Amy Diamond – Only You

It doesn’t help that my brain keeps singing Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ over the top of it.

Tim: Question: How do you make a British person think it’s Christmas?

Tom: Put “The Great Escape” on the telly?

Tim: Is one option. The other is to play ‘Only You’, a song that has, much like The Power of Love, been on every single Christmas compilation for the past twenty-odd years despite having no relevance to Christmas whatsoever, all because of a December number one (in this case, a version by The Flying Pickets in 1983).

Tom: My word, that’s an awkward video. It doesn’t help that my brain keeps singing Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ over the top of it.

Tim: YES! I couldn’t work out what it was – I kept thinking Eternal Flame, but then listened to that and realised it wasn’t. Anyway, this version is by Amy Diamond, who had her first single back in 2005 and is now releasing her version to coincide with a Greatest Hits album at the grand old age of 18. Yes. Eighteen.

Tom: She has been in the charts since she was twelve, though; that’s almost certainly more justified than, say, Blue’s compilation album.

Tim: I know – I watched her first video the when I found this, and it was just weird.

Tim: I’ll be honest: this doesn’t do a huge amount for me. Formulaically, it’s all there – calm instrumentation soon backed up by a dancey beat, the soothing voice, the gentle key change that prompts an immediate reaction of ‘Ooh, that was nice. Right, what was I doing?’ There’s just not enough oomph, I guess – there almost seems to be a lack of humanity in it.

Tom: I got a completely different vibe from that key change: I instinctively grimaced at it. It’s just sugar piled on top of sugar.

Tim: Actually, I know exactly what it is. Anecdote time: when I was about ten, I played the piano. I was entirely unsuited to it, with no real music talent at all. However, I was good at the theory stuff – time signatures, various voices, cadences and all that malarkey. So I took the grade tests and everything, and at the end of each one you had to compose a short piece as well, and due to the aforementioned lack of musical talent I would just write what I’d been taught was a good piece – beats in all the right places, harmonic chords, good endings, the lot. And this song (or at least the production on it) is exactly that – nothing added, nothing taken away, just exactly what there needs to be. Except, well, there needs to be more.

Tom: I’d argue there needs to be less. About three minutes less, to be exact.

Viktorious – When We Were Ten

I was quietly bouncing along in my chair.

Tim: Viktorious is known to his friends and family as Viktor Norén and used to be part of the rather loud but not altogether terrible Swedish band Sugarplum Fairy. He decided, however, that band life was not for him, and that he wanted a challenge, and loads of other old gubbins, and so he ‘threw out the guitar and used the computer as [his] only instrument’. It ‘opened a whole new world’ apparently.

Tom: There’s a surprising number of solo musicians being fairly successful from their basements – even if the ones who really make the big time tend to have that story retroactively added by their record company’s marketing team.

Tim: But enough of such talky rubbish. The main thing is the end result; i.e. this.

Tom: I thought this was really generic and dull when it started, and then I realised that – as I worked on something else – I was quietly bouncing along in my chair.

Tim: Odd one, really, what with the quiet then loud two-part chorus. When the second verse started I thought ‘God, this is going on a bit, isn’t it?’ even though it was only a minute or so in, and I think this is because the quiet part of the first chorus felt like the bridge, and then the loud ending should have finished the song. Once I got over that, though, I rather enjoyed it.

Tom: Aye, I’ll agree with that: it’s a song that’s constantly on the verge of finishing – but once you get over the slight feeling of aural blueballs, it’s a great track.

La Roux feat. Kanye West – In For The Kill

What’s he blithering about?

Tom: You remember ‘In For The Kill‘, right? Gorgeous, soaring vocals; brilliant danceable beat; and a brilliant remix where the beat doesn’t actually drop until four minutes in. What more could this possibly need?

Tim: I would guess, but I’m fairly sure you’re going to tell me. Or perhaps this is a trap.

Tom: If you answered ‘Kanye West’, then you’re so, so wrong.

Tom: Did he actually ask to do this? Or did he just turn up during a recording session, steal the microphone, and start babbling into it? This isn’t just a cover version – the whole original song’s been rerecorded.

Werewolves? Vampires? What’s he blithering about? For the whole time he’s rapping, all I can think is get back to the original track.

