Tom: I was driving through Sweden last week, Tim, and somehow I found this on the radio. Wizex have been going since 1973; this 1999 number translates as “Thousand And One Nights”, and it’s your typical dansband track with lyrics about love and devotion. It sounded familiar, but I couldn’t work out why until much, much later. See if you can place it.
Tim: Ah, see this is where me being more of a Melodifestivalen nut than you harms the narrative. I’ll play along for our reader, though,
Tim: Ooh, Tom, I don’t know. Tell me, do.
Tom: Oh, don’t patronise me. Anyway, the next stage along was this version, turned into almost-Christmassy schlager-pop with a near-aggressive key change and credited just to the singer, from Melodifestivalen 1999. And from there: well, you tell the story
Tim: Words are rewritten in English, as per Sweden’s tradition for a non-English victor, and then we’ve (SPOILER for 1999) a beautiful Eurovision champion. Let’s have a watch, shall we?
Tim: Fun education in return for your efforts, though: Charlotte’s the aunt of Sebastian Ingrosso, of Swedish House Mafia and Axwell Λ Ingrosso fame.
“I’m well aware I’m going into Grampa Simpson territory”
Tim: It almost saddens me to say this, but we’re dragging out the ‘we’re young so let’s have fun’ trope again.
Tom: Two rhyme schemes I hate in a row! “Young like this / dumb like this” may be the most irritatingly trite lyric I’ve heard in a while.
Tim: I dunno, I think it’s alright. But it’s the message I want to discuss, because, while I’m well aware I’m going into Grampa Simpson territory, here’s the thing: it’s bullshit.
Tom: You are entirely correct, although how much of that is based on the no-doubt-reasonable explanation you’re about to give, and how much is based on me being in my thirties now, I’m not sure.
Tim: Hugo (from Denmark) is university age right now, and yes I will accept that it is good to have fun at university and engage in one’s youth. But it is arguably so much better to have fun in your early to mid twenties, when you don’t have to worry about essays and dissertations, and the worst that’ll happen is you’ll get a stern ticking off for turning up to work with a hangover. You have experience and knowledge under your belt to stop you making a complete prick of yourself and dying, and you’re also not so worried about waking up tomorrow needing reading glasses and a toupee that you feel you need to get it all out of your system.
Tim: But fair. Basically, RELAX HUN, you’ve got at least a decade left of enjoying yourself, so stop moaning.
“It can’t exactly be worse than Len Goodman’s Partners in Rhyme.”
Tim: Normally here I’d tell you what the title translates to, but I’ll explain later. Might as well just press play.
Tim: So, yes, I would discuss the lyrics, but they’re a bit of a surreal nonsense where she lists things she is, which include, amongst many others, a fruit, a sun ray, a bowl, and also a network of fish. There is a reason, though, which is that there’s a Swedish TV series where pop stars make songs from the words of poems.
Tom: Huh. I… I guess that’s a TV format. I don’t know what to say.
Tim: Nope, me neither, but since it can’t exactly be worse than Len Goodman’s Partners in Rhyme or All Together Now (I’m not linking to those, they don’t deserve it), we don’t really get to criticise.
Tom: Fair. Okay, so my standards for this have been knocked down from “big pop track” to “song made for a TV show”. Got it.
Tim: Given that restriction, as a song I’d say it’s pretty good. Sure, it may start out a bit ballady, but given the source material that’s hard to avoid, and it picks up soon enough into a pretty listenable song. Nicely rescued, record producer.
Tom: For the first time this week, you’re on my level of cynicism, and we agree.
“Don’t promise me strings unless you’re backing it up with more than occasional sample.”
Tim: String-backed dance track?
Tom: You’ve got my attention. Wait, are you still in a really good mood as you write this? Because I think there’s going to be a pattern here.
Tim: Well, let’s see.
Tim: And isn’t that marvellous?
Tom: Not enough strings, Tim. Don’t promise me strings unless you’re backing it up with more than occasional sample. Other than that, I think we’re back on the same pattern: what qualifies this as marvellous for you?
Tim: The verses sound lovely, like a decent pop record, and then the chorus hits and you’ve got big pianos and drums and strings everywhere. According to Ms House–
Tom: Fair, that is her formal title.
Tim: Obviously–it’s about some worrying that the relationship’s over and stuff (hence the ‘give us a try’, I guess, it’s hardly subtle), but really this is too much of a big dance track to worry about all that – yes, you’ve got a couple of quiet verses, but it’s all about the beats. And they’re good beats.
“I got distracted by singing Leona Lewis’ ‘Bleeding Love’ over the first verse.”
Tim: A Swede, here, and while normally I’ve a fairly good idea of whether or not you’ll like a track, here I have absolutely no idea.
Tom: A grand total of 38 views as I write this. I’m surprised it’s a proper release. Then I got distracted by singing Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” over the first verse.
Tim: For me, you see, it was full of ups and downs – the initial ten seconds were slightly off-putting, the verse was alright, and the chorus was then a pleasant surprise (particularly the “I’m cliché but it’s true”, though I’m not entirely sure why). The post-chorus is fab, and it’s also pleasing that the second verse doesn’t dip down for too long before coming right back up again.
