MNEK feat. Hailee Steinfeld – Colour

“It’d be a really, really sweet thing to say to someone.”

Tom: I read that as “Seinfeld”.

Tim: Well that’d certainly be an interest guest vocalist, but alas not. Here, I pressed play and immediately wondered why it sounded so incredibly familiar.

Tom: That sounds so familiar! Not all of it — just that first bit of the chorus, the combination of the synth in the background and the melody of the main vocal line. “Before you came into my life”. Where have I heard that before?

Tim: Well, I left it, couldn’t work it out. Ten minutes later, I realised I was absent-mindedly singing my favourite ever misheard lyric in my head.

Tom: HA! I can’t believe neither of us picked up on that when we first talked about that track. I think I was actually hearing some elements of “Feel This Moment” in there — it’s using the same sort of chord progression as “Take On Me” with a different main line. But, sure, yes, it’s also about Danny’s dick.

Tim: Thing is, as long as I can move on from that similarity, that’s a lovely song. Not so much the bit where she sings a rainbow, mind, but in terms of the lyrics it’s absolutely delightful.

Tom: Has putting nursery rhymes into pop songs ever worked? Looking at you, Minaj.

Tim: Yeah, that was…hmm. Not sure who signed off on that one, but let’s try to forget it, and move back swiftly to this. It’d be a really, really sweet thing to say to someone, and for me it doesn’t come across as too twee or mawkish, because the music behind it is fresh and modern. If it was in a soppy ballad then I might have problems with it, but like it is, it just sounds…nice.

Tom: You’re not wrong — it’s a really lovely track.

Tim: Just…aargh, got to go back to that penis.

Eagle-Eye Cherry – Streets Of You

“I still have a soft spot for pop-country, so this bodes well.”

Tim: Well, he was indeed gone following the night that was saved, and though he’s stuck his head through the window occcasionally since then it seems he’s now come back properly, with a song that’s almost verging on country.

Tom: I still have a soft spot for pop-country, so this bodes well.

Tim: Have a listen, see what you think.

Tim: Pretty good, right? It’s nothing special, though, which is a bit sad because if you’re going for a big comeback when you’re best known for a large anthem, you really need to do your very best to meet it.

Tom: Was Save Tonight a massive anthem, though? It was certainly massive, but it wasn’t a singalong anthem — it sounded a lot like this. It’s only because it’s so well-loved that it’s become one.

Tim: True – anthem’s the wrong word, but it’s a song that everybody knows and sings along with, so your next one needs to be good. And this? Hmm. Thing is, if I were judging this as the second track off an album as a follow-up, I’d probably be okay with it – it sounds good, it’s a nice style he’s returning with, the lyrics are fine and it has a decent hook for the chorus. Expectations are annoying, aren’t they?

Tom: They are. And there’s one other expectation I’ve got here. See, Avicii’s Wake Me Up was more or less Save Tonight, so much so that there are literally dozens of near-identical mashups of them.

And so my first thought for this track went the other way round: isn’t this just The Nights?

Tim: Huh. Yes, yes it is. But boy, the opening voiceover on that video became relevant faster than anyone imagined. I think, overall, that desire came true.

Ben McKelvey – Stronger

“STRONGER THAN IT EVER WAS BEFORE.”

Tim: British singer-songwriter, and just so you don’t yell out “oh, bloody hell” like I did when I first heard this through my headphones walking through Westfield, the first chorus does not, sadly, culminate in a plausible and extraordinary dance breakdown. It’s upsetting, but you’ll understand why later.

Tom: That idea of having a second, instrumental chorus has become the default, hasn’t it? It seemed novel just a few years ago. This definitely didn’t seem like the track to use one, though — admittedly the acoustic bit does have the same effect, though.

Tim: Oh, true – after hearing it in full it’s absolutely not the song for it. Just, listening the first time I was hoping we’d got an Avicii-esque pop-rock intro, verse and chorus and then DANCE. Still upsets me slightly, mind, but it is necessary, you see, so that the next chorus can be STRONGER, and then the one after that can be STRONGER THAN IT EVER WAS BEFORE. Clever, isn’t it?

