Three – Lucky Number

A faceful of autotune

Tim: Teenage triplets, and identical ones at that.

Tom: I was going to make a “be still my beating heart”, but I’m getting a more “Children of the Corn” vibe off them. They’re really rather creepy.

Tim: As a girlband they’ve been a while in the making, but here’s their first single, so get ready for a faceful of autotune, although rest assured that it does calm down after a bit.

Tom: That is, indeed, a faceful of autotuning.

Tim: Now, I think this is what they call ‘catchy’. It’s happy, it’s chirpy, and it’s rather nice.

Tom: It’s almost too much sugar, and that’s saying something from someone who used to listen to rather too much J-Pop.

Tim: I do like the ending, which is abrupt, but not in such a way that it feels like someone’s just turned the microphones off by accident, what with the final revelation of the (not remotely surprising) lucky number.

Tom: They actually appear to have used DTMF tones – or something very close to them – as an actual melody line. Top works to whoever wrote that.

Tim: It also has the benefit of being educational – now, children, you can greet people wherever you are in the world!

Tom: I just generally SPEAK LOUDLY and SLOWLY. It seems to work.

Saturday Flashback: Darin – You’re Out Of My Life

I don’t think I could fault this, even if I wanted to.

Tim: A few weeks ago, we mentionedthat various countries were starting to look for their Eurovision entries. Well tonight, it’s the big one, as Melodifestivalen, the second most important music competition of the year, gets going in Sweden; as such, it’s only appropriate that we look back at a previous entry. Darin entered with this last year, and I reckon we’ve gone too long without mentioning him.

Tom: I reckon I’d put Lovekiller as one of the best songs of last year. It’s so overblown and yet brilliant.

Tim: I’ll be honest – I don’t think I could fault this, even if I wanted to.

Tom: This is how you make a slow, emotional schlager song without it seeming slow and plodding. Basic chord changes, emotional vocals, soaring choruses.

Tim: Admittedly it’s not as good as Lovekiller or his other recent and brilliant single Microphone, but it’s still great. Music: top notch. Lyrics/emotion relation: perfect.

Tom: And the key change?

Tim: Key change: absolutely superb.

Tom: Superb enough that my jaw genuinely dropped.

Tim: All round: flipping marvellous.

Tom: Oh yes.

Tone Damli – No Way Out

Fairly simple, really: nice tinkly piano intro, soft female vocals.

Tim: So, let’s see what we’ve got here. Fairly simple, really: nice tinkly piano intro, soft female vocals (as, really, we’d expect from a female), gentle drums and an early-Avril-Lavigne style chorus.

Tom: I was distracted and bored through the verse, until that Avril-style chorus kicked in – at which point I let out a quick “ooh!” of surprise. The chorus is brilliant, but you do have to plod through the rest of the song to get there.

Tim: True, but then with it building up a bit towards the end (admittedly passing through a very, VERY disappointing bridge exit), it’s basically a fun, fairly excited and happy piece of pop music, and anybody who doesn’t like it must have a heart of stone. Of STONE!

Tom: I do like it. I just wish there was a bit more energy in it – particularly that bridge exit, which winds up to a key change that never happens. If ever there was a track for Almighty Records to remix…

Blue and all that Eurovision business.

People have thrown a strop. They’re wrong.

Tim: As I’m sure we’ve all heard, British boyband Blue have been chosen by the BBC to represent Britain at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf, and unsurprisingly lots of people have got all mardy and thrown a strop about it. They’re wrong.

Tom: Yes they are.

Tim: They’re wrong, at least for the time being, and we shall now demonstrate why, through means of a systematic deconstruction of their arguments:

1. We didn’t get to decide. True, but are you honestly telling me that you would happily have chosen one of the six that were in Your Country Needs You last year? They weren’t your first choice, and never would have been. Until the BBC gets the money to splash out on a massive competition that about four thousand people will enter, with internet voting and tickets that sell out in half an hour, it’s never going to be a proper public choice.

Tom: A British Melodifestivalen will only happen when British folks take Eurovision seriously, which is approximately never. And if we actually had a Melodifestivalen, a comedy act would win, and we all know how that worked out for Dustin the Turkey.

Tim: 2. Blue are a crap boyband. Why can’t we have something good? You, person who says this, would make this argument whatever happened and whoever eventually got chosen unless it was Eliza Doolittle or Tinie Tempah. Shut up. They’ve actually been successful, and not just in this country but across a large part of Europe. Your personal music taste doesn’t count.

Tom: They’re perfect for Eurovision, too – inoffensive, well-tested, and popular. Don’t forget that Lena

Tim: Erm, Tom? Nope, he’s wandered off. But yes, Lena, who won it last year, was popular across Europe.

3. They haven’t done anything for over five years. Well, at least they’ve done something in the past, and aren’t a complete non-entity. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have an act that was successful a while back than an act that’s never been successful. We know they can sing properly, and to large crowds as well, so there shouldn’t be any worries there. Also, Katrina and the Waves hadn’t had a new single for over seven years before they won it back in 1997.

