Ronan Keating feat. Emeli Sandé – One Of A Kind

“Aiming straight at the Radio 2 playlist.”

Tom: It’s not a comeback: he’s never really been away. And just to set your expectations: it’s a ballad with a backing choir, aiming straight at the Radio 2 playlist.

Tim: That is exactly what I am expecting from a Ronan Keating feat. Emeli Sandé track. Bring it.

Tom: And I think it’s lovely.

Tim: Me too.

Tom: I did not expect to be charmed by this, because if I try to be objective there’s not much to say for it. I don’t think there’s a single risk taken anywhere in production, and this could have come out at any point in the last thirty years, albeit with different vocalists.

Tim: For me it’s the choir that does it – whenever it comes out I get an “ooh, that’s nice” feeling, the same sort of thing I get from a well placed key change.

Tom: But there’s something about that melody, performed with those voices. It’s a really good match of artist and track. And the lyrics aren’t a common theme, either: the canonical sentimental song about two people growing old together is Prettiest Eyes, and while this isn’t Prettiest Eyes, it’s not bad either.

Tim: It’s not. It’s very satisfying, in fact.

DJ Ötzi – Der hellste Stern (Böhmischer Traum)

“Care to start the week with something utterly bizarre?”

Tim: Care to start the week with something utterly bizarre?

Tom: New Ötzi and it’s “utterly bizarre”. This is going to be good.

Tom: …is that a Christmas song? It sounds a bit like a Christmas song.

Tim: No, just a standard “you’re brilliant” one, although…well. See, I had a number of thoughts while watching this. I started out with a “this doesn’t sound like DJ Ötzi, why doesn’t it sound like DJ Ötzi”, then moved on to giggling like an idiot when those kids appeared, and then just ended up staring at my screen, utterly baffled by what I’d just watched.

Tom: I think what we have here is an Ötzi album track. This isn’t out of character for him — it’s just out of character for the version of him that makes it to the English-speaking world.

Tim: Hmm, could be. It just seems so…odd, though. Like I said, it’s a very standard “you’re brilliant” type song – title translates to The Brightest Star (Bohemian Dream), sample lyrics are “When I dream at night I always dream of you, you are the brightest star”, yet both the sound and the video play like he’s doing something big and special with it.

Tom: Which implies that the video should be a bit more than holding a really awkward party in a tiny cabin.

Tim: Hmm, maybe so. But no, just plain weird.

Smith & Thell – Goliath

“Here for your delectation, an excellent song and a video that largely misses the point.”

Tim: Here for your delectation, an excellent song and a video that largely misses the point.

Tim: Oh, isn’t that just lovely?

Tom: What a spectacular introduction! That set the mood for me: I think the track is brilliant, and I think that’s mostly due to that introduction making me go “oh, wow”.

Tim: We have Of Monsters and Men level brass, and not far off that level of excitement, enthusiasm and encouragement to say YES, I am AMAZING, I can DO ANYTHING, I can BEAT THE WORLD and sod anybody who says otherwise.

Tom: It takes confidence and style to pull something like this off, and they’ve got both.

Tim: And so what if the video misses the point, showing nothing except them having been tiny all along and the giant that they theoretically are looking entirely miserable?

Tom: To be fair, the lyrics don’t make sense: Goliath was the giant. But never mind.

Tim: This is all about the music, and the music here is absolutely fantastic.

Ina Wroldsen – Pale Horses

“BBC One’s current Sunday night drama is a fairly good adaptation of the Agatha Christie book The Pale Horse; this song has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Tim: BBC One’s current Sunday night drama is a fairly good adaptation of the Agatha Christie book The Pale Horse; this song has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Tom: That’s the best intro you’ve written in a long time.

Tim: Because who amongst us hasn’t compared a bit of relationship drama to the actual horsemen of the apocalypse, hmm? That’s my favourite thing about this song, I think.

Tom: Really? There’s a lot to like here. The melody in that pre-chorus is really lovely, and the production does somehow manage to balance a lot of very aggressive elements. (Are those orchestra hit stabs in the chorus? That’s a retro sample that hasn’t come back in a while.)

Tim: Oh, absolutely – I’m not slamming the rest in any way. Like you said, the melody and production are great, and she’s got a strong vocal to add to that.

Tom: I’m not convinced about the middle eight, and I don’t think it’s going to bother the charts, but… it’s not bad.

Tim: Definitely not. And, back to my main point: what’s a good angsty breakup song if it doesn’t have ridiculously overblown biblical references? Nothing, I say, NOTHING.

Saturday Flashback: Eyþór Ingi – Ég Á Líf

“It’s a builder, so bear with it.”

