Saturday Flashback: I Monster – Daydream in Blue

“It’s got an interesting history to it, purely in terms of its musical DNA.”

Tim: For no reason at all other than I heard it the other day for the first time in years and was reminded how brilliant it is, this underappreciated 2003 number. 

Tom: I… huh. Underappreciated is right, because I can’t work out if I’ve ever heard this exact version, or whether I just know that melody from… where did it come from?

Tim: It’s got an interesting history to it, purely in terms of its musical DNA. Technically it’s a cover of the 1969 song Daydream by the Belgian band Wallace Collection, though it shares much more in common with the 1970 cover of it by the German group Günter Kallmann Choir. The genre in the verse is very different, but the underlying instruments are the same, and I’ve a feeling the chorus is a direct sample. All that’s kind of null and void, though, given that a fair amount of the melody originally came from multiple pieces by, erm, Tchaikovsky.

Tom: This is why I’m in favour of shorter copyright terms. I would love to see what could happen if this amount of creativity was just allowed, without fear of lawsuits or licensing agreements.

Tim: Yeah. Music’s good, isn’t it.

Louis Tomlinson – Walls

“You know, just once I’d like an ex-boy-band member to go into, I don’t know, hardstyle or bubblegum pop.”

Tom: He’s gone for Serious Modern Adult Contemporary Pop. You know, just once I’d like an ex-boy-band member to go into, I don’t know, hardstyle or bubblegum pop.

Tim: Hmm, I’m trying to think of an example to use as a “well, actually” here, but I’m really not sure I can – it’s always the ‘we don’t like being manufactured pop, we want to be serious instead’ narrative.

Tom: That first verse and chorus: guitars that sound a bit like Oasis, key changes that sound a bit like the Killers.

Tim: Yep: very much SMACP. The video’s weird, though: from that initial DIRECTED BY bit I was expecting a big fancy narrative from it, maybe even Alan Walker style. Instead: nope, just a few different scenes, chopping and changing between them with no real rhyme or reason. 

Tom: There’s a lot of good stuff going on here, but: fundamentally, it’s just not that good a chorus, is it?

Tim: No – it’s fine, decent enough, and I can still remember it a couple of minutes after the song’s finished, but I’ve no immense desire to press play on it again.

Tom: The fans’ll go for it, Radio 2 might playlist it for a bit, but I don’t think we’ve got the sort of all-time hit that an ex-1Der would be hoping for.

Tim: GO WITH THE BUBBLEGUM POP, LOUIS. 

Christopher – Ghost

“Successful musician, lovely hair, but just keeps getting abandoned.”

Tim: Poor, poor Christopher – successful musician, lovely hair, but just keeps getting abandoned. No option other than to write a song about it, really.

Tom: It’s worked for generations of misunderstood youth before him.

Tim: Mind you, the lyric “I know I said I need my own space” implies that actually he dumped her and now he’s playing the dickish ex who’s had a rethink but won’t accept she’s moved on, which is very annoying as otherwise it a good song.

Tom: Yep, there’s definitely a stalker-reading to this song. I’m going to choose to ignore it, though, because the rest of it’s pleasant enough, isn’t it? It’s an odd rhythm in that chorus, which feels a bit like he’s emPHAsising THE wrong sylLABles sometimes — but it seems to work for the track.

Tim: Nice and strummy with a decent beat and some vocal samples here and there to make it sound modern, and really if the lyrics weren’t so annoying I could really like this song. UGH, DAMMIT.

Fickle Friends – Pretty Great

“You know that synthpop style where it’s been inspired heavily by the 80s, but made with modern tech and dropping unexpected F-bombs?”

Tom: Indie-pop from Brighton here: the sort that sells cassettes and logo-printed bum bags on their merch store. Basically, you know that synthpop style where it’s been inspired heavily by the 80s, but made with modern tech and dropping unexpected F-bombs?

Tim: Ah, yes, that style.

Tom: I can’t tell whether the music is catchy, or whether it just sounds like a lot of things I’ve heard before. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: it’s just that after listening to it a couple of times, I found I wasn’t actually humming the chorus afterwards. Instead, I was humming something that sounded like the chorus, with a completely different rhythm, and I cannot place it.

