Hanne Mjøen – Strangers


Tim: Remember how we all got incredibly excited by the concept of Robyn releasing a new album last year?

Tom: Well, I remember you getting incredibly excited, sure.

Tim: …and then she brought us Honey, and it was largely garbage, because nothing nice ever happens to us in the world right now? Well, imagine if we lived in a lighter timeline, and that instead it had been full of tracks like this.

Tim: I mean, FLIPPING HECK that’s a beautiful chorus, isn’t it?

Tom: First chorus, I didn’t really think much of it. In fact, I got distracted by a phone notification. A minute or so later I realised that I was quietly tapping my feet and nodding along. By my standards, that’s a ringing endorsement.

Tim: It reminds me, in particular, of You & I, a song that seven years on is still one of my favourites we’ve ever featured here just because it’s so light, jaunty and upbeat while still being a great electropop number. And this song is the same. Sure, it’s a bit lower to start with, but OOOH when that pre-chorus comes along there’s a sense of ‘huh, what’s all this then?’, we get that brief solo piano bit and THEN IT BANGS, and ALL IS GOOD.

Tom: I can see why you compared it to Robyn. It’s not quite reached the heights of Dancing On My Own, but then, what can?

Tim: Seriously, Robyn, would this have been so hard?

Anna Bergendahl – Home

“Oh, you’ll see.”

Tim: Starts quiet, but builds. And then builds some more, and keeps building, and…oh, you’ll see.

Tim: Do you see?

Tom: At least partly, after I stopped trying to work out why she didn’t seem to have a left arm in that cover art.

Tim: Do you now, I’d not noticed that – it is a bit odd looking, isn’t it? I’ll confess I wasn’t entirely sold on this throughout the first verse – decent enough, but possibly closer to album track status. The pre-chorus got me interested, though, and then the chorus came in properly with the amazing orchestral backing.

Tom: It’s good! I’m still not sure it’s more than an album track, but I suspect that it’s a grower: after enough radio play it’d be stuck in my head.

Tim: Good. Because after all that, it’s standard good pop song progression, really, because this is very much a good pop song. Very good indeed.

Peg Parnevik – 27 Sorries

“A great big Screw You to every dickhead who’s ever cheated on you but now wants forgiveness.”

Tim: “27 Sorries is one of my favorite songs I have ever written. I put it on and feel angry, strong, passionate,” says Peg, and continues, “it has been a song that I can scream and cry to and I hope others feel the same.” Sound good?

Tim: Yep, it’s a great big Screw You to every dickhead who’s ever cheated on you but now wants forgiveness, stated about as bluntly as possible, and I think it’s wonderful. Strong, ruthless, powerful, some proper Fight Song and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together vibes.

Tom: The start of the chorus is so good that it does rather cast a shadow over the rest of the song, but heck: the whole thing’s only two and a half minutes, that’s fine by me.

Tim: It’s musical as well as thematic, though, because there are a lot of bits here that sound familiar.

Tom: Yes: I can’t actually place any of those parts that seem familiar, though, which means that the composers and producers have done their job well.

Tim: Indeed – it’s not a criticism at all, because a lot of female power-pop takes this sound, and it reliably saves up the goods. Very, very good goods, in this case.

Sigrid Bernson – Skulle Dö För Dig

“Dö För Dig” sounds very much like someone pretending to be Swedish and pronouncing “DVD”.

Tim: Sigrid, according to the title of this, Would Die For You, and isn’t that just lovely?

Tim: And that there is a song I almost entirely enjoy. It’s peculiar – it’s not the whole twangy guitar bits I don’t like, because they’re not so bad once I’m hearing them. It’s the sudden cuts to them that annoy me, because they’re taking us out of what’s a really good song and into something that’s not quite as good.

Tom: I agree that they sound a bit out-of-place — but I do rather like them.

Tim: It’s kind of made up for each time, though, because when everything else is brought back in, everything’s happy and lovely again – the production’s fabulous, that ‘dö för dig’ repeating bit is lovely…

Tom: It is, until I realised that “Dö För Dig” sounds very much like someone pretending to be Swedish and pronouncing “DVD”. Sorry.

