Kaija Koo – Vapaa

It could be the theme to a sixties European spy film.

Tim: From a Finnish woman who here looks like she’s stepped straight out of forty years ago comes this, a fairly normal – and thus fairly good – piece of schlager.

Tom: That opening sounds like it’s from forty years ago. It could be the theme to a sixties European spy film until the chorus kicks in.

Tim: Medium level verses, quiet and sedated bridge and loud and energetic choruses.

Tom: The Finnish equivalent of Roger Moore sneaks around, raising an eyebrow as a naked woman, artfully filmed from behind, steps out of a sauna and into the ocean.

Tim: Um, okay. The Finns seem to love it, as it’s been scarpering around their top 10 for the past four or five months now, and I can see why.

Tom: She turns round to notice him – again, artfully filmed from behind, and he quips a one-liner about her appearance. She replies, he approaches, and then – seemingly for no reason – he shoves her into the ocean.

Tim: Um, Tom? You know we’re meant to be discussing this song, right? Anyway, outside of Eurovision entry competitions, this sort of stuff isn’t all that fashionable right now, but there’s clearly still a market for it, and a very good thing that is.

Tom: He spins round and, without stopping to aim, shoots the assassin with the blow dart that was about to kill them both.

Tim: Nope, he’s gone. He’ll come round eventually – he usually does, although it would be nice if this time doesn’t involve a gerbil and some pink hair dye.

Tom: She surfaces, sputtering, and realises what’s happened. Cut to sex scene, then cut to bad guy’s HQ. You can write the rest from there.

Amy Diamond – Only You

It doesn’t help that my brain keeps singing Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ over the top of it.

Tim: Question: How do you make a British person think it’s Christmas?

Tom: Put “The Great Escape” on the telly?

Tim: Is one option. The other is to play ‘Only You’, a song that has, much like The Power of Love, been on every single Christmas compilation for the past twenty-odd years despite having no relevance to Christmas whatsoever, all because of a December number one (in this case, a version by The Flying Pickets in 1983).

Tom: My word, that’s an awkward video. It doesn’t help that my brain keeps singing Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ over the top of it.

Tim: YES! I couldn’t work out what it was – I kept thinking Eternal Flame, but then listened to that and realised it wasn’t. Anyway, this version is by Amy Diamond, who had her first single back in 2005 and is now releasing her version to coincide with a Greatest Hits album at the grand old age of 18. Yes. Eighteen.

Tom: She has been in the charts since she was twelve, though; that’s almost certainly more justified than, say, Blue’s compilation album.

Tim: I know – I watched her first video the when I found this, and it was just weird.

Tim: I’ll be honest: this doesn’t do a huge amount for me. Formulaically, it’s all there – calm instrumentation soon backed up by a dancey beat, the soothing voice, the gentle key change that prompts an immediate reaction of ‘Ooh, that was nice. Right, what was I doing?’ There’s just not enough oomph, I guess – there almost seems to be a lack of humanity in it.

Tom: I got a completely different vibe from that key change: I instinctively grimaced at it. It’s just sugar piled on top of sugar.

Tim: Actually, I know exactly what it is. Anecdote time: when I was about ten, I played the piano. I was entirely unsuited to it, with no real music talent at all. However, I was good at the theory stuff – time signatures, various voices, cadences and all that malarkey. So I took the grade tests and everything, and at the end of each one you had to compose a short piece as well, and due to the aforementioned lack of musical talent I would just write what I’d been taught was a good piece – beats in all the right places, harmonic chords, good endings, the lot. And this song (or at least the production on it) is exactly that – nothing added, nothing taken away, just exactly what there needs to be. Except, well, there needs to be more.

Tom: I’d argue there needs to be less. About three minutes less, to be exact.

Viktorious – When We Were Ten

I was quietly bouncing along in my chair.

Tim: Viktorious is known to his friends and family as Viktor Norén and used to be part of the rather loud but not altogether terrible Swedish band Sugarplum Fairy. He decided, however, that band life was not for him, and that he wanted a challenge, and loads of other old gubbins, and so he ‘threw out the guitar and used the computer as [his] only instrument’. It ‘opened a whole new world’ apparently.

Tom: There’s a surprising number of solo musicians being fairly successful from their basements – even if the ones who really make the big time tend to have that story retroactively added by their record company’s marketing team.

Tim: But enough of such talky rubbish. The main thing is the end result; i.e. this.

Tom: I thought this was really generic and dull when it started, and then I realised that – as I worked on something else – I was quietly bouncing along in my chair.

