Mylène Farmer – Oui mais… Non

What do you get if you take Basshunter, give him a sex change and turn him French?

Tim: Now, a question for you: what do you get if you take Basshunter, give him a sex change and turn him French? (And if that’s not a question that belongs in a Christmas cracker, I don’t know what is.)

Didn’t think you’d get it. The answer is this: Mylène Farmer, who has got together with RedOne and given us Oui mais… Non.

Tom: The French anthem for Vicky Pollard, then. That is, by the way, the only Little Britain reference you’ll ever hear me make.

Tim: Actually, comparing her to Basshunter could be seen as unfair, given that she’s been going about 25 years and has produced some damn fine music in her time; nonetheless, when she puts out stuff like this she deserves every comparison going. It’s more than a little bit bonkers, and is roughly what I imagine Kate Bush might be doing right now if she were still going.

Tom: She is still going, sort of. Her latest album, in 2005, had a track that featured Rolf Harris on vocals.

Tim: Do you know, that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Anyway, Mylène does seem to go on a bit (personally, I’d have ended it at the break at about 3:20), although I’m willing to put that down to the lyrics being all foreign and therefore un-sing-along-able.

Tom: It really does go on, doesn’t it? Basshunter generally has melodies that stick in your head – and may I remind you that Basshunter’s DotA was just as catchy as All I Ever Wanted* – while this just drifted in one ear and out the other.

* Incidentally, if you want to see what a record deal and a personal trainer does to someone, compare the concert footage – the style, confidence and everything – in those two videos.

Tim: Good point about Basshunter. Hmm. Still, overall, the worst you could call this is dance floor fodder, because it would almost definitely go down well with a load of drunken students. As for what I think – not a bad effort. Not bad at all.

Oh, and according to Google Translate the chorus contains the line ‘God, my God it’s long!’

Tom: That’s what she… oh. Right. It is what she said. Never mind.

Duck Sauce – Barbra Streisand

It’s catchy, and it’ll get people moving.

Tom: You’ll remember Duck Sauce – the code name for a collaboration between top DJs Armand van Helden and A-Trak – from last year’s aNYway, or at least from its glorious video. Here’s their new one.

Tom: I hated this on first listen, but I keep hearing it and it grows on me every time. First things first: this isn’t a track for the masses to download. This a track that’ll get people in dancing in clubs, that’ll get mashed up with everything under the sun, that DJs good and bad will chuck into their megamixes. I’ve already heard one mashup that throws in samples of Beat It and adds a ‘Michael Jackson’ voiceover in place of the titular Barbra.

Tim: I can imagine it going down well in a club – I thought the ‘ee-oo-ee-oo-blah-blah’ bit was a bit rubbish until it came back in at 2:50, when I realised the point of it, getting people oo-ing along.

Tom: And yet, somehow even the original is pretty listenable, before other stuff gets added in.

Tim: I disagree – I can’t really imagine ever listening to just this. Like you said, mixed in with something, maybe, or as a backing for something else, but on it’s own there’s not a lot to it. It’s catchy, I’ll grant them that, but for me not in an ‘Ooh, I’m glad this is in my head’ sense.

Tom: Well, it’s still catchy, and it’ll get people moving. And that’s all you can ask for from something like this, I reckon. There is an official video, but it agrees with you: it’s less of an official video and more of a travelogue with a consistent backing track and a massive rolling shutter problem.

Paul Harris vs. Eurythmics – I Want U

There are so, so many things wrong with this.

Tom: There are so, so many things wrong with this.

First of all: if you’re going to remix a synth-heavy Eurythmics song anyway, perhaps you could get a sample that people will enjoy listening to? Annie Lennox’s voice is amazing, but it’s out of place here. When that sample finally kicks in, it seems completely discordant with everything else that’s going on.

Tim: Do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a dull tune. Regarding her voice, however, it’s not as out of place here as it was on that cover of Shining Light she did, which was just plain atrocious.

Tom: Secondly: surround it with something decent, not just whatever you happen to have kicked out of FL Studio that morning.

Tim: Yes, and try to blend it in just a slight bit. We have three and a half minutes of sound, split cleanly into three separate parts. The first and last of those sound exactly alike, and the middle bit sounds more or less like the sound you’d get if you put the original song on one of those A-B repeat things you got in MiniDisc players. I think here there’s about twenty seconds of sound clips played again and again for ten times that amount. This is absolutely pointless.

