Allertz – Brave

“Tom, I think this video might annoy you.”

Tim: Now, Tom, I think this video might annoy you – it’s basically a three minute compilation of a ‘Kids Are Great’ inspirational tumblr blog (though there’s also a great one of a kid completely stacking it off his bike and ending up in a bush, not sure how that made it in but I burst out laughing).

Tom: And it’s time to put this in a BACKGROUND TAB.

Tim: Anyway, have a listen.

Tom: I’ll be honest, the line “daddy told me to be perfect” put me off from the very first line, and it went downhill from there.

Tim: Now, I’m not sure if I like that just because of the video, because however much of a dick who laughs at videos of kids falling off bikes I may come across as, I do actually have a soft and fluffy heart inside, and so I actually like the video, and was rather engrossed in it throughout my first listen.

Tom: Whereas my heart remains as rock-solid as ever, and it just seems a bit… ugh, the word that comes to mind is “facile”, and I know damn well how pretentious that sounds. It’s not bubblegum or candyfloss pop, because that at least knows what it’s trying to achieve — this is just… slightly sweetened air. Like someone’s sprayed too much air freshener around to cover up something.

Wow, that sounded harsh.

Tim: Yes, yes it really did. And even without the video, I like the message, the sound, the tune and of course the fantastic way it ends with a lion’s roar (yep, that’s in the studio version). A nice track.

Tom: “Nice.” Yeah, I guess that sums it up.

Nova Miller – Turn Up The Fire

“It just strikes me as a Good Pop Song.”

Tim: So here’s a song I’ve had open in a background tab for a good few days now, which I really like but haven’t got round to sending because I don’t really know what to write about it; have a listen anyway.

Tom: That’s not the greatest sales pitch you’ve ever sent me, but sure, let’s try it.

Tim: Thing is, I’m not sure exactly why I like it, other than that it just strikes me as a Good Pop Song.

Tom: It has all the hallmarks of that, yes, but I’m not convinced that there’s any part of it that stands out especially. It sounds… maybe a bit like stock music? Really good stock music, don’t get me wrong, but stock music.

Tim: It’s loud and hefty, a sound that very much fits in with a lot of stuff on the radio right now, but there’s no real part of it where I can say “YES, this is what I like about it”.

Tom: Then I think the problem’s with the composition: there’s just not enough in there to make it memorable.

Tim: Well that’s true enough – even after several listens, I’m not sure I could really sing along to much of it. I think, in the end, it’s just modern pop that sounds like it’s made really, really well. And I guess that’s all I need to like a track.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Happyland

“There’s not a huge amount happy about it at all.‘

Tim: I pressed play on this and wondered why it sounded so familiar, and then I realised it was because it’s one of the best tracks on his 2016 Chameleon album. Annoyingly this otherwise quite nice video’s got multiple “don’t rip this” moments in it, which I thought had died years ago, so you may want to help yourself to a studio recording (though that has a rude phrase, which here has been replaced with “messed up”).

Tom: Blimey, that’s some beautiful, bleak scenery in that video. I realise I should be paying attention to the song, but seriously, that’s beautiful. Sweden and Iceland, apparently.

Tim: So, despite it being called Happyland, the song otherwise makes it really quite clear there’s not a huge amount happy about it at all. Despite that, it’s a hell of a chorus he’s using to sing about it. It’s dark but loud, it’s visceral and emotional, and that video really does pair up with it nicely (though I’m not sure the song earns the happy ending as much as the video thinks it does).

Tom: This feels like a grower to me: I can’t say I was that impressed by it on first listen, but then I went back and listened again an hour or so later. That’s rare for me: this got stuck in my head somehow.

Tim: A strong song in every respect, regardless ofd that, and now I remember why I spent a long while listening to the album.

Robin Stjernberg – Love

“I was confident I wouldn’t miss anything when I went to the toilet.”

Tim: It’s a song that starts quiet, builds up a bit, but you get to the chorus and you think “this has to do something good here”. And then…

Tim: Well. It wasn’t massive enough for me to go “oh, WOW”, but it was enough to keep me listening.

Tom: See, I really liked that first verse, and I didn’t think it overpromised it all — we’ve gone into a decent enough chorus for a slow ballad like this. For me, the verses kept me listening; for you, it was the chorus?

