Hilda – Just One Wish

Wouldn’t sound out of place at a Miley Cyrus gig.

Tim: A second artist in two days with an apparent allergy to surnames, Hilda got her break presenting on the Swedish Disney Channel (much like Eric Saade), and is now making a foray into music with this, which wouldn’t sound out of place at a Miley Cyrus gig.

Tom: With that introduction echoing, the first thing that went through my mind on seeing this – and I feel so guilty for this – was “blimey, Miley Cyrus has put on some weight”. It’s a terrible thought, and I’m not happy with what that reveals about my subconscious. Also, it means that Miley Cyrus must be a damn stick insect.

Tim: This isn’t bad – it’s not a jingly-jangly sleigh bells all over the place track, which is a bit of a shame when the lyrics are so festive, but it does mean it can go on an album and not sound too out of place, I suppose.

Tom: It’s a cut above most modern pop Christmas songs – but what gets me is that it’s such an American Christmas song. Okay, that’s probably due to the Disney backing, and admittedly Tomte wouldn’t work quite as well as Santa in the lyrics… but damn it Disney, stop homogenising everything.

Tim: So, now we can get away with remarkably offensive thought processes as long as we demonstrate some in-depth knowledge of the culture of the person we’ve insulted? I must remember that.

Anyway, speaking of the lyrics, they’re not the most appropriate ever for a 14-year-old, although her age does mean she can get away with the line ‘Santa, if you do exist’.

Tom: …no she can’t.

Danny Saucedo – In Your Eyes

He does a similar trick to Robyn.

Tim: E.M.D. are a Swedish boyband formed a while ago out of three Idol finalists, none of whom won it but each of whom was fairly competent and had vague solo success, but decided they could do better as a band. They are, if you like, a Scandinavian One Direction, two years earlier.

Anyway, right now that’s not particularly relevant. What is relevant is that the D. out of E.M.D.* is releasing this on Friday to remind us that he does exist as a solo artist in his own right, in preparation for entering Melodifestivalen next year.

* Creative naming at its finest there – the other two are Erik and Mattias.

Tom: Just before the chorus, I thought “ooh, this is about to kick in properly, isn’t it?” … and then it didn’t. It stayed exactly the same. Disappointment.

Tim: Perhaps. He does a similar trick to Robyn and a few others – trying to create the impression of the track kicking in by dipping slightly beforehand. Often that doesn’t work at all, but sometimes it does, and I think this is one of those times – the beat’s still heavy enough to satisfy as a chorus, even if it’s no bigger than the verse was.

I also like the post-bridge moment, which provides a whimsical touch for anybody who might find it dragging a bit.

Tom: Yes, but he’s pronounced ‘fire’ as two syllables and ‘desire’ as three – “fi-yah” and “desi-yah“. That irritates me for some reason – and now I’ve brought it to your attention, it’ll annoy you too.

Tim: It doesn’t, actually, mainly because it’s quite hard to pronounce -ire as one syllable anyway, especially if you’re singing.

The one really bad thing about it, though, is that video, which was clearly made by someone who should never ever have been introduced to Windows Movie Maker.

Hurts – All I Want for Christmas is New Year’s Day

Oh my word, that’s lovely.

Tim: Now then, Tom. Imagine: you’re a songwriter, you’re not so keen on Christmas right now, for one reason or another, and you want to tell the world.

Tom: This had better be good, Tim. I don’t like new Christmas records as a general rule.

Tim: Do you (a) make a track about how life isn’t great and that hopefully soon the trouble will pass, or (b) make a track about how life isn’t great and that hopefully soon the trouble will pass that’s so incredibly festive that there is no way it cannot fail to bring back Christmas memories? Well, guess what Hurts did.

Tom: Oh my word, that’s lovely.

Tim: Isn’t it? I love it – partly it’s because I really like Christmas music, and if I had the power I would pass a law decreeing that chiming bells must be used in all music releases.

Tom: Don’t ever do that. It’d mean that the proper use of them, like this, wouldn’t be special any more. Normally in Christmas music bells are chucked in at the end, just to add the ‘right feeling’ in there, but they just fit so well here.

Tim: Fair point. Guess I may as well put my political career on hold, then. Anyway, I also love this because it fits with the Hurts formula that I think is superb: entirely contrasting moods of music and lyrics, massive chorus, and vaguely optimistic outlook – ‘I know there’ll be tidings of joy this time next year but happiness has never felt so far away’.

Tom: ‘And all I want for Christmas is New Year’s Day.’ As I write this, I’m tired, and so I’m likely to be a bit more emotional than my normal cynical dry-husk self… but that just hit me right in the heart. See? I just used italics, for crying out loud.

Tim: However, minor annoyance: ‘It’s only seven days till Christmas, six more till New Years Day’. LEARN TO COUNT. They’re even the same day of the week; how hard can it be?

Tom: I’m even willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this; there’s six days between the end of Christmas and the start of New Years’ Day, and I think that’s just fine.

Tim: I guess you’re right. It is a bloody marvellous song, though, so I will happily overlook it. Just this once, though.

Tom: This is going to be my Christmas song for this year. I’m not sure what I’ll be getting up to, but whatever it is, this song is always going to bring back memories of it. Well done, Hurts. Well done.

Tim: Absolutely. And you know what the best thing of all is? They’ve gone and been all lovely and have decided that, since it’s Christmas, for the next seven days anybody with an iTunes account can get it absolutely free.

Black Eyed Peas – The Time (Dirty Bit)

Is it music? Not really. Is it listenable? Not at all.