4. It will ruin their careers. And that’s our problem how, exactly? It may well be true, especially if they don’t do very well – their former manager certainly believes it to be the case – but so what? It’s not really like they have much of a future career to ruin, to be frank.

5. It makes us look desperate to win. Really, though? Even if that were the case – and personally if anything I think it makes us look keen, a good thing – it’s better than making us look like we can’t be arsed, which is certainly what anybody who saw last year’s car crash of a selection program would have thought. I can’t really remember the highlight, although I think it might have been Graham Norton forgetting how to read an autocue, or perhaps Pete Waterman & Mike Stock being furious that the act they’d clearly written the song for got voted off because she forgot the words.

So, to everybody who’s already started whining: hush. If you’re going to complain, at least wait a couple of months (really, BBC? that long?) until you’ve heard the song. Then we’ll let you bitch about it, and in fact may well join you.

Enrique Iglesias feat. Ludacris – Tonight (I’m Fuckin’ You)

This is an incredibly creepy song.

Tom: There are some songs that hide their meanings in cryptic metaphor; there are some that take a direct approach. This is one of the latter.

Tim: It is a bit, isn’t it?

Tom: I admire quite how direct he is, but let’s be honest: if he wasn’t Enrique Iglesias, this would be an incredibly creepy song.

Tim: That sentence should be reworded: ‘let’s be honest: this is an incredibly creepy song.’

Tom: The trouble is that, while it’s fairly listenable to start with, even a rap bridge from Ludacris can’t really justify its four-minute length. Once the shock value wears off, that synth backing really starts to grate – and there’s no build either. The first chorus is just as energetic as the last, and it ends on a whimper rather than (hurr) a bang.

Tim: It’s not that listenable, though – it’s the autotune, and it really turns me off, I mean, why? We all know he can sing the right notes, he doesn’t need autotuning – is there a point to it other than to make him sound like a robot?

Tom: That’s the style these days. Doesn’t matter if you can sing or not: you’ve got to sound a bit like Cher. The radio edit is of course a bit toned town – to “Lovin’ You” – and without that bit of swearing the whole song seems to fade into nothing. Pity.

Tim: Hmm. I remember when Enrique was a nice person, singing nicely about being a hero, and kissing away the pain. Now’s he’s been sucked in by hip-hop and turned into a dick.

Saturday Flashback: AnnaGrace – You Make Me Feel

It doesn’t make me want to play laser tag.

Tim: Do you remember Castles in the Sky? Of course you do – it was the early 2000s, as far as I’m concerned a Golden Age of music in Britain, with Eurodance colonising the charts every summer, and that song epitomised it.

Tom: Oh, that takes me back. Specifically, it takes me back to the upper floor of the Nottingham laser tag centre, defending the red base from anyone who tried to make it up the stairs.

Tim: Fast forward a few years, though, and utter tripe has largely taken over.

Tom: I quite like Disturbia, thank you very much.

Tim: Seriously? Huh. Anyway, regardless of the popularity shift, Ian van Dahl are still going, albeit with a different name, and they bring out this, get no airplay because it’s not cool any more, and fail to chart anywhere except their native Belgium.

Tom: Ah, Hard2Beat Records. They know their target market, and they aren’t afraid to pitch to them.

Tim: That failure to chart is a great shame, really, because this is good.

Tom: Now that’s where you’re wrong. It’s competent. It’s not good.

Tim: Well, I’ll accept that it is fairly generic, and does very little to challenge the ‘all dance music sounds the same’ bull that my parents like to put out there every now and again, although it does at least stay away from the snare drum buildup cliche* (by replacing it with a synth buildup instead).

* Related fact: Ayla’s album Nirwana is quite possibly my favourite dance album of ever, vying for the top spot along with Dario G’s Sunmachine, Rank 1’s Symsonic and Darude’s Before the Storm. Three years ago I spent almost six months on eBay, Amazon and the like trying to track down a (reasonably priced) copy before becoming very, very grateful to kevayreski72 for wanting to get rid of his.

Tom: That synth buildup may be the only original thing in the song.

Tim: You know what? I don’t care about originality – I like it, and it reminds me of a better time. Although it isn’t as good as Castles in the Sky.

Tom: Well, of course it isn’t. For a start, it doesn’t make me want to play laser tag.

Eric Saade – Still Loving It

A surprisingly decent mix of several genres.

Tim: Last seen getting soaking wet and with a notable absence of raccoons, he’s fixed one of those problems…

Tom: …please say it’s the raccoons.

Tim: …by drying himself off – sorry Tom – and putting the first single off his next album up on YouTube.

Tim: Unfortunately, but not too surprisingly, it isn’t as good as Manboy.

Tom: He’s gone all plodding and emotional, hasn’t he? So much for having enough enthusiasm that you have to shower on stage.

Tim: If we’re honest, it could probably do with losing about thirty seconds somewhere along the line, and the first few seconds sound a bit like Day & Night. On a more positive note, if you don’t do some sort of involuntary dance-type movement after the bridge there may be something wrong with you, which makes it a winner in my view.

Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you there, and then I went and subconsciously nodded my head along after the beat. That technically counts.