Tim: It was, yes – just enough to be good. Not special, but good. Until the ending, because oh boy, was I very glad I kept listening. Not just because I love that key change, but because I just did not see it coming. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was so surprised by one – sure, it’s a textbook placing here, and if we were living in the good timeline maybe I’d be expecting it, but I think it was more that I’d reached the point where I was confident I wouldn’t miss anything when I went to the toilet.

Tom: Well, that was needlessly detailed. To be fair, you’re right: that “la la la love” was starting to get a bit old.

Tim: I’m fairly sure that means it slots in perfectly with the stereotype of “let’s throw in a key change to liven it up a bit”, but I don’t mind.

Tom: It’s what they’re for, really. And this song, while it is pleasant, does need livening up a bit.

Tim: Well indeed, and while it does liven it up, it doesn’t really save it entirely. Apparently he wrote it for, and then performed it at, his best mate’s wedding, with full choir, and while I can see it working well there, it just sounds a bit bland at home. Sorry, Robin. Nice try, though.

Julie Kedhammar – Incredible Now

“Na-nanana-na-aooouw.”

Tim: The good Olympics are on, and we’ve already had a stunner of an opening ceremony; Julie’s got a song that somewhat ties in. This here video has nothing to do with her, but for some reason is the only place it’s available and embeddable, so have a listen, and watch some clips of random Swedes competing.

Tim: WHAT A SONG, particularly if you like people taking nine syllables to sing “now”.

Tom: Na-nanana-na-aooouw. I’ll be honest, Tim: I don’t like that. I might even go so far as to say I hate it. I don’t think a meaningless vocal line has irritated me so much in a long, long time. I can’t even explain why.

Tim: I do like it when songs about people being incredible or amazing or glorious are themselves Incredible or Amazing or Glorious, and so I’m delighted that this clearly fits that category. That chorus is the highlight, obviously, as it’s brilliantly powerful, but just as good is that the verses don’t even need to go down to minimum to show that.

Tom: And I can see what you mean. There’s clearly something there, both in production and performance. But I can’t get over that… I’m going to go with “playground chant” and its terrible vocals.

Tim: Oh, please, it’s clearly not that bad. What shows the greatness most of all, for me, is the fact that I don’t care that the middle eight is only really a middle four. Normally I’d want proper variety there, but right now I just want to get back to that chorus, because GOD it’s good. FABULOUS.

Saturday Flashback: DJ Bobo feat. Kim Wilde – I Believe

“It’s not like Jedward are involved, but still…”

Tim: Last Saturday we had DJ Bobo, on Tuesday we had Kim Wilde, so what could go wrong with combining the two?

Tom: So many things, Tim! I mean, “demon core of music” is probably a bit strong, it’s not like Jedward are involved, but still…

Tim: Hmm, that’s very fair. Let’s start with just him.

Tom: His studio vocals are better than his live vocals, that’s for sure.

Tim: There’s that, yes, but let’s be honest, there aren’t many other positives, particular when he uses a line straight from the Savage Garden atrocity that is Affirmation.

Tom: Agh, I’m glad it’s not just me that despises that song. To be fair, this is a competent 90s chillout-dance track, slightly hampered by the fact that it was released in 2003.

Tim: Mr Bobo does at least show a bit of enthusiasm this time when he’s dancing, although his gazing glumly out of the window kind of sets that back to zero. The message manages to be upbeat and downbeat at the same time – yes, great things exist, but you’re making them shit – which is pretty terrible. The music is, well, danceable I suppose, it does have a good beat, and even though it’s getting on for four minutes long it doesn’t outstay its welcome. But overall: not really.

Tom: So where does Kim Wilde come in?

Tim: This is from 2013, and God only knows how it happened, but it did, so here it is.

Tim: It’s a bit more listenable, with a fair amount of retooling going on, but really. Kim, you’re better than this.

Saturday Flashback: DJ BoBo – Vampires Are Alive

“Oh, no, really? We’re doing this?”

Tom: Oh, no, really? We’re doing this? Admittedly it’s a classic, but not for the right reasons.

Tim: Well, you see, I said last week that in “many of the best Eurovision performances, the music is almost secondary to the actual choreography”, and I stand by that. Take this, from 2007, and to be honest I’m astonished we’ve not featured it already.

Tim: So points are award even before the singing starts, for hiring dancers who can jump up on one beat and land on the next, which isn’t the easiest skill to master.

Tom: Huh. Actually, yes, that’s quite a talent, and — UGH just as I wrote that, the man managed to miss a couple of notes and I actually twitched a little.

