OneRepublic – Secrets

“I’ve found myself liking OneRepublic. I can’t explain why.”

Tom: I’ve found myself liking OneRepublic. I can’t explain why. Apologize was good, of course – and a lot better before Timbaland decided he’d put a few ‘eh, eh’s over the top and re-release it. But twice now I’ve heard a song being played somewhere, really liked it, and found out it was by OneRepublic. First, there was All The Right Moves – the first single off their latest album Waking Up – and then I heard Good Life, which is that rare thing: a really top-notch album track.

Secrets is the second single from Waking Up, and I’m starting to question – in a good way – whether OneRepublic can actually write a pop single that isn’t anthemic. Yes, the cello part is either a Bach prelude ripoff or homage, depending on how much charity you want to give them. Yes, the lead singer does his usual trick of singing a long string of syllables without changing note. But let those slip away and there’s a really good pop song in here; it’s not a dance floor filler, but it’s movie soundtrack material for sure.

Tim: Okay, this will be a tricky one for me to review objectively – not because I have any predisposition towards the band or anything, but because about seven months ago, I began to get very excited whilst hearing it. It is, as you suggest, movie soundtrack material, but more importantly it’s also awesome TV promo material.* I still get a bit excited when I hear it now, so HURRAY for it finally swimming across the channel.

* For completeness, it’s also suitable for phones (50 seconds in) and aftershave. We get a lot of adverts out here in Canada.

Tom: The album’s been over here for a while; the single didn’t trouble the charts but it’ll be re-released separately soon, in what’s technically termed a “blatant cash-in”.

Tim: It is definitely a Very Good Song, and the fact that it got used as accompaniment to both the conclusion of a huge TV series and (what was meant to be) one of the biggest movies of the year says a lot to back this up. It’s big, it’s powerful, and like all proper songs it starts off quiet; mind you, here it’s so obviously waiting to explode it could get picked up for loitering with intent. Is that a bad thing? No. It would be it if never did explode, but it doesn’t disappoint. It hits, and then keeps going at full pelt until an incredibly (and slightly annoyingly) abrupt ending.

As for the video, well, there’s a choice of three, really, and for sheer amazingness I pick the one where the impact of the chorus makes a plane split in half. In fact, I might just go and put on a DVD.

Christian TV – When She Turns 18

At least they’re definitely respecting the law.

Tom: Some songs have deep, mysterious meanings; some songs make you question what love is and whether you’ve really experienced it; some songs, in the right place at the right time, can make grown men cry. This song, on the other hand, has the simple plain message of “I’m screwing your daughter”.

Tim: Which, depending upon the strength of the father-daughter bond and the unpleasantness of the young man involved, could also make a grown man cry.

Tom: Damn.

Anyway, it’s a damn good track. He may have hair by Jedward and an ungooglable name, but he can actually sing. Even the Romeo and Juliet audio sample at the start doesn’t grate, which surprises me.

It starts high-energy, never really dips apart from the required quiet bit before the final chorus, and while it’s not going to go down in history as an all-time classic, I’d be happy if this got played in a club.

Tim: You’re right, this is good – a very pleasant mix of dance and rock. It’s quite a ‘get things done’ track, I think; maybe I will look for my phone at some point.

Tom: I imagine in any more conservative American state where the age of consent is 18, on the other hand, this might not be as popular.

Tim: Well, at least they’re definitely respecting the law, much like this brilliant work of art.

Tom: The pedant in me has to point out that if you make a photocopy of yourself and then move during the scanning process, it’ll produce some very strange pictures indeed. This appears to be a magic photocopier with glass big enough for two people to dry-hump on, though, so I can let that slip.

Tim: Good, because I rather like that video, and I truly believe that flickbooks are the way forward when it comes to delivering unpleasant news.

Tom: Never, ever go into medicine, Tim.

Tim: I hope they’re going to recycle all that paper, though.

Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow – Shame

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say: I think this song is perfect.

Tom: How did we miss this? Robbie Williams’ new single, featuring Gary Barlow, is coming out on October 4th and it completely passed us by.

Tom: First of all, let’s be clear: this is not the Take That we’re-friends-with-Robbie-again new single. This is a Robbie Williams track that Gary Barlow’s featuring on. Which is fine, because it turns out really quite nicely. It’s a slow one, and while I always preferred ‘Let Me Entertain You’ to ‘Angels’, I still have a soft spot for ‘Feel’, ‘Come Undone’, and so on. Is ‘Shame’ of that calibre? Well, no. But it’d be difficult for these two to turn out anything that wasn’t at least ‘rather good’, and sure enough this one’s a really nice bit of pop.

