Lesley Roy – Gold

“Seems to me to be having a slight identity crisis.”

Tim: You remember Lesley Roy, she did the single Eurovision entry this year that sounded like a decent pop song. Here’s her follow-up.

Tim: And I am fairly sure that the post-chorus here is exactly what was missing from last week’s Sigala track. It’s the exact same style, but higher pitched and therefore sounding chirpier. Thing is, though, I’m not quite sure how it fits this song, which seems to me to be having a slight identity crisis.

Tom: That implies it has any sort of identity at all. I couldn’t remember a damn thing about it once I’d finished listening, but that might well be because I drifted off into other tabs and other thoughts about three times during it. It’s what Coldplay sound like to people who don’t like Coldplay.

Why do you say identity crisis?

Tim: See, it’s structured like a regular pop song, obviously, and the verses and pre-chorus sound exactly like that as well, with nothing particularly dance-y about them, just a bit of low key stuff before the chorus comes along to cap it off. But then the chorus does come along, and suddenly we get a drum build underneath it, and the focus shifts towards that post-chorus, with a vague sense of “yeah, I know you were looking forward to this bit, but now I’d actually rather you paid attention to what’s coming along in a bit”.

Tom: Right! And if your attention’s being diverted that much…

Tim: And just to clarify, I don’t think either of the bits are bad, at all, as it’s a decent track – I just struggle to know what I’m meant to be paying attention to.

Tom: Whereas I’m having trouble paying attention to any of it. Which is a shame, really, because when I was actively listening I couldn’t really find anything to fault.

Wolfgang Carter – Supercars

“This is the least predictable track I’ve sent over to you in a while.”

Tom: This is the least predictable track I’ve sent over to you in a while.

Tim: In that case I shall press play, and read ahead no further.

Tom: I know, American dance producers aren’t really what we’re “supposed” to cover here, but did you see any of that coming? Casual guitar intro isn’t normally followed vocoded lyrics. And then it turns into something that sounds a bit like Daft Punk if they turned the “bass” setting up to 11.

Tim: Yeah, it’s certainly interesting – and as for comparisons, it’s no coincidence that three of the recommended videos next to it for me are deadmau5, and two more being Porter Robinson.

Tom: And… it’s good! Like, it’s easy to make comparisons to Daft Punk, there’s a lot in common here, but what’s usually missing from folks doing that shtick is actual songcraft: making something catchy, making something that people actually want to listen to.

Tim: And yet this manages it. Well, sort of – I’m not saying I’d choose to listen to it, it doesn’t really do anything for me, but I know that people absolutely would.

Tom: Yes, it probably outstays its welcome a bit: perhaps a few different chords in the back half or a bigger final chorus wouldn’t have gone amiss. But then, that’s applying pop logic to dance. I’m just happy this turned out to be both novel and good.

Tim: And I am, in turn, happy for you.

Hedda Mae – What Do You Want From Me

“Okay, new site policy: as of tomorrow, a total ban on videos with VHS filters applied.”

Tim: Okay, new site policy: as of tomorrow, a total ban on videos with VHS filters applied. This here is why.

Tim: Decent enough song, right? Happy and chirpy, though admittedly there’s that godawful middle eight and the lyrics don’t entirely fit with the tone.

Tom: The talky part of the middle eight is genuinely awful, although the recovery back into the final chorus might well be the best part of the song. There are a lot of good things in here! Overall, well, I can see what they were going for.

Tim: But that’s nothing important really because OH GOD that filter.

Tom: Random timecodes in the bottom! A fake “Play” icon that wouldn’t actually appear after the first couple of seconds of playback! Footage degradation that’s way beyond what actually happens on VHS tapes! We get it.

Tim: Like, you’re even showing us from the main camera that the handheld one you’re using is digital! It says HD in big letters! What is this fashion, who first came up with it, and can we shoot them please because GOD. Like, if you really really want us to think this is home footage, stick a red circle and a REC in the corner. Don’t just pointlessly degrade the footage, it adds LITERALLY NOTHING. IT’S SHIT. I HATE YOU. IT MUST STOP. PLEASE.

Victor Crone – Yes, I Will Wait

“Remember when Avicii largely ditched the electronic dance stuff and went all drum ‘n’ brass?”

