Saturday Flashback: Yohanna – Is It True?

It wouldn’t be a shame if more Eurovision songs were like this.

Tim: This weekend marks the start of quite a few countries’ hunt for their Eurovision entries – Finland started last night, and Norway and Iceland get going tonight. Let’s mark the occasion by looking back at a previous entry, from Iceland in 2009. Context: this was placed second, after Norway’s Alexander Rybak won by the largest margin in the contest’s history. (Still can’t believe Malena Ernman came 21st, though.)

Tom: As long as they don’t get Pete Bloody Waterman back for the UK, I’ll be happy.

Tim: No fancy tricks here, no massive lighting effects – just a couple of nice gentle key changes, plenty of emotional singing from a lady who’s just screwed things up with her boyfriend, and a dolphin flying through the sky in the background. I like this a lot, and it wouldn’t be a shame if more Eurovision songs were like this.

Tom: I strongly disagree with you. This is too slow, too ballad-y, for a night of entertainment that should – in my opinion – be about celebration and enthusiasm. I’m not advocating camp, kitschy mock-pop – that should be left back where it belongs – and I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a few songs like this. But ballads got the first and second place last year. Let’s have a bit of schlager placing this time, please.

Tim: Oh, absolutely – I’m as much as campaigner for the Charlotte Perellis and DJ Bobos of the competition as the next guy – I just think it’s nice to have a break every now and again, with something slightly calming but still musically interesting.

Anyway, what is also brilliant is the steadicam shot that starts at 2:21 (although nothing quite beats the Segway in Belarus’s performance).

Tom: Now that I can agree with you on. Still can’t believe “Eyes That Never Lie” didn’t make it through to the final.

Le Kid – Mr Brightside

A present to keep their fans happy.

Tim: No soapy sailors this time round, as this is a free track off their website rather than an actual single – a present to keep their fans happy until they bring new stuff out in February.

Tom: Now, I really liked the bubblegum pop sound they had last time round – how much of that was due to attractive lead singers in low-cut outfits, I’m not sure, but I ended up listening to that track a lot of times. Hopefully this one’s similar.

Tom: Oh yes.

Tim: Not half bad, really, and remarkably different from The Killers’ original, in the backing instrumentation at least.

Tom: The first few notes of it gave me a bit of worry, but I needn’t have – it’s a great cover of a great song; when all the electronic gubbins kicks in on “Jealousy–“, I just burst out into a smile.

It’s basically into repeat-until-fade half way through, and – most disappointingly – it doesn’t use the “I never–” refrain to end it. I like that part, if only because every time I hear it I think Brandon Flowers is singing “PAELLA.”

Tim: Of course you do. Needless to say, fans of The Killers won’t like it much, but we’re not here for them. We’re here because we like happy camp music, and this is very much it.

Tom: Damn right.

Saturday Flashback: Roxette – Stars

During the final chorus, everything just clicked together.

Tim: Much like yesterday’s Lili & Susie, here’s an act from the olden days with a new single out.

Tom: Blimey, really?

Tim: Oh yes, but that single, She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio), has rather rudely been taken off YouTube.

Tom: That’s a pity, because that title has a lot of promise.

Tim: Doesn’t it just? Anyway, let’s take a look at this instead from 1999, in which we can see the effectiveness of aggressive singing.

Tim: This wasn’t as successful as many of her other tracks, but now sounds considerably less dated than most.

Tom: I’ll agree with you there – I wouldn’t have placed this as being over a decade old.

Tim: Also it has a children’s choir in the chorus, and that’s always fun.

Tom: No they’re not! They’re horrible. There’s never been a good song with a children’s choir in it, with the exception of William Shatner’s cover of Common People.

Tim: Oh, please.

Tom: I know what that link is before I click it. It’s the St. Winifred’s School Choir, isn’t it? There’s only one good performance of that, and it’s the time they were on Tiswas.

Tim: Man, you’re mean. Anyway, if you fancy something a bit more energetic, try a recent Almighty 7″ Mix, although I prefer this – it’s dance-y enough, and the choruses are much better.

