The Darkness – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us

I want everything they release to be played loudly in pubs and cheesy clubs

Tom: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a new Darkness single. Is it going to be “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, or is going to be… well, anything else they’ve released?

Tom: …well, once you get over the dissonance of that introduction, I think it falls safely into the second category.

Tim: Hang on, hang on, hang on a sec – before we go any further, you seem to be implying that I Believe in etc. was the only good song they’ve done. Have you completely forgotten Friday Night? Or Growing On Me? Or Christmas Time?

Tom: Hmm. Okay, I’ll grant you they’re decent tracks – and a damn sight better than anything off the second album – but it’s going to take a lot to reach the heights that their glorious first single reached.

Tim: Fair enough, so let’s continue. Not a fan of this, then?

Tom: It’s a great shame, because I want to like the Darkness, I really do. They’re ridiculous British glam metal, and I want everything they release to be good enough to get played loudly in pubs and cheesy clubs up and down the country. But this isn’t. It’s an album track. A track off their first album, maybe, but still an album track. And with a suitably low-budget video.

Tim: Seemingly made in Microsoft Paint, which is quite an achievement. But I disagree with you about this song, somewhat – I don’t know, maybe I’m just overly nostalgic following a somewhat weird conversation I had quite recently, but this is a decent track.

Tom: And maybe my expectations are just too high.

Tim: I think so. But if you’re right, and it is just an album track, I’m looking forward to hearing the others.

Saturday Reject: Minnie-Oh – You and I

Got knocked out by three that were absolutely not as brilliant.

Tim: February’s here, and many countries are well on their way to choosing their entry to Eurovision; as ever, this means that several excellent tracks are being cruelly discarded (along with a whole load of utter tripe), either because they can’t match up to the brilliance of their peers, or because the viewing public are utter morons. Time, I reckon, to start our review of some of them, and this is a fantastic one to start with. It got knocked out of the second heat of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix last week, by three that were absolutely not as brilliant.

Tom: I was in Norway last week, as it happens. It’s a nice country. Do you like mountains?

Tim: On the whole.

Tom: Do you like fjords?

Tim: Always.

Tom: Do you like being charged a ridiculous amount of money for absolutely everything?

Tim: Erm, not so much.

Tom: Ah, then Norway may not be the country for you.

Tim: Not even with this as music?

Tim: The music is fantastic. The vocal’s got a nice tune to it.

Tom: It is, but I can’t help feeling they’ve not picked the right singer for the job. She’s got a nice, understated voice that occasionally seems a little detuned – which would be good for a calm ballad. This is a Big, Bold, Synth-Heavy track, though: it either needs someone whose voice can soar, or it needs him out of Scooter.

Tim: Perhaps, and I did think something like that when I heard the live version. The studio version, on the other hand, and which I heard first, I think sounds perfect with her voice, and it’s a great shame that didn’t come across on the night.

Tom: It’s good, but I still think it needs a more powerful vocalist. She’s great, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t think she fits this track.

Tim: Well, whoever’s doing the vocals, they’re backed up by some great instrumentation – the chorus sounds like the C-music from Tetris (which was totally the best, by the way) – and it’s not remotely difficult to imagine this getting decent airplay over here. The dancing is pretty good – nothing amazing, but that glow in the dark bit when they’re all in a line with their arms is quite cool.

Tom: Of course, that’s frequently more important than the song itself as far as the voting public’s concerned.

Tim: Well, quite, and it’s not alone in that respect. Take the staging, for example, which here is somewhat incredible: the lights are roughly what you’d get if you poured half a ton of sugar into a Dulux factory and then blew it up, and as far as I’m concerned that’s as good as it gets for a song like this. And the costumes are a tad odd, even by Eurovision standards – we’ve got two giant Cornettos on each shoulder, inverse torso clothing for the dancers as well as black knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail on keyboards. Any explanation? None whatsoever, but who cares?

Tom: Because Eurovision. That’s why.

Tim: Really, the only reason I can think of not to put this through above one of the other ones would be the not-quite-Eurovision-grade steadicam shot at 1:40. So, Mr Norway, what’s Norwegian for ‘morons’?

Tom: You know, I didn’t get around to asking that when I was there. I can, however, swear in Finnish now. (No, not Norwegian. Long story.)

Laleh – Some Die Young

Well, isn’t that a chirpy little number.