Tim: I was in ICELAND last weekend, and it was BRILLIANT, and here’s their 2013 Eurovision entry. Word of warning: first time I heard this, I was phenomenally bored for the first ninety seconds, but it’s a builder, so bear with it.

Tom: Crikey, you’re not wrong about it being a builder. That takes a long while to get going. And he says that title a lot.

Tim: So, 2013 was my first live Eurovision, and I was in the audience for the second semi-final when he was singing this, and right up until then I didn’t think much of the song. Too slow, got there in the end but way too late. Afterwards, though, this was the single performance that really stuck with me, and I remember playing the song pretty much on repeat for the next few days.

Tom: Huh. I’ve got to ask: why? There may not be a clear answer to that, of course, sometimes songs just stick with you, particularly when there’s a strong memory associated with them.

Tim: Because yes, it’s a very slow builder indeed, but by the time the second chorus rolls around it’s become worth listening to, and I’m paying attention. Then you’ve got his massive note in the middle eight, using that camera action and the light behind him to make him look vaguely messianic, inspiring the continent to get up and wave their phone flashlights in the air. After that, of course, comes the key change, which may be predictable, but we’ve that and every other trick going to get a big “wow” moment that can be used in all the recaps when the voting starts, and it’s just…right.

Tom: And it stuck with you?

Tim: And yeah, it stuck with me. It’s nice.

Galantis – Unless It Hurts

“This here is Galantis on the very top of their game, and I am ALL HERE FOR IT.”

Tim: Galantis have got a new album out today, hurrah! And even better, over the past few days, they’ve been putting out lyric videos for multiple tracks. First there was Steel, probably the closest they’ll ever get to releasing a heartfelt ballad; Wednesday gave us Stella, which is entirely okay; and yesterday we got this, probably the second closest they’ll ever get to releasing a heartfelt ballad.

Tom: Those are some Matt Bellamy-quality inbreaths on that first verse. But, uh, well, it doesn’t stay as “heartfelt ballad” for long, does it?

Tim: So, yeah, I say second closest, it’s not really close at all, save for the slightly soppy lyrics and piano-only first verse. (Steel, on the other hand, is thin piano line all the way through to the start of the post-chorus, and boy is it frustrating.) It gets going fairly quickly, though, with that drum build coming along soon enough leading to a good chorus (with a memorable lyric line!) and typically great post-chorus. This here is Galantis on the very top of their game, and I am ALL HERE FOR IT.

Tom: It is! I disagree with the message of the song, but–

Tim: BUT ALSO that might have sounded like a conclusion, but speaking of that lyric line, it’s struck me that it almost goes counter to what I was saying yesterday about dance tunes having meaningful lyrics.

Tom: I mean, they’re not that meaningful, are they? “If I had to hit a train to make you stay”? And like I was saying, I’m not convinced that insisting that love should hurt is really a good message to be sending.

Tim: Sure, this absolutely doesn’t need a press release talking about how it was inspired by a break-up after an ARGUMENT OF EMOTIONAL TORMENT but which should have been put back together but now it’s too late, but the lyrics do work to build up even more to the drop, to sing or shout along to before going nuts with your arms in the air. Or is that just me?

Tom: I think it’s just you.

COY – Promises

“It’s a proper dance banger.”

Tim: “This song is about love-bound promises that are easy to make but harder to keep,” but more importantly it’s a proper dance banger so no-one will really care about any of that.

Tim: I do wonder with dance track why songwriters come out with all the guff about how the songs are deep and meaningful to them, because when it’s a big soulful ballad or something then sure, that comes across, you can hear the artist singing it, imagine what they’re thinking, get even more from the song, that sort of thing.

Tom: Sometimes, it’s just the PR team insisting that there be some words to send with the press release: the songwriter might just take a look at what the PR team’s sent over, and go, “sure, yeah, I guess”.

Tim: A song like this, though, where you’ve taken your words and are wrapping them up in MASSIVE BEATS and BIG VOCAL WEIRD THINGS and PULSING RHYTHMS, and we might as well have H.P. Baxxter chatting about how Back In The UK is a song about how strongly he feels for this country, and what a great sense of joy he experiences every times he lands at Gatwick. I mean, sure, the lyrics are there: but who cares when you’ve got this level of backing?

Tom: I wasn’t convinced about your description of ‘dance banger’ until I listened back a second time: I was expecting it to go all-in at the start rather than saving it for the middle eight and final chorus. But once I adjusted those expectations: yeah, I agree with you. This doesn’t need the description.