Tim: Well, you know, vampires and werewolves kill things, so going in for the kill works, maybe. Mind you, by that logic someone should make a song about Harold Shipman.

Tom: It’s been done. By a man who was convicted for abusing 14-year-olds. That really puts Kanye’s mic-grabbing and song-ruining into a better light, really.

Tim: True, although if it takes a convicted paedophile’s horrendous-taste song to put you in a better light, then…actually, I how no idea how to finish that sentence.

Tom: Anyway, I’m not just criticising Kanye West because he’s Kanye West – although there’s plenty of reasons to. His version of Daft Punk’s Harder Better Faster Stronger was pretty good, and despite the ego he does make some good tracks. This, though… this is not one of them.

Tim: No. Just…SHUT UP YOU STUPID RAPPER. Bloody hell. And what’s with the grunting noises at two minutes? It’s…uurgh.

Play – Destiny

Describing this as cheesy would be like calling the Pacific Ocean a bit damp.

Tim: Some kids’ film soundtracks are sensible, proper music, that it is respectable to like. Others are a little bit cheesy, and the only acceptable response when in decent company is something like, “Oh, good heavens, no.

Then there’s this, from Avalon High, and you couldn’t sensibly describe this as cheesy, because it would be like calling the Pacific Ocean a bit damp.

Tom: Oh, blimey, Avalon High is actually a Disney movie, isn’t it?

Tim: Well, technically speaking it’s a Disney Channel Original Movie. The key difference? They’re not targeting mainstream audiences, they’re targeting people who’ve paid a subscription because they just love Disney.

Tom: Somehow I have a feeling this is going to be more You’ll Be In My Heart than Circle of Life. And this version’s a rip from Radio Disney. I feel like I’ve fallen into some kind of corporate nightmare.

Tim: Now now Thomas, open mind please.

Tim: So, yes. The lyrics are stupidly Disney, the chorus does its best to sway you right out of the window, and when the key change inevitably hit I actually laughed at the unashamedness of it all. And yet, it’s not horrendous.

Tom: I actually made a brief, guttural “gak” noise when the key change hit. And then I had an urge to wave my hands in the air. Damn it, Disney. They’ve actually gone and put a crowd-handclap sample on beats two and four. All the way through the song. It never, ever stops, not even during the bridge. Once you notice it, it’s permanently there. You can’t hear anything else. It is quite horrendous.

Tim: But, it really isn’t. I don’t know, maybe I’ve been sucked in by the level of sugar it emanates, but I really like it. It’s almost heartwarming, although I never thought that word could describe a song, and after hearing it a few times I’m just left with a massive grin on my face, as though everything is now going to be fine, and that any nastiness has vanished from the face of the planet.

Tom: That’s not the song, that’s that damned new iMac you’ve just bought.

Tim: Perhaps, although I’m not the one waving his hands in the air, am I?

Tove Styrke – White Light Moment

Interesting, this one.

Tim: Interesting, this one. First up: I think it’s brilliant. The chorus has a perfect amount of energy, and the pauses that serve as lead-in and lead-out only help that. I love the chanting type thing in the bridge, and while I’m not entirely keen on the underlying verse beat, I think the vocals go with it in such a way that I don’t mind it.

Having said all that, it’s not something I’d want to listen to over and over again, like I would, say, Et Cetera; I have no idea why, though. It’s not that it grows repetitive – it’s rather that, after a couple of listens, I think, ‘Right, what’s next?’

Tom: I got the exact same thing: half way through listening to this, my brain wandered and I idly started up another browser tab. Until the end-of-chorus pause hit in, I wasn’t listening. I propose that’s the reason those pauses are there: to jolt people out of the soporific stupor that the song’s put them into. Which is strange, because it’s a high-energy song and on paper I should be bouncing along to it. But I’m not.

Right, what’s next?

Saturday Flashback: Pato Banton feat. Ranking Roger – Bubbling Hot

Talk about a difficult second single.

Tom: Talk about a difficult second single. Pato Banton had just had a big hit with ‘Baby Come Back‘, and needed to follow that up. What better than another collaboration? And that pop-reggae stuff seems popular these days, let’s do that.