Tom: It is: although I’m glad it doesn’t outstay its welcome. With a one-line chorus, even three minutes starts to become a bit long. But, yes, clever.

Tim: Particularly because, that one moment aside, this really is very strong indeed, from the music (according to an old interview, he does all the instruments himself) to the voice. Some might say that’s a tad grating, but it works well enough for me, reinforcing the anthem style of it – you don’t need too much of a melody when you’ve got the volume, message and backing like this. As far as I’m concerned, it works very well. Strong indeed.

Backstreet Boys – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

“It sounds surprisingly modern.”

Tom: Yep, they’re trying to do a Take That. I don’t mean just ‘a comeback’ here — this is, like, their third comeback, and they’ve been in and out of the media ever since. Doing a Take That means actually putting out new, good, music that the fans want to hear as much as the old stuff. Take That only released Rule the World in 2006. Shine was 2009. The Flood was 2010. All of those deservedly belong on a greatest-hits album, and they were all part of the comeback.

So: the Backstreet Boys’ new track sounds…

Tom: …okay, I guess?

Tim: Yes, but more than that it sounds surprisingly modern. Take That was slightly contemporary, but largely what they’d done before. Here, it’s a like a brand new band. Just, kind of a shame I want to sing “I am not a stranger to the dark…” over that piano line.

Troye Sivan – Bloom

“No, it’s a song about flowers”

Tim: Fancy a song about bumming?

Tom: Not this early in the morning.

Tim: Tough.

Tim: I mean obviously it’s not actually mentioned in the song, and whenever he’s asked he just says “no, it’s a song about flowers”, but if you look at the lyrics it’s bloody obvious, and he did tweet “#BopBoutBottoming” briefly before deleting it, and he previously described it as “the most subversively queer song on the album…almost like a little inside joke”, so basically draw your own conclusions.

Tom: I’m sure he’ll get along really well with Inner Circle, although I’m not sure they’ll promise to hold his hand.

Tim: It’s a lovely song, either way, with both the lyrics and music bringing that sense of vulnerability that most people can relate to, be it about that specific situation, or first times in general.

Tom: Is it, though? Those two-note verses aren’t really pleasant to listen to, and the chorus doesn’t have much more going for it. The weird whisper-echo in the middle eight grates like fingers on a blackboard for me. It’s got one chorus too many, too.

Tim: Oh, shame, because I’ve got none of those issues. The video I’ll go with as ‘mildly disconcerting’, because I know that’s not meant to look realistic or anything but it still creeps me out quite a bit – like, I know it’s your first time and all, but do you really need that much lube?

Tom: Mate.

Tim: Hello! BUT IF YOU LIKED THIS: other songs you may enjoy include “Harder You Get” by Scissor Sisters, “The Magic Position” by Patrick Wolf and “I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)” by Rachel Stevens.

LunchMoney Lewis – Who’s Up?

“Moderately funky, but entering low and falling swiftly.”

Tom: Remember LunchMoney Lewis?

Tim: The name, yes. The song…no, remind me.

Tom: He was the sound of the summer back in 2015, and — although we talked about the song a bit too early to cover it — that one song did end up being a smash on both sides of the Atlantic. Since then, he’s… well, yes, “one-hit wonder” would sum it up pretty well, albeit a one-hit wonder who’ll be doing well from the songs he’s written for other people.

So: here’s the next attempt at the charts. And the result from today’s Chart Forecast is:

Tom: Moderately funky, but entering low and falling swiftly.

Tim: With a disappointing lack of emotion.

Pete Yorn, Scarlett Johansson – Bad Dreams

“Did I have low expectations, or is this a really good pop song?”

Tim: Hang on – not, that Scarlett Johansson?

Tom: Yes, that Scarlett Johansson.

Tom: Did I have low expectations, or is this a really good pop song?

Tim: Both, I think – certainly better than I ever imagined it would be, given what previous Hollywood A-listers have given us.

Tom: I mean, it’s a little retro, and it’s a bit Radio 2, but there’s a lot of really good influences that have been pulled together into this — a bit of Fleetwood Mac, maybe a bit of REM.

Tim: And put together in a really good way.

Tom: Shame about the low-effort middle eight and final chorus: there’s a lot of opportunities missed there. Even a simple ‘shift the main melody to the harmony for a couple of notes’ would’ve been better.