Tomi Saario – Just A Little

“You know how when you hear a song described as ‘jaunty’, it can either be a compliment or a sign of something terrible to come? Well.”

Tim: You know how when you hear a song described as ‘jaunty’, it can either be a compliment or a sign of something terrible to come? Well.

Tom: “Something about your naked body when it’s shaking / tells me all I need to know” isn’t technically the worst lyric we’ve heard here, but it certainly made me grimace. I think it’s mostly that he used “it”, not “you”: that tips it over into creepy. I think the typewriter makes it worse.

Tim: Why a typewriter? No idea, but I can’t help the feeling that if this were happening eight years ago he’d be wearing a stupid fedora or something, and that we’re only a couple of songs away from the video being him busking. I don’t know, I’m probably being unfair (though I doubt it), so let’s move on to the song, and in this case I’m actually enjoying it.

Tom: I can see why: and that introduction showed a lot of promise. I just can’t get over those lyrics, the weird vocal samples in the verses, and the fact the entire track is just proclaiming how much sex he’s having.

Tim: Yes, it wouldn’t take much for it to push it over into ‘irritating’ territory, but as it is I like it. It’s catchy in a good way, the melody (or lack of it, in the chorus) is nice, everything in the background works as well (though I suspect that kazoo sound may prove divisive). For me, I’m just about in. Just about.

Tom: As, apparently, is he.

Saturday Flashback: Kim Petras – There Will Be Blood

“Well, that doesn’t sound like a novelty track, does it?”

Tom: We’ve never talked about Kim Petras before. In fact, I’d somehow missed her entirely until I heard one track on the radio in Luxembourg this week. Not on Radio Luxembourg, you understand, it was just on the radio while I was in Luxembourg.

Tim: Right, sure.

Tom: Anyway: Kim is German, has self-published her dance-pop music to great acclaim, and is now at the point where she’s doing Proper Tours. She also released a Hallowe’en-themed EP in October 2018, and while I’m not saying every track of the seventeen on there there is a banger, it’s got one of the highest hit rates of an album I’ve heard in a while. One of them’s got Elvira as a guest voice, for crying out loud. Novelty themed LPs just aren’t meant to be good, and yet, I reckon this one is. There are multiple tracks on there where I looked up from working and actually, properly, listened.

Anyway, here’s the big opening number.

Tim: Coo, blimey. Yeah, I see why.

Tom: And I’ve got not much to say other than: well, that doesn’t sound like a novelty track, does it?

Tim: No, but just because an album has a theme, there’s no reason for them all to be weird – hell, My Chemical Romance released an entire album about a fictional guy’s death, and I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to some of those tracks.

Tom: I know “four beats on the same note” is hardly an original idea for the first line of a chorus—

Tim: Well, neither’s doing it for every line of a chorus – but it works.

Tom: —but hey: there’s a reason it’s still getting radio play. Albeit in Luxembourg. I couldn’t tell you about the rest of the world.

KEiiNO – Colours

“It’s been quite the year for KEiiNO.”

Tim: It’s been quite the year for KEiiNO – storming to victory in Norway’s Eurovision selection programme, winning the televote (stupid juries) in Tel Aviv.

Tom: That’s still a frustrating result: Norway won the televote with a great song, Sweden won the jury vote with a great song. But the combined winner was… well, let’s go with “decided by committee”. But yes, KEiiNO mean that a lot more people now know the word “joik”.

Tim: And, most impressively of all, producing a version of Fairytale of New York that’s actually likeable. Today they’re out with a new one, and I’ll be honest: if you don’t like it, you’re a proper wrong’un.

Tim: Oh, ain’t it good? Part of me was worried, throughout the first verse and chorus, that we might get a sudden STOP in everything, so he can come in with his chanting joik, which, however much it is their USP, would break it up horrendously.

Fortunately for everyone, they know how to make a good piece of pop music, which this absolutely and totally gone and done.

Tom: Somehow, they’ve managed to perfectly straddle the line between “novelty act” and “serious pop act”, and just end up with “pop act with unique recognisable sound”. That is incredibly difficult.

Tim: It really is, because yes, he’s there, as a notable part of the backing track, so it’s recognisably them, and it also works really, really well as part of this track.

Tom: I’m sure I’ve heard bits of this melody in other songs (“show me where your heart is singing” feels rather similar to the opening of Feel This Moment), but that just means you’ve got a combination of familiarity and novelty. It’s good.

Tim: Sure, and I’m the same with the Christmas mix of Are You With Me with the verse backing and occasional jingle, but so what? That’s a perfectly good track to be reminded of, and like you said, familiarity and novelty. Everything about this, really, is perfectly good. Perfectly great, in fact.