Alle Farben & James Blunt – Walk Away (Martin Jensen Remix)

“It’s the remixed bit that makes it.”

Tim: Alle Farben, the stage name of a German producer called Frans. James Blunt, yes, that one.

Tom: See, overplayed cliché songs aside, James Blunt is a really good songwriter. This has quite a lot of potential.

Tim: Together, they made a song that’s a fairly decent dancey number, but it’s not particularly hefty, and it’s missing a little something. Martin has come along and provided that.

Tim: BANGER.

Tom: The start of this absolutely passed me by — to the point that I switched off completely and started absent-mindedly working on something else. And then that build started, and I realised that you’re right: this is a good combination.

Tim: Exactly: it’s the remixed bit that makes it. We’ve still got the emotion that James provides in his voice, and fairly regular undertones in the verses, but underneath the chorus and following we’ve now got a fabulous dance breakdown that sounds just brilliant. Yes, it vanishes disappointingly after just two goes, but it’s a decent length to start with, so I’ll forgive that this time.

Tom: The verse does suffer from the melody being mostly one note — the same note that’s being played in the background. It’s a style, I guess, although I can’t say it’s one I enjoy.

Tim: To be honest, much as his vocals work slightly okay here, I’m not sure the world needed a new James Blunt track. It did, though, need this track, and if James’s presence is the price we need to pay for that, then that’s fine by me.

Little Mix – Bounce Back

“You’ll be surprised by the sample.”

Tom: This hit the internet on Friday, and I guarantee that — if you haven’t heard it by now — you’ll be surprised by the sample.

Tim: Yep, that did indeed take me by surprise. DOesn’t sound entirely out of p[lace, mind, once I’m expecting it.

Tom: Unfortunately, that sample’s the only good bit of it, as far as I can tell.

Tim: Also true.

Tom: The lyrics sit in a weird uncanny valley between rap and actual singing. The producer’s choice to near-constantly move every sample around in the stereo space is just irritating. This was the lead single off the album? Granted, Tim, we’re not the target audience for this. Presumably the kids will love it.

Tim: Maybe? I don’t know.

Mika – Ice Cream

“There’s some lovely catchy bits in here.”

Tom: I had to check whether this was a “he’s back” or “he’s still going”. It’s the latter: it’s just that he’s settled into the respectable “has enough fans to make a living” mould, rather than troubling the charts.

Tom: And with tracks like that, I reckon that’s fair enough. There’s some lovely catchy bits in here (that pre-chorus, in particular), and his voice and production are both still wonderful.

But despite all that, somehow, I don’t actually like this song.

Tim: Yeah, me too, although I’m, if anything, perhaps a bit more negative. I mean, yes, there’s good bits in here – but the first verse did nothing really for me, and it was only when it started sounding Mika-y that I really got interested. And, well, that didn’t last very long.

Tom: Maybe it’s a grower — I suspect that final chorus is the sort of earworm that sticks around after enough radio play. But it sounds like a Prince album track: competent, catchy, but not quite enough for a lead single off a new album.

Scooter & Harris & Ford – God Save The Rave

“I AM THE CAPTAIN. MY NAME IS DAVE.”

Tom: Alas, they haven’t finally remixed the British national anthem. But this may be the most Scooter-y Scooter track in a long while.

Tim: I look forward to hearing it, but first: ‘Harris & Ford’ is a fantastic act name.

Tim: Oh, boy is that good.

Tom: Sure, they’re not pitching-up samples of famous songs any more. (Presumably they prefer getting all the money for songwriting.)

Tim: Fine by me – the pattern’s still the same, after all, and the melody for this one is just fantastic.

Tom: This is the closest we’re going to get, and you know what? I can’t reasonably mock anyone with the self-confidence to shout, apparently seriously, the lyric “I AM THE CAPTAIN. MY NAME IS DAVE.”

Tim: Strong lyric, and indeed a strong rave. I love this, it’s great.

Birgir – Alive

Tim: Inexplicably, some artists were still releasing songs last week, which strikes me a bit like a school five-a-side match being played the same day as the World Cup final, but never mind. This from Birgir is substantially different from his Icelandic compatriots’ entry on Saturday, and while ‘stick with it’ is normally a terrible thing to say about a song, the first 43 seconds have almost nothing in common with the rest of it.

Tom: You’re not wrong, that unexpectedly goes… well, to me it sounds like Mumford and Sons decided to cover Bastille. By which I mean I was literally singing parts of Pompeii over the top of it.