Tim: I MISS MARK GOODIER. I know it’s been almost eight years now, but I was listening to ‘The Official Chart Show’ on Sunday and it suddenly struck me how properly shite it was when Reggie Yates played a clip from the previous week’s show (shite) of Gyptian (shite) singing My Heart Will Go On (shite) down the phone (shite). Bring back the proper Top 40.

Tom: I know this song because it was on a ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ cassette I had when I was a kid. I liked the song, which I think says quite a bit about where my questionable present-day musical tastes evolved from. But now… well, it just seems a bit embarrassing.

Tim: That’s one word for it.

Tom: “His name is Pato / and my name is Roger / the two o’we together like birds of a feather” is a bad enough lyric on its own, but then there’s an entire set of rhyming couplets following it that only rhyme because they’ve added the syllable ‘-a’ on to the end of them. It’s also terribly close to being a meta-song – a song entirely about itself.

Needless to say, it didn’t get quite to the same heights as its predecessor.

Tim: I would say, ‘Well, duh,’ but I’m actually surprised the first one took off, so anything could have happened and it wouldn’t surprise me too much.

Also, I bet Reggie Yates wouldn’t pronounce Björk’s name properly.

September – Resuscitate Me

I think it’s slightly excellent

Tim: Now, this was never going to be as good as the UK radio edit of Can’t Get Over, so I set my sights deliberately low, but overall I don’t think that was needed – it’s easily on a par with Cry For You, for a start.

Tom: She’s now got a recognisable voice and style – something that I’d recognise as ‘September’ even if it just turned up on the radio. I think it’s the similar synth lines – it’s an interesting way to build a musical brand, but it works.

Tim: But what is it as a song on its own? I think it’s slightly excellent – the ‘don’t you let my heart die boy’ lead into the chorus works very well as a ‘get ready to dance’ warning, and there’s plenty of energy lying around all over the please.

Tom: Except in the bridge. That bridge goes on far too long.

Tim: Hmm, maybe – I think think it works. I do have a couple of issues (the high pitched vocals being almost impossible to decipher, the idea of ‘love CPR’ which is just as ridiculous here as it was when JLS invented it a while back*), but overall this is a stonkingly good effort.

* And that’s actually the title of her new album. Why. Just, why.

Tom: Stonkingly?

Tim: Yes, I said stonkingly. Live with it.

Tom: You are an 80s commercial radio DJ and I claim my five pounds.

Europlop’s Sunday Remixes: Vol. 1

We can’t deny that we’ve featured more than a handful of not very good tracks.

Tim: We can’t deny that we’ve featured more than a handful of not very good tracks. Fortunately, there are people out there who Take Steps to rectify such issues with what people in the musical business call ‘remixes’, and here are a few. First up, the Kardinal Beats Remix of JLS’s Love You More.

Tim: The original was boring and didn’t really deserve to be playlisted on any radio station ever, but foolishly was by BBC Radio 1. This, on the other hand, deserved to be playlisted by every popular radio music station ever, and sensibly was by BBC 1Xtra (which does, it seems, have some redeeming features). It has vibrancy, excitement – it even sounds like the guys are putting some effort into it, which is nice when it’s a charity single.

Tom: I know it wouldn’t play well with the mums-and-daughters demographic that actually buys Children in Need singles, but I’d much prefer this to be the actual single. There does seem to be a bit of a disconnect between the hard beats and the soulful vocals though; I feel like I’m listening to a mashup, even though I’m not.

Not sure about the sleigh bell and whistle samples though.

Tim: Next up, there’s admittedly only so much you can do with a song described as fomulaic and less good than Nickelback, but the excellent folks at Almighty have had a pretty decent go at Shayne Ward’s version of Gotta Be Somebody:

Tom: Oh, Almighty, you wonderful people. You name the track, they’ll produce a danceable version of it. Even if they really shouldn’t.

Tim: The energy here has been pushed through the ceiling, the bridge has been made into something proper – the song as a whole has moved from ‘radio playlist crap’ to ‘dance floor choon’, and I think it’s much better for it.

Tom: I would dance to this. Probably quite badly.

Tim: I can imagine, although I’m not sure there’s much of a ‘probably’ involved. But moving on, you remarked that a dance mix of The Wanted’s Heart Vacancy would go down well in under-18 clubs. I think the DJs From Mars remix may fit the bill rather nicely.

Tom: Blimey, that opening’s brilliant. DJs From Mars have done some sterling work in the past, and this is no exception.

