“YES HONESTLY CAN’T YOU SEE I’M ENTIRELY FINE, FINE IS WHAT I AM, I’M FINE”
Tim: NOTD, a Swedish production duo we’ve featured a couple of times and who are just starting to make waves over here, and Nina Nesbitt who’s off Scotland and has been fairly successful over the years. Together, this.
Tim: Love those lyrics, with the great sense of self-denial, going through all the possible reasons she could be crying with the sole insistence that it’s not You, until at the end we’re stuck wondering who she’s actually trying to convince, the target of the song or actually herself.
Tom: I’m not quite as convinced by the lyrics: I recoiled slightly at that “issues / tissues” couplet at the start of the second verse. And I’m not sure “outstanding” works in that chorus either. But setting that aside: does this sound a bit like it’s in the spirit of “Dancing On My Own” to you? It’ll never be as good as Robyn, of course, nothing could be, but it’s in that spirit .
Tim: It does, yes – both songs have a “look at me I’m doing fine without you YES HONESTLY CAN’T YOU SEE I’M ENTIRELY FINE, FINE IS WHAT I AM, I’M FINE”. It’s a hell of a song musically as well, mind – really good beat, and melody, and production, and I can absolutely see why they’re getting big over here.
Tom: The fact I’m not immediately slating it with that Robyn comparison means it must come off fairly well. There’s a lot to be said for this.
Tom: Well, the definitive version — the first Ötzi one — came out in 2007. The Wikipedia article for it lists a half-dozen translations. But this one isn’t there. And I can’t find any more information about it.
Tim: They got rid of the key change. That’s disappointing. But otherwise, gosh.
Tom: Who is Stee Wee Bee?
Tim: Was going to be my next question – it’s an entirely ridiculous name, whoever it is.
Tom: No idea. I suspect it’s the producer, not the vocalist, because the name turns up again on this cheesy but fun Neil Sedaka remix. But in theory they could be the same person: there’s no reason a vocalist can’t also produce. Or it could be a deliberate disguise for someone else.
Tim: Well, that “are you ready?” line about a minute sounds very much like early Basshunter, but it’s probably not him. Sadly.
Tom: Either way, this track sits in that sort of odd wasteland of tracks that turn up on Eurodance compilation CDs and Dance Nation’s annual Christmas release. And it’s competent, of course: but where it falls down is that the cadence required for “A Star” just doesn’t work in English. “Ein Stern”? Sure. Sounds fine. But you can’t put emphasis on ‘a’ without it sounding.. well, like this.
Tim: Yeah. ‘One Star’ could work and not mess up the message too much, but yeah, not ‘A Star’.
“When Higher Love was such a banger using a near-identical formula, why is this one just… okay?”
Tom: I’ve been holding off on sending this to you, Tim, because I didn’t think it was all that good.
Tim: Same, actually – though let’s have a chat about it anyway, why not.
Tom: But then I realised that raises a question: when Higher Love was such a banger using a near-identical formula, why is this one just… okay?
Tim: My guess is three-fold: firstly, Higher Love is still a big enough track that if people want this formula, they’ll stick with that. I heard that on the radio on Tuesday, four days after this was out, because it is, quite simply, an out and out banger.
Secondly, and slightly more importantly: the formula isn’t actually quite the same. Here, Kygo hasn’t done all that much to it beyond stick in a tropical post-chorus. You press play on it, and for the first minute or so you might as well be listening to the original. Higher Love, though, was vastly different – I actually only looked it up for the first time just now and wasn’t sure I’d got the right track until the vocal kicked in.
Tom: Oh, you’re right there. I was listening to the middle bit, and it was all just Kygo doing his sample-cut-up job. That intro and first verse are very, very different now you point it out.
Tim: And thirdly, the original of this is much more well known. This is pretty much Tina Turner’s biggest track, everyone knows it, and there’s not a huge demand for what’s not much more than a remix, however big the name attached to it might be. Higher Love, though, was only put out by Whitney as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of one of her albums.
Tom: Wait, really? Huh. In which case, you’re teaching me a lot: I knew it, and so I assumed everyone else knew it too.
Tim: No, not at all – when people heard it, it was basically a new track by her and Kygo, and who wouldn’t want to hear that?
Tim: Dario G brought out Hola, his first new album in almost 20 years, a couple of weeks ago and yesterday I finally got round to listening to it. Pleasingly, it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in recent years – not necessarily because all the tracks are brilliant (though there are a lot of great tracks), but because of the way it’s put together, with a definite beginning, middle and end, rather than a standard “yep, here’s twelve tracks, chuck ’em on there”.