Tom: Thirdly: the video. Actually, Tim, you should comment on the video. It’s difficult for me to maintain the right level of anger when I’m being distracted by what appears to be a preview for Babestation.

Tim: To me it seems less of an advert for BabeStation than for a Minority Report era HMV. Just…what is it?

To sum up: I don’t think I can ever forgive you for the past couple of days. Thanks to you, I have heard two of the worst pieces of music, if either of them can justifiably be called that, of the year so far in far too short a space of time. I am now going to cheer myself up, by listening to one of the best pieces of music of the year so far all time.

Cheryl Cole – Promise This

I don’t know where to start.

Tom: Let me show you a photo.

That's Tom.
That’s me. I am flicking the Vs at the tiny little dot on stage. That tiny little dot on stage is Cheryl Cole. She was, at that moment, butchering ‘Fireflies‘ – a song that’s insipid enough without being dodgily covered. I’ll be clear: I’ve got nothing against Cheryl Cole herself. She’s probably quite a nice person. But my word, she doesn’t half pick some crap songs to sing.

Tom: I don’t know where to start. The almost drum-and-bass backing? The bizarre ‘alouette, ette, ette’ that sounds like a French version of Rihanna hopped up on Es? The fact that there isn’t really even a melody to speak of through most of the song?

Tim: OH GOD IT’S JUST NOISE. First thought – it’s nice that they’ve brought R2-D2 out of retirement to help out on the instrumentals. Aside from that, just what is the point of this, erm, song, is it? To me, the repetitive bit isn’t so much ‘alouette, ette, ette’ as ‘alouette, doink, doink’, which just…um…AARGH OH DEAR LORD SHUT UP CHERYL PLEASE BEFORE I DIE.

Tom: Of course, she’ll sing it on the X Factor, and she’ll get to number one, and – with any luck – Harry Hill will make it all worthwhile again.

Tim: Ooh, wait! Because I’ve just found this, the Digital Dog remix. While I’ll never be able to forgive him for the way he butchered Love Story*, he has slightly redeemed himself by making this vaguely listenable – the chorus is still just noise, but the verses are almost slightly enjoyable.

* He cut out the key change! The key change! The narratively justified key change! That is the only reason most people put up with the first three minutes, to sing along to ‘Marry me Juliet…’, and he got rid of it! I ALMOST CRIED.

Tom: I’ll grant you that it’s a bit better, but the alouette refrain still grates like a Grate-O-Matic 5000 Turbo, and I’m still not sure she’s actually singing notes in the second part of the chorus. It’s a no from me. Sorry, pet. (See what I did there?)

Tim: Yes. Yes I do. Well done.

Kylie Minogue – Get Outta My Way

It’s like pretty much every other recent Kylie single

Tom: You know what time it is? It’s new Kylie single time. Oh yes.

Tom: I swear the percussion and piano melody aren’t exactly in sync with each other at the start, which is messing with me a little. It’s a slow build, and when it does kick in it’s… well, it’s like pretty much every other recent Kylie single. It could be “2 Hearts”. It could be “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”.

Tim: Hmm. I’m not so keen on it. There’s nothing big about it, really, or even memorable really. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head is immediately recollectable – it comes straight to mind now, even though it’s probably at least a year since I last heard it; this one just doesn’t do much for me. It wouldn’t really be enough to tempt me onto the dance floor.

Tom: She’s got a sound that works, I suppose, and there’s nothing wrong with that – but it’d be nice to hear something a little bit different after this many years.

Tim: Actually, having listened to it several times now, I’ve realised what the problem is. It’s a bit like most pop-dance tracks around at the moment, really – the first couple of times you hear it, it’s a bit boring, and nothing special, but the third or fourth time it’s been embedded in your head, and then when you’re out and you hear it you can’t help thinking ‘ooh, I know this, this is quite good,’ even though it isn’t really.

Tom: Nice glossy video, as ever, but again, it was always going to be downhill after the Michel Gondry genius that was Come Into My World. It’s pretty – full marks to whoever did the dance-floor visualisations, it’s a really nice effect. Pity the song’s not as memorable.

