Saturday Reject: Anna Odobescu – Stay

“I think there’s a lesson to be learned for future set designers.”

Tim: Slightly different take on the Reject format today: Moldova’s entry, that failed to qualify from Thursday’s semi-final, and I think there’s a lesson to be learned for future set designers.

Tim: Basically: don’t make you scenery so utterly captivating that no-one’s going to pay attention to the song.

Tom: You’re not wrong there. What you’ve got is a video of sand drawing with some stock music — at least while you’re watching it.

Tim: I watched that three times before writing this, and still had barely any idea whatsoever what the song sounded like. Unlike almost every other time I say something like that, though, that is absolutely not a slight against the song – I pressed play again, put it in the background, and it’s a lovely song. It’s heartfelt, it’s melodious, it’s got a good chorus and there’s even a decent key change in there. But watching it on TV, I’m just not taking it in. At all. When there’s close up shot of her face, I want it to cut away, and see that sand drawing, because that’s the MVP here.

Tom: Two separate sand drawings as well: that’s a prerecorded video on the back wall and a separate live drawing. It’s brilliant, but…

Tim: But background drawing and her wafting away like a victim of Thanos isn’t going to win you a song contest.

Sheppard – On My Way

“Bright colours, a terrible jacket and two of the most bizarre backing performers I’ve ever seen.”

Tim: Australia’s fifth year entering, and their first with a public selection. Their actual entry’s a bit disappointing, their runner up was garbage, but I think you’ll enjoy this third placer, from a fairly successful Australian band.

Tom: I’ve been driving through Australia recently: I heard Sheppard’s “Coming Home” on the radio and it’s stuck with me. If it’s in that style, I reckon I’ll like it.

Tim: Bright colours, a terrible jacket and two of the most bizarre backing performers I’ve ever seen. The main three on stage are siblings, with the surname of Sheppard (cunning, that), and the other three are the other band members. Why is one sister singing and one wielding a guitar? Why does one have a crown? Why are the other band members largely shrouded in darkness? No idea, but at least the performance looks a whole lot of fun, and has a cracker of a song to go alongside it.

Tom: I think this could have done well: probably not a winner, but it’s positive and catchy with a memorable set of performers who genuinely seem to be having a good time. Certainly through to the final, maybe even left hand side of the table.

Tim: No complaints from me.

Adel Tawil feat. Peachy – Tu m’appelles

“Bilingual is novel, sure, but that doesn’t make it a good track.”

Tim: Our reader, Alix, sends this in, the latest from German singer Adel; I can unfortunately tell you nothing about Peachy, as there seem to be a good three or four acts going by that name and I’ve no idea which this is. Still, the song’s French and German, have fun with it.

Tom: I briefly thought that the peaches in the music video were apples, and they were doing a trilingual pun on “m’appelles”, but sadly not.

Tim: Sadly not, no. I like this, a lot. I was initially drawn in by the slight bilingual novelty of it – sure, you might get the odd word of English sprinkled into a foreign track, or Spanish in a Shakira/Enrique/Pitbull/etc middle eight, but outside Eurovision it’s rare to see a song that’s basically half and half. Also, purely on a personal level, I like that they’re both languages I have a vague level of competency with, giving a vague sense of the meaning.

Tom: “Tu m’appelles”, it turns out, just starts to irritate me when it’s repeated this much in what I assume are two separate accents. Bilingual is novel, sure, but that doesn’t make it a good track. Why do you like it?

Tim: I think it’s just a fairly enjoyable track – it’s catchy, it’s got a good melody, a fun and entirely not irritating lyric video, and all in all I do like it.

Tom: I’m just not sold on it. I think it’s a combination of the chord progression and the ominous brass synths that sound like they’ve been taken from a discount movie trailer.

Tim: Harsh. And admittedly I’m not sure it’ll fit on my regular playlist, mind, but it’s good to hear.

Sandro Cavazza – Enemy

“Sounds good, but let’s keep it below three and a half minutes please.”

Tim: I have a few podcasts on my phone that I’m several months behind on, and so I typically play them at at least 1.2x speed.

Tom: Only 1.2x? I used to listen to podcasts at 1.5 way back, and now basically everything I watch on YouTube is going at 2x.

Tim: Oh, well get you and your speedy brain. Anyway this sounds kind of like that.

Tim: Admittedly, YouTube’s next lower speed option, 0.75x, sounds too slow, but it does feel a little sped up, no?