Tim: That is lovely. And not lovely like Sha-la-lie lovely, but lovely like end-of-a-Richard-Curtis-film lovely. It began at the first chorus, the second chorus was when I really thought ‘oh, yes’, and from then on it just snowballed to glacier-size by the end.

Tom: As for the video – well, I get the feeling that’s going to be more your domain.

Tim: Well, as long as you don’t mind enough homo-eroticism to fill a Russell T. Davies drama with enough left over to drown John Barrowman, you’ll be loving it. Particularly Robbie’s gaze at 2:25. The slightly sad part of me also liked the timing of the shot glass on the table and pointing the finger about 85 seconds in.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say: I think this song is perfect. As a song celebrating a reunion between two friends who broke up (which is exactly what it is and should be), there’s nothing it should have that it doesn’t. And it also fits in Toys R Us, which adds at least five bonus points.

Tom: Whoa, hang on. There’s no way this song is perfect. The Toys R Us reference grates like hell, the comedy ending will get old very quickly – they are not Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – and it’s really all that memorable. Does it tick all the boxes? Yes. Is it perfect like the medley off the end of the Beatles’ Abbey Road? No. No it’s not.

Tim: I’m not saying the song’s perfect in a best song of all time way, just in a sense of being absolutely and entirely appropriate for the current stage of their music careers. It’s a song about friends getting back together and forgetting old differences, and in that setting I think it’s brilliant.

Andreas Johnson – Solace

It kicks in like a mule.

Tim: Andreas Johnson (known primarily for his aptly-titled 1999 hit, Glorious), has got a new song out. The chorus received its debut over the summer as the theme tune to Sweden’s version of The Biggest Loser*; the full song was released a week or two ago, and it’s called Solace.

* A reality TV show which is not, as I had hoped, a sort of X Factor for uber-geeks – instead it’s a ‘let’s all watch the fatties try to lose weight’ show.

Tom: What a fantastic song – and what a shame that YouTube has knackered the sound quality on it. There’s almost Polyphonic Spree levels of instrumentation there, all cranked up to 11, and it’s been destroyed by compression. If you have Spotify, listen to it there; it’s still overcompressed, but it’s not quite as bad.

Tim: Overall, and after a few listens, I think I quite like this. The chorus is good – lyrics are a bit generic, but they’re very singable, with a good tune – and the instrumentation is excited and energetic. And I’m not quite sure why exactly, but I really really like the bridge before the final chorus.

Tom: This is the first time in a long while I’ve heard the opening bars of a song and just said “oh, yes”. I always liked Glorious for its over-the-top production, and nearly ten years later it’s good to see that not too much has changed.

Tim: That final chorus, though, is one of a few things I’m not so keen on (another is that the verses can sound a bit whiny) – I know the lone voice fits perfectly with the ‘there’s a place where all the madness disappears’ and stuff, and so technically it’s a good ending for the song, but personally I would much prefer it if, say, the instrumentals had kicked in for one last bit, maybe the second half of the last chorus: ‘…I’ll be falling too. NOISE When you’re stuck…’ That’s just me, though.

Tom: You’re absolutely right. It kicks in like a mule, but just dies out like a simile you can’t think of an ending for. It needs to end on a bang, not a whimper. And a key change.

Tim: I disagree – I know I said I’d prefer it if the song finished with a bang, and I would, but as the song it is, it can’t. The song is about leaving this world behind and moving on to a place where Andreas and the listener can be free to relax and feel calm.

Tom: The Peak District?

Tim: Quiet, you. I’m trying to have a serious moment here. A loud ending would destroy all that. If the words were completely different, then yes, definitely finish it loud. Right now, though, the ending is exactly what it should be.

3OH!3 – Double Vision

Brace yourself. I’m about to say something startling.

Tom: Brace yourself, Tim. I’m about to say something startling: I’ve found a good 3OH!3 song.

Tom: Catchy as their previous ones have been, I can’t say I really enjoyed them – Starstrukk may have been in my head, but I didn’t want it to be there. This 3OH!3 track still seems to be autotuned and over-processed to hell, but it’s less shouty and in-your-face.

Tim: Really? I loved Starstrukk, and as tracks with Katy Perry go I thought it was much better than any other recent ones.