Tim: Fine, the vocal’s not great. BUT! The candles, the gravestones; the navigation around the ‘six performers’ rules by using mannequins. And even sound effects! When was the last time you heard howling winds on a song? NEVER. In fact, the thing I’m most curious about here is why the main guy isn’t more gothed up – he actually looks quite boring compared to the rest of them.

Tom: Both in makeup, and in how much he seems to be dedicated to the song. The woman is, for want of a better word, acting like she believes in the song. He just doesn’t. I’d like to think there’s always room for comedy entries in Eurovision, however much the rules try to keep them out of the final, but this doesn’t have the commitment of Lordi, the catchiness of Lordi, or… well, yeah, it’s not Lordi.

Tim: Much as I’d like to say this performance was widely acclaimed for its brilliance, I’m afraid I can’t: coming 20th out of 28 in the semi-final, it sadly failed to qualify for the main event. Still, though, it lives on in our hearts. Well, in my heart anyway.

Blissful – Find A Way

“Full marks for a mask made of drawing pins.”

Tim: I’ll be upfront with you: there a fair amount to dislike about this, from an Icelandic duo; I would, however, ask that you don’t give up before you hear the chorus, because I nearly did and that would have been a mistake.

Tom: Some of the location footage in that video really made me want to go back to Iceland. Yes, I have a strange taste in geography. Full marks for a mask made of drawing pins, too, that looks spectacular. Anyway, the music.

Tim: Okay so, yeah, first and third things first: those verses aren’t enjoyable, or at least not for me – there’s way too much autotune and nothing of particular interest, and really the first half of the middle eight falls into that category as well. However, all of that is so outweighed by the rest of it that I really don’t care, overall.

Tom: Alas, that’s how I feel about the whole track. I can appreciate the chorus as being well produced — there’s nothing actually wrong with it — but what do you see in it?

Tim: There’s a lovely melody, sound and just general…sensation around that chorus that I can’t get enough of, and when the instrumental of it turns up in the middle eight, it’s just wonderful. It does, really, almost serve to make the verses worse – not only are they objectively unpleasant, they’re also making me miss out on the good stuff. But there’s enough good stuff that I don’t really mind – I’ll take it, and cope with the bad bits.

Anna Bergendahl – Vice

“There’s some proper cowboy-country guitar in the background”

Tim: Anna, perhaps still (sadly) best known for being the only Swede not to qualify for the Eurovision final (though God knows Frans would probably have given her a run for that); she’s had remarkably little activity since then, but now she’s here, with a slight change of genre.

Tom: Blimey, there’s some proper cowboy-country guitar in the background of that, isn’t there?

Tim: And despite wanting to jump in with “I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing” every time the chorus comes around, I like that quite a lot. It does sound a bit dated; I’m not sure how much of that is due to those tinkly synths under the chorus, or if it’s just a general something about it, but it does seem to have a slight Annie Lennox in the early 90s vibe about it.

Tom: I reckon that’s down to the instrumentation — there’s a lot of older styles of synth in there. It’s not a bad choice at all, but then I grew up with sounds like that. Were this a British record, I’d say it’s more aimed at Radio 2.

Tim: I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, but I am struggling to understand it: if you’re going to switch genres, why go for one thirty years old? Not a bad listen, but just a bit mystifying.

Saturday Flashback: Sakis Rouvas – This Is Our Night

“He thrusts, he jumps, he rips his shirt open just so we can all see his nipples.”

Tim: For no particular reason, the other day I ended up spending my afternoon losing myself in late ’00s Eurovision songs, and I remembered this absolute delight, from Greece in 2009.

Tim: I mean, where to start? Like many of the best Eurovision performances, the music is almost secondary to the actual choreography here, even if is a fantastic example of that period’s genre, thumping beats, key change and all.

Tom: It was never going to win. It was never even going to come close to winning. Greece, you tried, and you tried spectacularly.

Tim: But oh, that choreography. The thrusting, The Busted jumps (the many, many Busted jumps). What initially appears to be a standard plinth, but then is revealed to be so much more. It rotates! It’s a travelator! It opens up to reveal the Greek flag! And then Sakis himself – he thrusts, he jumps, he rips his shirt open just so we can all see his nipples.

Tom: Which was the inspiration for a certain outfit (and thrusting) several years later.

Tim: Ha, I’d forgotten the link there. So what more is there to want?