October – 1000 Eyes

“While I’d agree that it’s good, I’m not sure it’s two-reallys-good.”

Tim: This here from New Zealand, and unlike yesterday I know exactly what it is I like about it.

Tim: Because heavens above, that’s a great chorus.

Tom: It is, but I’m not so sure about the song as a whole. There’s some great synth work in there, and even that long outro doesn’t seem to go on for too long, but…

Tim: Yeah, the verses: not so great. They’re dark, a bit heavy, and not really in a good way, because there’s not a huge amount going on with them. That chorus, though, is still dark and heavy but it sounds really, really good.

Tom: That’s two “reallys” there, and, while I’d agree that it’s good, I’m not sure it’s two-reallys-good. What do you like?

Tim: First, there’s obviously that massive synth line underlying it, but also a very slight higher line behind that, which with her intense vocal (particularly that “there’s. so. much. more. I. want. to. sho-. -oow.” part) combine really nicely to make a great sounding part of a song. Just part of a song, mind, so I can’t give this an unequivocal thumbs up, but still. That chorus.

Saturday Reject: RAYA – Crazy

“There’s a debate to be had over what makes a good song to send to Eurovision.”

Tim: Yep, it’s that time of year – three months to Eurovision, time to look at the songs that have been binned off in the selection processes. We’ll start close to home, I think, with my favourite of our six.

Tom: A new high for number of syllables put into the word “ha-a-a-a-a-zy” there, beating Britney Spears’ previous record of four. But this is… mediocre at best. Why do you like it?

Tim: See, there’s a debate to be had over what makes a good song to send to Eurovision. Should it be a song that sounds typical of your country’s output? Arguably, yes – that’s kind of the point of it, to display and experience the best your country has to offer. But, well, we tried that with Joe & Jake, and then Lucie Jones, and neither of those ended particularly well.

Tom: Let’s not forget Electro Velvet. Well, actually, maybe we should.

Tim: Excuse me, you’re forgetting that that electro swing is really big right now. Alternatively, though, should it be something that sounds closer to other countries’ output, to pick up some votes from there? And that, you see, is where this comes in.

Tom: The trouble with that is: you’re never going to pick up points from everyone. To win Eurovision these days, you need to send an absolutely world-beating pop song (“Heroes”, “Love Shine A Light”, “Euphoria”), or you need to send a person or song who stands out from the crowd well enough to charm everyone (Conchita Wurst, last year’s Portuguese bloke whose name I’ve already forgotten).

Tim: We all have, I think.

Tom: Just ripping off another country’s style isn’t going to be enough.

Tim: No, but then it’s a good track on its own, and it also sounds, to me, remarkably like something that’d arrive via Turkey, Azerbaijan, or various other eastern European countries; while they may be all tiny and fiddly and far away to our eyes, there are a lot of them and they do all have 24 points to give away.

Tom: And a load of other, potentially better, people in the same style.

Tim: Ooh. Oh, yes, that is a good point. And also, it’s slightly dodgy tactics – but if dodgy tactics is was it would have taken to get us to host a European love-in in May next year, I’d be all for it.

Tom: No, I can’t get behind this. The vocals are okay, but the song’s dull: it’s not a standout pop song, and it’s not a standout performance. But judging by the winner, none of them were — and that’s down to the BBC.

Lauv – Getting Over You

“Gentle, twinkly synthpop”

Tom: Without knowing Lauv’s nationality, what would you guess?

Tim: Hmm…voice has a British sense to it, and the styling could be from here – in the right area?

Tom: A combination of the style, the voice and the name made me assume Lauv was from Norway or Sweden, but no. This is an American, whose LA-based team — as far as I can tell — are doing their best impression of the gentle, twinkly synthpop coming out of the Nordic countries.

Tim: Huh. Yeah, not a bad job – though I think the synthpop (which I flipping love, by the way) is becoming global enough now that, well, as we’ve just proved, assumptions can’t really be made confidently.

Tom: And they’re nearly there. Just one problem: this is about a minute too long. It’s a great sub-three-minute track that just doesn’t need to be extended for one more chorus and a long outro.

Tim: The chorus I don’t have a problem with – but yes, I’m fairly sure we could cut the song off nicely at 3:31 and it’d be a good’un. Otherwise, though: lovely.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Happyland

“There’s not a huge amount happy about it at all.‘

Tim: I pressed play on this and wondered why it sounded so familiar, and then I realised it was because it’s one of the best tracks on his 2016 Chameleon album. Annoyingly this otherwise quite nice video’s got multiple “don’t rip this” moments in it, which I thought had died years ago, so you may want to help yourself to a studio recording (though that has a rude phrase, which here has been replaced with “messed up”).

Tom: Blimey, that’s some beautiful, bleak scenery in that video. I realise I should be paying attention to the song, but seriously, that’s beautiful. Sweden and Iceland, apparently.