Tim: Odd one, really, what with the quiet then loud two-part chorus. When the second verse started I thought ‘God, this is going on a bit, isn’t it?’ even though it was only a minute or so in, and I think this is because the quiet part of the first chorus felt like the bridge, and then the loud ending should have finished the song. Once I got over that, though, I rather enjoyed it.

Tom: Aye, I’ll agree with that: it’s a song that’s constantly on the verge of finishing – but once you get over the slight feeling of aural blueballs, it’s a great track.

Play – Destiny

Describing this as cheesy would be like calling the Pacific Ocean a bit damp.

Tim: Some kids’ film soundtracks are sensible, proper music, that it is respectable to like. Others are a little bit cheesy, and the only acceptable response when in decent company is something like, “Oh, good heavens, no.

Then there’s this, from Avalon High, and you couldn’t sensibly describe this as cheesy, because it would be like calling the Pacific Ocean a bit damp.

Tom: Oh, blimey, Avalon High is actually a Disney movie, isn’t it?

Tim: Well, technically speaking it’s a Disney Channel Original Movie. The key difference? They’re not targeting mainstream audiences, they’re targeting people who’ve paid a subscription because they just love Disney.

Tom: Somehow I have a feeling this is going to be more You’ll Be In My Heart than Circle of Life. And this version’s a rip from Radio Disney. I feel like I’ve fallen into some kind of corporate nightmare.

Tim: Now now Thomas, open mind please.

Tim: So, yes. The lyrics are stupidly Disney, the chorus does its best to sway you right out of the window, and when the key change inevitably hit I actually laughed at the unashamedness of it all. And yet, it’s not horrendous.

Tom: I actually made a brief, guttural “gak” noise when the key change hit. And then I had an urge to wave my hands in the air. Damn it, Disney. They’ve actually gone and put a crowd-handclap sample on beats two and four. All the way through the song. It never, ever stops, not even during the bridge. Once you notice it, it’s permanently there. You can’t hear anything else. It is quite horrendous.

Tim: But, it really isn’t. I don’t know, maybe I’ve been sucked in by the level of sugar it emanates, but I really like it. It’s almost heartwarming, although I never thought that word could describe a song, and after hearing it a few times I’m just left with a massive grin on my face, as though everything is now going to be fine, and that any nastiness has vanished from the face of the planet.

Tom: That’s not the song, that’s that damned new iMac you’ve just bought.

Tim: Perhaps, although I’m not the one waving his hands in the air, am I?

Tove Styrke – White Light Moment

Interesting, this one.

Tim: Interesting, this one. First up: I think it’s brilliant. The chorus has a perfect amount of energy, and the pauses that serve as lead-in and lead-out only help that. I love the chanting type thing in the bridge, and while I’m not entirely keen on the underlying verse beat, I think the vocals go with it in such a way that I don’t mind it.

Having said all that, it’s not something I’d want to listen to over and over again, like I would, say, Et Cetera; I have no idea why, though. It’s not that it grows repetitive – it’s rather that, after a couple of listens, I think, ‘Right, what’s next?’

Tom: I got the exact same thing: half way through listening to this, my brain wandered and I idly started up another browser tab. Until the end-of-chorus pause hit in, I wasn’t listening. I propose that’s the reason those pauses are there: to jolt people out of the soporific stupor that the song’s put them into. Which is strange, because it’s a high-energy song and on paper I should be bouncing along to it. But I’m not.

Right, what’s next?

Robyn – Indestructible & Call Your Girlfriend

Do they suffer the same problems?

Tom: We’ve harped on about Robyn’s songs for a while, and our complaint is always the same: they start at a moderate level of enthusiasm, the end at the same level, and they go nowhere in between. There’s no rise and fall, just a constant electronic beat and her singing.

Tim: Although it should perhaps be said that in some songs, such as Hang With Me, the moderate level is enough to enjoy the track if it’s on in the background.

Tom: Indestructible has been out as an acoustic version for a while, but the full synth-backed version is being released as a single soon. The question is, of course, is it the same as all the rest?

Tom: Yes, yes it is.

So, rather than say anything further, I suggest we use the rest of this post to discuss what the hell the bridge bit sounds like. Something from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, perhaps? The opening theme to Treasure Hunt? I can’t quite place it.

Tim: Haha, it is a bit like Treasure Hunt, isn’t it? However, I feel that instead of moving on we should provide properly constructive criticism, rather than just ‘make it louder’. For this song, I have two recommendations:

  • The ‘let the bad ones in and the good ones go’ before the chorus is nice and sway-y, but that is spoiled by the ‘but. PAUSE.’ that happens next. I suggest losing those and instead having a ‘good ones go-o-oh’ leading gently into ‘I’m gonna…’
  • The parts of each verse that first occur with ‘not alone’ and then ‘don’t let go’ should have at least an echo, if not proper backing singers. Although this is optional for the first verse, there is no way the second verse and later should not have it.

