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.

Tegan & Sara – I’ll Be Back Someday

“Normally repeating one note annoys me, but it doesn’t here”

Tom: Whenever we talk about a Tegan & Sara track, we tend to conclude in roughly the same way: it’s good synthpop, it’s quite enjoyable, and then we can’t remember any of it afterwards.

Tim: Harsh, and I’m not entirely sure that’s as true for me as it might be for you, but okay. The new one, then?

Tom: And I guess it’s business as usual.

Tim: Well, maybe, yeah.

Tom: It’s a really good song with a chorus that seems to have been crushed into oblivion by overcompression. As for the chorus itself — well, while it was playing, I wrote “normally repeating one note annoys me, but it doesn’t here”. But I had to go back and listen again before I knew what that one note was.

Tim: Oh, you’re too cruel. Or just saddled with a poor memory – I like the melody, the notes (and yes, there’s more than one), the rhythm. It’s good, and it’s memorable.

Pink feat. Cash Cash – Can We Pretend

“It’s full-on summer dance, just with a recognisable voice over the top.”

Tom: It’s been out for a long while on the album, but this is now heading to US radio airplay as a single (yes, that’s still a thing), so it seems like a good time to cover this. Because despite Pink being very much regular pop, Cash Cash are full-on electronic dance music. And this is very much in our wheelhouse.

Tim: Ooh, it very much is and all. Nice lyric video, too.

Tom: That’s a sound that hasn’t been pushed to US radio in a while. It’s full-on summer dance, just with a recognisable voice over the top.

Tim: Yeah. In fact, it’s kind of like M83 & The Killers, and Avicii & Chris Martin – dance sound, non-dance singer. Works just as well here as it did there.

Tom: And if you’re thinking “this sounds a bit like Sigala”, well, they did a remix. Weirdly, it sounds less like them.

Tim: Hmm, it does. I love what they’ve done to that chorus, though; hate what they’ve put in the post-chorus.

Lindiwe Mkhize, Lebo M. – Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama

“It’s very much ‘let’s not mess with perfection'”

Tim: By all accounts, the new version of The Lion King, out on Friday, is exceedingly similar to the original, frequently having scenes that are shot for shot redos.

Tom: Only with basically expressionless CG faces instead of animation.

Tim: Ah, but photorealism, see. Main question for us: will this vary from the original? Well, only one of the vocalists has changed, and the length is [checks music library] yep, identical. But let’s have a listen anyway.

Tom: I mean, the rest of the tracks are basically Celebrity Lion King Karaoke (and John Oliver, sad to say, is not a patch on Rowan Atkinson), so I guess this could have been worse. But like all covers that are so close to the original: why bother?

Tim: Well, you’ve maybe got to, if you’re redoing the film? But it’s very much ‘let’s not mess with perfection’: aside from Lindiwe’s vocal being audibly different from Carmen Twillie’s in the original, it is, I’m fairly sure, identical. But you know what? I don’t care. It’s an amazing song, and that moment when Rafiki holds up baby Simba will never fail to give me goosebumps.

Tom: For me, it’s the cut to the title card at the end: it’s the first time I can remember being awed by cinema.

Tim: Who cares if it’s the same? I’ll be at the cinema at 10:00 on Friday morning, so I’m out in time for work, and I’m very excited about it.

Sigrid – Mine Right Now

“Very typical Sigrid: a bit shouty, still a good melody, somewhat memorable after the song’s stoped playing.

Tim: This song’s been around as this video a few months now, but the main video came out more recently and that was what got my attention – largely because it’s complete and total garbage, with an irritating narrative about shoots going wrong, planes being delayed, the director pretending to be her, and most annoyingly of all, more interruptions that we’d see even in the dark days of the late noughties.

Tom: That shtick has been done successfully once and once only.

Tim: Here’s the original lyric video.

Tim: Pretty nice chorus, that, by which I mean it’s very typical Sigrid: a bit shouty, still a good melody, somewhat memorable after the song’s stoped playing. The verses are a little less exciting, but worth sticking with because that chorus will come around after not too long.

Tom: And a chorus backing that sounds like it could have been a jingle that BBC Sport used in the 90s. Yes, that’s an obscure and useless reference, but go on, tune your ears to the backing of that chorus and tell me that it doesn’t sound like you’re about to watch a special live broadcast of international athletics.

Tim: Hmmm…maybe? I don’t know, I think it sounds more like a damn good piece of pop personally.

Tom: You’re right, though, it’s a good chorus.

Tim: Actually: having said that about weak verses, I’ve made that excuse a lot of times in the past, so I’m not entirely sure it should be an automatic pass; here it’ll do, though. It’ll do nicely.

Lana Del Rey – Doin’ Time

“I genuinely thought, ha, someone’s doing a really good Lana Del Rey impression and is using it on a completely inappropriate track.”

Tom: Have you ever had a moment, Tim, when you look at the world’s reaction to a track and think that something is terribly wrong?

Tim: Tom, we run a site largely dedicated to Europop, and are frequently fans of songs that end up at the bottom of the Eurovision table. Believe it or not, I have had many such moments.

Tom: Well, anyway. You know the old Gershwin classic “Summertime”? Jazz standard, probably the canonical version’s by Ella Fitzgerald, you know, the one that goes “summertime, and the living is easy”? It’d be a logical choice for Lana Del Rey to cover. It fits her style perfectly.

Tim: Correct. But she hasn’t?

Tom: She hasn’t. She’s covered Sublime’s 1997 highly-modified reggae cover.

Tim: That…is a lot better than I was worried it’d be, given how you sold it.

Tom: The world loves it. I’m driving through the US, it’s on the radio, the DJ’s describing it as the song of the summer. Positive review after positive review is cited in the Wikipedia article for it, and while some of that may be selective quoting due to the label’s PR team, those reviews were still written.

Tim: I wouldn’t disagree with so many of them – I think it’s alright. Doesn’t hugely push my buttons, but it’s a nice tropical vibe, which fits a current day summer style.

Tom: I thought it was a parody. I genuinely thought, ha, someone’s doing a really good Lana Del Rey impression and is using it on a completely inappropriate track. Even now, I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t just someone’s idea of a joke that got out of hand.

Saturday Flashback: I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME – Choke

“The chorus isn’t too bad, I’ll give you that.”

Tom: I know that “Utah-based indie band that sounds like early Britpop, doing a song that personifies Los Angeles and describes how the singer wants to choke the city to death” is well outside our wheelhouse, but given yesterday’s track, it seemed like a good time to talk about someone else who’s insisting on all caps.

Tim: Certainly is a heck of band name.

Tim: Oh. Oh, mate, why?

Tom: Mainly because — despite that introduction that places it outside our wheelhouse — that’s basically a schlager chorus, isn’t it?

Tim: Hmmm…yeah, actually, the chorus isn’t too bad, I’ll give you that.