Europlop’s Sunday Mashups: Vol. 2

Thirty years of pop culture in three and a half minutes.

Tom: It’s been a few weeks, so let’s have some more mashups. First of all, here’s Miracles by Norwegian Recycling.

Tom: It’s one of those genius mashups that pulls in a dozen different sources to make a coherent whole. It doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, or do any building, but it’s just rather pleasant to listen to. It’s a run through thirty years of pop culture in three and a half minutes, and the video brings it all together nicely.

Tim: Ooh, I like that – I’ve always quite liked mashups that pile in a whole load of songs together just to see what happens, such as the United State of Pop ones, and Party Ben‘s Boulevard of Broken Songs, and this one pulls it off well.*

* There’s also Axis of Awesome’s Four Chord Song, which whilst not actually being a mashup is still fun to listen to.

Tom: There’s been some very clever autotuning on Cee-Lo Green, as well; while it still sounds like him, I’m fairly sure those aren’t exactly the notes he was originally singing…

Tim: Well, with so many songs you’re bound to need a little pitch correction on there just to keep them in the same key, surely.

Tom: No, it’s more than that: I think they’ve actually got him singing a different melody, not just a different key. I might be wrong, though.

Tim: The only thing I dislike about it is the Jason Derulo track – it’s one of his better ones, but it sounds like he forgot to write words to half the chorus, which gets me every time I hear it.

Tom: Second up, here’s a simple A+B mashup by Sam Flanagan. It’s called “Brimful of Bonkers”, and that tells you all you need to know really. Oh, but watch out for an unexpected cameo just after three minutes in.

Tom: It’s easy – there is, of course, not even any pitch correction to do – but it’s still a hell of a party tune. It could use being a bit shorter, but it’s good enough that I don’t really mind.

Tim: I thought that as well – it could easily lose the first verse/chorus, since it’s identical to the second. Anyway, you’re right, it is good, especially the cameo.

Tom: I know both the original songs off by heart, which normally would just make a mashup like this confusing – but this is just pulled together so nicely that it doesn’t matter.

Tim: Personally, I prefer it when I know the original songs – you get to think ‘Ooh, this is fun – never thought of these going together.’ And speaking of knowing the original songs, here’s a mixture of two Europlop favourites merged together by Benji of Sweden (apparently he’s the only one in the country) to form one big Bromance Killer:

Tim: Aside from the Radio Sweden jingle (which is surprisingly nonintrusive anyway), I think it’s ruddy marvellous, with him still managing to keep the big Lovekiller climax and all the energy that was originally there. Well done Mr Sweden.

Tom: Wow, that’s a belter. Bromance itself is steadily picking up more and more airplay and traction in the UK – the vocal remix with Love U Seek gets released on 25th October, which means it might well be a Big Autumn Hit.

3OH!3 – Double Vision

Brace yourself. I’m about to say something startling.

Tom: Brace yourself, Tim. I’m about to say something startling: I’ve found a good 3OH!3 song.

Tom: Catchy as their previous ones have been, I can’t say I really enjoyed them – Starstrukk may have been in my head, but I didn’t want it to be there. This 3OH!3 track still seems to be autotuned and over-processed to hell, but it’s less shouty and in-your-face.

Tim: Really? I loved Starstrukk, and as tracks with Katy Perry go I thought it was much better than any other recent ones.

Tom: Well, yeah, if you see it as a Katy Perry track anything’s better than Teenage bloody Dream.

Tim: Fair point. Anyway, the first time I listened to this was at work on my lunch break, and I scribbled the following: “Hmm. It’s not bad, I’ll grant them that, but after about 1:30 I had a continual feeling that it was about to wrap up, and kept being surprised at how long there was left. That’s probably not a good thing, and to be honest, I don’t think there’s much to write about.”

Tom: You know what I think does the ending thing? The “HEYs” during the first chorus. They’re great when you’re expecting them – and they’ll go down very well with big crowds – but there’s so much energy in that first chorus that it sounds like it should be the last.