Tom: I wasn’t really feeling this song until the final chorus, during which everything just clicked together for some reason. This is lovely.

Tim: A few things about the video:

  • If I was that bloke, I’d be more likely to get a restraining order than an engagement ring.
  • It’s a slight shame she couldn’t learn the words to the chorus before they started filming.

Tom: But the ducks, Tim! How could you not have immediately mentioned the ducks who quack in time with the lyrics?

Tim: Oh, good lord – how could I not have noticed that? It’s incredible. It may, however, be that my mind was still reeling from her dancing at about 1:12. This can only be described as utterly exquisite, especially when it looks like her head is going to fall off. I tried to imitate it it, but my neck just refused to bend that far.

Tom: That must be CGI. Surely that’s CGI? Wait. 1999. Damn.

Lili & Susie – Kom Och Ta Oss

Energetic, danceable, vibrant – generally everything a good piece of schlager should be.

Tim: These two sisters have been going for well over twenty years now, although they’re not producing much these days – their last was Show Me Heaven in Melodifestivalen a couple of years back; now, they bring us this.

Tim: Lyrically, I have no idea what this is all about, although the title – which translates to ‘Come and Find Me’ – suggests it’s some sort of game of Hide and Seek; having said that, the song seems a bit loud to be singing in that situation so it’s probably not that.

Tom: I’m clearly a bit immature, because I’m hearing the title as “Come And Toss” every time they sing it. I’ll set that aside.

Tim: Yeah, I think that would be best. So, we’re stuck judging the music alone, and that’s not a bad thing, really, since the music’s quite good.

Tom: It’s a bit anthemic, isn’t it? There’s a hell of a lot going on, and that’s not a bad thing.

Tim: Certainly isn’t. The voices hold up nicely, and the blokes joining in at the end add a bit of gravity, should you feel that’s what it needs.

Tom: I’m not even sure it counts as schlager – yes, it’s three minutes long and from Scandinavia, but you couldn’t call this bubblegum pop by any means.

Tim: Ah, but the non-vocal part is energetic, danceable, vibrant – generally everything a good piece of schlager should be. And that is, after all, what we are here to celebrate.

Ilia Darlin – Car Crash

The video begins with her chopping up pieces of her ex-boyfriends.

Tim: This lady is Greek. The video begins with her chopping up pieces of her ex-boyfriends, because they lied to her. There is no way we are not taking a deeper look at this.

Tom: That first note? My brain went straight to Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’, and then got very very confused. It remained in that state for the whole video. Alternating between blatantly sexualised dance routines and shots of raw meat? That’s just wrong, Tim. It’s just wrong.

Tim: Now I’m not sure why, but I really really want to like this. But I don’t. A minute and a half in I was surprised to find out the song wasn’t even half done yet, and when it kept going I just found it absolutely and entirely not registering in my head. It’s just a bit boring, really (lyrics aside, that is). The verses plod along line by line without even that much of a tune (despite an annoying amount of autotune), and the chorus is nowhere near as energetic as it should be.

Tom: I think she wants to be the Greek Lady Gaga. Ridiculous costumes, opaque sunglasses, wigs, electronic production and somewhat-disturbing videos? It’s a straight rip – only the music’s just not good enough to match.

Tim: Hopefully she’ll do some more that are better, though, as there does seem to be something here – just not in this song.

Momofoko – Still Need To Dance

To be honest this is a bit annoying.

Tim: This video is, I think, the weirdest one we’ve seen since Underground.

Tom: A “Bed Intruder” reference? Blimey.

Tim: Yeah. And much like Underground, I was pretty much too engrossed in that than the song itself. Quite what still needing to dance has to do with going out hunting and investigating unusual weather phenomena is beyond me, but to be honest this is a bit annoying.

Tom: It’s a lovely bit of video, though, I’ll give it that much. But annoying?

Tim: The thing is, the music is good, but it seems to have been used just as a backing track for this video, rather than the other way round. You can’t really hear it much, and the fact that it keeps getting interrupted means you can’t even listen to it properly in the background.

