ILY – You Give Me

“Crack open the pineapple juice and bring on the timpani.”

Tim: Still the middle of February and bloody miserable outside, but that doesn’t mean we can’t crack open the pineapple juice and bring on the timpani.

Tom: I mean, apart from the fact it’s 2018 and we should have left this behind a couple of years ago, but yeah, okay, let’s GET TROPICAL.

Tim: Here is one artist who’s done just that, with a song that’s enjoyable but intensely irritating. Let me know when you realise it.

Tim: Right then, ILY, the song is called You Give Me Life. You know that, you sing it, the words are there. So WHY, dear GOD WHY, is there so, so much of “you g’mm me”? In general, I have no issue with twisted vocal samples – they’re in fashion, and when they’re done well they sound good.

Tom: It is entirely possible to do a chopped-up vocal chorus that sounds great — Rita Ora’s Anywhere, for example, even if it leaves her a bit lost during live performances.

Tim: Except, well, Kygo was recently described on here as letting a toddler loose on the volume control, and not only does that sound like what’s happened here, but you’ve actually thought “thanks toddler, that’ll do” and then thrown it liberally around the song without realising that it sounds awful.

Tom: And it’s a strange choice to make, because it’s not as if there are multiple words being combined here. Is it someone stretching “gimme” out too much? Combining two takes? I’ve no idea.

Tim: AARGH it’s so infuriating, because the rest of it is good!

Tom: Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. It’s okay.

Tim: It’s just that one bit, used so so often, completely kills it. For me, anyway. Grrr.

October – 1000 Eyes

“While I’d agree that it’s good, I’m not sure it’s two-reallys-good.”

Tim: This here from New Zealand, and unlike yesterday I know exactly what it is I like about it.

Tim: Because heavens above, that’s a great chorus.

Tom: It is, but I’m not so sure about the song as a whole. There’s some great synth work in there, and even that long outro doesn’t seem to go on for too long, but…

Tim: Yeah, the verses: not so great. They’re dark, a bit heavy, and not really in a good way, because there’s not a huge amount going on with them. That chorus, though, is still dark and heavy but it sounds really, really good.

Tom: That’s two “reallys” there, and, while I’d agree that it’s good, I’m not sure it’s two-reallys-good. What do you like?

Tim: First, there’s obviously that massive synth line underlying it, but also a very slight higher line behind that, which with her intense vocal (particularly that “there’s. so. much. more. I. want. to. sho-. -oow.” part) combine really nicely to make a great sounding part of a song. Just part of a song, mind, so I can’t give this an unequivocal thumbs up, but still. That chorus.

Lauv – Getting Over You

“Gentle, twinkly synthpop”

Tom: Without knowing Lauv’s nationality, what would you guess?

Tim: Hmm…voice has a British sense to it, and the styling could be from here – in the right area?

Tom: A combination of the style, the voice and the name made me assume Lauv was from Norway or Sweden, but no. This is an American, whose LA-based team — as far as I can tell — are doing their best impression of the gentle, twinkly synthpop coming out of the Nordic countries.

Tim: Huh. Yeah, not a bad job – though I think the synthpop (which I flipping love, by the way) is becoming global enough now that, well, as we’ve just proved, assumptions can’t really be made confidently.

Tom: And they’re nearly there. Just one problem: this is about a minute too long. It’s a great sub-three-minute track that just doesn’t need to be extended for one more chorus and a long outro.

Tim: The chorus I don’t have a problem with – but yes, I’m fairly sure we could cut the song off nicely at 3:31 and it’d be a good’un. Otherwise, though: lovely.

Vargas & Lagola – Roads

Tim: Back with their own track after last month’s brief pairing with Avicii, and it got me on board right away.

Tom: Agreed! That’s one of the best openings to a track that I’ve heard in a while. Except…

Tim: Except…then it was a full two minutes before it really did anything remotely different, and so I started getting actually quite bored. The annoying thing is, what’s there is actually quite good – it’s a good strong verse, and hell, it’s a better chorus than a lot of the tracks we feature.

Tom: And I think that’s partly because it’s a really familiar melody — not actually taken from anywhere, but filled with a lot of easy-to-recognise progressions of notes.

