Saturday Flashback: Tone Damli – Hurts Sometimes

“Full marks to the staging team, they absolutely nailed that.”

Tim: I said on Thursday we hadn’t featured Tone for ages; that’s largely because she’s been fairly quiet recently. Having said that, though, she did have this one for Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix this year, which somehow I didn’t see. Take a listen, I’ll think you’ll like it.

Tim: And isn’t that just a wonderful reveal? For the first few seconds I’m thinking “that staging’s weird, but okay I guess” but then I forgot about it and paid attention to the song, and then the chorus starts and oh, that’s a cheap way of doing it but right there you’ve got two for the price of one on shivers moments.

Tom: I was half-expecting them to have built the circular window to split in two, so the steadicam shot could continue ‘through’ it — but that shouldn’t take away from it, full marks to the staging team, they absolutely nailed that.

Tim: Didn’t they just? And then there’s something similar later on, so STOP NOW if you’re reading ahead, you’ll see it when it comes.

And there it is! A key change which I entirely didn’t see coming (and if you’ve read this far before it’s happened and have thus had it spoiled you’ve only yourself to blame), and some sparks flying out as well. Again, hardly a novel concept, but still lovely to watch and hear. As for why it didn’t win…hard to say.

Tom: I think it’s that the verses are, frankly, a bit dull. Now, you might argue that they have to be in order for that build and chorus to work — but I think you’d have lost everyone on that second verse.

Tim: I don’t know, you say that, but the eventual winner was in a similar style, though with even more of a contrast in volume between verses and chorus. Arguably this isn’t a Eurovision winner in any case – but it’s a lovely track all the same.

Tone Damli – If I Can’t Have You

“Just the sort of stuff Tone does quite well, really.”

Tim: We haven’t featured Tone Damli in yeeeears, so let’s correct that. This is, some readers may be relieved to know in advance, absolutely and entirely unlike yesterday’s track.

Tim: Just the sort of stuff Tone does quite well, really – light pop with a nice tinge of country on the side.

Tom: Yep: although that bass-drum heavy percussion is not what I’d expect from a song like this. It almost seems overpowering: this is the sort of song where, if I notice the percussion, the rest of the song isn’t really doing its job.

Tim: To be honest, I’ve not a lot to say about it, beyond “aww, bit of something nice, isn’t it?”, and I’ve mainly thrown it over as a way of calming us all down after yesterday’s track. I think it works for that, no?

New Rules – Emily

“What do you get if you cross McFly with Lewis Capaldi?“

Tom: I’m going to level with you, the first time I saw this, I assumed it was someone called Emily covering Dua Lipa’s “New Rules”. Nope. Instead: what do you get if you cross McFly with Lewis Capaldi?

Tim: This, I’m guessing?

Tim: Huh, yeah – not a bad comparison.

Tom: They’ve been around for about a year, and they’re big enough to have a YouTube “artist channel” but not big enough for a Wikipedia article. And their sound is… hmm. “Surprisingly grown-up” is the term that came to mind, but then that’s because my expectations for a group with a name like this are still based on 90s/2000s boy-band sounds and not, for example, The 1975.

Tim: You know, I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve started listening to Radio 1 a lot more recently and so am having them pumped down my ears at least twice daily, but I’ve since become a fair old fan of The 1975 – and yeah, it’s a very similar sound.

Tom: As for the song: well, once you adjust those expectations, it’ll do, won’t it?

Tim: It’ll do nicely.

Saturday Flashback: McFly – Mr Brightside

“Interesting alternate-universe version, isn’t it?”

Tom: This is one of the bravest covers I’ve ever heard: but if anyone can pull it off, it’s the band that managed a decent shot at covering Don’t Stop Me Now.

Tim: Yep, I’m listening.

Tom: Important context: this was in 2005, when Mr Brightside was only about a year or so old, and before it had truly settled into the pantheon of Songs Everyone Knows. Plus, this was just the B-side of a single, back when singles had B-sides. So while this isn’t quite as bold a move as it seems, it’s still going to be an interesting listen for anyone who knows every note of the original.

Tom: Interesting alternate-universe version, isn’t it?

Tim: Yeah – it sounds…weird. I don’t to say ‘wrong’, because I guess it isn’t, but definitely weird, although that’s likely just due to over-familiarity with the original.

Tom: The only thing that I think falls down here are the vocals. Not because they’re bad — but because they’re McFly, and those voices and accents are suited more for their regular style. “It was only a kiss” just doesn’t sound right: it’s not a patch on the melodramatic original, it’s just sounds a bit like someone’s recounting a night out to their mates down the pub.