Tim: Musically it’s a surprisingly decent mix of several genres; lyrically it seems slightly weird and almost pointless – you’re annoying me but keep doing it – but never mind that, because I still like the chorus and the closing bit very much indeed.

Tom: It’s a proper lighters-in-the-air moment at the end, isn’t it? It’s no Manboy, but it’ll do.

The Vaccines – Post Break-Up Sex

Like Pulp, but a bit crap.

Tom: I think “like Pulp, but a bit crap” basically sums this up. Or alternatively “the London Pulp”, which basically says the same thing.

Tim: I don’t know, I don’t mind it – the music I can take or leave, but part of me likes the the lyrics, which are basically ‘yeah, we had sex, now sod off,’ even though I’d often just hate them. Somehow the barefacedness of it seems to work – maybe with the music – and doesn’t just make the singer seem like a misogynistic twat.

Tom: The Vaccines won third place in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 competition, which really doesn’t make me hold out music hope for the British music scene this year. And the single’s competent, I suppose, but it’s just whiny 90s Britpop – and without Jarvis Cocker at the helm, is it really worth bringing that back?

Tim: Depends if it’s better than what else is around. And looking at a couple of the songs we’ve reviewed previously, I would say yes. Although it would be nice if there were other options around that they could choose instead. Oh, wait. There are.

Tom: And all of them from Scandinavia.

Tim: Problem?

NEO – Underground

I watched it all the way through almost without blinking.

Tim: No, don’t worry – it’s not Ne-Yo, it’s NEO, an all-round better musician, although sadly not very lucky when it comes to exiting nightclubs.

Tom: I really hope this video explains that joke.

Tom: I have no idea what that video was about, but I watched it all the way through almost without blinking. That was brilliant.

Tim: Wasn’t it just? The music as well is very good, and in my view better than the sort of stuff that was on his first album – darker (much), but somehow better, even though I’d normally prefer the Mika-esque style. There’s a level of emotion and feeling to it that just didn’t seem to exist before, and the music’s very much better for it. The high-pitched voice isn’t used as a novelty this time round, but more as something that just belongs and doesn’t seem out of place.

Tom: Through the first minute, I was waiting for the chorus. I was thinking “this is a hell of a build, this had better be a blinder of a chorus.” And it was. By the final repeat, it’s almost an Andreas Johnson blinder of a chorus. And you’re right, the falsetto doesn’t seem out of place.

Tim: All round, it just seems a lot more mature than his last album – as though he’s now decided what he wants to do with his music, as opposed to thinking along the lines of ‘this is what Swedish musicians do, I’d better do that.’ I think he’s made the right decision – he certainly looks the part, as part of me was expecting him to grow fangs at 2:57. Very glad he didn’t, though.

Tom: That’s a director’s error, sadly – it’s shot like a transformation sequence, where it’s actually some kind of timeline switch. The background needs to be in focus and twitching, not him. Never mind – as I said before, it’s still blindingly good.

Tim: And lastly, what with him being NEO and all if you didn’t think ‘He is The One’ at 2:43, there’s something wrong with you.

Saturday Flashback: Shanadoo – My Samurai

There’s no innuendo here at all.

Tom: So, we have a group of attractive female singers in revealing outfits; a Eurobeat-style backing; simple key changes and occasional English lyrics. Textbook J-pop, right?

Tim: That starts off in a similar fashion to Almighty’s version of Never Ending Story and keeps going very well. I like it, verses aside. Well done Tom.

Tom: Well, you see, I showed you that song so I could show you this. Advance warning: this is definitely not suitable for kids, or for anyone who’s likely to have nightmares about being attacked by monsters made of erogenous zones.

Tim: Umm… Well, it still has a good start to it, I suppose. And the bits that detracted from the last track have gone. Um. That’s probably not what you were wanting me to comment on, is it? To be honest, though, I really can’t think of words to describe what I think of the video.

Tom: So what the hell happened? Well, first things first: E-Rotic aren’t really a group, they’re a “project”. That’s fairly common for Eurodance acts – the vocalists are disposable; what really counts is the producer.

In this case, the producer is a man called David Brandes, who’d came up with the idea of a group whose songs were all based around sex. (I’d say ‘innuendo’, but there’s no innuendo here at all.)

Tim: No. No there isn’t. And I’m guessing you’ve got a whole load more lined up to show me, haven’t you?

Tom: E-Rotic’s other tracks include the prequel to this one, “Max Don’t Have Sex With Your Ex”, as well as “Help Me Dr. Dick”, “In The Heat Of The Night”, and “Test My Best”. The latter includes some… interesting noises from the vocalist.

Tim: There me be something wrong with me, but I actually really like these. Musically, at least, although not so much lyrically.

Tom: Musically, they’re very good. E-Rotic – with a variety of singers – lasted from 1995 until 2003, releasing a half-dozen studio albums and a compilation called “Greatest Tits”. With them finished, David Brandes gets their existing songs rewritten in Japanese, with no sex in them at all, puts together a girl group and presto – a romantic song about fighting for love follows, which promptly gets into the German top 20.

Shanadoo are still going, as well. As for E-Rotic? …well, not so much.

Tim: I can cope with that. Yeah, I can cope.