Charli XCX & Troye Sivan – 1999

Tim: Charli XCX, creator of fine pop music. Troye Sivan, likewise. Should be a good song, then, as long was you’re up for some nostalgia?

Tim: And actually, despite a rocky start which was getting me all ready to be disappointed, I got on bored fairly soon. I think it was the first ‘ooooh’ that made it – although the backing didn’t get any less brash, it did provide a slightly gentle jumping on point, and from then on I could absolutely cope with it. Not going to come out and say I actively like it, mind – I’m all for a bit of nostalgia, but however much of a state we might be right now, things are definitely better overall – but musically at least, I can deal with it.

Keala Settle, Kesha & Missy Elliott – This Is Me

“This… is not an improvement”

Tim: So here’s a fun thing: since The Greatest Showman is so brilliant, and the soundtrack is still an amazing album, they’ve done a new version of it, getting big name artists to do their own versions of the songs, and called it The Greatest Showman: Reimagined. Some of them sound basically identical; some are considerably less good; there’s also this. (You may want to reacquaint yourself with the original first.)

Tom: I remember describing the original as “so polished you could slip on it and crack your head”. And this… is not an improvement, I don’t think?

Tim: Me neither. It took me by surprise when I was just listening to the album, as I’m sure you’d expect, and to be honest I really don’t know how well it works. I certainly get what they were going for, but is it just me, or does the rapping hang around for too long? The second part works a little bit better, because halfway through you’ve got some backing vocals coming in halfway through, but I can’t help feeling this might be a little bit improved with that first part only lasting half as long.

Tom: Possibly, but if you’re going to get actual Missy Elliott in to be on the track, you want to get your money’s worth.

Tim: Fair, but at least chop it in two, and put the second half after the first chorus – as it is, coming right at the beginning after a very short intro and with no indicator when it might stop, it just seems to drag a bit, before the meat of the song comes along. Just me?

Tom: Not just you.

Galantis – Emoji

“This is a good track apart from the lyrics and the video.”

Tim: Not entirely sure how you’ll feel about this video, Tom (although that might be a lie, because I’m almost certain I know how you’ll feel), but bear in mind it’s only 2 minutes and 48 seconds long.

Tom: This is a good track apart from the lyrics and the video.

Tim: Part of me wants to brush my hands together, smile, turn and walk away and just let you loose on this one with the knowledge that my work here is done, really, but the other part of me wants to argue passionately in favour of this. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of sending a disturbingly anthropomorphised heart to guilt trip your other half into not giving up on you while you’re away, and to grow large and bright when you’re getting ready to see her again? It’s just SO CUTE.

Tom: Mm. I’m not going to rise to the bait, except to say that: songs with references like this date incredibly quickly, and if you have to deliberately mis-emphasise a word to fit the rhyme scheme, perhaps you should just write the song about something else.

Tim: Oh. Can’t deny I’m a tad disappointed, but you’re not wrong.

Saturday Flashback: G.R.L. – Ugly Heart

“Good Pop Choruses! And a good middle eight! And good verses!”

Tim: It’s not European (well, one of them’s British), and it’s definitely not Europop, but I heard it for the first time in ages a week or so ago and I’ve listened multiple times a day ever since, so here you go.

Tim: At least I’m fairly sure it was this I heard, and not the Little Mix cover version, but either way it’s a brilliant track.

Tom: Good Pop Choruses! This is what we’ve been talking about this week! And a good middle eight! And good verses! My two rules hold true: I can sing the chorus by the end of the first listen, and I want to hear it again right afterwards. This right here? This is a good pop chorus.

Tim: Technically the band is still going, sort of – the disbanded in June 2015, reformed in August 2016 and have since put out a whole two tracks. They’re touring next year, though, so that’ll be interesting to see what they can cobble together. Anyway, until then we have this. What a song.

Icona Pop – Rhythm In My Blood

“And that is Good.”

Tim: So Robyn’s new album is as dull as really, really dull ditchwater, but last Friday wasn’t all bad news. For starters, for the first time in YEARS Lady Gaga is at number one in both the singles and albums chart, and for seconds this one appeared.

Tim: And that is Good, because it takes the traditional Icona Pop shouty vocal sound, which is already very enjoyable, and throws in a fair amount of decent melody.

Tom: Oh, I didn’t expect to like that. It’s got a minimalist sound, the kind that I don’t usually like, but then I realised half way through that I was already humming along with the chorus.

Tim: We’ve musical vocals in the verses and a surprisingly earwormy hook in the chorus, which now I’ve heard this track three or four times I’m not sure I’ll ever lose. Nice one ladies, good to have you back.

Saturday Flashback: Robyn – Dancing On My Own

“Why couldn’t we have more of this?”

Tim: Okay, folks: so, when we reviewed Missing U, I remarked that if the upcoming album Honey was as good as that I’d be very happy. Released yesterday, the album is good, as long as you’re having trouble sleeping and are looking for something to help you nod off. So let’s have a listen to a decent Robyn track.

Tim: Because IT’S JUST SO GOOD. So much so that even a limp guitar cover version of it is somewhat listenable. Why couldn’t we have more of this? That would have been nice. Can we, maybe just have a remix album? At least?