Tim: Having heard it a few more times at home and all that, I should like to revise my opinion. There’s still the ‘it’s almost finished’ feeling throughout most of it, but it’s gone from ‘It’s only been two minutes?’ to ‘Ooh, there’s still another minute or so to go!’ (or it would be if I thought with exclamation marks). It’s catchy, and good-catchy at that, so I hereby give it a big thumbs up from me.

Tom: The video impresses and annoys me in equal measure: the concept and execution are brilliant, and it was – according to the behind-the-scenes video – done with as little CGI as possible. But that has to be some of the most blatant in-video advertising I’ve ever seen – even if I have to concede that it does fit in.

Tim: Haha, it is and all, although I’m tempted to applaud them for their making it quite so obvious. I do like the two girls and the Daft Hands-esque routine, but the limbo thing looks weird, like the front one’s not long enough or something, and I find it mildly disconcerting.

Tom: It’s not. It’s forced-perspective. Clever trick though.

If they hadn’t had the Katy Perry hit, I’d say that this should have been one of the big summer hits. As it is: I’m hoping it’ll be one of the big autumn hits instead.

Tim: I’ll be honest – I don’t think there’s much chance of it not being.

Album Review: Hurts – Happiness

Yes, it really is called Happiness, and yes, it really has got Kylie on it.

Tim: Since, in my view, Wonderful Life is not far off Lovekiller in terms of excellence, and we reviewed Darin’s album, it would be plain rude not to review this one as well (and yes, it really is called Happiness, and yes, it really has got Kylie on it).

Hurts - Happiness

1 – Silver Lining: Great opener, really shows what they can do. Long but varied throughout. Upbeat chorus, gentle bridge, finishes with OMINOUS MALE CHANTING. 9/10

2 – Wonderful Life: As previously mentioned, brilliant provided you don’t have to watch the video and don’t mind public transport inconsistencies. 10/10

3 – Blood, Tears & Gold: Not sure how to describe this as a good song; it very definitely is, but I’m not entirely sure why. The bits all just fit together, really. 8/10

4 – Sunday: One of the most upbeat; chorus of ‘just another lonely Sunday’. Very sing-along-able if you’re happy, though you’d need to alter the words. 9/10

5 – Stay: ‘I’ve got Drops of Jupiter stuck in my head. Oh well. Let’s write some songs.’ Similarity aside, however, this song is utterly fantastic. 10/10

6 – Illuminated: Seems like a fight between quiet boring verses and a loud exciting chorus for control of the song; the chorus wins, which is a relief. 7/10

7 – Evelyn: A perfect example of a song that builds throughout. Starts quietly tapping on your window; ends up kicking your door down. 8/10

8 – Better Than Love: Deservedly their first single. Electrodance backing, unusually energetic singing; I find this impossible to criticise. 10/10

9 – Devotion (featuring Kylie Minogue): ‘I’ve got Nature’s Law stuck in my head.’ Verses aren’t much; good chorus, but too similar for my liking.* Nice instrumental close, though. 6/10

10 – Unspoken: Remarkably boring for the first three minutes, but builds up a little bit for a fairly good final 90 seconds. 6/10

11 – Water: ‘This is the last song, yes? Can we get away with reusing the chorus melody from the first one?’ No, and the rest of it’s just a bit dull. 4/10

11a – Verona (Hidden track): An odd one – the group male chanting from the beginning comes back as a personal love song, and I’m not sure what to think of it.

tl;dr: Can be a bit too reminiscent of other songs, tailing off towards the end. Good if you like your music happy and sad simultaneously, though. 8/10

* Nothing against Embrace – I love Nature’s Law, just not reused in a completely different song.

The Saturdays – Higher

‘Very good’ becomes ‘flipping awful’

Tim: This here is the upcoming single from The Saturdays, and it’s more or less very good. The intro makes it sound a bit dodgy, but forty seconds in the chorus hits and it becomes amazing.

Tom: I’d say it becomes mediocre. It’s not got the bounce of ‘Up’, or even what passed for soulfulness in Issues (a song that will, for complicated reasons, always be associated with chlamydia testing in my head).

Tim: Um, thanks for sharing. Erm…sorry, I have completely forgotten what I was saying. Oh, right, the song. Yes. The autotune’s a bit thick for my liking, but the ‘lift it, lift it higher’ is too good for something like that to pull it down. The bridge fits nicely as well, providing a nice bit of calm after a loud chorus before building the final. All round: jolly good.