Tim: So, despite it being called Happyland, the song otherwise makes it really quite clear there’s not a huge amount happy about it at all. Despite that, it’s a hell of a chorus he’s using to sing about it. It’s dark but loud, it’s visceral and emotional, and that video really does pair up with it nicely (though I’m not sure the song earns the happy ending as much as the video thinks it does).

Tom: This feels like a grower to me: I can’t say I was that impressed by it on first listen, but then I went back and listened again an hour or so later. That’s rare for me: this got stuck in my head somehow.

Tim: A strong song in every respect, regardless ofd that, and now I remember why I spent a long while listening to the album.

Robin Stjernberg – Love

“I was confident I wouldn’t miss anything when I went to the toilet.”

Tim: It’s a song that starts quiet, builds up a bit, but you get to the chorus and you think “this has to do something good here”. And then…

Tim: Well. It wasn’t massive enough for me to go “oh, WOW”, but it was enough to keep me listening.

Tom: See, I really liked that first verse, and I didn’t think it overpromised it all — we’ve gone into a decent enough chorus for a slow ballad like this. For me, the verses kept me listening; for you, it was the chorus?

Tim: It was, yes – just enough to be good. Not special, but good. Until the ending, because oh boy, was I very glad I kept listening. Not just because I love that key change, but because I just did not see it coming. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was so surprised by one – sure, it’s a textbook placing here, and if we were living in the good timeline maybe I’d be expecting it, but I think it was more that I’d reached the point where I was confident I wouldn’t miss anything when I went to the toilet.

Tom: Well, that was needlessly detailed. To be fair, you’re right: that “la la la love” was starting to get a bit old.

Tim: I’m fairly sure that means it slots in perfectly with the stereotype of “let’s throw in a key change to liven it up a bit”, but I don’t mind.

Tom: It’s what they’re for, really. And this song, while it is pleasant, does need livening up a bit.

Tim: Well indeed, and while it does liven it up, it doesn’t really save it entirely. Apparently he wrote it for, and then performed it at, his best mate’s wedding, with full choir, and while I can see it working well there, it just sounds a bit bland at home. Sorry, Robin. Nice try, though.

Julie Kedhammar – Incredible Now

“Na-nanana-na-aooouw.”

Tim: The good Olympics are on, and we’ve already had a stunner of an opening ceremony; Julie’s got a song that somewhat ties in. This here video has nothing to do with her, but for some reason is the only place it’s available and embeddable, so have a listen, and watch some clips of random Swedes competing.

Tim: WHAT A SONG, particularly if you like people taking nine syllables to sing “now”.

Tom: Na-nanana-na-aooouw. I’ll be honest, Tim: I don’t like that. I might even go so far as to say I hate it. I don’t think a meaningless vocal line has irritated me so much in a long, long time. I can’t even explain why.

Tim: I do like it when songs about people being incredible or amazing or glorious are themselves Incredible or Amazing or Glorious, and so I’m delighted that this clearly fits that category. That chorus is the highlight, obviously, as it’s brilliantly powerful, but just as good is that the verses don’t even need to go down to minimum to show that.

Tom: And I can see what you mean. There’s clearly something there, both in production and performance. But I can’t get over that… I’m going to go with “playground chant” and its terrible vocals.

Tim: Oh, please, it’s clearly not that bad. What shows the greatness most of all, for me, is the fact that I don’t care that the middle eight is only really a middle four. Normally I’d want proper variety there, but right now I just want to get back to that chorus, because GOD it’s good. FABULOUS.

Saturday Flashback: DJ Bobo feat. Kim Wilde – I Believe

“It’s not like Jedward are involved, but still…”

Tim: Last Saturday we had DJ Bobo, on Tuesday we had Kim Wilde, so what could go wrong with combining the two?

Tom: So many things, Tim! I mean, “demon core of music” is probably a bit strong, it’s not like Jedward are involved, but still…

Tim: Hmm, that’s very fair. Let’s start with just him.

Tom: His studio vocals are better than his live vocals, that’s for sure.

Tim: There’s that, yes, but let’s be honest, there aren’t many other positives, particular when he uses a line straight from the Savage Garden atrocity that is Affirmation.

Tom: Agh, I’m glad it’s not just me that despises that song. To be fair, this is a competent 90s chillout-dance track, slightly hampered by the fact that it was released in 2003.

Tim: Mr Bobo does at least show a bit of enthusiasm this time when he’s dancing, although his gazing glumly out of the window kind of sets that back to zero. The message manages to be upbeat and downbeat at the same time – yes, great things exist, but you’re making them shit – which is pretty terrible. The music is, well, danceable I suppose, it does have a good beat, and even though it’s getting on for four minutes long it doesn’t outstay its welcome. But overall: not really.

Tom: So where does Kim Wilde come in?

Tim: This is from 2013, and God only knows how it happened, but it did, so here it is.

Tim: It’s a bit more listenable, with a fair amount of retooling going on, but really. Kim, you’re better than this.

Sting, Shaggy – Don’t Make Me Wait

“Sting, at no point, attempts anything even close to a Jamaican accent, which I think we can all agree is for the best.”