Tim: Remember when Avicii largely ditched the electronic dance stuff and went all drum ‘n’ brass? Here’s Victor to continue the good work.

Tom: It took me a few seconds to realise that you said drum ‘n’ brass, there. You’re right: it’s very Avicii. There’s just something in the instrumentation and vocal techniques he uses.

Tim: I don’t think there’s any one song in particular it reminds me of, but it’s certainly got me thinking back – and, indeed, it’s not dissimilar to his Melodifestivalen entry where you made a similar comparison.

Tom: It’s an odd choice to take a style that is so associated with one artist: but he’s managing to pull it off.

Tim: And isn’t it just a great song to have to trigger the memories? Drums, brass, good vocals, good melody, good everything. It’s fabulous.

NERVO feat. Frida – Hurt

“See, for the first verse, it’s a typical Frida Sundemo track.”

Tim: For some reason, ‘Frida’ isn’t getting a full name credit, so your average listener doesn’t necessarily have any real idea who it is. On the other hand, we intelligent and cultured people recognise the voice and know exactly who it is.

Tom: Yes. Absolutely. I can 100% remember the Frida we’ve talked about before. Sure.

Tim: 1t’s an interesting one, this. Or at least, that ‘feat.’ is. See, for the first verse, it’s a typical Frida Sundemo track.

Tom: Frida Sundemo! Right. Yes. I do actually remember her name now, although I don’t think I could have placed that voice.

Tim: Low on the instrumental, but very definitely a dance track, carried solely by her vocal. Chorus comes along, and again it’s a straight up Frida track – her vocal, good melodic dance beat.

Tom: Which is fine, I guess? I’ll be honest, there’s not much here that makes me feel… well, anything, to be honest. It is a Generic Dance Number with a good vocal.

Tim: But that second verse, that’s different, that’s not something we’ve heard before from her, with that darker backing. That’s straight up NERVO. That’s where the ‘feat’ comes in, where she basically does what they’re telling her to do. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind, but I will say I’m happy it doesn’t last all that long. Because after that? Again, that’s an energetic Frida track.

Tom: And if that’s your thing — which is seems to be — then I guess that’ll do nicely.

Tim: And so for everything except that second verse, that ‘feat.’ could be an ‘&’. And you know, I love that. Shame she doesn’t get full credit, really.

Paul Rey – Mistakes

“The thing that impresses me most about it is how, whenever he’s singing, there’s really very little instrumentation going on underneath.”

Tim: Paul had a somewhat decent Melodifestivalen entry this year which got him through to the final; I don’t know why he didn’t go with this one, though, as it’s much better and he’d only need to chop a few seconds off.

Tim: The PR bumf for this comes with the line “I wanted to pay homage to the ‘ugly side’ of a relationship”, and so I was initially “oh, great because no-one’s done that before”, but I decided, against all my natural cynical instincts, to give it a good chance, and I’m glad I did.

Tom: I’m not convinced it’d work as a Eurovision track, but I’ll agree that it’s a better song. There are some lovely choices by both composer and producer in that chorus.

Tim: The thing that impresses me most about it is how, whenever he’s singing, there’s really very little instrumentation going on underneath – a light guitar in the verse, a drumbeat in the chorus – and so the vast majority of the song it carried solely by his vocal and the floaty underline bit (there’s probably a better name for it but you know what I mean), and both of those sound good, for individual reasons.

The voice, because it’s strong, emotive and powerful, and the floaty bit (yep, sticking with it) because it gives a lovely pleasant ambience to the song.

Tom: Right! And both singer and producer need confidence in those vocals in order to put them this clearly in the mix. I’m not sure it’s necessarily “stripped-down” instrumentation, which was the term I was going to use — it’s just produces so it backs up the vocals rather than competes with them.

Tim: So we’re given two things to focus on, both of which work well – and I think that’s a good recipe for a song.

Robin Packalen – Benefits

”Ah, it’s the chorus, isn’t it?“

Tim: A Finnish guys that we’ve not featured before, largely because, like Alex Järvi last week, the genre isn’t typically something I’d normally listen to. To be honest, most of this song still fits in that category.

Tom: Yep, this isn’t normally the sort of thing that either of us likes, why do– ah, it’s the chorus, isn’t it?

