainly an improvement on their previous, which rubbed us both up the wrong way, though.

Tom: The trouble here is that this has already been done, and so much better. The DJ Sammy version is the definitive one for me, over and above the original. This isn’t bringing anything new to the table: it’s just being compared to something better.

Tim: Is it necessary? No. Is it offensive? No. Is it, really, just designed to fit on your standard tropical sounding playlist, even though people have moved on? Probably.

ZAYN feat. Sia – Dusk Till Dawn

“Way, way above most of the other ex-One Direction singles.”

Tom: Time for an unnecessarily dramatic video. (Perhaps he’s envious of Harry Styles’ turn on Dunkirk.)

I reckon that, when it gets to the chorus, you’re going to go “oh,” and then one or two beats later go “oh!”

Tim: On count 1: yes, that really is unnecessarily dramatic, though it is quite fun. Count 2: yes, pretty much. Chorus starts okay, and suddenly becomes GREAT.

Tom: I’ll be honest, that “ee-ee-ee-ee” bit in the chorus doesn’t work for me, which means there’s no way I could give this track full marks: but it’s still definitely a cut above most of the other ex-One Direction singles.

Tim: Oh, way, way above them, as I have a massive amount of time for this. Sure, the ee-ee-ee-ee is possibly a slight irritant that detracts from the rest, but it’s still damn good.

Tom: There’s a lot going on here — possibly too much. And it’s possibly a poor choice to use Sia just for backup vocals: that voice deserves to at least have a bit of a solo.

Tim: Quite pleasing how much we’re agreeing here – I too found it weird that she’s only there to directly duet, there’s no variation from Zayn’s line to hers.

Tom: But still, as Credible Big Pop Tracks go, Zayn could be doing a lot worse.

Tim: Much, much worse.

Matoma & The Vamps – Staying Up

“It’s just not something you’d expect to hear in mid-to-late 2017.”

Tim: Three boybands came out with tracks this week: one a new group from the ludicrously complicated American TV show Boy Band (and the song’s awful); one called Why Don’t We who have been going a year now and are yet to produce anything that isn’t awful; and The Vamps.

Tom: An understated third part to that list, there.

Tim: True, but most of the stated-ness was due to the others being awful, which isn’t something I can say about The Vamps, particularly with Matoma on board.

Tom: Interesting who got first billing there, isn’t it?

Tim: And hearing that makes me realise that, pleasantly, tropical dance has largely been absent this year, which means we can actually enjoy it in the small doses that it presents itself in, such as this.

Tom: It actually sounds a bit dated now, doesn’t it? I’m not sure that it’s a bad sound, it’s just not something you’d expect to hear in mid-to-late 2017.

Tim: In terms of what it does, it’s not dissimilar to last year’s All Night – takes your regular boyband sound, and merges that nicely with something different, turning more into something sounding like a banging remix.

Tom: It’s not quite a BANGER: there’s too much pre-chorus and not enough actual full-on chorus. It’s got the same problem as Galantis earlier this week: there’s basically no bass, which is fine for tropical house but not really great to dance too. But yes, it is at least different.

Tim: That is, in fact, probably what saves it right now from being a generic boyband track destined for the shame and ignominy that hopefully await those two I mentioned earlier, which could easily be generic solo album tracks with a few extra vocals. All in all, this really works for me, as a sound and as a track.

Birgir – Can You Feel It

“I think it’s more ‘inspired by’ rather than ‘ripping off’.”

Tim: Birgir’s new and off Sweden, and here’s a track for us to get our teeth into.

Tom: I’m always baffled when someone releases a song that has the same name as a classic. I get why, it’s the big line in the chorus, but surely it’ll always be eclipsed?

Tim: Perhaps, yes, but it’s not the only part you might recognise…

Tim: Now, I love that. It’s a brilliant track. And I can tell you exactly why, and upsettingly it’s not a good reason: it’s full of other people’s brilliant bits.

Tom: Which, given the title, isn’t surprising. I’m not getting anything specific, though: what do you hear?

Tim: The first few notes of the “whoah-oh-oh” line are familiar, I think it’s Coldplay? I’m fairly sure I’ve heard the exact melody of the very first line before. The pre-chorus is similar to that of Ben Haenow’s Something I Need, and they just keep coming. They’re all good bits, and I love the song because of it – but they’re all second hand good bits.

Tom: I think it’s more “inspired by” rather than “ripping off” – but then, I reread The Manual1 recently, so perhaps I’m more willing to forgive that at the moment.

Tim: I don’t know, you may be right – in fact you probably are, as it’s almost certainly not a deliberate “right, we’ll take that bit from there, and that from there, and ooh, let’s use that bit as well”, but it’s still too recognisable. It’s annoying, because the original parts of this are great as well (looking at you, electric guitar in the middle eight), but the level of familiarity is just too much. And that really sucks.

Saturday Flashback: Let Loose – Crazy For You

“Literally, I can’t find anything wrong with this track.”

Tom: I had forgotten about this track. Which is a shame, because I think it might be a perfect piece of pop music.

Tim: Do you know, I actually had to check Wikipedia to make sure that wasn’t a young Christopher Eccleston playing the drums.

Tom: Really? I was thinking young Paul Gross myself. Anyway. The band had your standard minor-hit history, including three top 10 hits and an unsuccessful reunion attempt in the late 2000s. It’s a perfectly respectable showing.

Tim: Yes – and it’s certainly impressive to get a 35 track Greatest Hits album out of only 10 singles.

Tom: But somehow, I feel like this track deserved more.

Tim: Really? A number 2 (lol) is a perfectly decent showing, no?

Tom: When I say “there’s nothing wrong with it”, I don’t mean that as faint praise. I mean, literally, I can’t find anything wrong with this track.

Tim: Nitpicking, I’d say the vocals could be a bit higher in the mix, but yeah, it’s good enough. It’s no What Makes You Beautiful or Lovekiller, but it’s good.