Tim: Hmm. I think the could perhaps work if the original hadn’t been heard and hadn’t been such a big hit, because it can work like this, even with that feeling to it. It’s just, like you said, it’s not a patch on the melodrama that the Killers give it.

Alphabeat – Sometimes 2020

“I don’t think I’ve heard a track this good from them since that first album.”

Tim: Sometimes, an entirely decent album track from last October’s excellent Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore. Now, updated for the summer, by dialling it up. Everything up.

Tom: That’s lovely! That piano sounds like it’s coming out of a solid piano-dance track, but instead it’s backed by some properly uplifting Alphabeat harmonies. I don’t think I’ve heard a track this good from them since that first album.

Tim: Blimey, that’s a hell of compliment, and while I’m not certain I’d agree it’s definite up there with the best. Thing is, I don’t know if it’s just the wooden backing on the artwork here, but right now I’m imagining them standing on a big stage leading a barn dance. The twanging from the guitar helps, I think – the original had a slight country vibe to it, just about coming in at the end, but here it’s right in from the opening verse.

Tom: The production is spot on, the melody’s lovely. You can sing the chorus after one listen, but it’s never been irritating. This is a really good song.

Tim: I’m writing this immediately after seeing yesterday’s garbage dumpster of a video, but OH MAN this has put me right up there in a fantastic mood. Talk about ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’, this knows exactly what it’s doing, and does it so so well.

Tom: Right! I actually went back to listen again, which is high praise from me, and was surprised by that opening chorus: I don’t know why. Of course you lead with it, obviously you lead with it. Give the public what they want.

Tim: SHINE A LIGHT. SHIIIIINE INSIDE. COME IN THROUGH MY WINDOW KEEP ME UP ALL NIGHT. That positivity’s right there from the off, and hangs around like a much needed…I dunno, something that we all need. This track, say. This track hangs around like this track. Nope, that doesn’t work, I don’t care, I’m too busy shouting along. SHINE A LIGHT etc.

Becky Hill, Sigala – Heaven On My Mind

“I expect a Sigala track to have an element of joy in there”

Tom: I briefly thought Sigala was going to cover a song from Jesus Christ, Superstar. That’s “Heaven On Their Minds”. This is, obviously now, different.

Tim: Yes, yes it is.

Tom: Anyway, Becky Hill’s off the first season of The Voice UK.

Tim: Oh yeah, forgot that about her. Nice how it hasn’t stood in her way, mind.

Tom: And I can’t help feeling this needs a bit more Sigala. To me, he’s always associated with Big Happy Summer Tracks, and this doesn’t quite hit that mark for me.

Tim: Hmm, that’s fair – recently he’s betting getting a bit Galantis-y in his style, and you’re right that this isn’t quite as upbeat as you’d expect from that.

Tom: There’s nothing actually wrong with this; it’s a more-than-competent dance track, and I don’t think it’d empty the floor in a club. But it feels like it’s missing something: I expect a Sigala track to have an element of joy in there, and this just seems like… a regular song. Any ideas why?

Tim: No, actually. And particularly once you’ve got the titular heaven in the lyrics, maybe you’d be right in expecting something higher pitched, with less dark intensity to it. As it is…yeah, doesn’t quite feel right.

Saturday Flashback: Euroband – Fullkomið Líf

“I just got to that high-pitched bit in the middle eight and it completely distracted me”

Tim: So, here’s a fun thing I discovered when coming up with suggestion for the new work Pride-themed playlist – was looking at This Is My Life, stone cold banger from Eurovision 2008, and turns out: there’s an Icelandic version as well! It was performed at their national selection, and…it’s different.

Tom: Solid “2000s daytime TV game show” vibes from that introduction, there. Actually, from the instrumentation through most of it. You’re right that it’s different, though.

Tim: Isn’t it just? It’s not just the instruments, and basically genre change, though – the lyrics are something very different. If you want to go back and hear the English version for yourself I won’t blame you, but the lyrics are, basically, I AM GAY LIVE WITH IT. Yes, there are other interpretations, but put it up at Eurovision with that backing, those outfits and the lines like “I spent my days in vain just waiting / for happiness to come my way” and “There’s no denying all the heartaches”, followed by “I opened my eyes, finally I realised” and then the massive THIS IS MY LIFE I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE A THING, and you might as well put out a parade of rainbow flags on stage.

Tom: I suspect, from the way you’re leading into this, that this isn’t quite– sorry, I just got to that high-pitched bit in the middle eight and it completely distracted me — the Icelandic one isn’t the same?