Tim: I’ll ignore that and conclude my final favourite bit: the background chanting, which is just wonderful. I just, still get that small sense of resentment, every time it goes.

Dolly Style – How Far I’ll Go

“So far out of the blue that you’re ending up with a musical concussion.”

Tom: A bit of context for you here: We Love Disney is a series of cover albums. I thought it was dead, but apparently not — although I can’t find any context for this. Anyway: this seems like the right people to cover a song like this.

Tim: The original of this song has a decent key change. It’s pleasant, standard, and adds a bit to the song. In addition, it’s telegraphed a good few seconds in advance, and so you’ve got time to prepare for it.

Tim: Dolly Style, on the other hand, bring it so far out of the blue that you’re ending up with a musical concussion, and HOT DAMN it’s wonderful. Aside from that there’s not much new here, although it’s a bit heavier on the dance bits and lighter on the marimbas; for me, though, that key change makes the whole recording worthwhile.

Tom: I can see why you’d say that: but there’s a different and more subtle change that means the whole song doesn’t work for me. The original chorus of How Far I’ll Go has a really nice bit of musicianship in it that sells the whole thing.

From the sheet music, “see the line / where the sky / meets the sea” sounds like the syllables should land on the 1, 2 and 3, with the emphasis on the 3. That’s what Dolly Style is doing here, and it’s common for this genre, but it sounds staccato and metronomic when compared. That’s because in the original, the timing is softened and subtly changed so the words aren’t exactly on the beat, and as a result it sounds emotional.

Tim: Hmm, yeah, I can hear that, I guess.

Tom: Yes, that’s music-nerdy. But honestly, it makes all the difference.

Tim: But then, so does that key change.

Kerstin Ott – Alles so wie immer

“Here we go.”

Tim: Hard to translate the title of this one snappily, but it’s basically “everything as it always is” – basically, every Friday night she’s annoyed that her girlfriend gets leered over because no-one believes they’re together. Well, that or guys just want to have a go anyway.

Tim: So, this is a bit weird, because (and I’m probably going too deep into this but THAT’S WHAT I DO), the video tells a slightly different story than the lyrics do.

Tom: Here we go.

Tim: According to the lyrics, Kerstin’s annoyed because her girlfriend gets a lot of attention, even though the girlfriend specifically does nothing to encourage it – the second verse is basically “I know you only want me, but they don’t, and it doesn’t matter how many times you tell them”. But the video is different: the girlfriend’s flirtatious, having fun leading the various guys on a bit. The underlying meaning gets twisted from “you’re brilliant, I love everything about you but there’s this one annoying side effect” to “please stop being such a flirt”, and I think that’s a real shame. I don’t know who signed off on it, or why, but I can’t help feeling it could have been used to make a point somehow, whereas instead we’ve just got flirty dancing.

Tom: See, I think the flirty dancing is so over-the-top that they’re actually casting some sort of hypnotic spell over the crowd. Presumably Kerstin goes round and nicks their wallets while they’re entranced. I mean, either that, or the video director didn’t really get it.

Tim: HAVING SAID THAT, though: since most of the time the music will be heard without the video, and given that I barely know any German in any case, all that is largely academic. So let’s talk about this song, and that lovely chorus melody that’s there right from the off, hooking us in with its chirpy and playful nature.

Tom: Schlager continues to self-optimise as a genre: “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” taken to the extent of just singing the first line of the chorus in the introduction, just to lock down exactly which song you’re listening to.

Tim: Comes back every thirty seconds or so, as is the wont of any chorus melody, and keeps us listening, because oh, it’s just so lovely. Utterly lovely, and infecting the rest of the song as well, as we’re just stuck there waiting for it to come back.

Tom: There’s not really else in the track, but then again, it’s schlager.

Tim: And when the song comes to an end, we press play all over again to hear it another time. Well, I do anyway.

Tove Lo – Glad He’s Gone

“You might want headphones.”

Tim: Coming up: some very, very blunt lyrics.

Tom: From Tove Lo, that’s not incredibly surprising.

Tim: You might want headphones.

