Icona Pop – Next Mistake

“This isn’t a track I’d much choose to listen to, outside of, say, a genre compilation album”

Tim: Something today I think you’ll like: bit of 90s-sounding piano house, with some nice 90s Winamp visualisers in the video as well.

Tom: Nineties?! Mate, I still use Winamp.

Tim: Seriously? Wow.

Tim: Hitting your buttons there?

Tom: It is, if the buttons in question are “sure, I guess that’s a piano-dance track” and “wait, why am I tapping my feet to this”.

Tim: I personally really quite like it – at least, as a 90s dance track. Weirdly, although I’ve no problem with the genre at all, this isn’t a track I’d much choose to listen to, outside of, say, a genre compilation album if I was properly in the mood. Is that weird? I’m not sure.

Tom: No, it’s basically how I feel about this. This wouldn’t be on a playlist for me unless I specifically wanted to hear this genre of vaguely-retro music. And if I want that, then I probably want nostalgia, and tracks I’m mostly familiar with, rather than modern stuff.

Tim: Basically, it’s good, and fits the genre perfectly, so well done Icona. Just, not for me right now.

Saturday Flashback: The Wallflowers – One Headlight

“Ever realise that you’ve missed a Big Song?”

Tom: Ever realise that you’ve missed a Big Song?

Tim: Erm, how so?

Tom: It’s alt-rock so it isn’t totally in our wheelhouse, but: this is is from 1996, has 100 million views on YouTube, was listed as one of Rolling Stone’s “greatest pop songs of all time”, still gets radio play in the US, and I’d swear I’d never heard it before yesterday.

Tim: Nope, me neither. Can’t say I regret that, though.

Tom: And despite the alt-rock genre that it’s classified in, and the dark lyrics, that’s a proper nineties pop-rock-song, isn’t it? It has all the markings of the time: growly Rob Thomas-esque voice, and it’s about one verse too long.

Tim: Annoyingly, there’s a part in there that reminds me of a similar song that I really enjoy, but I can’t quite place it.

Tom: At a time when the British charts were dominated by Britpop, this American band completely passed us all by.

Drew – Perfect Disaster

“It’s not bad! It’s not spectacular either.”

Tim: Drew (no surname provided) is from Denmark, and brings us this as her second release; fairly sure you’ll like it, so do yourself a favour and press play, yeah?

Tom: Bold claim.

Tim: Pretty excellent piece of pop right there, I’d say.

Tom: It’s not bad! It’s not spectacular either. Why do you like it so much?

Tim: The production from the very off says “yep, we know what we’re doing, you don’t need to worry”, and the rest of the song entirely confirms that. I’m a big fan in particular of the repeated saster-saster-saster, which sounds pleasingly like it’s being sung rather than copied and pasted, always a nice thing.

Tom: See, that doesn’t really work for me. Pre-chorus and first bit of the chorus? Sure, I can get behind that. But the rest of it just doesn’t quite land for me: it sounds like a middle-of-the-table Eurovision track, nothing really standing out enough to set it apart.

Tim: Ooh, that’s harsh. I do wonder about Drew’s understanding of Russian roulette, what with a confusing mix of five bullets and putting money on red, but never mind, as the rest of the lyrics roughly make sense. The rest of everything is good, actually – yep, all good.

NCT 127 – Highway To Heaven

“Those marketing teams have realised that they can sell more records if they also translate things to English.”

Tom: It’s time to talk about K-pop.

Tim: Sure, why not.

Tom: Specifically, NCT 127, who are [checks notes] the “second sub-unit of NCT”. Korean boy bands are basically franchises, explicitly put together by managers and marketing teams rather than trying to maintain the illusion of just being, well, a band of friends.

Tim: Points for openness, I guess?

Tom: Anyway, those marketing teams have realised that they can sell more records if they also translate things to English.

Tom: And I’m glad they did, because that is a really solid track, backed up with the sort of dance routines in the music video that we just don’t see from western bands any more.

Tim: You’re entirely right about that – production’s good, melody’s on point, choreography’s top notch. This is an excellent piece of marketing.

Tom: The lyrics aren’t great, and there’s an argument that it’s probably better in the original Korean — but with a chorus that good, I’m not sure I can really complain about it.

Tim: I got one – wouldn’t mind a key change. Aside for that, though: nope.

Elisabet – Heart Beats

A closing section that’s just very much ‘aaah, yeah…’

Tim: This song, from an Icelandic artist, is almost five minutes long; normally, that’d make me bin a song off immediately. And yet…

Tim: …most of it is really good! Sure, it is a full minute or so before anything interesting happens, and sure, that only lasts for forty seconds or so, before it goes a bit dull for about another minute.

Tom: That would be half of the song’s runtime, there.

Tim: Yes, true, BUT, from that point (i.e. 2:37) on, it’s lovely. A strong chorus, a very strong middle eight with a hefty group chorus backing, and a closing section that’s just very much ‘aaah, yeah…’ in style.

Tom: The production is spot on, too: even through compression, each element, from the synth pads in the background through to those vocals, can just about be heard in the mix. That’s difficult with a track this complex.

Tim: Basically, I am very much happy to press play, pick up my phone and scroll through Twitter, and then a minute or so later think ‘oh, nice’. And for a long song? Yeah, that’ll do.

Mørland, MIIA – How To Lose Something Good

“A proper singalong chorus, big production underneath it all.”

Tim: The song provides instructions on how to lose something good, as you’d expect the title; allow me to give you instructions on how to improve things instead: press play.

Tom: Clever.

Tim: Oh, thank you very much.