Tim: Yeah, I was like that as well – parts of it the melody, and partly the instrumentation in the middle eight reminds distinctively of a Sound of Arrows track (speaking of whom, HURRY UP PLEASE WE’RE WAITING). Like you said, though, that’s no bad thing – it’s entirely listenable.

Tom: Shame about the video, which feels like someone watched a couple of episodes from third season of Black Mirror while really drunk.

Tim: Yeah – that reads to me as distinctly standard.

Static & Ben El, Pitbull – Further Up (Na, Na, Na, Na, Na)

“It’s been a long while since we’ve had one of our traditional “Pitbull, what the hell” moments, isn’t it?”

Tom: Do you remember Con Calma? Take a track from the 90s with a catchy chorus, remove anything controversial, change the lyrics, throw out a catchy single that’ll get airplay.

Tim: I did not remember it; I am more than a little irritated you chose to remind me of it.

Tom: Well, this Israeli pop duo have looked at that formula and thought: we can do that. And let’s get Pitbull to join in, too.

Tim: Oh no. Do we have to?

Tom: It’s been a long while since we’ve had one of our traditional “Pitbull, what the hell” moments, isn’t it?

Tim: And yet simultaneously not long enough. 

Tom: Everything about this is awful, except for the samples. The bragging about money. Rhyming “my friend Haim” and “count me in”. Literally telling the crowd to “put your hands up high and wave them from side to side”, which may be the greatest cliché in pop music.

Tim: Yeah, I’m normally okay to defend clichés – they’re clichés for a reason, they sound good – butI have literally no desire to even start defending this.

Tom: And all the actual melodies they’ve added are also… pretty bad. It’s a testament to how good that original, catchy, two-note melody is: it’s the only thing that carries this track.

Tim: Though let’s face it, it barely does that. 

Saturday Flashback: Jon Secada – If You Go

“The sort of thing that’d get someone’s attention as they’re scanning through an FM radio dial.”

Tom: Peak 1994 “Latin-influenced adult contemporary American pop” here. As in, this was designed for the CD collections of soccer moms across the United States.

Tim: Hmm, okay.


 

Tom: Good enough, really, isn’t it?

Tim: Yep, and certainly very 1994 pop – I’m filing that alphabetically right ahead of Lighthouse Family and M People. 

Tom: Catchy chorus, the sort of thing that’d get someone’s attention as they’re scanning through an FM radio dial. Key change, of course, to push it past four minutes. I never heard this before last week, and somehow it still makes me feel a bit nostalgic.

Tim: Well, it’s the sound – entirely typical. Good, mind, but typical.

Tom: Also, well done to the director at the end, who just told the extras “bounce up and down on your seats a bit, it’ll look like the bus is moving, honest”.

Although the best performance of this track was, of course, that time a stage lift didn’t work and Jon Secada had to sing while clambering out of a hole at the ’94 World Cup opening ceremonies in Chicago. It starts at 6’35” in.

Tim: And the absolutely perfect thing is that the camera cuts to him right has he sings “I’m almost there”. Beautiful stuff. 

Tom: Turns out he dislocated his shoulder, so, uh, sorry Jon. 

Lvndscape x John Adams – I’m Like A Bird

“The PR bumf for this describes it as having a ‘sparkling drop’.”

Tom: Nelly Furtado’s original is twenty years old now. And I didn’t know what to expect from this: Spinnin’ Records are a dance label, after all, and the PR bumf for this describes it as having a ‘sparkling drop’.

Tim: Hmm. In that case I’ll press play and not read ahead, for fear of spoilers.

Tom: Well, that’s lovely, isn’t it?

Tim: Oh, it really is, yes. Not remotely what I expected, but yeah.

Tom: There’s a lot to be uncertain about, mind. I’m not sure about the fast vibrato on those vocals: it almost feels like the vocal line’s been sped up a lot. And the sooner we can get over this trend of artificially adding vinyl pops and scratches over tracks, the better: it was a cliché when Mike Flowers did it in 1995. Yes, that’s an obscure reference for you.

Tim: Honestly, Tom, I’ve learnt to expect nothing less.

Tom: And losing the “And baby all I need” lyrics is certainly a bold choice. I think it works after a while, but the absence is striking.

Tim: Yeah – certainly makes singing, or even humming, along a tad unsettling.

Tom: But still: this is a calm, fun cover that manages to have some dance-production elements in it. It nicely treads that line between novelty and familiarity. It’s the doldrums of January: I’ll take what I can get.