Tom: Our regular reader Roger sends this in. And I warn you in advance: it’s a bit cinematic.

Tim: Well, isn’t that a chirpy little number.

Tom: This sounds like the music you get over the closing credits of a Disney movie.

Tim: …because you’ve watched the alternative cut of Aladdin where the magic carpet catches fire and they die in a massive carpet crash?

Tom: I would watch that, actually. Besides, Disney-sound isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for some reason it also disqualifies it in my head as a “proper” pop song. It’s like Elton John’s “Written in the Stars” – a beautiful track, but originally made for his musical version of Aida, and therefore it gets filed under ‘musicals’ rather than ‘pop’. Perhaps I’m getting caught up in semantics.

Tim: A little bit. And somewhat missing the fact that it’s ALL ABOUT DEATH. Admittedly, only so as to convey the idea that we should be living as much as we can, but it’s still ALL ABOUT DEATH.

Tom: It’s all very pleasant, though, despite the lyrics being a bit morbid when you actually start to listen to them.

Tim: Oh, you think?

Pixie Lott – Kiss The Stars

Imagine I’m, like, a sex toy, yeah?

Tom: This song starts with “baby, baby”. Sometimes that can be a brilliant sign (The Supremes, Britney Spears)… but mostly it’s a sign that the lyricist has run out of ideas. Where does this one fall?

Tom: Yeah, the lyricist ran out of ideas. It’s tired technology metaphor time!

Tim: OKAY GUYS, I’ve got this like totally great idea. If we can say, like, ‘push the button’, like the Chemical Brothers or the Sugababes, then that’ll totally be, like, yeah, he’s turning me on, yeah? So then, let’s do that – WAIT, WAIT, I’m not done – let’s do that, but now imagine I’m, like, a sex toy, yeah? So we can have it like ‘go for hours’ if you ‘hit the switch’ and ‘we can have it all baby you and me’ and ‘kiss the stars tonight’ with total pleasuring.

Tom: Mind you, the composer and producer have done a solid job with what they’ve been given – it’s a solid middle-of-the-night club track. There’s the increasingly-popular mock-dubstep middle eight – that wub wub wub is becoming almost mandatory now.

Tim: I mean, yeah, it, like, needs to be recharged every now and again, so that doesn’t seem so great, but it is, cause we can do like ‘put the plug in the socket’ and it’s like a total double entondray, yeah, cause, like, recharging, and then the other type of plug, yeah? So yeah, am I like totally right?

Tom: …it’s like I’m there in that record company meeting.
Anyway, the video appears to have been inspired by every 90s German hi-NRG Eurodance track ever – not least her hairstyle. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, objectively – it’s a good video – but the connotations of dodgy dance music are probably something they could do without. I’d love to see some of the rushes from this before all the visual effects were added; just shots of her reacting to nothing against a green screen.

Tim: Well, yeah, that’s like totally great, but what I really want, like, is for her to do the next round of Ann Summers adverts. COME ON PEOPLE HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

Saturday Flashback: Lady Antebellum – Need You Now (Jason Nevins Elektrotek Radio Mix)

Needed a bit more oomph.

Tom: “Need You Now” is a good song. It really is.

Tim: Indeed. Story time: I first heard it in an advert for their album before the film Daybreakers, and to be perfectly honest, part of me wishes to this day that I’d been more enthused by that advert, got up and left the cinema to buy it right there and then.

Tom: That took me a second to work out, but I reckon it might be one of the best burns you’ve written in a while.

Tim: Thank you very much.

Tom: Anyway, I always thought the song needed a bit more… well, oomph. Jason Nevins provides.

Tim: Hmm – not sure about that.

Tom: Now here’s an odd thing: this is a track that I’ve liked less and less the more I heard it. The first time I listened, I was dancing in my chair. It went straight on my regular playlist. And then… then it got old.

Tim: See, I’m not sure about that at all. I never did think it needed more, and I think this goes some way towards showing it. It’s alright, and great should I want to dance to the song, but largely unnecessary.

Tom: There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a competent remix. I’d still love it if it appeared in a club. But that first moment of ‘wow, this is is brilliant’? I think I was wrong.

Tim: Nice to hear you admit it.

JLS – Proud

Proper emotional balladry, with all the tricks

Tim: Sound the CHARITY SINGLE siren, please.