Tom: Sorry, what was that? I was busy watching Anneka Rice.

Tim: Well, actually, stop that and pay attention. Because this just in, from fan of the site Gerald: a track from the new album (a culmination of 2010’s Body Talk trilogy) entitled Call Your Girlfriend. Now sit down and brace yourself: it’s actually really good. (In his words: “12 times in one day good”.)

Tim: If we’re being honest, and looking back at what we’ve said above, we’ve always been a little bit harsher on Robyn than she deserves – we’ve said that the songs, when heard just as songs, have not been great, for one reason or another. While all that is true, and I stand by it, we’ve not really mentioned that the music itself is quite good – it’s danceable, especially when mixed into other tracks, and if you hear it in the background of a shop of something you will likely think ‘Ooh, I like this’.

Tom: Believe it or not, that happened to me yesterday when a remix of ‘Hang With Me’ got played at an event I was at. And I liked it. Rewatching it now, even the video seems charming.

Tim: But, there have always been problems. And yet here, no. From when the synth first hits after the initial ‘Call your’, the melody is strong and the verses vibrant. The chorus is energetic with a healthy beat, and I like the way it flows straight back into the verse afterwards. The first part of the bridge is a bit bonkers, in a very good way. The second part of it is proper emotional singing, which is unexpected but great. The ‘caaaalll…’ even comes perilously close to a previously unimaginable Robyn post-bridge climax. Yes, it’s possibly a chorus too long at the end, and the two lines following each of the early choruses are a bit weak, but other than that I just can’t fault it.

Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you and say it was another boring track, but then the chorus kicked in and I decided that you’re exactly right. “The only way her heart will mend” did the musical equivalent of hitting me in the face… in a good way.

September – Resuscitate Me

I think it’s slightly excellent

Tim: Now, this was never going to be as good as the UK radio edit of Can’t Get Over, so I set my sights deliberately low, but overall I don’t think that was needed – it’s easily on a par with Cry For You, for a start.

Tom: She’s now got a recognisable voice and style – something that I’d recognise as ‘September’ even if it just turned up on the radio. I think it’s the similar synth lines – it’s an interesting way to build a musical brand, but it works.

Tim: But what is it as a song on its own? I think it’s slightly excellent – the ‘don’t you let my heart die boy’ lead into the chorus works very well as a ‘get ready to dance’ warning, and there’s plenty of energy lying around all over the please.

Tom: Except in the bridge. That bridge goes on far too long.

Tim: Hmm, maybe – I think think it works. I do have a couple of issues (the high pitched vocals being almost impossible to decipher, the idea of ‘love CPR’ which is just as ridiculous here as it was when JLS invented it a while back*), but overall this is a stonkingly good effort.

* And that’s actually the title of her new album. Why. Just, why.

Tom: Stonkingly?

Tim: Yes, I said stonkingly. Live with it.

Tom: You are an 80s commercial radio DJ and I claim my five pounds.

Idol Allstars 2010 – All I Need Is You

You will, I am sure, be familiar with the idea of the reality TV charity single.

Tim: You will, I am sure, be familiar with the idea of the reality TV charity single – two years ago Simon Cowell gave us a version of Hero (marvellous) –

Tom: No it wasn’t.

Tim: – and last year we had a cover of…actually, I cannot for the life of me remember, largely because I do remember it being terrible. I think it had ‘Everybody’ in the title. And this Sunday we shall be treated to this year’s offering, apparently a cover of Heroes.

Tom: The only good thing is that it has to include Wagner. Bonus.

Tim: Hmm. Well, perhaps. Needless to say, Britain’s not the only country that does it; here we have what appears to be an original song – All I Need Is You, being sung live on Sweden’s Idol a couple of weeks ago:

Tim: Now this, JLS and Children in Need people, is a good charity single. It’s got a nice hook to nod along to right from the get go, the song has a blindingly obvious happy message, and best of all – they’re smiling! Can you imagine! Having fun while making music.

Tom: But it’s not a cover! You can’t have a big group charity single that’s not a cover these days. Even Band Aid 20 was a cover. It’s like film sequels – they want a song that’s bankable because they can’t count on the performances to carry it.