Tom: Ah, now there’s a reason for that. Music videos are increasingly having interruptions or ‘extra bits’ added to them, to stop people ripping the audio from YouTube. They’re what they’ve always been – an advert for the track – but now they’re not the track itself.

Tim: I know that – it’s just, isn’t this a bit too far? One break I can cope with, but we have two stupidly long ones, the second of which finishes so close to the end that we can’t really be sure what the end of the track is actually like.

To sum up: good music, but can we actually hear it next time, please. And in a way that lets us know how the song finishes. Thank you.

Saturday Flashback: Dr. Bombay – Calcutta

It’s unnervingly racist Swedish Europop time!

Tom: Do you know what time it is, Tim? That’s right: it’s unnervingly racist Swedish Europop time!

Tom: This is textbook nineties bubblegum Europop. Bouncy sound-effect bassline, simple melodies, singalong chorus. It’s everything that we try to celebrate here: dancing like idiots to ridiculous, overproduced music. Or at least it would be, if it wasn’t performed by a Swedish guy in thick, questionably-racist makeup.

Tim: Wow, it’s like a musical Come Fly With Me.

Tom: Okay, so it was the nineties. This was apparently just-about-OK then, even for Top of the Pops. (Yes, Top of the Pops. Try getting that through the BBC now. And yes, there is stereotypical mock-Indian mumbling in there.) Jonny Jakobsen probably couldn’t get away with releasing a whole of album of this now, although his other character, the faux-Scottish but similarly-accented “Dr. Macdoo”, might just be able to survive. Because ironic bagpipe techno is, of course, so popular.

Tim: Towards the end of the intro, I started thinking this was a bit like the Special D track we reviewed – that I liked it, even though I didn’t really want to. The beat was just about happy and poppy enough to outweigh the dodginess. Then the verses started, which are appalling for multiple reasons, and then just no.

Tom: It gets stranger. Bizarrely, Jonny Jakobsen put out a ‘Greatest Hits’ album in 2007 – which was just the previous two characters’ albums combined and cut down. Even more bizarrely: Basshunter provided a remix of ‘Calcutta’. That’s right: in the twenty-first century, in Europe, some record producer thought it’d be a great idea to get Basshunter to remix this track.

Tim: Musically, this is a bit better, and to be honest I think I could get on with an instrumental version of it. As it is, with the verses, it’s… it’s not for me, and I’ll leave it at that.

Tom: I think we’ll both leave it at that.

Ulrik Munther – Boys Don’t Cry

A harmonica and a flat cap… and puberty.

Tim: Here’s a kid that looks about fourteen, which is probably because he is about fourteen.

Tom: He sounds about twelve.

Tim: Anyway, possibly due to recent playground bullying he has discovered that boys shouldn’t cry, and has decided to write a song about that.

Tom: Oh no.

Tom: I know we’ve established that I’m getting old, but I’m officially classifying this under the “get off my lawn” department. It’s like a teenager whining about how they’ll never love anyone again after a breakup. Yes you will, billions of people have done it before you, get over it.

Tim: Musically, it isn’t bad. It’s a bit dull to start with, and I got a bit bored and moved onto other things, but a couple of minutes later I realised that was I was vaguely listening to was actually alright, so I decided to be charitable and give it a second chance. And yes, it’s still a bit boring at the start, but it does pick up eventually into something quite good, and that I wouldn’t mind listening to a few times.

Tom: It’s a bit bizarre, isn’t it? A harmonica and a flat cap almost make up for the fact he’s still going through puberty. If it wasn’t for the lyrics, I’d really like the last minute of this. Only the last minute of it, though.

Tim: It really ought to go without saying, though, that taking two minutes to make a three minute song sound decent is Just Not On. Sorry, Ulrich, but you’ll need to do better next time if you want to pass your music whatever-the-Swedish-version-of-GCSE-is.

Antti Tuisku – Hyökyaalto

Unnecessary double handclaps.