Tim: Lovely melody, lovely instruments, lovely vocals, lovely message, even a load of lovely colours in the video – what’s not to love?

Well, aside from that dull as heck introduction, but that’s over soon enough and we’ve the knowledge of what to come that’ll get us through that. Aside from that, it’s an all in lovely song, that I’ve listened to a good few times now and not got bored of.

Tom: I feel like I’ve heard it before, which is — of course — probably why I’ve taken to it. I can’t remember any of it after I listen, but I certainly enjoyed it while it was there.

Tim: Great stuff.

Lorena Bućan – Tower of Babylon

“It looks like she’s the one already-drunk person who got up to dance at the start of the night.”

Tim: Croatia dropped out of Eurovision last night, failing to qualify, which was a bit of a shame as they had some very good looking backing dancers wearing angels wings and everything. It was a somewhat operatic number, with plenty of emotions on display, and a damn fine key change. This was their runner up, and shares absolutely none of those characteristics.

Tom: That first instrumental is one of the most awkward camera shots I’ve seen in a long time. It looks like she’s the one already-drunk person who got up to dance at the start of the night. All it needs is her repeatedly shouting at people to come up and join her. And what’s with the audience? This is Sweden gives them things to wave about and cheer with. There’s actually someone on their phone in one of the shots.

That’s all down to the production crew, though. We’re talking about the music.

Tim: Curiously, there isn’t much music like this, regionally distinctive, in the contest this year, which is kind of a shame. Sure, there are a high number of strong tracks, but not many you could say “yep, that’s definitely eastern European/Polish/Mediterranean”. A loss?

Tom: Well, it depends. Something like this can do well in the contest on rare occasions, but it’s a bold strategy that seems to produce more misses than hits. Certainly mixing it with modern pop sensibilities helps, as they’ve done here. It’s certainly nice to hear it in the Contest, but as to whether it’s a loss…

Tim: I think so, yes, and I think this year would have been improved by the inclusion of this song. It’s regional, and it’s much more of a dance beat banger than their eventual choice, which may have fared better. Or not, of course – it was a strong semi (yep), with only a few that definitely shouldn’t have qualified (even though one of those, Albania, did, irritatingly) – but it would have been nice to see anyway.

Tom: I’d just finished writing this, Tim, and I was starting to write a conclusion — when I found I was still humming the chorus, minutes after listening to it. Which is usually a good sign.

Except I wasn’t humming the chorus. I was humming the theme tune to Pirates of the Caribbean. Have a listen to that chorus and those orchestral hits, and tell me there’s not at least a passing resemblance.

Tim: Oh. Oh, yeah, you’re not wrong there. It’s the “ohhhh-oh-oh-oh” and then the beats, dammit you MONSTER.

Tom: Anyway, that’s the track ruined for me.

Ina Wroldsen – Body Parts

“This is one of the best tracks we’ve covered in a while, I reckon.”

Tim: Here, a song about ‘the pressure young people are exposed to on a daily basis through everyday life as well as social media’.

Tom: Not about Dr Frankenstein, then.

Tim: Basically: sod your appearance, look how you want.

Tom: Someone threw Scars To Your Beautiful and Fight Song into a blender and this is the result. I don’t mean it sounds like either of those: it’s just very much in the same genre.

Tim: And oh, boy, did that chorus take me by surprise.

Tom: You’re not wrong. “Body parts” are really strange words to sing in such an uplifting tone but somehow it works.

Tim: Up until then, fairly standard track, albeit with the peculiar addition of a Greenwich Time Signal.

Tom: I think that might be intended as a heartbeat on a monitor? But yes, it’s an odd one. Fortunately it doesn’t stick around, and that’s down to the excellent production: the track steadily evolves over time, but it all works as a cohesive whole.

Tim: And sure, the pre-chorus comes along lifting things up a bit, but then ‘salvation’ arrives, and the first ‘body parts’, and suddenly there’s a lot of power there turning a good track into a great track, with a sing-along chorus to rival any of Rachel Platten’s and some of Demi Lovato’s.

Tom: Also good: the middle eight, the vocoder work, the final chorus, and the coda at the end. This is one of the best tracks we’ve covered in a while, I reckon.

Tim: High company and high praise, but well deserved.

JP Cooper feat. Astrid S – Sing It With Me

“Oh, do I have an issue with this.”