CHVRCHES – Graffiti

“This is a really good track, light years ahead of yesterday’s.”

Tim: Weird thing of modern times, probably brought on by streaming: my assumption that now Love Is Dead has been released, there wouldn’t be any more singles that come from it. Pleasingly, I’m wrong, so here’s a new video.

Tim: Bit of a downer on the lyrics, but the video’s nice and fun, and obviously the sound is good.

Tom: You know how I was grumpy the other day about a dull song? I just realised how much higher I put the bar for a proven act like CHVRCHES. This is a really good track, light years ahead of Cherrie’s, but because I’m now expecting something as good as ‘Empty Threat’, I listen to this and think “yeah, it’s okay, I guess”.

Tim: Now that’s interesting, because I saw this and almost had the opposite idea: I’m fairly sure my attitude and enjoyment of this actually improved knowing it was them. Admittedly, I’ve heard the song many times previously, so it was already well woven into my brain, but still.

To be honest, now we’re approaching the end of October, I feel confident in saying that Love Is Dead is probably going to be my favourite album of the year (and yes, I’m taking into account Cher’s ABBA album). It’s just that good, and if you’ve not listened to it yet you’re only letting yourself down.

Tom: Yeah, it’s okay, I guess.

Imagine Dragons – Zero

“It’s infuriating.”

Tom: The first Wreck-It Ralph movie provided us with When Can I See You Again, an Owl City track so good that it got turned into parade music for Disney’s theme parks. Sequels are never as good as the original – and besides, Imagine Dragons’ sound surely isn’t right for a kids’ movie like this?

Tim: You’d think not, no. And yet…

Tom: I listened to it once, thought it was unremarkable but pleasant, and then, five minutes later, realised I was still humming the chorus to myself. It’s infuriating. It’s an earworm of a track.

Tim: Infuriating, yes, for reasons I’ll get to, and yes, an earworm, but it’s a decent track – and close enough to their regular sound yet also fitting in with that film.

Tom: The chorus line that just repeats syllables and jumps between only two notes in each line. And the song never resolves; like the song in The Demolished Man, you’re left wanting to hum the chorus one more time. But of course, because it’s good pop music: I like this.

Tim: I DON’T like this, but not for any of the reasons you’ve said (although admittedly, the first time I heard that chorus and it finished with that explosion I was distinctly unimpressed, but later choruses and the studio version fix that).

Tom: Try the lyric video, it is very very cleverly done. Anyway, why don’t you like this?

Tim: Ooh, that is cleverly done. I dislike the song because immediately after “Like I’m good enough for anything” I want that “real, real” to take a different tune, where it rises up high and goes “re-eee-e-ey-al”. Because that is coming from another song, and I cannot for the life of me think what it is (female pop soloist, I think), and it is now all I can think of.

Tom: Oh, no. You’re right. You’re absolutely right. And I can’t remember what that other song is because every time I try to hear it, I can only remember this new track. Is it a Millennial Whoop? Because if so it could be a lot of songs.

Tim: No, it’s not that, it’s just – actually, you know what? I’m now at your stage. I can’t hear anything but this song.

Tom: Anyway, I both like this and want to erase it from my head. I’m sorry if you now feel the same way.

Tim: Well, that question will probably be in my head for at least 36 hours now, so yes, I do feel the same way.

Robyn – Honey

“It’s not exactly great as a pop song, is it?”

Tim: So, according to a lengthy interview in The Guardian, August’s Missing U is something of an outlier on Robyn’s new album, out on the 26th, in the sense of it sounding a lot like her older stuff. Most of it is closer to this; see what you think.

Tim: And my reaction to that is distinctly: hmmm. It’s nice to listen to, it’s certainly very Robyn, but it’s not exactly great as a pop song, is it?

Tom: Remember when Calum Scott covered Dancing On My Own, and everyone who knew the original was just incredibly disappointed? That’s how I feel about this.

Tim: The problem for me really is the length of it, or at least related to that: it’s too drawn out, too drifting, too rambling to really get me going at all, to get me singing along to any chorus (is there even a proper chorus? I’ve listened to it three times and I’m struggling to identify one).

Tom: There is one! It’s just far too chilled-out. I assumed the monotone bit at about 2:20 was the middle eight, but no, we’re not even half way through. Never mind “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”, the advice is here is just “don’t bore us”.

Tim: It’s a shame – like I said, it’s nice to listen to, but it just doesn’t do it for me as a great pop song.

Saturday Flashback: The Wanted – Chasing The Sun

“A song by The Wanted written by Example. And boy, does it show.”

Tim: So here’s something I didn’t realise existed until a few days ago: a song by The Wanted written by Example. And boy, does it show.

Tim: Isn’t that just very, very Example? Almost enough that, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were credited as ‘Example feat. The Wanted’.

Tom: Yep: there’s a clear distinction between songwriter and producer here. And speaking of production: this is the first pop song I’ve heard in a long, long while where there’s a clear difference in loudness between verse and chorus. It’s not just my imagination: I actually pulled it into a waveform editor to check. That chorus is genuinely louder, just like the Old Days.

Tim: It’s nice – combination of good boyband and a good DJ. Nothing much to say about it, really – I was just quite intrigued to discover that it existed.