Tom: Well, yeah, if you see it as a Katy Perry track anything’s better than Teenage bloody Dream.

Tim: Fair point. Anyway, the first time I listened to this was at work on my lunch break, and I scribbled the following: “Hmm. It’s not bad, I’ll grant them that, but after about 1:30 I had a continual feeling that it was about to wrap up, and kept being surprised at how long there was left. That’s probably not a good thing, and to be honest, I don’t think there’s much to write about.”

Tom: You know what I think does the ending thing? The “HEYs” during the first chorus. They’re great when you’re expecting them – and they’ll go down very well with big crowds – but there’s so much energy in that first chorus that it sounds like it should be the last.

Tim: Having heard it a few more times at home and all that, I should like to revise my opinion. There’s still the ‘it’s almost finished’ feeling throughout most of it, but it’s gone from ‘It’s only been two minutes?’ to ‘Ooh, there’s still another minute or so to go!’ (or it would be if I thought with exclamation marks). It’s catchy, and good-catchy at that, so I hereby give it a big thumbs up from me.

Tom: The video impresses and annoys me in equal measure: the concept and execution are brilliant, and it was – according to the behind-the-scenes video – done with as little CGI as possible. But that has to be some of the most blatant in-video advertising I’ve ever seen – even if I have to concede that it does fit in.

Tim: Haha, it is and all, although I’m tempted to applaud them for their making it quite so obvious. I do like the two girls and the Daft Hands-esque routine, but the limbo thing looks weird, like the front one’s not long enough or something, and I find it mildly disconcerting.

Tom: It’s not. It’s forced-perspective. Clever trick though.

If they hadn’t had the Katy Perry hit, I’d say that this should have been one of the big summer hits. As it is: I’m hoping it’ll be one of the big autumn hits instead.

Tim: I’ll be honest – I don’t think there’s much chance of it not being.

Album Review: Hurts – Happiness

Yes, it really is called Happiness, and yes, it really has got Kylie on it.

Tim: Since, in my view, Wonderful Life is not far off Lovekiller in terms of excellence, and we reviewed Darin’s album, it would be plain rude not to review this one as well (and yes, it really is called Happiness, and yes, it really has got Kylie on it).

Hurts - Happiness

1 – Silver Lining: Great opener, really shows what they can do. Long but varied throughout. Upbeat chorus, gentle bridge, finishes with OMINOUS MALE CHANTING. 9/10

2 – Wonderful Life: As previously mentioned, brilliant provided you don’t have to watch the video and don’t mind public transport inconsistencies. 10/10

3 – Blood, Tears & Gold: Not sure how to describe this as a good song; it very definitely is, but I’m not entirely sure why. The bits all just fit together, really. 8/10

4 – Sunday: One of the most upbeat; chorus of ‘just another lonely Sunday’. Very sing-along-able if you’re happy, though you’d need to alter the words. 9/10

5 – Stay: ‘I’ve got Drops of Jupiter stuck in my head. Oh well. Let’s write some songs.’ Similarity aside, however, this song is utterly fantastic. 10/10

6 – Illuminated: Seems like a fight between quiet boring verses and a loud exciting chorus for control of the song; the chorus wins, which is a relief. 7/10

7 – Evelyn: A perfect example of a song that builds throughout. Starts quietly tapping on your window; ends up kicking your door down. 8/10

8 – Better Than Love: Deservedly their first single. Electrodance backing, unusually energetic singing; I find this impossible to criticise. 10/10

9 – Devotion (featuring Kylie Minogue): ‘I’ve got Nature’s Law stuck in my head.’ Verses aren’t much; good chorus, but too similar for my liking.* Nice instrumental close, though. 6/10

10 – Unspoken: Remarkably boring for the first three minutes, but builds up a little bit for a fairly good final 90 seconds. 6/10

11 – Water: ‘This is the last song, yes? Can we get away with reusing the chorus melody from the first one?’ No, and the rest of it’s just a bit dull. 4/10

11a – Verona (Hidden track): An odd one – the group male chanting from the beginning comes back as a personal love song, and I’m not sure what to think of it.

tl;dr: Can be a bit too reminiscent of other songs, tailing off towards the end. Good if you like your music happy and sad simultaneously, though. 8/10

* Nothing against Embrace – I love Nature’s Law, just not reused in a completely different song.

Scissor Sisters – Any Which Way

A decent enough tune, but the verses don’t seem to have much to them.