Tom: Woop! Woop! That’s the sound of the CHARI… oh. Actually, that’s the sound of the police. I think they’re looking for you.

Tim: What? What have I done now? Oh God, they’re not still worried about that— actually, never mind. This is for Sport Relief, you see, which is still nine weeks away but I guess that’s no reason not to start pushing the single now.

Tom: “Wherever you go… whatever you do… I will be right here waiting for you.” 

Tim: Oh come on – it’s proper emotional balladry, and all the stylistic tricks have already been used many times over.

Tom: It’s more than that, Tim, it’s the entire bloody chord sequence and instrumentation.

Tim: Look. The important thing is that this is definitely not another Collective idea, which as far as I’m concerned makes it brilliant all on its own and we could stop the review right here. But no – this deserves more, because aside from the fact that they missed a golden opportunity for what would have been a perfectly justified key change, this a shining example of what a cool mellow pop song should be.

Tom: It is a shining example. Specifically, it’s Bryan Adams’s shining example.

Tim: Bryan Adams?

Tom: …the guy who did “Right Here Waiting For You”. Seriously, it’s really, really close.

Tim: Oh yes, I know the song. I’m just surprised and, well, more than a little disappointed in you, really.

Tom: Oh. Oh, damn. Damn. Anyway, you’re right about missing the key change.

Tim: Well, obviously. The lyrics are along the lines of you’re brilliant, I’m not quite as good as you are but give me a bit of time, because, well, “all that I do is to make you proud” —

Tom: Heh. Euphemistic.

Tim: I’ll ignore that — and the tone conveys that appropriately. We’ve got solo stuff in the verses, getting the emotive stuff across well, and in the chorus we’re all in there, making sure you understand. Then, of course, at the end we’re harmonising in about six octaves all at once, because that way you know we’re really very serious about this indeed. What more do you want?

Tom: A bit of original instrumentation?

Robin – Frontside Ollie

Tim: You know, I’m not sure if I really want to discuss this, because this is how the review starts: So, who wants to hear the Finnish version of Justin Bieber sing about skateboarding for three minutes?

Tom: It’s not the most captivating introduction you’ve ever written.

Tim: Figured. Right, we’ve now lost all but three people, but we might as write something for them to read, if they really don’t have anything better to do.

Tom: There are a lot of dislikes on that video.

Tim: Since you’re not as cool as me —

Tom: Watch it.

Tim: Face it. — I should tell you that ‘frontside ollie’ is a skateboarding term, being the thing they do where they jump in the air and spin round so they land facing the other way. Why is he singing about doing a skateboarding trick?

Tom: Could be worse. He could be singing about Olly Murs.

Tim: Well, I don’t know any Finnish, but since you’re also older than me I should tell you that’s it’s totally what we cool kids are into these days, so it’s probably because, being only 13, he’s still scared of girls so he can’t sing about them.

Tom: That’s a sign of you getting old, Tim. They grow up fast these days.

Tim: Oh, blimey, thats something I didn’t need to see in, well, any time of the day actually.

Give him his dues: he can be an actual musician, even if he can’t be bothered to learn the words to one of the most popular songs of the past year, and to be perfectly honest, if I heard this track without knowing anything about the singer I’d hear it as a song by a perfectly competent vocalist, albeit a female one.

The autotuned bit is annoying, Intense repetition of the (let’s be honest) ludicrous title considerably more so, but that aside it’s not all bad.

Tom: I pretty much agree. The sudden English skateboarding vernacular really does break you out of the song, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with it. There’s nothing particularly right with it, but, you know, well done him.

Tim: Taking all that into consideration, my advice to him is this: come back in five years when we can treat you as a respectable human and not feel too guilty writing rude things about you, and I’ll be perfectly happy.

Caotico – Sunrise Confessions

What an absolutely stunning first few seconds…

Tim: You’ll remember Caotico from their somewhat grandma-unfriendly collaboration with Tove Styrke last year; this is their second solo single (after earlier-last-year’s ‘Back Of My Head’), and while it’s still probably not something granny would chose to listen to, it does at least stay clear of the whole rather explicitly stated ‘Do me so hard I’ll not know what’s hit me’ theme.

Tom: What an absolutely stunning first few seconds… brought back down to earth afterwards, but still.

Tim: Well, I like this. I’m not entirely sure why – it’s miserable and depressing, and the downbeat voices just serve to emphasise that, but it seems somewhat entrancing.