Tim: To be honest, those lyrics were almost enough to put me off the first I heard them – specifically, the ‘did you let him leave a necklace’ line, which gave me quite the ‘eww, really?’ feeling. I’m very glad I didn’t switch it off, though, because the sound that turned up a bit later, the ‘no tears for that sucker’ section, sounds absolutely lovely.

Tom: And “I’m glad you finally dumped that terrible boyfriend” is a pretty good — and unusual — theme for a song. Yes, the lyrics are pretty dreadful throughout, but it’s catchy as hell.

Tim: In fact, most parts of this sound pretty lovely, in one way or another – I’ve even got to like that high pitched part that opens the song. Just, need to not pay too much attention to certain lyrics, because they’re still icky.

Wiktoria – OMG

“Try to sing along to the chorus, it’s fun!T

Tim: To allay your inevitable initial fear: she doesn’t actually sing OMG as letters in the song, so I’m not entirely sure why it’s like that in the title. Anyway, try to sing along to the chorus, it’s fun!

Tom: I would try to sing along, but I was too busy constantly wondering if Taio Cruz got royalties.

Tim: Wait, I don’t hear that at…oh, yes there it is. Dammit, Tom.

Tom: Apologies for ruining the song for you. Anyway, yes, it’s certainly a tricky chorus for karaoke.

Tim: That chorus annoyed me the first time I heard it, because this is the sort of song I like to be able to sing along to, and this really does present a challenge. But, turns out it’s a fun challenge and once I’m done with that and actually singing along, ish, it’s a pretty good piece of pop. Production, vocal, melody, all good, like we’ve come to expect from Wiktoria, really. All I can really say is, isn’t it time she came over here?

Dolly Style – Sunrise

“YEP, the mouth starts smiling, the head starts nodding, the shoulders start bouncing.”

Tim: Unperturbed by their crashing out of Melodifestivalen this year, here’s one for anybody who needs a smile on their face.

Tim: And that’s early Katy Perry, there, isn’t it? Stylistically, that is, as well as the fact that the very first three opening notes lead me into the chorus of Hot N Cold.

Tom: You’re not wrong. Even the vocal quality’s a match in that first verse. It’s like someone gave a machine-learning algorithm “One of the Boys” — more than a decade old, that album — and someone cleaned up the result. There’s a little bit of early Ke$ha in there, too, back when she had the dollar sign.

Tim: It’s Teenage Dream, it’s I Kissed A Girl, it’s lovely lovely pop music being very well produced. The initial muted chorus and first verse got me thinking “yeah, yeah, standard”, but then when the chorus came in properly, YEP, the mouth starts smiling, the head starts nodding, the shoulders start bouncing.

Tom: Or, if you’re me, your foot starts tapping slightly.

Tim: Nah, you need to let yourself go a bit, mate. Second time round, I’m using the TV remote as a microphone and isn’t pop music just GREAT sometimes? Yes, yes it is, and the haters can jog right on.

Samir & Viktor – Odödlig

“Bring out the BRASS”

Tim: Bring out the BRASS, because Samir & Victor have gone ‘Immortal’.

Tom: In the comments, there are quite a few people accusing them of ripping off Daniel Adams-Ray’s Dum av Dig, a song I’ve not heard of. My brain immediately tried to place that three-note chorus as well, and ended up on Phil Collins’ One More Night, although I’m fairly sure I’ve heard a brass version of it somewhere.

None of those are even particularly close: it’s just that when you’ve got a three-word chorus, that’s a natural rhythm to use.

Tim: Summer’s here, last summer was great, and now we’re feeling bloody brilliant and ready to do it all over again, is the basic message of this, and. well, why not really? Energetic, as we’d expect. Triumphant, as we’d expect. A mostly shouty chorus, as we’d expect, though there is a pleasing amount of melody in there.

Tom: I’m always glad when you send me the studio track from these two. Like Jedward, the enthusiasm’s there when they’re performing live, but the vocals might not always be. Shouty choruses fit this pair.

Tim: All in all, a fun track, heralding the arrival of summer. JOYFUL, he writes, as he stares out of his window at a largely grey sky. Ehh, can’t have everything.