Tom: The new Scissor Sisters single – the second one off the new album – is out today.

Tom: I don’t know what’s more surprising – that the Scissor Sisters are still going, or that they’re still good.

Tim: Hmm. I loved Fire With Fire, and this one doesn’t really live up to it for me. It’s still a decent enough tune, but the verses don’t seem to have much to them and are largely forgettable; thirty seconds after I’ve heard it I’m remembering it as just one repeating chorus, which I will probably be singing to myself for at least the next 24 hours.

Tom: The video’s a textbook case of ‘chuck in as many ideas as you can, some of them will work’, but somehow it still seems like a cohesive whole.

Tim: You’re right about that. I like to imagine them having filmed about half a dozen separate and completely different ones and then just cutting between them at random intervals throughout the song.

Tom: Any video which features Ana Matronic pulling open her top and sexily intoning “just take me” has at least something I can appreciate – even if the sushi roll bombardment that follows sends rather confusing messages.

Joe McElderry – Ambitions

He’s spent the past nine months turning into Mika.

Tim: Turns out that X Factor winner Joe McElderry’s spent the past nine months turning into Mika, as demonstrated by his first proper single Ambitions (a cover of Donkeyboy’s song from last year), which debuted on Radio 1 on Sunday evening.

Tom: I have to own up here: I haven’t heard the original version, so at least I can’t complain that he’s ruined a song.

That’s not a Mika-style introduction – I was expecting some deep gravelly voice to kick in, or perhaps even Gerard Way in Black Parade mode. Once I got over the fact that he’s a few octaves higher than I expected, it started to come together.

Tim: I think it’s rather brilliant, over all. Obviously not Hera Björk brilliant, but very enjoyable nonetheless. Also, unlike Alexandra Burke’s Bad Boys, it hasn’t got…oh, I won’t go into that again.

Tom: Huh. “Flo Rida”. “Florida”. I just got that. There’ll be a female version of him called “Miss Ouri” soon, you watch.

Tim: Seriously? Wow. Anyway, now I’ll go into Simon Cowell mode, because it’s appropriate. Is it the best song ever? Of course not. Is the ending a little bit drawn out? Perhaps. Could it do without the rather irritating hissing that permeates most of it? Definitely.

Tom: The hissing is probably YouTube compression, to be fair.

Tim: Afraid not – I’ve checked the original broadcast (which yes, I know is also compressed, but not as much), and it’s on there as well. Anyway, is it the best X Factor debut song for quite some time, possibly even bettering Bleeding Love? One million per cent yes.

Tom: It seems very much by-the-numbers, which I suppose is a strange complaint from someone who generally likes by-the-numbers music. So I went and listened to the original Donkeyboy version, and that doesn’t trigger this complaint in my head: perhaps it’s not so overproduced as, well, everything that disembarks the 3:45 from Cowellville.

Tim: See, I love the overproduction on it – I did like the original a lot, and what they’ve added on top here just, well, adds to it, brilliantly. I will accept, however, that the video for Donkeyboy’s version is very very good indeed, and that Joe’s is very unlikely to match up.

This version just seems… empty. I can only assume that Simon Cowell has feasted on Joe’s soul.

It’s what the man does best.

The Saturdays – Higher

‘Very good’ becomes ‘flipping awful’

Tim: This here is the upcoming single from The Saturdays, and it’s more or less very good. The intro makes it sound a bit dodgy, but forty seconds in the chorus hits and it becomes amazing.

Tom: I’d say it becomes mediocre. It’s not got the bounce of ‘Up’, or even what passed for soulfulness in Issues (a song that will, for complicated reasons, always be associated with chlamydia testing in my head).

Tim: Um, thanks for sharing. Erm…sorry, I have completely forgotten what I was saying. Oh, right, the song. Yes. The autotune’s a bit thick for my liking, but the ‘lift it, lift it higher’ is too good for something like that to pull it down. The bridge fits nicely as well, providing a nice bit of calm after a loud chorus before building the final. All round: jolly good.

HOWEVER, all is not jolly good. Because what I have done, rather cheekily, is shown you the album version of the song.

Tom: Oh, snap.

Tim: The single version is here, and it’s flipping awful. The reason for this makes himself known approximately three seconds in. Now, I have made my distaste for Flo Rida clear on quite a few occasions, but it’s only now we can get a proper contrast between a song with him and one without him. And my God, is there a contrast.

