Mika – Tomorrow

“Listen to that intro!”

Tim: As promised a few days back, one of the highlights of his largely pretty good new album, and indeed the newest single from it.

Tom: Listen to that intro! There’s some New Order in that, crossed with… well, in my head, a 1999 bit of pop-rock so obscure that our post about it is the third result on Google when you search for it.

Tim: Hmm – the problem with having done nearly 3,000 posts (blimey) here is that I’ve completely forgotten most of them, including that one, even though it’s a pretty nice one. This is also nice: sonically good, lyrically it’s fun, and as far as the narrative goes: hell yeah, I’m on board. We broke up for a reason, we shouldn’t be doing this, but sod it let’s have fun right now.

Tom: I think that swearing in the chorus is the wrong choice here, and it took me a while to work out why. It’s the same reason that “why’d you put a smiley in your message then” grates for me. This sounds like a great pop song from the past that I’ve never heard, and somehow the profanity and tech-reference both place it Here And Now And Dealing With Today’s Problems.

Tim: Hmm, kind of maybe see where you’re coming from, but I don’t have the same issue. To be honest, with all the crap that’s going down here, there and everywhere right now, I like the fun, and combined with everything else in the song: yep, I’ll take it.

Black Eyed Peas & Anitta – eXplosion

“Why, why why why.”

Tom: To get the obvious question out of the way: yes, they’re still going. Albeit without Fergie.

Tim: Sure, of course they are, why not.

Tom: Which leaves the obvious second question: is this one of their greats? Is everyone going to be singing it? Years later, will people still get hyped up when they hear it? Is this a “Where Is The Love”, an “I Gotta Feeling”, a “Let’s Get It Started”? Or is this going to be… well, one of the others?

Tom: Oh no.

Tim: Or, as I thought a mere forty seconds in, and then even more so another twenty seconds later: holy shit.

Tom: It’s a four-minute track, and it overstays its welcome by minute one. Why is will.i.am suddenly putting on an accent? Why is, uh, that other guy’s rap so embarrassingly bad? Why is there a badly green-screened Rio in it?

Tim: And why, why why why, have they sampled Tombo really really slowly and without the melody?

Tom: In short: what on earth were they thinking?

CHVRCHES – Death Stranding

“It’s a weird one, this.”

Tim: So, Death Stranding is a game coming out for PS4 in a month or so, and despite it having been announced over three years ago and having released multiple trailers, no-one really knows much about it. One thing that was made apparent a few days ago, though, is that CHVRCHES have done a song for the soundtrack. This one, to be precise.

Tom: Ah, soundtracks, the perfect place to throw that track that wasn’t quite good enough for the latest album.

Tim: It’s a weird one, this. Admittedly, the number of great video game songs can probably be counted one the fingers of one hand, so this was always going to be a tricky one, but it doesn’t really make much even so. Take the lyrics: the relationship’s falling apart, but hey, let’s have something of it while it still exists. What’s that got to do with anything in a game which, if the trailers are anything to go by, looks to be a first person RPG et it a world after some big weird event has happened?

Tom: I mean, you could ask that of most soundtrack songs: frequently it is just a marketing tie-in.

Tim: Musically it’s, well, it’s alright, though it doesn’t seem all that well put together: it’s the words again, or rather the vocals. Everything underneath it, see, is lovely – as music on its own, it would in fact make a great instrumental soundtrack, easily able to hold its own amongst some of the best. But with the vocals layered on top, almost at times seeming like an afterthought, it just leaves me feeling a bit cold. And that really frustrates me.

Tom: Huh: when we disagree on a track, it’s usually the other way round, and I’m normally the one being left cold. But this time, no: the opening verse grabbed my attention, and it kept going throughout the… huh. Five minutes. This is a five-minute track, and I wasn’t bored during it. Even with the lengthy instrumental in the middle.

If I haad to nitpick, then I’d say I’m not sure about those hard-gated cymbals, but that is just CHVRCHES’ style. I even hoped for a Big Final Chorus, and got one. This works for me. I guess I shouldn’t be so cynical about soundtracks.

Adam Lambert – Superpower

“The victim of a couple of poor decisions.”

Tom: Time for the most disappointing chorus we’ve heard in a while!

Tim: Oh.

Tom: Now, maybe you’ll feel different if I’ve lowered your expectations, but after that cracking pre-chorus with its driving backing and careless profanity, I was hoping for a chorus that was… well, a lot more. I know, he’s going for the 70s-inspired funk sound, but it’s just such a letdown for me.

Tim: Yeah, yeah, I get what you mean. Having said that, I often feel that way with this genre of music – it seems to be a built-in feature that the choruses never quite satisfy me. This is, well, not too different from most.

Tom: It is catchy! It is good! It does exactly what it sets out to do! The middle eight guitar solo is genuinely really good! It’s just, unfortunately, the victim of a couple of poor decisions.

Dami Im – Crying Underwater

“Yeah, I do need to give it a bit of time.”

Tom: This is a traditional builder. I’m not saying it’s good, just give it a bit of time.

Tom: I’ve not actually got much to say about the track itself, though, other than to note how traditional the song structure is at a time when pop seems to have mostly left middle-eights behind.

Tim: Hmm, wouldn’t say that – dance music may certainly have done so, but standard pop music’s still got it. It’s a decent track, though, even if, yeah, I do need to give it a bit of time.

Tom: Here’s my question, though: the very first sound you hear in this track. The odd rising-note synth, the one that comes back during the choruses. Where have I heard that before? Who else uses it? Because it’s really frustrating me.

Tim: I’d love to be able to help you, but beyond an answer of ‘more or less anyone who’s done any sort of modern pop song since about 2016’ I can’t give you much, as I don’t specifically know it from anywhere.

