Saturday Flashback: Melanie C – I Turn To You

“TOTAL. BANGER.”

Tim: So a couple of weeks back some random on Twitter posted that

Tom: The thankfully forgotten Gym & Tonic by Spacedust.

Tim: Oof, blimey.

Tom: Yeah, never mind. What did you get?

Tim: This TOTAL. BANGER.

Tom: I had forgotten quite how much NINETIES SYNTH there was in that. Actually, I’d forgotten most of it, but especially the NINETIES SYNTH.

Tim: Isn’t it fabulous? Now, depending on how you frame it, you can logically make a case for several of the Spice Girls to have had the most solo success, with the possible exception of Mel B.

Tom: Harsh. Judge on America’s Got Talent, presenter in Australia, television host in the UK? In terms of how many people around the world would recognise her in the street, I reckon she’s probably in the lead right now.

Tim: Ooh, hmm, maybe a bit harsh, then, I guess.

Tom: How about the others?

Tim: Geri Halliwell had the most number 1s, Victoria Beckham’s married to, well, David Beckham, and Emma Bunton’s got a steady gig on Capital Radio. On the other hand, Mel C has three of the top 5 best-selling solo singles, and came out with Northern Star, an album with one of the best killer:filler ratios ever; it is LOVELY, with the title track being criminally underappreciated at the time.

Tom: Or, you might say, even now.

Tim: And then there was this, a BRILLIANT dance pop number that I just couldn’t get enough of at the time, and to be honest still can’t now I’ve started playing it again. YES to this defining my life.

NorthKid – MONO

“This is in stereo. I feel cheated.”

Tim: We first met this lot with their debut last November, and were somewhat positive; here’s song number two.

Tom: This is in stereo. I feel cheated.

Tim: First thing first: that chorus is a cracker. The melody’s great, the sound’s even better, and it’s not too bad an analogy.

Tom: Shame about that “solo/so low” rhyme, but you’re right. Also, I’d like to give credit for that build in the pre-chorus, that incredible middle eight, and the backing in the final chorus. I actually went back to listen to just the middle eight a second time. There’s a lot of good in here.

Tim: But the song did get me wondering: will it ever not be weird when things like Instagram come up in lyrics? Because I’ve only just about got on board with ‘text’, though even that stuck out a bit, and I’m trying to imagine a future in which Instagram washes over me as easily as does the Chevy that got taken to the levee.

I kind of hope it’ll come, because then I’ll be able to enjoy the great sound here without being distracted.

Eagle-Eye Cherry – Streets Of You

“I still have a soft spot for pop-country, so this bodes well.”

Tim: Well, he was indeed gone following the night that was saved, and though he’s stuck his head through the window occcasionally since then it seems he’s now come back properly, with a song that’s almost verging on country.

Tom: I still have a soft spot for pop-country, so this bodes well.

Tim: Have a listen, see what you think.

Tim: Pretty good, right? It’s nothing special, though, which is a bit sad because if you’re going for a big comeback when you’re best known for a large anthem, you really need to do your very best to meet it.

Tom: Was Save Tonight a massive anthem, though? It was certainly massive, but it wasn’t a singalong anthem — it sounded a lot like this. It’s only because it’s so well-loved that it’s become one.

Tim: True – anthem’s the wrong word, but it’s a song that everybody knows and sings along with, so your next one needs to be good. And this? Hmm. Thing is, if I were judging this as the second track off an album as a follow-up, I’d probably be okay with it – it sounds good, it’s a nice style he’s returning with, the lyrics are fine and it has a decent hook for the chorus. Expectations are annoying, aren’t they?

Tom: They are. And there’s one other expectation I’ve got here. See, Avicii’s Wake Me Up was more or less Save Tonight, so much so that there are literally dozens of near-identical mashups of them.

And so my first thought for this track went the other way round: isn’t this just The Nights?

Tim: Huh. Yes, yes it is. But boy, the opening voiceover on that video became relevant faster than anyone imagined. I think, overall, that desire came true.

Mørland – Leo

“A tad mawkish? Possibly.”

Tim: I heard this and thought “oh, wow, someone’s actually written a same sex love song, that’s brilliant”; turns out it’s about his son, but I guess that’s still quite nice.

Tom: He’s done the same thing as Matt Bellamy, I think, and sampled the fetal heartbeat as an introduction.