HOWEVER, all is not jolly good. Because what I have done, rather cheekily, is shown you the album version of the song.

Tom: Oh, snap.

Tim: The single version is here, and it’s flipping awful. The reason for this makes himself known approximately three seconds in. Now, I have made my distaste for Flo Rida clear on quite a few occasions, but it’s only now we can get a proper contrast between a song with him and one without him. And my God, is there a contrast.

Tom: Oh, no. I’m backing out of this. I know what’s coming here.

Tim: He craps all over the aforementioned rather pleasant bridge, which is bad enough, but to top it all off he does that stupid shout out thing at the start (which, given the five-strong band, ends up sounding more like a school register), and then puts himself first.

Right, let me make this clear. In capital letters, because that might be more effective. FLO RIDA, YOU ARE IN THERE FOR PRECISELY TWENTY FOUR SECONDS. THAT’S 12% OF THE SONG. YOU DO NOT GET TOP BILLING, YOU UTTER SHITE.

Tom: …you done?

Tim: Ahem. Okay, I’ll be a bit more rational. You may say, ‘Tim, you could look past the autotune, and that’s there for a lot more than 24 seconds. Why can’t you just look past him, or even just temporarily mute it like you do for granny-mugger-but-somehow-sob-story Rachel’s appalling bit in the otherwise excellent Hero?’

Tom: Did you just call that version of ‘Hero’ excellent? Really? I know it’s well-meaning and noble and all that, but excellent?

Tim: The key change. Just, the key change. But excuse me, you’ve cut me off mid-rant, and I don’t appreciate it.

Tom: Sorry. Why can’t you look past it?

Tim: I don’t know. His presence just somehow drags the whole thing down, because I know he’s there in the background. The small amount of ‘crap R&B’ness that was there – the autotune, the intro that wasn’t great to start with – somehow gets amplified and the song as a whole is just ruined. THIS SUCKS.

Tom: To be fair, it was doing a good job of that anyway.

Tim: Wow. I haven’t got that angry in quite some time. Feels quite good, actually.

Hera Björk – Because You Can

I WILL LEARN HOW TO FLY. AND MY GLOW WILL BE RELEASED.

Tim: THIS. IS. BRILLIANT. It’s the new single from the lady who did the also, but not quite as, excellent Je Ne Sais Quoi for Iceland at Eurovision this year. Stylistically, it’s not far removed from Malena Ernman with a mix of dance and opera (or that Charlotte Church track, come to think of it).

Tom: And it’s a style I very much like. When it finally kicks in properly, a minute in? That’s glorious.

Tim: The first few seconds remind me a bit of My Heart Will Go On. (Still love that song, don’t care what you say.)

Tom: Yes, well, we all have our crosses to bear.

Tim: The verses are great, and the final few notes in them as they build to the chorus are utterly fantastic. The bridge is entirely wonderful, the vocal and the instrumentation going unexpectedly yet perfectly together, and demonstrating one hell of a vocal range.

Tom: Couldn’t agree more.

Tim: And then there’s the chorus. And oh. Oh, boy. What a chorus it is. What a chorus.

“Take the chance you’ll never know”

YES. YES, HERA, I WILL. EVEN THOUGH I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS I WILL DO IT. BECAUSE YOU ARE USING THIS SONG TO TELL ME TO DO IT.

“Fly, release your inner glow”

I WILL LEARN HOW TO FLY. JUST FOR YOU, I WILL LEARN. AND MY GLOW WILL BE RELEASED.

Tom:

Tim:

“There is no-one in your way, trust that you will be okay”

I WILL BE OKAY. YOU HAVE ASSURED ME, HERA, AND RIGHT NOW I TRUST YOU MORE THAN I TRUST ANYONE.

“Take a chance, take your future by the hand”

FUTURE! COME HERE! HERA HAS ORDERED IT AND SHE MUST BE OBEYED.

“Because you can.”

YES! YES I CAN! DAMMIT, I CAN DO ANYTHING! I LOVE YOU HERA. I REALLY REALLY LOVE YOU. THERE, I’VE SAID IT.

Tom: I’ll leave you two alone. Tim Jeffries there, ladies and gentlemen.