Tim: Now, what is this? Is it music? Not really. Is it listenable? Not at all. Why, then, are we featuring it? Because it’s too awful not to, and for some unknown (and to me utterly inconceivable) reason the normally fairly sensible British public have bought more copies of it this past week than of any other single. The thing is, I could cope with it if it was a Black Eyed Peas version of Time of My Life, and I might even enjoy it somewhat.

Tom: For the first minute, I was wondering what was so offensive about it – it sounded like they’d just covered Time of My Life, which wouldn’t be a bad thing in itself.

Tim: I could just about cope with it if it was just the other part of it, although I’d probably just dismiss it and forget about it. But as it is, it’s just appalling. The fact that part of it is a cover implies that it’s meant to be music, but I really can’t work out any form of a tune for much of the rest of it, which is surely a necessary part.

The one redeeming thing about it is that, for a five minute song, it seems to pass fairly quickly.

Tom: Not for me, Tim. Not for me.

Tim: Oh, and as for the video: full marks to the CG people, but boxes on heads? What? I’m also wondering what the criteria are for whether someone gets turned into bricks or not – are these the people that are too ashamed to be seen in this video? And also, at 3:26, is that actually a girl fellating somebody on the dancefloor? Because that’s what it looks like, even if he is made of blocks.

Tom: For a while I thought it depended on whether their voices were filtered or not, but… no. It’s just there because it’s there.

Tim: Although having watched the video I am tempted to go out and pre-order a Blackberry Playbook. Except NO. I’M NOT. BECAUSE SHIT PRODUCT PLACEMENT LIKE THAT IS HORRENDOUS. AND I HATE THE SONG EVEN MORE NOW.

Tom: I think we’re in agreement there.

Cee-Lo Green – It’s OK

It seems that pretty much everything Cee-Lo touches turns to gold.

Tom: It seems that pretty much everything Cee-Lo touches turns to gold. I hope the second single off ‘The Ladykiller’ gets some attention, even though it doesn’t have the shock value of ‘Fuck You‘ – because it deserves it.

Tom: It doesn’t have quite the same singalong quality to it, but my word it’s an excellent track.

Tim: I agree.

Tom: This is neo-soul – like Motown only with modern production values – and I have the feeling that record labels are already hunting round for the next ten singers they’re going to try and shoehorn into that slot.

Tim: Probably, although one of the most likely contenders was voted off the X Factor, after being compared to just about any black person going (seriously – there was Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and, um, Lenny Henry).

Tom: Honestly, this song just makes me smile.

Tim: Yes. I really like the lyrics videos they’ve done – even if the song takes a bit of dip at one point, you can just follow the words like a dog watching TV, not really knowing what’s going on but enchanted by the pretty patterns.

Tom: It’s called “kinetic typography“, and it’s one of those things that’s easy to do – but very difficult to do well. Folks who try to rip it off will just… well, they’ll look like they’re ripping it off.

Daniel Adams-Ray – Gubben i Lådan

I started pumping my fist in the air during the intro.

Tim: Daniel Adams-Ray (Swedish/Scottish/Indonesian/Kenyan, but mostly Swedish) used to be half of hip-hop duo Snook, who drifted apart about six years ago; he took a break to go to design school and start a fashion label, but now he’s back on the scene as a solo artist and with an entirely different form of music. Such as this, which nine weeks on has only recently stopped being number one in Sweden, and whose title translates to ‘The Old Man in the Box’.

Tom: I started pumping my fist in the air during the intro. That’s the simplest and yet the heaviest percussion I’ve heard on a track like this, and it works perfectly.

Tim: Yes – I think it’s rather pleasant, really. It’s sung from the perspective of a man utterly devoted to his woman – ‘I took a bullet for you, and got little back / For you I will do it, a thousand times over’ – and musically I think fits well with that, being appropriately loud and energetic without being overly so.

Tom: It’s quite a spartan track, and that works – I can see why it was number one. There’ll be a remix that speeds it up a bit, no doubt, which will remove some of the plodding feeling that comes with it being basically a march in 2/4 time.

Tim: There are moments of ‘is it really still going?’ when it gets quiet two minutes in, but they quickly dissipate to be replaced by the same raw enthusiasm that the song returns with.

Tom: I got exactly that same feeling – but it’s worth it when it kicks back in. I want it to be faster and more danceable, but I respect the fact that it’s not.

Kaija Koo – Vapaa

It could be the theme to a sixties European spy film.

Tim: From a Finnish woman who here looks like she’s stepped straight out of forty years ago comes this, a fairly normal – and thus fairly good – piece of schlager.

Tom: That opening sounds like it’s from forty years ago. It could be the theme to a sixties European spy film until the chorus kicks in.

Tim: Medium level verses, quiet and sedated bridge and loud and energetic choruses.

Tom: The Finnish equivalent of Roger Moore sneaks around, raising an eyebrow as a naked woman, artfully filmed from behind, steps out of a sauna and into the ocean.

Tim: Um, okay. The Finns seem to love it, as it’s been scarpering around their top 10 for the past four or five months now, and I can see why.

Tom: She turns round to notice him – again, artfully filmed from behind, and he quips a one-liner about her appearance. She replies, he approaches, and then – seemingly for no reason – he shoves her into the ocean.

Tim: Um, Tom? You know we’re meant to be discussing this song, right? Anyway, outside of Eurovision entry competitions, this sort of stuff isn’t all that fashionable right now, but there’s clearly still a market for it, and a very good thing that is.

Tom: He spins round and, without stopping to aim, shoots the assassin with the blow dart that was about to kill them both.

Tim: Nope, he’s gone. He’ll come round eventually – he usually does, although it would be nice if this time doesn’t involve a gerbil and some pink hair dye.

Tom: She surfaces, sputtering, and realises what’s happened. Cut to sex scene, then cut to bad guy’s HQ. You can write the rest from there.

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.