Tim: JP’s British, Astrid is, as we’ve heard multiple times, Swedish. And oh, do I have an issue with this.

Tim: At least, I have a problem with the lyric video. Musically, its fine. In fact, it’s good! The melody is nice, the vocals work well together, it’s a pleasant song to listen to!

Tom: You’re not wrong there. This is really nicely put together. I don’t think it’s going to be a classic, but it’s certainly a cut above most of the tracks we cover here. Astrid S continues to have a lovely voice, and JP Cooper makes for a good lead vocalist.

Tim: I like it, quite a lot! BUT. BUT. Oh, why would you use Calibri in a lyric video. Just, why.

Tom: That’s… that’s your problem? It’s a really lovely animated video, and your problem is Calibri?

Tim: There’s clearly been some proper designer involved at some point – the doo-do bits show it slightly, and then that ‘but I can write a song’ proves that someone involved knows what they’re doing – but why the hell would you use Calibri, anywhere? Everyone who has used a computer in the past decade knows it as the Microsoft Word default typeface, and everybody who has used a computer is the past decade will think “have they got, like, no imagination at all?”. It’s distracting. It’s wrong. And, genuinely, with that in the foreground it spoils the song for me. Background tab, it’s fine. But if I’m in the YouTube app on my phone? NO, next track please.

Tom: There’s really nothing wrong with Calibri.

Why Don’t We feat. Macklemore – I Don’t Belong In This Club

“The word that comes to mind for this is ‘charming’.”

Tom: This played on the radio while I was driving. It’s catchy as hell, but I swear I’ve heard the chorus somewhere before. What on earth does it sound like?

Tom: Even without that: the word that comes to mind for this is “charming”. It’s not a theme I’ve heard before, but it’s properly relatable; the chorus is brilliant; and the music video is in no way self-aggrandising. Like I said: charming.

Tim: Yes. You’re right, it is a bit familiar, in a couple of places, but nothing that I can think of right now. It’s good, though, and very listenable, and yeah, charming works well.

Tom: And then there’s Macklemore, who somehow manages to do a rap bit that doesn’t sound terrible. Aside from the Uber and Red Bull brand shoutouts, but never mind.

Tim: See, the Uber thing I’m actually okay with – sure, it might sting a tad to hear but, for me at least, Uber’s become enough of a word in its own right, like ‘google’ meaning to search, that lyrically I’m okay with it. Red Bull I’ll let you have, though.

Tom: Now, I’ll grant you, the track’s probably a bit too long. It’s basically got three middle eights: Macklemore’s verse, the actual middle eight with a different melody, and the quiet broken-down piano-backed chorus. In a world where the middle eight is steadily going away and songs are getting shorter, that’s a bold move.

Tim: But I like that – the song’s almost four minutes long, but it’s varied enough that I never get bored of it.

Tom: I think it manages to be both interestingly different and immediately catchy, which is a rare thing in pop. Or I just really like whichever song it’s reminding me of.

Tim: Fair.

Ava Max – So Am I

“Remember that ‘Sweet But Psycho’ song, the one that was so catchy that everyone just ignored the really questionable lyrics?”

Tom: Remember that ‘Sweet But Psycho’ song, the one that was so catchy that everyone just ignored the really questionable lyrics?

Tim: YES, and I still listen to it frequently while feeling ever so slightly guilty every time.

Tom: Well, this is what happens when a record executive says “that was brilliant, let’s have another one that’s exactly the same please”.

Tim: And right now I am imaging that exact conversation, because that is what happens. In a good way, mind.

Tom: There’s a lot to unpack here, isn’t there? The Sid and Nancy reference, the “call me Harley” lyric that acknowledges that, yes, perhaps the stylist might have taken a bit of inspiration from a certain comic book character.

Tim: Yeah – and that’s not helped by the fact that releasing a song titled ‘So Am I’ immediately after one with a main line of “she’s sweet but a psycho” could be read in a way different from how these lyrics portray it.

Tom: And the slightly uncomfortable music-video trope of taking a conventionally attractive artist and putting her in an oversexualised school uniform with some dancers, while she’s singing about how it’s okay to be different.

It’s very much been the Difficult Second Single in terms of chart performance, although it seems to be getting enough airplay.

Tim: Well, its been in the charts five weeks now and is lurking around the lower end of the Top 20, so I’d say it could go either way.

Tom: Catchy, though, isn’t it?

Tim: Yes. It’s still no Sweet But Psycho, though.