Saturday Flashback: Fame – Give Me Your Love

It is a little predictable, I’ll admit.

Tim: No, not that Fame. Instead, a Swedish musical pair who stormed their way through Melodifestivalen 2003 with one of the highest scores ever. And boy, was it deserved.

Tim: It is a little predictable, I’ll admit, but when what you’re predicting is great then that’s no bad thing, and it still contains a few surprises here and there, like the final chorus.

Tom: I think “stunningly formulaic” best sums this up. I started singing along with the backing singers half way through – on the first listen. Even the key change at 2:28 is utterly expected. It’s… nice, but I’m not sure it deserved to win, even if it does finally come alive in the final chorus.

Tim: It also says something about the song that they didn’t need much of a dance routine to complement it, although the camerawork did make me feel a bit dizzy at times. But yes – fantastic tune, happy lyrics, great key change – everything.

Mmadcatz – Puppets

I’m not sure if this song’s brilliant or if it’s just utter tripe.

Tim: Now let’s have something that properly encapsulates the spirit of Europlop as a genre. These two Belarusian ladies really do call themselves Mmadcatz, and I’m actually not sure if this song’s brilliant or if it’s just utter tripe.

Tom: I’m going to go with “stunningly mediocre”.

Tim: Hmm – not quite the reaction I was hoping for. With the pause after the first word I occasionally think that it’s a really, really odd cover of Right Said Fred, but after that I start properly enjoying it.

Tom: There’s no such thing as a Right Said Fred cover that isn’t odd. See?

Tim: Oh, I love those guys – their versions of Lady Marmalade and Blue (Da Ba Dee) will always have a special place in my heart. Here, the synth and the actual instruments work well together, I think, and the (probably) Russian rap over the bridge adds so much more than you might think. In fact, with a description of ‘two east European birds singing and rapping’, this is pretty much the definition of Better Than It Sounds.

Tom: It is, but only because that description makes it sound terrible. It’s not terrible. It’s just plodding synth-pop. Put some energy into it, dears.

Tim: As for the video we have here, what I love most is the dancing – I’m not sure if it’s proper choreography, or just randomly chosen synchronised arm movements. Either way, it’s remarkably entertaining.

Tom: Huh. Turns out “guy with laptop” is the new drummer: parked at the back of the stage, rarely seen, and with no attention on him during the video. At least he’ll remain anonymous.

Tim: Well, I reckon he was shunned for not being able to do the dance properly. Or he just refused to go near it, just to maintain some vague sense of dignity.

Saturday Flashback: Waldo’s People – Lose Control

It doesn’t worry about sticking to any formula but still turns out brilliantly.

Tim: This is one of my favourite Eurovision tunes of all time, largely because it doesn’t worry about sticking to any formula but still turns out brilliantly.

Tom: That’s a bold claim. Lordi! Verka Seduchka! Katrina and the Waves! This is going to have to be damn good, Tim. Let’s have a listen.

Tom: …well, it’s not bad. It’s a bit aside from the Eurovision norm, but I’m really not sure that Finnish rap is really something that the Contest would look kindly on. How’d they do? Right, second from last.

Tim: Second from last, incidentally, is also where one of my favourites from this year came – Belarus’s ‘Butterflies‘, which is notable for two things: what happens in the video at the key change, and the fact that their Belarussian accent on the word ‘Imagine’ gets less and less over the course of the song.

And it’s partly because it’s quite a bit aside – I know I love all the normal stuff, but this was a nice break, and in a good way. It still has the big moments, the backing singers and all that, but in a completely different setting.

They also put on one hell of a performance (and that stage set is even huger than I remember it being – 2009 was a good year for Eurovision).

There’s one thing that niggles at me a bit though…

Tom: The concept of Finnish rap? I’m having trouble getting over that myself.

Tim: …which is one of the lines in the second verse where he compares himself to Peter Piper and taking control. I’m almost certain he’s not talking about the one who picked peppers, so I’m fairly sure he means the Pied Piper. Either that or he got confused with Peter Parker (which is actually what I thought I heard the first time), which would be fairly awesome.

Tom: I’ve mentioned Spiderman on Broadway before, right? Because that’s a real thing.

Tim: As for the video – I have no idea whatsoever.

Tom: I don’t think anyone does, Tim.

Magnus Carlsson – Feel You

His head moves in the manner of a curious owl inspecting a vole.

Tim: If yesterday wasn’t enough for you, also in pop-dance-cheese at the moment we have a Swede who wants to Feel You.

Tim: It’s safe to say he certainly gets his message across – I don’t think there’s any doubt whatsoever about what he wants, and so in that sense it’s a good song. Does it matter why he wants to feel me? Not really. I’d rather he didn’t, I suppose, but with that much enthusiasm I probably wouldn’t be able to say no after a while.

Tom: Oh please, like he’d need anywhere near that much enthusiasm to convince you. The track’s not bad, I suppose, although after a while I’d just like there to be something, anything different added to the formula.

Tim: Part of me keeps wanting to sing ‘cause in the heat of the night…‘ occasionally, but I don’t mind that at all and overall I like this a lot.

Tom: Really? I got ‘waiting for a star to fall…‘ several times.

Tim: That as well, actually, and I think it’s the same reason – that pause followed by the glockenspiely synth. The video is notable for doing exactly two things, which is all it tries to do: rivalling Russia’s Eurovision Song Contest in terms of stupid numbers of lights*, and knocking seven shades of shit out of Eric Saade when it come to rainfall.

* Today’s fun fact: 13% of the world’s LED displays were in Moscow’s Olympic Indoor Arena that night. Every day’s a school day.

Tom: When he dances, his head moves in the manner of a curious owl inspecting a vole. His gaze never leaves the camera, and his head seems to move strangely on top of his body, almost as if it’s superimposed. I propose that he is, in fact, the first bird of prey to release a dance single.

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.