Tom: Right! As streaming increasingly moves towards singles and playlists, there’s not much room left for albums with a theme, let alone the old idea of concept albums. Which makes sense — recorded music has always adjusted to fit the medium it’s on — but I do feel it’s a bit of a shame. I like listening to An Album: and as you say, this is An Album.
Tim: We’ve an intro track, for example, with themes of the title track that we both enjoyed, which then gives way into this.
Tim: Lovely track, isn’t it? A lot of Dario G trademarks – those long backing vocal notes stand out particularly well, and the repetition of a fairly short melody with few lyrics that on some tracks would sound wrong, but here almost come across as almost earnest, just six words to get the message across.
Tom: It is, and I like the track overall. That one vocal line is just a bit too repetitive for me: it’s not like there’s a whole verse in there to run through. Which means I think there isn’t quite enough to sustain this length of track; it needs one, maybe two more layers.
(Side note: wouldn’t that sampled Dream Academy chant from Sunchyme go very nicely over the top of this? I know, almost every musical artist hates their old work being dragged up with the line “ooh, I liked that better”, but there’s the sun connection, and I do feel it needs… something.)
Tim: I don’t know – maybe it might be enhanced (few things in this world can’t be), but I definitely wouldn’t say it needs anything. But ACTUALLY I’m going to go off on a stupid Tim tangent here–
Tom: All right, brace yourselves, everyone.
Tim: –because I’ve just noticed that the ‘Sunrise’ in the title is written as one word, not the two that I’d assumed, which gives it an ever so slightly different meaning. My assumption was ‘You Make The Sun Rise’, a metaphor indicating that Leslie’s target inspires him, really improves his life and makes his day. Whereas ‘Sunrise’, one word, implies that the target is most likely Helios, Greek god of the sun who would pull the sun across the sky every day in a chariot. And it’s a long time since I’ve heard a great dance track that is also dedicated to an ancient god, and to be honest, I’m all for that.
“That was a delightful surprise, getting something novel after the second chorus.”
Tim: It’s a dance track that’s only 2:18 in length, it’s gonna be one of those frustrating ones that just has two verses, two choruses and nothing else, right?
Tom: Never mind that! What about the menacing cartoon face in the video? Julie Bergan, you have been absolutely insulted by whoever drew that cartoon, it looks like a villain from a 90s cartoon, just a disembodied head bouncing around and yelling threatening questions. It was bad enough that I actually tabbed away, just so I could give the song a fair treatment.
You’re right, though, it does at least go somewhere interesting.
Tim: That was a delightful surprise, getting something novel after the second chorus. Admittedly it was only a couple of extra vocal lines, but it’s better than nothing at all, right? I’m fairly certain that liking this track will hinge squarely on that post-chorus, because there’s a lot of squeaking and squealing there and it pretty much drowns out the rest of the song when you’re thinking back after it’s finished. I’m going in and saying I quite like it – it certainly doesn’t put me off at all, and it’s a nice standout feature.
Tom: Right! I think if you changed the timbre of that synth just a little, it’d be like nails on a chalkboard, but it just about gets away with it.
Tim: In any case, even if you don’t like it the song’s barely two minutes long, there’s hardly time to head off the dancefloor to get another drink even if you wanted to. Huh, ‘dancefloor’. I remember those. Vaguely.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“This time, I’d like to actually compliment the writer.”
Tom: Often, around these parts, I grumble about trite lyrics or cringe-inducing rhyme schemes. Well, this time, I’d like to actually compliment the writer.
Tim: Huh, blimey – the lyrics must be good.
Tom: I was originally going to complain that the lyrics were “clunky”, but they’re absolutely not: splitting slant rhymes across different clauses like that is really clever. It’s just that rather than paying attention to the song, I started noticing the rhyme scheme: and that feels rather like watching a movie and thinking “wow, those graphics are really good”. The best lyrics are not the ones you notice, but the ones that have the desired effect.
Tim: Yeah, you’re not wrong, and it is inventive. To be honest, I think that very when most people listen for rhyming in lyrics, it’s just a case of “ah, yeah, these syllables are the same” – if they happen to split up a sentence, or even a word, so be it.
Tom: Anyway, I got so caught up in analysing the rhymes that I forgot to pay attention to the rest of the music. What do you reckon?
Tim: I think it’s good – perfectly decent dance track. I WANT TO GO DANCING TOM.