Tim: This is not a tune where the band members can just sit down in the video – or if they do, they at least need to move their arms around a bit. Energy-wise, it’s far more on a level with decent music that the original was, and while it’s not going to win any awards it is a significant improvement, and should be applauded.

Tom: The ‘in your heart, in your heart, in your heart’ bit doesn’t fit in, but that’s fine – it didn’t in the original either. When the beat drops, the dancefloor will fill up – although I’m suspecting that the dancefloor will be a teen club night somewhere uninspiring. Wakefield, say.

Tim: One of my cousins used to read this blog. He probably won’t any more, so thanks for that.

Saturday Flashback: X Factor Finalists 2008 – Hero

Lurking in the background.

Tim: It’s probably time we discussed this. We’ve referred to it briefly on a couple of occasions, and ever since then it’s been lurking in the background, waiting to rear its beautiful, graceful head.

Tim: Now, I think this is marvellous.

Tom: It’s not beautiful, it’s not graceful, and it’s not marvellous.

Tim: It is, though. The emotion of the original is all there.

Tom: Yes, it is. Maudlin, saccharine emotion. Only this time, just in case it wasn’t drummed into you enough by the song, it’s backed up with Ken Burns Effect-photos of soldiers emoting. The only thing it’s missing is a big block of scrolling text which says “FEEL SAD NOW HURRRR”.

Tim: Oh, I have no problems whatsoever admitting the video is appalling – it is, by far, the worst thing about the song. It is the music where it shines, though, such as the key change – fairly impressive already in the original, here it’s been turned up to about 27. The only bad part of it is the vocals from Rachel at 2:33, which are just nasty, but they can be turned down a bit.

Tom: Musically, there’s nothing wrong with it. I’ll agree with that. It’s just so goddamned syrupy that it sends me into the musical version of hyperglycaemia.

Tim: Everything else? Brilliant, and I challenge you to provide an actual reason otherwise.

Tom: There’s a comment on YouTube from “PeterKaay94”, which says “How can you dislike this video? It’s for the armed forces you dicks.” I had a whole riff here about other fund-raising efforts that said commenter would then have to approve of, but frankly it just got a bit disrespectful so I’ve cut it.

Tim: Well as far as I’m concerned the cause has got nothing to do with it, and Mr 94 is speaking out of his arse. A song should stand out on its own merits, and being for charity should be no excuse whatsoever for weakness – JLS proved that.

Tom: Yes, it’s for a worthy cause, and yes, musically there’s nothing really wrong with it – but it just makes my skin crawl. That’s a reason.

Idol Allstars 2010 – All I Need Is You

You will, I am sure, be familiar with the idea of the reality TV charity single.

Tim: You will, I am sure, be familiar with the idea of the reality TV charity single – two years ago Simon Cowell gave us a version of Hero (marvellous) –

Tom: No it wasn’t.

Tim: – and last year we had a cover of…actually, I cannot for the life of me remember, largely because I do remember it being terrible. I think it had ‘Everybody’ in the title. And this Sunday we shall be treated to this year’s offering, apparently a cover of Heroes.

Tom: The only good thing is that it has to include Wagner. Bonus.

Tim: Hmm. Well, perhaps. Needless to say, Britain’s not the only country that does it; here we have what appears to be an original song – All I Need Is You, being sung live on Sweden’s Idol a couple of weeks ago:

Tim: Now this, JLS and Children in Need people, is a good charity single. It’s got a nice hook to nod along to right from the get go, the song has a blindingly obvious happy message, and best of all – they’re smiling! Can you imagine! Having fun while making music.

Tom: But it’s not a cover! You can’t have a big group charity single that’s not a cover these days. Even Band Aid 20 was a cover. It’s like film sequels – they want a song that’s bankable because they can’t count on the performances to carry it.

Tim: I don’t know, I think they can. Admittedly, at times it looks like they’ve forgotten about the existence of choreography, and it would be nice if someone gave the bearded blond guy some heroin and put him out of his misery, but musically it’s spot on. And the best thing? There’s absolutely no Wagner.

Tom: As someone who doesn’t watch the X Factor, I am still amused by Wagner every time he appears on Harry Hill’s TV Burp. He’s brilliant. Well done British public.