Pink – Beautiful Trauma

“Controversial opinion: this is best Pink song in years.”

Tom: I’m embedding the audio version because I don’t want the video to colour your view of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great (and risqué, and uncensored) video, but to me this track stands really well on its own.

Tom: Controversial opinion: this is best Pink song in years, and (for me at least) one of the best tracks of the year. Calm intro, driving verse, incredible chorus. I’ve had this on repeat, several times in a row; it takes a lot for a song to do that to me.

Tim: You’re not far off there – certainly a damn good track, though the slight disjointedness of it spoils it a bit for me, travelling jarringly so often between gentle piano and rock chorus.

Tom: There’s one other thing I want to talk about today, though: the official videos for this are all the uncensored, f-bomb-filled versions, and they’re not labelled as explicit. I think this may be a sign of a tipping point — it’s just accepted that pop songs are going to have swearing now, and if you don’t like it… well, you can deal with it.

Tim: Agh, bloody kids of today, no morals or standards.

Tom: Also worth noting: Pink, singing live, while dancing sideways on the outside of a hotel a dozen stories in the air. For me, that was actually jaw-dropping.

Tim: Okay, yeah, I’ll give you that. That is good.

Keala Settle – This Is Me

“So polished that you could slip on it and crack your head.”

Tim: So I got quite excited when I heard they were making a film about P. T. Barnum, because he was a fascinating character and it has the potential to be a great story, and then I heard this song in the trailer.

Tim: Oh, isn’t it great? I mean, the film’s been in development for seven years, so you’d hope the songs would be quite polished, but still.

Tom: Blimey, that has almost every inspirational song trope there is. Military drums, backing gospel choir, big major key oh-way-ohs. That’s so polished that you could slip on it and crack your head.

Tim: Bit of context: Keala is the actress playing the show’s bearded lady who’s finally found a place for herself, and my word does it sound good. Melody, backing choir (oh, that backing choir), strong vocal, inspiring but not twee lyrics, memorable hook – it has everything, including that tempting replay button at the end.

Tom: You forgot the Meaningfully Quiet Middle Eight, and the (very good) high notes in the final chorus. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a cynic, but I listen to this and — while I can appreciate all the work that’s gone into it — it does just leave me a bit cold. Yes, well done songwriters, you have ticked all the boxes.

Tim: They so have. My favourite part? That DUM-DUM halfway through the second verse, which adds to everything else as a YES PAY ATTENTION moment, and it’s great. Fabulous song – fingers crossed for the film.

Scavenger Hunt – Eyes Wide Open

“It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything I’ve just…enjoyed as much as I do this.”

Tim: Dan and Jill met in LA writing TV adverts, and it all sort of snowballed from there apparently. Here’s their new one, a BEAUTY.

Tim: Now that strikes me as an exceptional piece of pop music. The first few notes sounded good, and when the intro kicked in, that’s a fantastic section – melody, beat, instrumentation, everything. Quietish for the verses but still lurking, still strong, still beating, and then when the chorus comes along it turns the dial up, everything improves, and then the post-chorus comes along and it goes all in, POUNDING AWAY.

Tom: Phrasing. But yes, you’re not wrong: I, as ever, am a little less enthusiastic, but that’s true of almost every song we talk about here. It’s good, it’s not exceptional: it feels like someone’s trying to do a Carly Rae Jepsen track but not quite getting there.

Tim: Yes, but that’s a high bar to set – if you’re heading for perfection but don’t quite make it, that’s still damn good.

Tom: Perhaps, if I’d never heard any of the tracks off E•MO•TION, I’d think this was spectacular — as it is, it feels like one from the B-Sides album, and then, only just.

Tim: But again, though: ‘not quite Carly Rae Jepsen’ is still a good place to be. The middle eight is low key, exactly as expected, setting the scene nicely for a final chorus section, which we are indeed duly rewarded with. Put short: this whole song is fantastic, and it’s been a while since I’ve heard anything I’ve just…enjoyed as much as I do this.

Tom: Huh. Well, I can’t argue with your reaction there, even if I didn’t get the same.

Tim: Although…there is that ending. Now I’ve got no problems with an abrupt ending – I’ll take that over a laborious repeat to fade any day – but this is too abrupt. At least, you know, finish the word you’re singing. This sounds less planned and more someone actually hitting the delete button accidentally, and it grates a lot. But the 3 minutes and 47 seconds leading up to that? Masterful.

Iris Gold – All I Really Know

“Powerful, punchy, aggressive, brassy”

Tim: Iris is off Denmark, bringing us this:

Tim: So I’ll be honest, and say that the first verse did more or less nothing for me; I let it play, though (mostly because I’m very tired right now and couldn’t be bothered to stop it).

Tom: Now I’m surprised you thought that: the first verse (or, at least, the spy-movie-soundtrack instrumentation below it) properly intrigued me. And then it led into a good chorus, too.

Tim: I was actually delighted by that chorus, which makes the slightly abrasive verses entirely worth sticking through. Powerful, punchy, aggressive, brassy, and just all round rather good.

Tom: I’m sure I know that chord progression, and that whole backing line, from somewhere in the 90s, but I can’t place it now.

Tim: I like it. Still not sure about the overall style, but with a chorus this good, I’m more than happy to look past that.

Dannii Minogue – Galaxy

“There’s really not a huge amount that’s of interest on here.

Tom: “My first music video for 10 years!” starts the YouTube description enthusiastically, just under the bit where it says something close to “25,000 views”. Harsh.

Tom: I haven’t heard piano synths like that in a while. They’re good, if a bit retro — well, heck, all the production is a bit retro.