Tim: A tad mawkish? Possibly, but with instrumentation like that underneath it I really don’t care, because it is utterly gorgeous. Strong piano, percussion where it’s right, and OH, that string section under the chorus is just so lovely.

Tom: And the composition’s pretty good there too.

Tim: It’s interesting, because it almost distracts me from his vocal line completely, with that fading out as soon as I realise how lovely the melody is and focus on that. I don’t know if that’s a good thing for the song as a whole, but it sure as hell pleases me. It’s lovely. And, however overstated the lyrics may be, it’s also got a sweet message, whoever you think he’s singing it to.

Tom: It does, but to me that word you used earlier — mawkish — sums it up well. It feels like he’s the worst version of those parents who constantly post dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of photos of their kid on Facebook. Great, you wrote your kid a song. With his name in it. Well done.

Tim: Sidebar: Mørland wrote my favourite of this year’s Eurovision rejects; that’ll be up here on Eurovision day, so do check back, you won’t regret it.

Felix Sandman – Every Single Day (Orchestral Version)

“…promised something wonderful.”

Tim: Felix, aka the F from The Fooo/The Fooo Conspiracy/FO&O, entered the standard version of this for Melodifestivalen, and came a strong second; God knows how, because it’s entirely tedious, with a vocal backed up solely by one gentle piano line and one cello that arrives towards the end.

Tom: You’re not selling this to me, Tim.

Tim: This version, though, is a fair improvement.

Tom: I’ll say this for it: it’s got a promising introduction. Brilliant string section, good vocals, nice composition, and that “do you think of me” promised something wonderful. And then…

Tim: Admittedly it’s still not a brilliant listen – slow, nothing particularly exciting – and it sure as hell shouldn’t go forward to represent any country at Eurovision, but it does provide at lot more to listen to than previously, and comes across as somewhat soothing and calming.

Tom: We’ve actually got a song here where you’re finding it dull and I’m finding it brilliant. That’s rare, here. There are some really nice bits in here: the little flourish on “you’d approve of who I am”, the whole slow build, and an almost-late-Beatles-like transition coming out of the middle eight.

Tim: It is, mind, entirely possible that I’m simply thinking better of this purely in comparison, but, hey. I’m okay with that, as long as it gives me a song to like.

Tom: This is good, and it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to — but I just find myself wanting a bit more. This is sold as orchestral, not just “we got a string quartet and a couple of other people”. Get a brass section in there for the final chorus! Add someone absolutely whacking the hell out of timpani! Give us a whole orchestra, and this would be one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Aurora – Queendom

“Oh I know this, and it’s really good, what is it?”

Tim: So, you ever get that thing when you listen to a song and you think ‘huh, it’s okay’, and then you hear it in the background a bit later and you think ‘oh I know this, and it’s really good, what is it’?

Tom: Yes! Normally on the radio days later. I once asked Shazam about the same song three times in a week, and I feel like it should have been more sarcastic by the end of that.

Tim: I ask, because that’s basically what happened here.

Tim: According to what she told Zane Lowe on Beats 1 last week, her Queendom is what she basically wants to be a home for all her fans who need a place to be alone together.

Tom: I think the most startling part of that sentence is that anyone actually listened to Beats 1. Anyway, yes, you were saying, alone together.

Tim: I don’t really know if that works or not, but I do know that, like I said earlier, it didn’t really do much for me actively the first time I heard it, but then actually it turns out I really like it.

Tom: Whereas I’ll be honest, I’m judging it on the first listen here. It’s… it’s okay, I guess, but if it turns out to be a grower I’m really not sure I’d give it enough a chance.

Tim: And I’m fairly sure that’s not a bad thing – sure, if it was a Eurovision track or similar where one play was all we got, it’d be a significant drawback, but as it is, just a couple of plays in it sounds great. And that’ll do me. Very nicely, in fact.

Birgir – Home

“A combination of familiarity and novelty is generally what sells pop music.”

Tim: I do like it, Tom, when very good looking people turn out to also be very good at making music. Today it’s the turn of Birgir Steinn Stefánsson, whose previous track we both largely liked. Quick heads up: the sound quality on the YouTube clip is somewhat atrocious, so if you’ve got access to a streaming service of some sort, you might want to use that instead.