Tim: I don’t know, I think they can. Admittedly, at times it looks like they’ve forgotten about the existence of choreography, and it would be nice if someone gave the bearded blond guy some heroin and put him out of his misery, but musically it’s spot on. And the best thing? There’s absolutely no Wagner.

Tom: As someone who doesn’t watch the X Factor, I am still amused by Wagner every time he appears on Harry Hill’s TV Burp. He’s brilliant. Well done British public.

Disco Rapido – We Play The Pipe

THAT’S RIGHT! It’s new Daz Sampson.

Tim: It was mentioned last Saturday that Daz Sampson crops up in all sorts of unlikely places. Since then, he’s got in touch* with another one, because THAT’S RIGHT! It’s new Daz Sampson.

* For any readers who may still be interested, he also informed us that Ben O’Brien was his manager who dreamed of being able to get taxis everywhere – Daz’s shout-out was a way of promising him that the money would soon flood in, and that he would be able to do just that.

Tom: And now, we’ve recorded the Ben O’Brien reference for posterity. Excellent. Right – what’s the new one? I’m bracing myself.

Tim: Well, this time, there’s a twist – he’s decided that enough is enough, and that with this one it’s all or nothing: if this doesn’t make the Top 10 he’s calling it a day. (And he’s also said that unlike Lisa Scott-Lee, he actually means it.)

Tim: So, basically, he’s calling it a day.

Tom: Now, don’t be quite so cynical. It doesn’t take much to get to the top 10 these da—hahaha, okay, I just heard it, he’s calling it a day.

Tim: Now, sorry Daz, but why couldn’t you have had a decent last stand? I have no idea, but the Facebook page says that acts they* like include Yolanda Be Cool and Riva Starr, which suggests to me that what they’ve really done is look for weird stuff that’s done well recently and tried to copy it.

* There’s another bloke involved – no idea who.

Tom: I don’t want to be too harsh, because the guy’s actually emailed us and seems like a decent bloke. That said, it’s blatant style-copying. A retro sample, a beat over the top, an occasional vocal sample, and a stupid cut-price video. Although, fair credit to them, the Blackpool Illuminations bit at the end did actually make me smile a bit.

Tim: Only problem is: the song’s more than a little bit crap. But, to be brutally honest, so were the others, really. They only succeeded because they were novelties, it was the right time of year for unusual dance tracks and people got caught up in the mood. Now, however, it’s the middle of November and it’s cold and wet outside; if people want to dance to unusual music they’ll wait until Slade or Wizzard comes on the radio, rather than listen to what Pete Tong’s got lined up for them on a Friday night.

Tom: There’s the inevitable slew of crap novelty Christmas cash-in records coming, isn’t there? Damn it, ever since downloads started counting for the chart the race for Christmas Number One has been a horrid race-to-the-bottom bunfight. Well, apart from last year’s Rage Against The Machine bit, of course.

Tim: Farewell Daz – it was good while it lasted. Well, slightly good. Ish.

Tom: He is the UK’s number 4 MC. Never forget that.

Tim: Hang on – I’ve just reread his e-mail, and he’s actually said the reverse, albeit slightly confusingly what with the Lisa Scott-Lee comparisons. If this is a hit, he’ll walk away. I guess we’ve got another fifteen years of Daz to come.

Tom: How has he not done a soap powder sponsorship yet? I mean, the link is obvious.

Tim: BANG! And Daz is gone.

Oh, if only it were that simple.

Erik Hassle – Standing Where You Left Me

There are many things right with this song.

Standing Where You Left Me by erikhassle

Tim: There are many things right with this song – the intensity of it going perfectly with the emotion, the high-pitched electric violiny type thing just before the bridge, the instrumental pauses beneath the first line of the chorus and the ‘oh my God’, to name just a few.

Tom: The drum fills in the middle of the verse, too – and the synth backing line.

Tim: However, I do have one complaint, and that is his treatment of the word ‘me’ at the end of the first line of each chorus. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s very good, but I think he missed a trick there: if he’d lowered it a couple of notes, he’d have then be able to jump up an octave for after the bridge (à la Backstreet Boys), which would have been brilliant.

Tom: Hold on. So you think that…

Tim: He should go down on ‘me’? Yes. Yes I do.

Tom: Get out.

Tim: Now, you may be wondering, ‘Did Tim really come up with a point and go on about it for a whole paragraph, complete with YouTube references, solely to make a fairly lame joke? Well, yes. Problem?

Actually, I do think it’s a slightly valid point, but that aside, however, I think the song’s great. Although don’t go on YouTube looking for a live version – you’ll spend the whole time trying to work out why he’s got a large hamster living on his head.