Tim: Yes – my one moan was that about three minutes in I was thinking “so, anything new going to happen here?”

Tom: Still: not complaining. This is actually a really nice track.

Owl City – New York City

“We have Mr City to turn to as a reliable source of pop music that can be counted on to sound just fine.”

Tim: Chances are, you hear “Owl City”, you think “cheery and largely inoffensive pop”, correct?

Tom: And a really good soundtrack to a Disneyland parade.

Tim: Ooh, that is really good, and you’ll be delighted to hear his new one does absolutely nothing to counter that assumption.

Tom: You’re not wrong there. Those lyrics are… well, yes, “chirpy” is certainly about right, although I feel like “did you forget your phone cord / we’ll buy one at the next small town” might be a contender for the worst lyric of 2018.

Tim: It is enjoyable, it is chirpy, it is a complete summation of Owl City. And you know what? I like that. I like that in these turbulent times, when it sometimes feels like everything is turning to poo, we have Mr City to turn to as a reliable source of pop music that can be counted on to sound just fine.

Tom: And, even if I can’t get behind the words, at least there’s a pleasingly generic Americana road-trip video to watch. Which is basically what I expected.

Tim: You might not get anything special, but you know you’ll get something nice and listenable. And that’s reassuring.

Digital Farm Animals, Shaun Frank, Dragonette – Tokyo Nights

“I found my foot actually tapping, Tim!”

Tom: Okay, good, let’s carry on with Female-Fronted Electropop week, then. I’ll be honest: I’m starting to find all the tracks pretty much indistinguishable.

Tim: Well, let me change your mind. We had a work party a couple of months back and they got Tokio Myers off Britain’s Got Talent in as a guest performer, which was quite cool, except he was in the middle as like a headliner sandwiched between a whole load of DJs and music performers, so he kind of killed the vibe when we all stood still to watch him, which was a bit of a shame.

Tom: Good story.

Tim: Cheers. This is Tokyo Nights.

Tom: Okay, at least this isn’t bland. I found my foot actually tapping, Tim! That’s a rare thing!

Tim: Hooray! Digital Farm Animals have a pretty good record as far as this site is concerned; Shaun Frank we’ve not featured before; Dragonette is, well, Dragonette, so obviously brilliant. All together, we’ve got a song that starts out like a Chainsmokers track and then gets a lot better, and stays a lot better.

Tom: Apart from that second verse. At least, I think it’s the second verse? Not everything’s where I expect it to be.

Tim: Yeah, there is a slightly weird structure to it, sticking an extra chorus in before the first pre-chorus, which got me a little confused the first time I heard it as well. Aside from that I really do quite like this, particularly the way her off Dragonette joins in the vocals on the second verse to keep it a bit interesting. Well, I say particularly that bit, that’s just one small bit that contributes to making pretty much the whole thing being great.

Tom: The additional synths that crop up as we come out of the middle eight, too. It’s not a world-beating single or anything, but it’s not bad.

Tim: NICE ONE.

Sandro Cavazzo – High With Somebody

“A video that’s really quite delightful.”

Tim: Last heard of providing vocals for Avicii, Sandro’s brought up a new solo song and with it a video that’s really quite delightful.

Tim: Every time a three minute (ish) song comes along, particularly at this time of year, I find myself wondering if it’d make a good Eurovision track. Here, of course: no. Well, unless they could get the guy in the rabbit suit up on stage doing stuff that would, let’s face it, probably bring the EBU into disrepute, so best not try.

Instead, let’s just enjoy the song, and even more enjoy the video – I’n fairly sure, after all, that that’s what we’re meant to do.

Tom: And I do enjoy it: but without it, I’m really not sure I’d think the song was any good. You’re right when you say it’s a delightful video; it’s just for a song that would be irritatingly chirpy otherwise.

Tim: Yep, that’s pretty much my feeling as well: fairly sure I wouldn’t enjoy the song anywhere near as much as I do if the video wasn’t there – I may well dismiss is as some twee waste of three decent minutes – but since the video is there, and I saw that before just hearing the song on its own, I’m all happy. And irritatingly chirpy.