Tom: See, if you hadn’t mentioned it to me, I would probably have just thought “that’s a bit jaunty”, but you’re right. It’s most noticeable at 1:50: that transition is just a bit too fast.

There is a custom speed option in those settings, incidentally: the quality’s not as good if you do that, but I’ll tell you that at 0.9x it just sounds like a mediocre Ed Sheeran album track. That speed difference perks it up.

Tim: I don’t mind, really, but I do get the feeling that a Universal exec heard a four minute track and said “sounds good, but let’s keep it below three and a half minutes please”. It’s good, though, and I like it.

Tom: There’s a weird genre of YouTube called “nightcore” where someone takes a regular song, speeds it up — without pitch correction, so it sounds higher too — and… well, that’s it. That’s the whole thing. In the same way that televisions in shops have their brightness and colour turned up to maximum to ‘look better’ while people are deciding on them, accelerating a song can make it seem… well, not better, but certainly more interesting, at least for a while. Perhaps that’s what’s happened here.

Tim: The speed does work, as we get through plenty of good stuff in a fairly short amount of time, and it’s got a decent melody, vocal, and all that lot. Nice. Fast, and nice.

Saturday Reject: Sigmund – Say My Name

“I’d like this to look like most camp low-budget science fiction there’s ever been.”

Tom: Another one for the list of “stop giving new songs the same as classics”. It’s not a Destiny’s Child cover, I presume?

Tim: It is not, no. Though, speaking of big pop songs, you know how occasionally there are Eurovision songs that sound like they could actually be normal pop songs, and you almost feel they’re being wasted as competition entrants? Well, this is kind of like that. Ish.

Tom: “Hello, is that the staging director? Yes, I’d like this to look like most camp low-budget science fiction there’s ever been.” And full marks to the choreographer, they’ve done a great and wholly unnecessary job.

Tim: Choreography is never unnecessary, Tom, not ever. And the thing is, there are also musical elements here that make it seem like a proper song. It’s hard to qualify them exactly, but it’s more the general tone of it, the style, the emotion in the vocal, seems like the singer wants this to be a proper track. Except, it isn’t, and won’t be, because it’s been edited and hacked apart to make it suitable for a Eurovision entrant.

Tom: I think I see what you mean. A proper pop version of this wouldn’t be quite as Full-On Stage Spectacular: that style shows though in the music, even without the ludicrous staging.

Tim: A sensible reworking of this could have made a good pop song, except it lost, and now it’ll never go anywhere. It’s thrown away, chucked out, and this website right here, with our peculiar devotion to songs other countries have firmly said “nope, not for us”, may well be the last place it’ll ever be discussed.

The thing that makes me saddest about that, this year more than ever, is that I’m really not a fan of Denmark’s entry at all – it’s twee, it’s peculiar, it belongs in 1970s Eurovision. This…this could work. Maybe.

DJ Ötzi, Nik P. – Ein Stern (Bassflow Remix)

“Gravelly German vocals! Unnecessarily emotional video! And what sounds like an entire football stadium singing along!”

Tim: DJ Ötzi’s coming up on 20 years in the industry; to celebrate that, he’s releasing a THUMPING remix of his most successful track (which we covered a while back) with a brand new video.

Tom: I am already preparing to yell the words “HAVE IT”.

Tom: HAVE IT.

Tim: Oh, ain’t it brilliant? You start out thinking ‘hang on, are we jumping way out of the usual here and doing it as a piano ballad?’, but then soon enough you realise that no, of course we’re not, we’re sticking true to the sound he’s had for the whole two decades he’s been around, and it’s still sounding great.

Tom: Ötzi! Gravelly German vocals! Unnecessarily emotional video! And what sounds like an entire football stadium singing along! Not a choir — they’re all singing the same note. Or, at least, the synth that’s simulating them is only playing one note.

Tim: Fabulous, all of it. In fact, it’s sounding BIGGER and BETTER than before, with more bass, more banging, more build to what has now become a PHENOMENAL key change, and just all round BLOODY MARVELLOUS.

Tom: And Nik P’s big note at the end! I’ll say it again, Tim: HAVE IT.

Davai, Lovespeake – Broken Hearts

“Is it awful? Arguably, yes.”

Tim: This here has a high number of f-words and motherf-words, which’d normally put me off. Not with this, though, so headphones on if you’re in public and possibly put the lyric video in a background tab, and press play!

Tom: Who put that bassoon-fart-gone-wrong synth in the chorus? And decided to do a weird, brief vocal-sample-edit middle eight? For the second time, I’ve got more issues with the production here than I have with the actual track.