Tim: The main criticism we had previously was that it sounded slightly derivative of other tracks; this one doesn’t have that problem remotely as much.

Tom: A combination of familiarity and novelty is generally what sells pop music, and I still reckon there’s a lot of familiarity here. You can trace the elements here back to all over the last ten years, but they’re pulled together well.

Tim: But this did give me the most obscure ‘sounds like’ I think I’ve ever had, with a ‘GAH, what I do want that to spin off into’ in the run up to the chorus. Took me a good ten minutes to work it out, but it was in fact the 2012 Belarusian entry to Eurovision. Third from bottom in its semi-final, but I quite liked it.

Tom: Astonishing.

Tim: BUT ANYWAY, this song. Takes a while to get there, but boy when it does, that second chorus is a blinder, as is pretty much everything that follows it; listening a second time, that first chorus stuck out at me more than it had done previously as well. All in all, lovely stuff.

Tom: And a note for having a Proper Ending as well. It stays exactly as long as it should, no less, no more. That’s underrated.

Oscar Zia feat. Leslie Tay – Kyss Mig i Slo-mo

“That’s… actually pretty original as song concepts go.“

Tim: Last seen around here being my favourite finalist of Melodifestivalen 2016, but now Oscar’s back from the hairdresser’s and all singing in Swedish.

Tom: I love titles that I can translate by just reading them out loud.

Tim: You can probably guess the title yourself, though the rest of song’s slightly in reverse – kind of a “what are we waiting for, it’s been ages, just kiss me, but slowly so it’s nice and sensual and all that.”

Tom: That’s… actually pretty original as song concepts go.

Tim: A fair mix of pressure and romance, which sums up the song as well really, as we’ve a gentle and somewhat soulful verse combined with a heftier almost dance-y chorus, which I’d say works well enough – he certainly has the vocal skills to pull it off.

Tom: I’m less sure about what appears to be a synth imitating a motorbike in the background, and I reckon that middle eight changes the style in an odd way that doesn’t really fit in. But yes, there’s nothing actually wrong here.

Tim: The production and melody are all good as well, so it’s all pretty great, really. Nice one.

Seeb x Dagny – Drink About

“Those are two names that promise a lot.”

Tom: Those are two names that promise a lot.

Tim: Question: if you’re dropping f-bombs fairly prominently in the chorus, and making no attempt to hide them, is there actually any point whatsoever in censoring them in the lyric video? Seeb has chosen to find out.

Tim: Sure, you could argue that it means you don’t have to slightly redo it if you ever wanted to put out a version with edited audio, but why not just do that to start with?

Tom: I’d say ‘money’, but honestly, it doesn’t really doesn’t take much effort by a motion graphics designer to change out one word. Although, they would be changing it in a lot of places.

Tim: It’s a pity, really, because that line could work perfectly with a ‘hell’ or a ‘damn’ or even just using a longer ‘I’ sound, but oh well, it’s done now. Nice dance track, mind, despite that, with a memorable hook and, I suppose, lyrics. Good production, good vocals – all well done, really.

Tom: Yep, it’s a competent middle-of-the-playlist dance track that does exactly what it’s supposed to. Not spectacular, but not terrible either.

Tim: Just a shame about the rudeness.

Lichtblick – Tausend und eine Nacht

“Those synths in the pre-chorus are right out of the early 2000s.”

Tim: Finishing up the week, we’re still female, still electro (technically), but I think you’ll have a bit more time for this, A Thousand and One Nights…

Tim: Better?

Tom: Ahahaha. That is not electropop. I mean, yes, it is pop, and it is made with electronics, but you’re right to finish the week off on this one, I’m much happier.

Tim: Oh, I’m very glad to hear that. It’s the debut single from the four of them, who are (according to the YouTube description, at least) the first schlager girl group in Germany. I’m having trouble believing that’s true, but if this is what we’re getting then I’m all for it – their name, after all, does translate as Ray of Hope.

Tom: See, this is still a bit forgettable. If I was blind to music genres, I’d rate this the same as the previous few days’ attempts — but blimey, those synths in the pre-chorus are right out of the early 2000s, and they hit every nostalgia button. I can’t not like it.

Tim: Would I have liked a key change? Yes, of course I would, because that build up into the final chorus was pleading for one. Otherwise: VERY PROMISING.