Tim: Wait, what? How? Just…whuh?

Tom: If you’d like to know how this incredibly unlikely-sounding collaboration happened, Rolling Stone has the details. But to sum up: they met at a studio in LA, they’ve made a full LP, and this – the first single – is described by Shaggy as “something that hundreds of women would get pregnant to”.

Tim: Oh God.

Tom: Okay, so good news first: Sting, at no point, attempts anything even close to a Jamaican accent, which I think we can all agree is for the best.

Tim: Yes, yes. In fact, he turns in a really rather good performance, which I’m pleasantly surprised about.

Tom: The most surprising thing to me — apart from the fact that it exists at all — is just how good the two stars’ styles work together. This is a good track. It’ll struggle to find airplay, because there’s too much Shaggy for Radio 2 and too much Sting for… er, anywhere that’d play Shaggy.

Tim: Thing is, it reminds me a lot of what Shaggy always used to do: take a featured artist, get them to do most of the singing, and throw in a few words here and there of his own. And it works as well as it always did.

Tom: You’re right. Now I come to think of it, he rarely sang the hooks. Still, I get the feeling that reviews are somewhat irrelevant here. They’ve made an LP. They like the LP enough to release it. Given that they’re both doing pretty well for themselves, I suspect that — as long as someone out there likes it — they’ll be just fine.

Slushii feat. Marshmello – There x2

“Maybe this whole thing is a nonsense after all, particularly when his twin brother comes along at the end.”

Tim: Okay then. Here’s a song whose chorus line is incredibly specific and not really relatable; fortunately, it sounds brilliant so we can at least all enjoy it.

Tom: “Slushii” and “Marshmello”. Okay. Let’s get through this…

Tom: …damn it, I like it, and I dislike the fact that I like it.

Tim: Obviously, no self-respecting pop singer would release a song that makes no sense, so I think what we need to assume is that he’s just broken up with someone who has an identical twin, and now wants both of them, rather than just the one. Was that what prompted the breakup in the first place? Well, we’ll probably never know, but if it was he’s really not helping his case here. Also not helping his case: the sheer number of times he sings “I still miss you” – Mr Slushii, 39 times is TOO MANY.

Tom: And this should really, really irritate me! To be honest, it does! But all the ridiculous bubblegum synths and euphoric-build-noises around it somehow make it okay in my head.

Tim: And also, “if I’m here, will you be there” – is he, what, seeking knowledge that as long as he doesn’t move, she won’t go anywhere, even though she’s somewhere completely different? Oh, I don’t know, maybe this whole thing is a nonsense after all, particularly when his twin brother comes along at the end.

HOWEVER, now that we’ve entirely failed to get that sorted, let’s move on to the music, which I’m fairly sure is entirely brilliant, yes?

Tom: Aaaaagh, yes it is, although I increasingly want a version of this that doesn’t have as many ‘STILL MISS YOU’s in it.

Tim: Sensible introductory beat and then melody to let everyone know that yes, this is indeed a song to be danced to. And then when that dance beat comes along, the heavy synths that indicate “really, you should be dancing to this”, then that really is just a great CHOON. Is that still a word? I don’t know, but if it is then this is one. And if it isn’t, well this still is anyway. GREAT STUFF, though I really could do with an instrumental.

Kim Wilde – Pop Don’t Stop

“If that’s not a message for our times then it damn well should be.”

Tim: YES, it’s Kim from way back when, with her first release since 2013’s Christmas album, and oh, has it been worth waiting for.

Tom: There’s a saying I use: “don’t shoot for the moon and miss”. If your green-screen isn’t quite up to full-on pop video standards, perhaps you’d better just film somewhere else without it. I had to watch this in a background tab, because some inverted version of the halo effect meant that I thought the song was worse just because the video was a bit naff.

Tim: Yes, alright, but let’s not focus on the negatives, when there are SO MANY positives to discuss. Some artists feel the need to update their style in accordance with the progression of musical vogue; I’d argue that there are at least two situations where you don’t. One: when you’re Kim Wilde, and two: when your chorus goes “POP POP MUSIC GIVE ME POP POP MUSIC DON’T STOP GIVE ME POP GIVE ME POP POP MUSIC”.

Tom: How convenient and oddly specific. (I know what you mean, though, and you’re right.)

Tim: Pop music brings people together, and keeps them together, and if that’s not a message for our times then it damn well should be. This song is just pure energy – I listened to this about ten minutes after waking up last Friday, and jumped straight out of bed; there’s not a lot that’ll get me doing that.

Tom: Either that or a desperate urge to pee, sure.

Tim: Everything about it is just wonderful: the music, the bright colours in the video, and her bringing her brother Ricky along for the ride, because why not?

We’re only a month and a bit in to 2018 and we’ve already heard a lot of good tracks; nevertheless, I’m fairly sure that come December, this’ll still be in my top 10 of the year. (Also a safe bet: one from the Lithuanian Eurovision selection process that our reader described as “vomit-inducing”; we’ll get to that one in due course.)