Tim: So, this is just the sort of song where there’s a roughly fifty-fifty chance of me liking it or hating it, depending on nothing in particularly beyond how I’m feeling when I press play. Is it awful? Arguably, yes. But does it have a surprisingly decent melody? Arguably, also yes.

Tom: And at least it’s only two and a half minutes long.

Tim: Well that’s that, yes, and so it’s really just a question of whether one outweighs the other, I guess, and right now I’m really quite in favour of it. Will I be tomorrow? Not a clue.

Moment – Beat Again

“I regret to inform you that no-one has done a JLS cover.”

Tom: Is it a JLS cover? Go on, tell me someone did a JLS cover.

Tim: I regret to inform you that no-one (or at least, not this Swedish band) has done a JLS cover. Advance warning, though: this has really quite boring verses. Forty seconds in, though, you won’t regret keeping with it. I promise.

Tom: Those verses aren’t just boring, they’re “George Ezra album track” boring. (Actually, that’s probably too harsh: I quite like that second verse, with its steady build.)

Tim: And aside from the ‘can our hearts’ having the exact same melody as part of the chorus from Shania Twain’s You’re Still The One, that chorus and middle eight are for me pretty much flawless. Energy, production, vocal power, all there, and I challenge anyone to state otherwise.

Tom: I have an issue with the production, or at least the mastering that got it onto YouTube. There’s a lot of guitar work that’s being lost in the mix there, and all the instruments seem to be arguing with each other. When the backing harmonies come in, it starts to sound just very, very slightly like white noise in places. This needs either a bit of simplification, or someone who can do a proper Wall of Sound mix on it.

You’re right about the chorus, though.

Tim: Yes, and fortunately, those parts make up most of the song, so part of me is willing to forgive those verses. On the other hand, they really are very boring, so I might just go and listen to Shania Twain.

Saturday Reject: Andreas Johnson – Army of Lovers

“It’s got the elements, sure, but they don’t quite add up right.”

Tim: Tom, you’ll be delighted to have it pointed out to you that is is now verging on twenty years since Glorious became the international smash hit he became famous for.

Tom: It is still a great song. And “Sing For Me”, eighteen years old, is also still brilliant. The fact he’s still going is actually a bit heartwarming.

Tim: Put it like that, I guess it is actually. This one got through to Andra Chansen at this year’s Melodifestivalen.

Tom: That really wants to be a Big Emotional Song, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t quite make it.

Tim: Entirely correct. Nineteen seconds into that I thought “this is basically a U2 song, isn’t it”, and then two and a half minutes later I thought “that was basically a U2 song, wasn’t it”. To be precise, it’d be from roughly their early ’00s phase, with songs like Beautiful Day and Elevation, and to be honest that a period of theirs I very much enjoyed. This song, though, doesn’t quite do it for me – it’s got the elements, sure, but they don’t quite add up right, they don’t provide the big moment when everything really kicks off.

Tom: I wonder why not? He’s got the voice, the track’s got all the elements, it just… doesn’t work somehow. It’s down the composition, I guess: some things resonate and some don’t.

Tim: And so I guess it’s done for. Shame, really, as there was a small bit of potential.

Beatrice Egli – Terra Australia

“I’d have a hard time working out if it’s just earnest, some sort of German joke that I don’t get, or a badly misfiring Australian tourist board advert.”

Tim: You might be wondering what the lyrics to this are; it’s basically “Australia, you’re bloody amazing”. So please, enjoy the didgeridoos.

Tom: “One way ticket” and “Down Under” appearing in that opening verse makes it even more ridiculous than it already is. Schlager often edges close to the line of self-parody: honestly, if this wasn’t published on That Big Official Schlager YouTube Channel, I’d have a hard time working out if it’s just earnest, some sort of German joke that I don’t get, or a badly misfiring Australian tourist board advert.

Tim: Nope – it’s just earnest, true love for the country. I did, on first listen, find this largely unremarkable, although I can’t think of many other songs off the top of my head which are just plain love letters to different countries, and certainly no other recent pop songs with didgeridoos.

Tom: There’s a reason for that.

Tim: True, but experimenting’s rarely a completely awful thing to do. I did, however, find the chorus stuck in my head a couple of hours after first hearing it, and I reckon that must count for something.

Tom: I’ve modified my “if you can remember it, it’s good pop” motto in recent years: you have to remember it and ALSO not be bothered by it. This definitely fails that second test.

Tim: Maybe, but at the end of the day, it’s basically good catchy German pop. And by and large, that’s a very good formula.