Tom: There’s nothing in here I dislike! Sadly, there’s also nothing that particularly makes me want to go ‘oh, I must listen to that again immediately’, but I think that might be why you couldn’t predict my reaction. It’s a good track. It’s solid.
Tim: I’m not entirely sure if I like the odd sound effect leading into the second chorus, but then that middle eight is lovely. Up and down, up and down, but all put together, I’m fairly sure I really like this.
“All I Want For Christmas Is You Sodding Right Off”
Tim: It had been FAR too long since we’ve featured new Christmas music, so here’s this, and it’s a bit odd: someone at Sony A&R had the feeling that there aren’t enough new Christmas songs, or some gubbins like that, and so they’ve put together an EP of five tracks from five unrelated artists. Cynics might argue that’s simply an excuse to plug all their upcoming talent at once; I’m just happy that it’s CHRISTMAS.
Tom: I mean, both those things can be true.
Tim: It’s safe to say that “All I Want For Christmas Is You Sodding Right Off”–
Tim: –probably wouldn’t have sold quite as many records for Mariah, but other bands have done it entirely successfully (looking at you, Dragonette), and this pretty much works. Not as well as that Dragonette track, obviously, because that’s a work of art, but well enough.
Tom: Full marks to the producer for that step down from the chorus to the second verse: that steady descent turned what’s usually a dull bit of a track into something that fits really well. You’re right, there’s a lot to like here: the horn section, the big chorus, even the more-interesting-than-usual-for-pop rhythms that show up in the middle eight.
Tim: It’s got all the festive necessities, and while it may not be an all time great, this year we’ve got The Fizz for that, so this’ll do.
“This is ‘beefed up’? I actually yawned at one point.”
Tim: So, I know we started a bit late this year, and we missed out a day for Alan (GREAT gig, by the way), but I’m fairly sure this is the first year that I could genuinely put out a half decent Christmas song for every day right up until the 25th. However, that doesn’t mean I’m actually going to, because even I have my limits.
Tom: And I’m grateful for that.
Tim: Let’s have this instead, a (very) slightly beefed up version of a slightly uninteresting track from six months back.
Tom: This is “beefed up”? I actually yawned at one point. I mean, that’s partly because I’m jetlagged, but it’s not exactly an exciting track.
Tim: I say beefed up, we’ve got those big but also quiet drums near the start, a revamped middle eight and also basically everything that sets the second verse apart from the first. Which is a good thing – the original got a tad boring because there was little variation, and for once I actually don’t mind those vocals being fiddled with, because it all fits.
Tom: I mean, I’m glad that you actually found something to write about here, because I’m struggling. It’s this half-way house between ballad and dance that ends up doing neither well.
Tim: It feels weird that the dance music effects fit on a ballad like this, but I can’t deny that it actually does. It’s nice.
“Look, love, I know you’re interested, so do you wanna just get over here or what?”
Tim: “Look, love, I know you’re interested, so do you wanna just get over here or what?”
Tom: This sounds like an interesting track.
Tom: Well, that sounds uncomfortably like Blurred Lines in places, doesn’t it? I mean, not in the message, thankfully, but it feels like there’s at least a little inspiration there. Or at least, the same inspiration that Blurred Lines got sued for.
Tim: Yeah, and it’s not often I find myself really, really liking this genre of music. The funky, soul type stuff (which is apparently what this is inspired by) has never really got me going much, and I downright hated Blurred Lines. Every now and again, though, a track like this will come along that I just really enjoy, and think “ooh, this is fun”. Because it is, isn’t it? The message in the lyrics and the video both help a lot, I think, adding to the fun vibe that it’s got going on throughout, and all round it’s just pretty…nice.
Tom: “Nice” can be damning with faint praise. For me, it is: there’s a lot to like here, it’s just not quite my cup of tea. You sure you want to go with “nice”?
Tim: Oh, well not when you put it like that. Better than nice. Certainly relistenable.
“It’s Big Heavy Instrumentation and a really, really good voice.”
Tim: She’s Norwegian, she’s 15 years old, and– actually, here’s something I’ve never thought to ask before: how do young kids like this end up making music? Do they wander up to a record label’s A&R office and start warbling, or do talent scouts go to school performances and stuff, or what? Because both of those seem really quite weird and/or creepy.
Tom: These days, YouTube, I guess? Other than that, probably pushy parents.
Tim: Hmm, maybe. Anyway, here’s Emma, with some upsettingly rude language coming from someone so young.
Tom: You’re right that this sounds like a song that’s too old for a 15-year-old. But leaving that aside: I like that, for the same reasons that I liked Astrid S’s Emotion a few weeks back. It’s Big Heavy Instrumentation and a really, really good voice. Whatever this genre’s called, it works for me.
Tim: So here’s the thing: I get this song. I appreciate, and I understand what’s good about it – it’s intense in the heavy parts and it’s vulnerable in the quiet parts, the vocals are on point and, as you say, the Big Heavy Instrumentation all works well. But…I don’t really like it. Bits of it I like, and there’s a lot I’m impressed by. There’s just, no compulsion to hit that replay button.
Tom: And there’s the problem. Because as ever, my tests for pop music are: can I hum the chorus after one listen? Do I want to replay it? For this song, it’s a no to both — which is a shame because while it was playing, I thought it was great.
Tim: Shame, really, as I’d like to like it. Oh, well, maybe next time.