Tim: Yeah – most artists might like to update their sounds slightly, to keep vaguely in line with modern trends. Not Dannii, though.

Tom: Nothing wrong with that, mind, it’s just that — with the exception of the piano bit — the rest of the melody lines just aren’t up to much.

Tim: Can’t deny that, sadly – there’s really not a huge amount that’s of interest on here.

Tom: She’s hitting the notes just fine, they’re just not particularly nice notes to listen to.

Tim: Oh, that’s very harsh. It’s not offensive – I just don’t think I’d choose to listen to it.

Saturday Flashback: Maroon 5 – One More Night

“Pity the poor live drummers, though. “

Tim: We’ve remarked previously that Rihanna’s Umbrella doesn’t have its own unique backing, but does in fact share it with (the much much better) Symphonies by Dan Black and, indeed, anyone else who’s ever used Apple’s “Vintage Funk Kit 03“.

Tim: And I don’t quite know how it took me so long to recognise that, given that it’s their third most successful song ever.

Tom: The thing is, neither did I. Maybe it’s the change in tempo, or maybe there’s a change in emphasis. Pity the poor live drummers who’ll have to just repeat that Apple drum loop over and over again, though.

Tim: Funny old world, pop music, isn’t it?

Liam Payne – Bedroom Floor

“Do I want to hear it again? Obviously, no.”

Tom: A vague pineapple scent wafts in.

Tim: Oh. Oh, there are some interesting words there. And vocal effects. And a half-arsed attitude to the tropical genre. And that haircut, mate, you’re not Manchester in the 90s.

Tom: I made a list of all the lyrics that annoyed me in the first verse. The “Baby / lately” rhyme. “Real real nice real nice things”, which is just stuttering so it vaguely fits the rhythm that’s needed. “Real real real real real”, which is just lazy. The words “iPhone, iPhone rings”, followed by what actually sounds like him imitating an iPhone.

Tim: Yeah, it was the iPhone one that really got me. Just, eurgh.

Tom: I mean, there’s the autotune too, but by this point I was ready to give up the song as a bad job, but that pre-chorus was just a little bit promising. Then I heard the chorus, and its seemingly-endless repetition, and basically gave up. If you’re going to repeat just one chorus line, make sure you’ve got more than one note in it.

Tim: Oh no that’s not fair – it goes at least one note up at the end of the last line each time, let’s give him that.

Tom: My two signs of a good pop song: first, do I want to hear it again? Here, obviously, no. But second, can I sing the chorus after one listen? And here, yes I can. So while I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s good… I suspect it might do well anyway.

Nadine Coyle – Go To Work

“I am genuinely gutted.”

Tim: Brought to our attention by ‘Axmay’, who describes it as “current, but feels very 90’s house in a sense”. Interested? I was.

Tim: It is, really, very sad that this has had so little attention or success – 57 on the sales chart, and no entry whatsoever into the full combined one – because it’s superb.

Tom: I can see the 90s house connection with those synth patches, and I think that’s what might have killed it — it’s not a contemporary sound, and I can’t see this getting played in many places. Some people and some tracks can pull off retro, but this… doesn’t, somehow.

Tim: See, I love it for that, and although you’re maybe right about it not being played in a lot of places, I can still see it being very successful if it was. It’s produced with Xenomania, the team behind so many wonderful hits, including basically all of Girls Aloud’s hits, and it really does sound like a mix of 90s house and modern day music, and if there’s any justice in the world this’d be all over the place. But no.

Tom: I should add that I’m irritated by that slightly offbeat transition into the chorus. I’m sure I’d get used to it, but you don’t want to mislead people every time there should be a drop. You’re probably right that it deserved more than….

Tim: Nothing at all, and I am genuinely gutted about that.

Maja Francis – Saved By The Summer

“Disgraceful behaviour.”

Tim: There’s a couple of lines here that remind me of Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human, but I promise it’s a lot more upbeat than that was.

Tim: Well, first off, since when was it acceptable to pull multiple petals off at once when you’re doing the loves me/loves me not thing? Disgraceful behaviour.

Tom: Any time you know the result you want, can see how many petals there are, and can calculate quickly. I’m more worried about when it’s become acceptable to apply a VHS filter to a vertical video.

Tim: Other than that, though, I’ve not really got any problems with this. Sure, there could be a bit more melody in the post-chorus (if indeed there can really be described to be any in the first place), but the actual sound of it is good enough that I really don’t care.

Tom: I am wondering why you described it as “upbeat”, at least until it got to the middle eight and final chorus. It takes a while to get there, but yeah, sure. It’s not an immediate replay, but it’s certainly not bad.

Tim: Though I do wish it was a little less Rag’n’Bone Man-y.

Alex Alexander – Never Back Down

“Here’s a fun little track for you.”

Tim: Not sure if his his parents were feeling incredibly lazy and/or cruel, or if that’s just his stage name, but never mind – here’s a fun little track for you.

Tim: I was onside with that from the beginning with the guitar over the slightly swooshy backing, and it never really did anything to lose me. You can probably guess my biggest gripe with it, what with it finishing a full one middle eight and chorus sooner than it should be doing, but what there is is pretty enjoyable all round.

Tom: You’re right: at three minutes, this is about the right length, but it could still do with a bit of variety.

Tim: It’s a slightly unusual blend, with what sound like actual guitars rather than just the usual vocals or synth noises being twiddled around with in the post chorus.

Tom: Yep, and that’s some expressive guitar work — it almost sounds a bit like the Clangers, a musical instrument being used to generate something that could, from a long way away, be interpreted as vocals.

Tim: I’ll try anything once, and this works well. Nice.