Tim: It’s the chorus, yes indeed. It’s very much of the genre the Sweden was sending to Eurovision 2017 & 2018, which left me with a “yep, I see what you’re doing, not for me thanks” – but Done quite a bit better than either of those. That loud “but SHE KNOWS” sounds really really good, and gets me giving the song enough of a good will factor that I’ll enjoy the rest of the chorus as well.

Tom: Right: it reminds me a lot of the Weeknd’s style.

Tim: In the first chorus it’s not there quite so much, so I’m still not really in there for the second verse, but everything after that gets me really enjoying all the rest. I like it when a song does that – obviously it’d be preferable if it was strong enough from the outset that I enjoyed it immediately, but when a song can build up enough of a momentum from one point to carry me through to another, that’s a good thing.

Tom: Although I am a bit worried that one of the, uh, ‘benefits’ listed is the “ways her legs can bend”. I know what that’s meant to imply, but my brain jumped to some odd alien joint arrangement first.

Dotter – Backfire

“A song that puts me very much in mind of Sia.”

Tim: Follow-up to her Melodifestivalen almost-winner, a song that puts me very much in mind of Sia.

Tim: I’m not sure there’s any one track in particular this reminds me of (or at least nothing popped out when I skimmed through a list of Sia’s singles) but stylistically this is very much a track I can imagine her putting out, and last time I checked that’s a fair old compliment.

Tom: It is! And it’s not just that the vocal quality’s very similar: the produciton is in the same style, too. I’m not massively convinced that it’s a chart-topper: this feels more like a Sia album track, but as you said, that’s still quite an endorsement.

Tim: A very strong voice, great production values, and all in all surely not that long before she’s noticed outside of Sweden, perhaps? If there’s any justice.

Tom: One big track is all it’ll take, I reckon.

Peg Parnevik – Regret It

“That’s great, no?”

Tim: I’m fairly sure we all do things we know we might regret later – I recently worked out how much I spent on LEGO during the lockdown, and I’d really like to forget, but apparently that’s not something my mind can do on demand. Anyway, Peg’s decided to write a song on the theme.

Tom: Only, I presume, without the LEGO.

Tim: And that’s great, no?

Tom: Much as I’d like to reply with a chirpy “no!”… I’ve got to agree. And I’m all for less-conventional messages like this in music.

Tim: Strong unambiguous lyrics, chorus sounds great, with the singing/chanting/vaguely shouting blend that can so often work really well, as it does here, and there’s great production work going on in the background.

Tom: It feels very much in the style of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, only with the exact opposite message. And just like that Taylor Swift song, it has an unnecessary talking bit.

Tim: Sure, I could do without the tag line at the end, and the fact that that single negative point does come right at the end and is therefore the one thing we immediately remember is very very unfortunate, but other than that, I think this is great.

Frida Öhrn – Fading Like A Flower

“Fewer guitars, more synths, as we’d expect”

Tim: April 1991, Roxette went top 10 in a whole load of countries (though only number 12 in the UK, shame on us) with Fading Like A Flower; 29 years later, here’s Frida.

Tim: Fewer guitars, more synths, as we’d expect, though I’ve no issue with either of those things.

Tom: Yep: it’s a cover that changes enough to provide a new take, but keeps enough of the original to be familiar. It’s not bad at all.

Tim: What I do have issues with, though, are two things, at least compared to the original: number one, she got rid of the key change, and although I’m well aware that a key change wouldn’t suit this version at all, actively getting rid of one should be an imprisonable offence.

Tom: Harsh, but not unfair.

Tim: Second is the genre change: by and large a good thing, because this does sound great, but it does mean that every time the chorus comes around I get a brief flash of Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, which for some reason the original doesn’t give me – maybe because the vocal’s not as prominent in the mix there?

Tom: Ha! I got a flash of Alice Cooper’s Poison and Faith Hill’s This Kiss, so, yes, let’s just agree this sounds like a lot of other tracks.

Tim: Aside from both of those things, though: I like this a lot. It is, in fact, a great example of how well making a song sound ‘up to date’ can be done: there’s plenty of the original still in there to keep the spirit of it going, and just enough modern sounding stuff (such as that vocal sample bit at 2:32, which I love) that it sounds like a current track. Job well done, I think.