Tim: But together, there’s just no real variation – a minute and a half in, I’m thinking ‘blimey, are they really stringing this out for four minutes?’ Of course, stringing becomes an entirely appropriate verb soon after, and it’s nice to have that – but then at the end of that middle eight, there’s a drop down and then quick build up to…right back where it was. And that’s just not how a song should work, guys. Summary: what’s there is great, but I just want a lot of it gone.

Sting, Shaggy – Don’t Make Me Wait

“Sting, at no point, attempts anything even close to a Jamaican accent, which I think we can all agree is for the best.”

Tim: Wait, what? How? Just…whuh?

Tom: If you’d like to know how this incredibly unlikely-sounding collaboration happened, Rolling Stone has the details. But to sum up: they met at a studio in LA, they’ve made a full LP, and this – the first single – is described by Shaggy as “something that hundreds of women would get pregnant to”.

Tim: Oh God.

Tom: Okay, so good news first: Sting, at no point, attempts anything even close to a Jamaican accent, which I think we can all agree is for the best.

Tim: Yes, yes. In fact, he turns in a really rather good performance, which I’m pleasantly surprised about.

Tom: The most surprising thing to me — apart from the fact that it exists at all — is just how good the two stars’ styles work together. This is a good track. It’ll struggle to find airplay, because there’s too much Shaggy for Radio 2 and too much Sting for… er, anywhere that’d play Shaggy.

Tim: Thing is, it reminds me a lot of what Shaggy always used to do: take a featured artist, get them to do most of the singing, and throw in a few words here and there of his own. And it works as well as it always did.

Tom: You’re right. Now I come to think of it, he rarely sang the hooks. Still, I get the feeling that reviews are somewhat irrelevant here. They’ve made an LP. They like the LP enough to release it. Given that they’re both doing pretty well for themselves, I suspect that — as long as someone out there likes it — they’ll be just fine.

SuRie – Storm

“Last night Britain voted, and right here is our entry for Eurovision 2018.”

Tim: So, last night Britain voted, and right here is our entry for Eurovision 2018. It’s…

Tim: …a good track!

Tom: And not a Eurovision winner! I mean, it’d probably make it through the semi-finals if we had to go through them, but this isn’t going to win anything.

Tim: Well, positive bits first: it’s danceable, she’s got a great voice, and I could, honestly, if this was put out by a major label, see it being at least B-listed on Radio 1.

Tom: Really? I’ll agree with the voice, but the song is… I mean, it’s something a low-level Kontor-esque company would put out if they couldn’t hire a really good songwriter. Nothing wrong with it, just nothing right either.

Tim: I think you’re being way too harsh on it, there – the way I see it, it’s a female-fronted Avicii track (quite literally, in the case of the first line, which just sounds weird) Except, that’s kind of the problem. It’s…well, generic is the wrong word, because that has negative connotations, but it’s nothing really that hasn’t been heard before. At Eurovision, that’s a hell of a risk, because people so often want to hear something new and interesting.

Tom: It needs to stand out from the crowd while also being an exceptionally good song. This, sadly, has neither of those qualities.

Tim: I really don’t want to finish on a negative, because there’s a lot to like about this. As a regular track, I can’t really fault it, and I’d love to be proved wrong about what we’re saying. Absolutely love to be. So…here’s hoping?

Tom: All I’m saying is, I’m not betting on it.

Kim Wilde – Pop Don’t Stop

“If that’s not a message for our times then it damn well should be.”

Tim: YES, it’s Kim from way back when, with her first release since 2013’s Christmas album, and oh, has it been worth waiting for.

Tom: There’s a saying I use: “don’t shoot for the moon and miss”. If your green-screen isn’t quite up to full-on pop video standards, perhaps you’d better just film somewhere else without it. I had to watch this in a background tab, because some inverted version of the halo effect meant that I thought the song was worse just because the video was a bit naff.

Tim: Yes, alright, but let’s not focus on the negatives, when there are SO MANY positives to discuss. Some artists feel the need to update their style in accordance with the progression of musical vogue; I’d argue that there are at least two situations where you don’t. One: when you’re Kim Wilde, and two: when your chorus goes “POP POP MUSIC GIVE ME POP POP MUSIC DON’T STOP GIVE ME POP GIVE ME POP POP MUSIC”.

Tom: How convenient and oddly specific. (I know what you mean, though, and you’re right.)