Tom: Am I right in thinking it has some kind of modern-reggae influence? That backing kept me interested far more than the vocals or the music.

Tim: Yeah, I felt that as well – didn’t keep me distracted, but there’s definitely something.

The video helps a lot with taking away some of the downbeatness, actually – if I heard it on the radio I probaby wouldn’t like it anywhere near as much, but there’s so much weird stuff happening there I can’t not watch with some degree of enthrallment.

My first thought was that he’ll have ruined that suit, and who the hell let that guy in the kitchen, and then Sid from Toy Story has somehow come to life.

Tom: And how mucky is that bathwater? Honestly.

Tim: I know. I blame the parents.

Tom: I’d blame the dodgy takeaway he had the night before.

Tim: Oh, did you have to? Really?

Tom: Yep. Classy humour, here.

Tim: But even despite all that, when they all join together in creating a proper toy apocalypse after Sid finds a phone in one of the dolls (what?), somehow it all fits.

Wouldn’t touch those cupcakes with a bargepole, mind.

Tom: I’m mildly nauseated myself.

Hurricane Love – Serial Liar

There was so much emotion in that final chorus.

Tim: Four blokes and two girls make up this fairly new Swedish band. An unusual composition, perhaps, so let’s see if it works. This is their first single – listen to it, please.

Tom: I assume every comment about the pencil moustache and slicked hair has already been made as a YouTube comment, so I’ll leave it there. The song, though?

Tim: The song, and it does work. Rockier end of pop/rock (can’t everyone just call it pock and be done with it?), but there are definite pop moments in there, especially the nicely done wails just after two minutes and two and a half minutes. Another track, though, where the music doesn’t quite fit the message of the song – the voice has got the desperation of the whole ‘I screwed up and I need you back’ vibe, but the backing seems too upbeat.

Tom: It has a properly soaring middle eight, but I think it works well – it’s possible to be that enthusiastic and still have a somewhat pleading tone to it.

Tim: Well, whatever one thinks, I couldn’t actually care less about it because the backing, along with the vocal, is absolutely fantastic.

Tom: There was so much emotion in that final chorus – that’s the mark of a really very good frontman.

Tim: Not as great in the verse as in the chorus, but that’s to be expected, and if it was there’d be no point to the chorus so actually just ignore this sentence. What you shouldn’t ignore is the song, because, well, like I said, it’s absolutely fantastic, and I look forward to hearing new stuff from these guys in the (hopefully not too distant) future.

Gabrielle – Inn I Deg

She’s going with the “repeat the title endlessly in the backing”, then.

Tim: Gabrielle, previously featured here after producing Ring Meg as an X Factor 7th-placer’s single and Bordet as an X Factor 7th-placer’s follow-up single. This is Inn I Deg (Into You), and I’d call it…

Tom: An X Factor 7th-placer’s third single?

Tim: …an X Factor 7th-placer’s third single, yes, but (a) I’m bored of that, even if three singles from coming 7th is quite impressive and (b) it’s really quite something of a departure from previously.

Tim: You see?

Tom: She’s going with the “repeat the title endlessly in the backing”, then. Because that works so well every bloody time it’s used.

Tim: Here we have a very mainstream type of dubstep, and actually rather enjoyable – the voice comes across as a bit aggressive when its got the backing that I’d normally run a mile from, and seems to fit it perfectly.

Tom: I’m sure that dubstep purists – and yes, they exist – would say this doesn’t really count; it’s more like a standard dance beat slowed down with a bit of ‘wubwubwub’ occasionally added behind it. I can’t tell the difference all that well, though, so it’s close enough for me.

Tim: Well, that’s surely how every genre has to start off, before it can be accepted by a large amount of people – gradually work its way in, gently increasing and persuading people that actually, they can cope with it. If they go in too fast, they just get rejected outright – look what Keith Chegwin did for the idea of naked gameshows, for example.

Tom: That analogy worked so well until the very last moment, then it just took a horrific turn.

Tim: The lyrics, as far as I can tell, are about her finally realising that she quite likes the bloke she’s with, and wants to stay with him; I’m not really sure the tone of the music fits with that sort of feeling, but it seems to work – once I’ve heard that vocal, I can’t really imagine anything else as a backing track, and I’m fairly sure that’s a sign of something going well.

Tom: There’s just a bit too much “Inn I Deg” for me.