Tim: As is frequently pleasing, it starts good and just keeps getting better. A proper singalong chorus, big production underneath it all.

Tom: That’s true, although I was mostly singing “Love Me Like You Do” instead. (Similar cadence, similar vocal quality, and and even similar syllables. I know, and I’m sorry.)

Tim: Hmm, maybe – although think about it, that’s a strong compliment. Once it’s warmed up and the first chorus has hit, everything throughout the song is just wonderful, and I’ve no desire at all to switch it off. Sounds like damning with faint praise, that, but it really isn’t: this is a very good song.

Tom: I do agree: but it took a while to hear the track for itself, rather than the song that my brain was autocompleting in its place.

Pink feat. Cash Cash – Can We Pretend

“It’s full-on summer dance, just with a recognisable voice over the top.”

Tom: It’s been out for a long while on the album, but this is now heading to US radio airplay as a single (yes, that’s still a thing), so it seems like a good time to cover this. Because despite Pink being very much regular pop, Cash Cash are full-on electronic dance music. And this is very much in our wheelhouse.

Tim: Ooh, it very much is and all. Nice lyric video, too.

Tom: That’s a sound that hasn’t been pushed to US radio in a while. It’s full-on summer dance, just with a recognisable voice over the top.

Tim: Yeah. In fact, it’s kind of like M83 & The Killers, and Avicii & Chris Martin – dance sound, non-dance singer. Works just as well here as it did there.

Tom: And if you’re thinking “this sounds a bit like Sigala”, well, they did a remix. Weirdly, it sounds less like them.

Tim: Hmm, it does. I love what they’ve done to that chorus, though; hate what they’ve put in the post-chorus.

Theoz – Atmosfär

“No, I didn’t expect to be getting on a Russ Abbot tangent today, but here we are.”

Tim: Theoz is Swedish and, I’m sorry to have to tell you, just 15 years old. But here you go, enjoy it anyway.

Tom: Does he love a party with a happy atmosfär?

Tim: That’s…good lord, that’s an obscure and weird reference. But sure, maybe?

Tom: Huh. Actually, I guess he does. Different meaning of the lyrics now I’ve translated them: it’s about “entering your atmosphere” rather than just being a party song, but he went with vaguely the same cadence on the chorus and that’s close enough for me.

Tim: First off: this track’s great. It’s really got me going after an irritating couple of days, with its energy, pacing, genre, melody and more.

Tom: Pity about the whistling, really. I can see why you’d find it catchy, but it’s just irritating me about the same as Russ Abbot’s track did. No, I didn’t expect to be getting on a Russ Abbot tangent today, but here we are.

Tim: Here we are indeed, it seems. But this song, OH, that melody. Specifically, the part that starts with the ‘Du vänder dig’ through to ‘en hasting black’. It reminds me so much of another song, but I can’t place it, and even more annoyingly I’m fairly sure it’s a Swedish one so I’ve absolutely no idea what lyrics to search for. Don’t suppose you’ve any idea, do you?

Tom: Try this.

Tim: No. No, not that.

Lindiwe Mkhize, Lebo M. – Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama

“It’s very much ‘let’s not mess with perfection'”

Tim: By all accounts, the new version of The Lion King, out on Friday, is exceedingly similar to the original, frequently having scenes that are shot for shot redos.

Tom: Only with basically expressionless CG faces instead of animation.

Tim: Ah, but photorealism, see. Main question for us: will this vary from the original? Well, only one of the vocalists has changed, and the length is [checks music library] yep, identical. But let’s have a listen anyway.

Tom: I mean, the rest of the tracks are basically Celebrity Lion King Karaoke (and John Oliver, sad to say, is not a patch on Rowan Atkinson), so I guess this could have been worse. But like all covers that are so close to the original: why bother?

Tim: Well, you’ve maybe got to, if you’re redoing the film? But it’s very much ‘let’s not mess with perfection’: aside from Lindiwe’s vocal being audibly different from Carmen Twillie’s in the original, it is, I’m fairly sure, identical. But you know what? I don’t care. It’s an amazing song, and that moment when Rafiki holds up baby Simba will never fail to give me goosebumps.

Tom: For me, it’s the cut to the title card at the end: it’s the first time I can remember being awed by cinema.

Tim: Who cares if it’s the same? I’ll be at the cinema at 10:00 on Friday morning, so I’m out in time for work, and I’m very excited about it.

Neon – Willst du mit mir gehen?

“They even have synchronised dance moves and an “oh-woah-oh-oh” going into the final chorus.”

Tim: Neon are two German gents, Andi and Tom, and this is their new song. And if you can tell me you don’t have a grin on your face by the end of the first line of the chorus, Tom, I’ll refuse to believe you.

Tom: What baffles me is how, a good decade or two into the 21st century, artists can still release tracks like that with an apparently-straight face. That’s not meant as a slight, I’m genuinely happy that it’s still a thing. It’s just so out-of-touch with modern sensibilities, so unfathomably positive and unchallenging, that I find it almost hard to believe.

Tim: This is what I love about this YouTube channel – even if I can’t find any ‘respectable’ music that gets me enough to write about it, this can reliably provide a track or two that’ll get me going. And here, OH, what a perfect example of German schlager. An intro that indicates something special might be coming along, a first verse that tides you over nicely, and then a chorus that is dance pop, camp as you come.

Tom: They even have synchronised dance moves and an “oh-woah-oh-oh” going into the final chorus.

Tim: Joyous, isn’t it? And really, who doesn’t love camp dance pop? Well, a lot of people, I guess, but none of them are sensible. We know what’s what, Tom.