Pet Shop Boys feat. Years & Years – Dreamland

“All it’s missing is a double-clap after every four bars.”

Tim: A pairing here that, in hindsight, is notable largely for the fact that it took long to happen – I saw this and thought “yes, of course they’re doing a song together”. BUT, the twenty trillion dollar question: is it any good?

Tom: Oh, listen to those synths! All it’s missing is a double-clap after every four bars. (I’m joking, but also, I did start adding them myself at one point.) You’re right, it’s good, although…

Tim: YES, even if I do want to sing FREAK OUT on top of the chorus.

Tom: Right.

Tim: It does, in fact, sound pretty much exactly what I’d expect a Pet Shop Boys feat. Years & Years song to sound like: nice electro beats, fairly gentle with nothing too heavy but an interesting backing nonetheless, and lyrics that are fairly interesting.

Tom: Along with a really innovating music video.

Tim: I like it – there’s a new album out in January, and this is a decent lead track.

Steve Aoki feat. Backstreet Boys – Let It Be Me

“Way better than I thought it was going to be.”

Tom: Steve Aoki, DJ who isn’t throwing as much cake at people any more. And the Backstreet Boys, who don’t need any introduction. The result is…

Tom: …huh. Way better than I thought it was going to be.

Tim: Hmm, see I’d have put it at ‘roughly what I was expecting’, though I guess either works.

Tom: I think that’s mostly because the main artist and featured credits are the wrong way round here: this is a Backstreet Boys song (and a good one) with a well-remixed chorus and some probably-unnecessary goose-honk synths.

Tim: Maybe, though it’s very much the remix bit that takes the focus – I’d posit that if it were a less well known act providing vocals, this could get away with being an uncredited session singer.

Tom: Good chorus, though.

Westlife – Dynamite

“Spoiler alert: it’s quite the belter.”

Tim: I’m not quite sure why, but we seem to have got fully into covering Westlife’s comeback, and I guess there’s no reason to stop. Here’s the third track, released a couple of months back, but only now given a video. Spoiler alert: it’s quite the belter.

Tom: You’re raising my expectations, Tim. Now I’m expecting something really good.

Tom: “Belter”? Really? You’re going with “belter”? I wouldn’t th– never mind, I just got to the key change.

Tim: We mentioned on Friday that Alphabet haven’t concerned themselves with what’s modern, and it’s nice that they’re not the only ones. As with the previous two, we’ve Ed Sheeran and long term Westlife collaborator Steve Mac on writing duties, and aside from the ever so slightly tropical sounding beat underneath, this is just as much a classic Westlife track as we had twenty years ago. And for that, I love it.

Tom: For me, the key change is the only “yep, that’s classic Westlife” bit, because the rest is… well, it’s an okay pop song. You’re right that it’s very old school, I’m just not sure it’s an improvement. That said, if it’s what you’re looking for…

Tim: Not only that, mind – there’s the key change as well, and it’s one of my favourite types: you sing one line, BOOM, you sing it again a couple of notes higher. Shayne Ward did it, and now Westlife have joined him. And, obviously, accompanied it with an actual explosion, because of course they have, the song’s called Dynamite, it’d basically be breaking the law not doing that. Good work, lads (though I could maybe have done without that thrusting shot at 3:18).

Tom: I mean, fair play to them, they haven’t faked-up the tour footage, that is basically just bragging “look at us, it’s been decades and we still get arena crowds, what’re you gonna do about it”.

Tim: Album’s finally got a date, by the way: November 15th, so stick that in your calendar please, and maybe even book the day off work. Not saying I have, mind, but, well, maybe.

Saturday Flashback: Grace Carter – Heal Me

“Was this song big anywhere?”

Tim: Tom, help me: was this song, from the beginning of this year, big anywhere?

Tom: Not as far as I know. I don’t recognise it.

Tim: It’s just, it’s so familiar (and not in the sense of ‘this sounds like that’, but in the actual ‘I have definitely heard this song before’), but it’s not charted anywhere, she’s barely been played on the radio recently (5 times in that past month), and it doesn’t seem to have been in any TV shows or films. But damn, I know I’ve heard it before, maybe even a lot.

Tom: I mean, that verse melody is coincidentally similar to Bo Burnham’s Country Song, but I doubt it. Are you sure you’ve heard this, specifically?

Tim: And I absolutely know that, because it’s really, really good. The strings and piano right from the off give us a fantastic start, her vocal is perfect and oh, that chorus is just divine. The sheer power there, it’s truly glorious.

Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you, and then I realised that a few minutes later, I could still hum the chorus.

Tim: Why didn’t it do better, Tom? Why?

Tom: It did get a million views. That’s a lot better than many.

Tim: Yeah, I guess.

Mika – Tiny Love

“Let’s pretend that bit doesn’t exist.”

Tom: I’ve been looking through the list of recently-released singles, and honestly it’s been difficult to find anything to talk about. Everything seemed a bit generic. But with this, at least I’ve got something to say.

Tim: Ooh, it’s like early Mika again!

Tom: First of all: brilliant intro and a great first verse. It’s full-on promising Mika, all orchestral and lovely, seemingly taking inspiration from Queen and ELO. The melody’s lovely, and his voice is amazing. It sounds like the best of “Life in Cartoon Motion” again.

Tim: It really does! In fact, there are some melody lines in there that sound just great.

Tom: And then there’s the chorus.

Tim: Which is still good, yeah.

Tom: And then there’s everything else that follows.

Tim: I’m guessing we’re talking about the bit following 2:45? Because yeah, that’s just dull. Let’s pretend that bit doesn’t exist.