Tom: Some Finnish electronic Europop for you now, Mr. Jeffries, suggested by reader Laura.

Tom: Hyökyaalto means ‘tsunami’, and he’s using that as a metaphor for love.

It’s a very listenable track, if not all that catchy. That “woah-oh-oh” breakdown before the chorus is great, and I’m always a fan of unnecessary double handclaps. It’s almost a bit U2-ish – add The Edge doing some electric guitar over the top and I think you’re basically there.

Tim: The intro got me nodding approvingly, and that feeling continued throughout, really. I slightly wish they’d done a bit more with the higher-pitched woah-oh-oh from the intro, through. The first time I heard it I did think it went on a bit after the bridge; the second time I also felt that, but didn’t mind at all.

Tom: Translated into English, I reckon this could be a hit over here.

There’s a curious disconnect between the video and the audio: in the video, his mouth putting so much energy and emphasis into every word, while the version of him in the studio seems to be singing quite calmly.

Tim: Sure, but if you put that amount of energy into a normal recording studio he’s going to end up knocking through the walls with his arms.

Tom: Not sure about the cuddle-party during the bridge, though.

Tim: Yeah – doesn’t really fit with the whole love idea.

Sonohra – There’s A Place For Us

They actually seem to be enjoying themselves.

Tim: Chances are, you’ve heard that the third Chronicles of Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has just been released.

Tom: The third? I missed the second entirely. Anyway, if this has spawned anything half as good as Lazy Sunday, I’ll be happy.

Tim: Well, this song is from the soundtrack. Sort of. It’s slightly odd: the official recording artist is Carrie Underwood, who put together a not altogether bad version, but alongside that various other acts from around the world have recorded their own versions, presumably for the noble cause that is selling more copies of the soundtrack. These acts include Sweden’s E.M.D. (who actually managed to perform a very good live version, if a little shaky on the vocals), Britain’s Joe McElderry (who decided that one song wasn’t enough for him and did a somewhat better second one as well, especially if you quite liked the weird auto-tune fake backing singers effect on Ambitions) and Germany’s Victoria S (who, appropriately for the season, decided to dress up as a Christmas tree decoration).

Tom: Five versions of the same song? That’s a challenge even for me. Particularly with a song like that.

Tim: Yes – by and large, unfortunately, it’s not all that great. Somehow all of these separate groups/singers have taken what could (and indeed should) be a very emotional song, and seemingly stripped it of almost all feeling whatsoever.

Tom: Well, it’s a kids’ movie song. It’s not going to make adults that emotional. Apart from the ending of An American Tail. That can floor anyone and it is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE to cry at it, okay?

Tim: Um, yes. Yes Tom. But even if this is a kids; movie, when the lyrics are ‘We could be the kings and queens, of anything if we believe’, I want to be made to run to the kitchen, grab some tin foil, and make myself a crown.

Tom: You don’t need a song to do that, Tim.

Tim: Anyway, Sonohra, an Italian duo, did better than most.

Tim: What is it about this one that I like? I don’t know. Their voices work well on it, which helps – it seems to work better for me in a lower register – and the instrumentation’s quite a bit louder and especially noticeable in the re-entry after the bridge, which helps create a song you can properly nod your head to. Most of all, though, they actually seem to be enjoying themselves a bit, which always comes in handy.

Tom: It’s the rocky-bit during the first half of the chorus – the ‘kings and queens’ bit – that stands out for me. The rest is generic movie-soundtrack rubbish, and sadly one awesome bit of melody isn’t enough to save the whole song for me.

Tim: Hmm, fair point, I suppose, but I like it.

Tom: And I’ve just realised why I like it – it’s almost exactly the same as the good bit from Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend. “The only way her heart will mend”, and all that. It’s a sudden descending major-key bit that stands out. At this point, I which I knew more about music theory.

Tim: Ooh, it is and all, isn’t it? Anyway, sod this – you’re right, I don’t need a song. Now where did I put the Pritt Stick? And has anyone got a throne I can borrow?