The Chainsmokers with Kygo – Family

“There’s something weird about the whole thing.”

Tim: Since the sensitive content warning at the beginning of the video is irritatingly vague: he gets in a car accident, recovers, everything’s lovely now.

Tim: First up: “gave him a little extra cash” is a really weird way to describe paying someone.

Tom: There’s something weird about the whole thing. Narratively, the story doesn’t quite make sense — I realise that’s how life is, of course, but every time the video tries to make a point it’s undermined by something else in it. He wrecked his car? Sure, but we’ve just seen him pulling a handbrake turn at speed, that’s not surprising. He tore his ACL? Okay, but we’ve seen him jumping into a swimming pool from a rooftop, again, that’s to be expected.

At one point, there’s an Instagram caption visible: “This is Ross. He helped me build the car I wrecked. Guess I’m gonna have to have him build me a new one.” And sure, in context he probably sounds like less of a bellend, but the video director’s job is to make an audience care about him and it just seems like miss after miss after miss.

And then at the end, Amy appears! Has Amy been introduced at any earlier point? No, she’s just “a long time friend”. There is almost certainly a lovely, sympathetic story to be told here, but the director just didn’t do a good job of telling it.

Tim: Second up, the music, which I’ll happily admit I completely lost track of the first time I watched the video, though I’ve a feeling that’s kind of the point.

Tom: It’s generic. Kygo has a good style; the Chainsmokers have… well, a style. Together, they’re just a bit meh.

Tim: To be honest, this is a bit of a weird one. The video makes it really, really personal, and so I’m wondering which came first: the song or the crash. Was the song written after it, linking it into a “check up on your mates” theme, or was it a coincidence, and one of them thought “hey, we can make a video about that”?

I don’t know, and the Instagram post they made about it was also irritatingly vague. ANYWAY, music is music so let’s listen to that, and it’s…perfectly okay. No, it’s better than that. It’s good. It’s what we’d expect. It’s nice.

Oh Wonder – Happy

“This will probably sound a bit familiar.”

Tom: This will probably sound a bit familiar.

Tom: I had to pause this, after the first chorus, just to check that I wasn’t accidentally listening to Clean Bandit — or maybe a band that included one of their members. I didn’t realise how much that staccato string-synth-pad style was associated with just one band in my head now. (Or maybe these are real strings. I doubt it, though.)

Tim: Ah – see, it does sound a bit familiar, but I got more of a Chainsmokers vibe from it.

Tom: Unfortunately, I don’t really like Clean Bandit, so this was basically doomed from the start for me.

Tim: Oh. On the other hand, I quite like the Chainsmokers, so it’s fine for me.

Alan Walker & Ava Max – Alone, Pt II

“I know a lot of music videos have ludricrous budgets, but this seems bigger than most.”

Tim: Welcome back, everyone! Let’s start the year with someone typically reliable, shall we?

Tom: That’s an interesting combination of names up there.

Tim: Now, three years back, Alan released a track called Alone; this here is apparently Part II, though I’ll be honest: I’ve no idea quite how this is related in any way, shape or form. Still, you remember how he used to have that really self-important thing going on about how his logo was all magical and stuff, and baked into the very fabric of the universe?

Tim: Yep, turns out he still does, and he’s almost verging on self-parody here.

Tom: “As part of the World of Walker Universe”. Good grief. I know a lot of music videos have ludricrous budgets, but this seems bigger than most. Mind you, I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing.

Tim: Part of me hopes he knows it and is deliberately making it bigger and better each time just for a laugh; on the other hand, part of me would quite like to believe he’s just so ridiculously earnest that he honestly believes this is a Good Thing to do.

Anyway, girl on a cryptic quest to find something or other, which turns out to be, yep, Alan’s logo embedded in a magical rock or something, and the weird thing is that, despite what the lyrics say: aside from a couple of locals pointing her in the right direction, she pretty much does get there alone. No-one with her – well, except for all the mystic monks that come out of nowhere, because of course there are mystic monks.

Tom: All this, and we haven’t talked about one note of the music yet. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Tim: To be honest, by now I’ve a feeling Alan’s videos are almost more entertaining than the music – sure, that’s good, and exactly what we expect, but man, I’m waiting for the one where they fly into space and find an alien civilisation unknowingly worshipping him.