Tom: Oh, no. I’m backing out of this. I know what’s coming here.

Tim: He craps all over the aforementioned rather pleasant bridge, which is bad enough, but to top it all off he does that stupid shout out thing at the start (which, given the five-strong band, ends up sounding more like a school register), and then puts himself first.

Right, let me make this clear. In capital letters, because that might be more effective. FLO RIDA, YOU ARE IN THERE FOR PRECISELY TWENTY FOUR SECONDS. THAT’S 12% OF THE SONG. YOU DO NOT GET TOP BILLING, YOU UTTER SHITE.

Tom: …you done?

Tim: Ahem. Okay, I’ll be a bit more rational. You may say, ‘Tim, you could look past the autotune, and that’s there for a lot more than 24 seconds. Why can’t you just look past him, or even just temporarily mute it like you do for granny-mugger-but-somehow-sob-story Rachel’s appalling bit in the otherwise excellent Hero?’

Tom: Did you just call that version of ‘Hero’ excellent? Really? I know it’s well-meaning and noble and all that, but excellent?

Tim: The key change. Just, the key change. But excuse me, you’ve cut me off mid-rant, and I don’t appreciate it.

Tom: Sorry. Why can’t you look past it?

Tim: I don’t know. His presence just somehow drags the whole thing down, because I know he’s there in the background. The small amount of ‘crap R&B’ness that was there – the autotune, the intro that wasn’t great to start with – somehow gets amplified and the song as a whole is just ruined. THIS SUCKS.

Tom: To be fair, it was doing a good job of that anyway.

Tim: Wow. I haven’t got that angry in quite some time. Feels quite good, actually.

Tinie Tempah – Written in the Stars

Tim Jeffries, ruining hip hop for other people since 2010!

Tom: I know it’s not the normal style of music we review, but the new single by Tinie Tempah is bloody amazing. It’s released on 27th September, and it’s called Written in the Stars – not to be confused with the old Elton John and Leanne Rimes track. There are three reasons why I like it:

  • Tinie Tempah actually shouts “let’s go” just before he starts.
  • The hook is lush. I don’t mean that in the slang sense, I mean that in the same way you’d describe a tree. It’s a genius bit of complicated, layered, melodramatic major-key pop genius with a synthesised string section behind it.
  • He namedrops Malorie Blackman, the young adult science fiction writer. I had to listen to that line again just to make sure I heard it right.

His earlier stuff seemed gimmicky, but this isn’t: it’s a full grown-up British rap track, and it deserves to go worldwide.

Tim: Good: the music. Perhaps even ‘very good’. The chorus is excellent, and while the rapping isn’t my thing I could happily have this on in the background. Eric Turner is definitely someone I may look into at some point in the future.

Bad: the lyrics. The second half of the first verse and the second verse seem to give a vague ‘look at me, I started low down, but I’ve worked my way up slowly but surely’ autobiographical idea, showing us he’s a good guy, he’s had stuff to work though; let’s think about him and feel for him. This would be great – it could even be slightly motivational for school kids who are feeling down on their luck. Except it can’t, because he starts out by more or less saying ‘look at me, I’m flipping awesome’, Flo Rida-style, which makes him seem like an arrogant prick and kind of destroys any desire I have to get to know him. I’m sure you’re not, Tinie – in fact, you’re probably the lovely guy we see in the rest of the song – but you’ve ruined it. Sorry.

Horrendous: one lyric in particular. ‘Was leaded astray’. I don’t care if it was to make some (not particularly apparent) point about a bad education or something: it’s awful, and no excuse will change that. You’ve had enough dodgy stresses elsewhere that ‘I was led astray’ would work just as well and not be massively annoying.

Like I said, I could more than happily have this on in the background. The music’s brilliant, and I can’t really fault it. If I have to listen to it and pay attention to it, though: sorry, but no.

Tom: Damn. Now you mention it, it’s like the spell is broken. That ‘brap brap’ in the first verse annoys the hell out of me, come to think of it, along with some of the dodgy stresses you mentioned. It’s a shame because the rest of it really is so good.

I tried hunting for other music by the same team, but the producer’s name is simply “Ishi” – which is ungooglable – and I really can’t find anything else about this particular Eric Turner online. That’s annoying because I want an album that sounds like this… only without Tinie Tempah.

Sorry, Tinie.

Tim: Hurrah! Tim Jeffries, ruining hip hop for other people since 2010!