Tim: Pop music brings people together, and keeps them together, and if that’s not a message for our times then it damn well should be. This song is just pure energy – I listened to this about ten minutes after waking up last Friday, and jumped straight out of bed; there’s not a lot that’ll get me doing that.

Tom: Either that or a desperate urge to pee, sure.

Tim: Everything about it is just wonderful: the music, the bright colours in the video, and her bringing her brother Ricky along for the ride, because why not?

We’re only a month and a bit in to 2018 and we’ve already heard a lot of good tracks; nevertheless, I’m fairly sure that come December, this’ll still be in my top 10 of the year. (Also a safe bet: one from the Lithuanian Eurovision selection process that our reader described as “vomit-inducing”; we’ll get to that one in due course.)

Kylie Minogue – Dancing

“Kylo”

Tom: Occasionally we’ll cover Kylie’s tracks here, whenever she’s got something new out. And usually we’re a bit disappointed, because the bar’s been set so high in the past.

Tom: Oh, crikey, let’s move on from that. We’re looking for a BANGER, based on past form, and — despite your enthusiasm for that Christmas single — I don’t think it’s quite matched up. This time…

Tom: …MODERATE BANGER. Which I know is a contradiction in terms, but I still stand by it.

Tim: I’d say MODERATE TO STRONG, based on those fast-paced verses, heavy choruses and the whole “screw you, I’m here, plastered and DANCING” look on her face in the middle eight.

Tom: There’s a lot to like here. It sounds like old Kylie, filtered through a lens of Kygo. I’d portmanteau those together, but I’d get “Kylo”, and then it’d be all Star Wars.

Tim: Yes, and if you and I started discussing that we’d be here all day, so best not.

Tom: Full marks for actually including line dancing in the video like it’s the late nineties, though. This is catchy, and at under three minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome either. This might be the best Kylie track since… 2 Hearts, perhaps?

Tim: Hmm…perhaps – though that Christmas album does take a lot to beat it.

Kygo feat. OneRepublic – Stranger Things

“(a) a good Kygo track and (b) a good OneRepublic track”

Tim: Another one off his EP of duets, which quite pleasantly is (a) a good Kygo track and (b) a good OneRepublic track; hopefully you’ll agree.

Tim: Yes?

Tom: Qualified yes. Odd choice of title: I know that ‘Stranger Things’ comes from an idiom, but given the success of the show it seems a bit weird to use the same title. Or maybe they’re just hoping people will click on the video title in confusion while trying to find clips of the show on YouTube. As for the track…

Tim: Obviously it’s very much more Kygo than OneRepublic, particularly the chorus, but the verses aren’t far off standard OneRepublic fare, and I think the two complement each other very nicely.

Tom: It’s not quite as catchy or as upbeat as I’d expect, but given the title and collaborators that makes sense. Not one for the playlist, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.

Tim: It’s nice to hear Kygo back doing music that sounds like him, and while this song might not quite be MASSIVE and BANGING and HUGE…I like it. It does what it sets out to, the talent’s all there and on display, and it works. Good stuff.

Coeur de Pirate – Prémonition

“Not every pop song has to be happy, and I’m okay with that.”

Tom: “Pirate Heart”? I’m sceptical.

Tim: Weird name, yes, but you don’t need to be. Tip of the hat to Rob who sent this in; she’s Canadian —

Tom: Who, Rob? Oh, wait, I see what you mean. Never mind.

Tim: — but does most of her singing in French, such as this, where (to give advance warning for the video) she sings about ‘the cycle of toxic relationships’, as she puts it in this interview.

Tim: Not the nicest video in the world, with two people in a horrible relationship but who can’t give each other up.

Tom: It reminded me a lot of Pink’s video for Try — this is a bit less abstract, but as a result it’s more emotionally raw. It’s rare for dance, as an art form, to reach my heart; this managed it.

Tim: Also fairly melancholy is the music and vocals, at least until the chorus comes along, which is curious: it’s there that the lyrics take a downturn, but where the mood of the music gives a hopeful vibe – maybe not wholly upbeat, but it does give a sense of things being better.

Tom: “We’re not going to change” is definitely a downturn, but it’s one that seems to match everything else. Not every pop song has to be happy, and I’m okay with that.

Tim: I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this – all in all, listening to this, I like it a lot. Sure, the lyrics are downbeat, but that chorus is one I can completely and totally get behind. Love it.

Tom: Agreed.