Tim: No – in fact, it’s almost entirely different: the title translates to Perfect Life, and the lyrics are not really alike at all. They’re singing to a person, chatting about how a perfect life will arrive once they’re here, and it’s really just a basic love song. And that makes me wonder what the plan was: was it originally written as a big gay anthem before being toned down for a domestic audience to vote for, or written like this and then beefed up for Europe? Either way, though, I know which version I’m sticking with.

Yello – Waba Duba

It’s really easy to say “well, this won’t be popular”.

Tom: They’re Swiss. They’re 75 and 68 years old. And you’ll know them from 1985’s Oh Yeah.

Tim: Tragically, or perhaps not, I’ve somehow gone this far throughout my life without encountering that one. Ah, well, let’s see what we’ve got now.  

Tom: It’s important to note: this isn’t a comeback or an attempt at a novelty single. This is just the same genre of electronic music that they’ve been doing for years.

Tim: Hmm – yeah, I can certainly see the link from Oh Yeah to this. In fact, listening to them one after the other they could almost be on the same album.

Tom: Thing is, sure, it’s really easy to say “well, this won’t be popular”. It almost certainly won’t. I almost clicked away after the first few seconds. But the exact same could have been said for “Oh Yeah”. Back then, it became popular because of its use in movies; now, all it’s take is one TikTok trend and this would be in the charts. It’s weird, but I don’t think it’s bad. I’m not adding it to my playlists. But I’m not ruling it out either.

Tim: Okay. Yeah, I see that, and I’d agree. These days, can’t really rule anything out.

Rico & Miella – We Are The Lights

“This manages to hit both “different” and “good”, which is a very rare skill indeed.”

Tim: Normally, I hate YouTube’s AutoPlay feature, as I do wth SoundCloud. On the other hand, I absent-mindedly left it on after yesterday’s track, and, well, this arrived. It’s not our usual, what with the duo being based in New York, but have a listen, would you? Just for me.

Tom: I was reminded of “My Heart Is Yours” by that introduction — and then it went in a very different direction.

Tim: Very different indeed, yes – and I think it’s a little bit good, isn’t it? The first verse is (at the very least) as good as your standard dreamy pop dance track, but then even as soon as we get to that vocal pre-chorus, it’s just wonderful, elevating it to a whole other level. The full chorus, when it hits, just sounds so impressive, both the bits with and with the choral vocal.

Tom: Yep, this manages to hit both “different” and “good”, which is a very rare skill indeed.

Tim: And throughout the track, from then on, it really doesn’t put a single foot wrong.

Tom: There’s even a Ministry of Sound-style euphoric build into that final chorus, which somehow manages to not sound cheesy.

Tim: I think, basically, that this is a really, really on point track. I don’t know exactly what genre I’d place in it – it wouldn’t be top of the league in ‘dance’ or ‘pop’ or even ‘dance-pop’ – but it’s sure as hell near the top of whatever genre it might be classified as.

KEiiNO – I Wanna Dance With Somebody

“The fact I played it several times is a very, very strong endorsement from me.”

Tom: The “2020 Global Pride Song”, apparently. It’s a choice that seems both genius and obvious in hindsight: pick a Eurovision darling, and get them to cover an absolute banger.

Tom: We’ve talked before about how KEiiNO are basically required to put some sort of joik in there, even when it doesn’t really fit. And… well, I don’t think it really fits here.

Tim: No. Although, it does fit better than when it’s awkwardly shoved in to replace a lyric line in the chorus – here, it just sounds like some weird instrument they’ve dug up to stick in the post-chorus.

Tom: It could’ve worked if it was more integrated as part of the song, perhaps telegraphed early on in the introduction — but Dance With Somebody is so well recognised that just changing the lyrics and timing in one place like this is going to feel wrong no matter what you do.

Tim: Ah, see with the timing I very much do agree with you – in fact, that’s one of the main reasons that, overall, I’m not keen on this, upsettingly. The other, though, is that the build through the verse and the chorus just, for me, doesn’t lead into enough. Along with the join, there should be another bit – not sure what, but the sole “somebody whooo” doesn’t really seem enough.

Tom: Now, I did play this multiple times, and I did get used to the change. And the fact I played it several times is a very, very strong endorsement from me: and it’s because absolutely everything else about this is so good. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, it’s impeccably produced, and somehow they’re able to get a wall-of-sound effect working through modern compression. It’s a really good track.

Tim: Hmm. I mean. I can’t disagree with any of the specifics you’ve got there – I think it’s missing, say, an extra two lines of instrumental. Give me that, I’m happy. Without it, sadly all I can manage is a gentle ehh.