Rick Astley – Lights Out

Play two copies one frame apart next to each other, you get Rick Astley in 3D. No kidding.

Tom: How did we miss this?! Martijn emailed us this, and said “…it’s a Rick Roll. But modern. And awesome.”

Tom: It’s a damn good tune, although it has that ‘in one ear, out the other’ quality; I can’t remember any of the lyrics or even much of the melody even having listened to it a couple of times. Is it listenable? Sure. It is playlistable? Absolutely. Is it a classic? No. Does it need one big ‘oomph’ moment, drums kicking in and ever guitar wailing, when he comes back from the bridge? Yeah, it really does. But never mind: it’s a new Rick Astley single! I wonder if he’d be putting this single out if it hadn’t been for the internet deciding to adore him?

Tim: If I was a little less sensible, I would write ‘Are you sure you’ve got the right video?’ Because this is very definitely not ‘Rick Astley off of Never Gonna Give You Up’. This is an actual modern song – hell, in the video he barely looks old enough to have made songs 25 years ago.

Tom: I swear the man has, up in his attic, a painting of himself that’s steadily getting older.

Tim: If he’s planning a comeback, this is a Good Thing To Do*, because it means he’s brought out a song that mum and dad can listen to and think back to the good old days while the teenage kid hears it playing downstairs and thinks, ‘Ooh, I like this.’ He’s popular with the grown-ups, and the teenager has to work out how he can still be cool if he likes his parents’ music.

Anyway, ‘modern’ isn’t much to say about a track, so here’s something else: like you say, it’s not particularly memorable, but the chorus has a good build-up during it. Or at least, I remember thinking it did, but it’s now been ten minutes since I heard it and I actually can’t really remember how the build-up went. Not at all memorable, then, I suppose. I do remember that I liked it, though, and that’s what mostly matters.

* See also Take That: compare 1995’s How Deep Is Your Love with 2006’s Patience.

Tom: As for the video: they have a Steadicam and they’re not afraid to use it. Is it a callback to Never Gonna Give You Up? Who knows. That constant rotation means, though, that if you play two copies of the video one frame apart next to each other, you get Rick Astley in 3D. No kidding. It’s actually a really convincing effect.

Taylor Swift – Mine

Tom has just discovered how to be a complete dick at karaoke.

Tom: Taylor Swift’s new single leaked online the other week, and was swiftly released properly in response. It’s just hit the US Billboard charts, and no doubt it’ll be over on these shores sooner or later; the official video just came out, too.

In related news, I have just discovered how to be a complete dick at karaoke. Here is the karaoke backing track for Love Story by Taylor Swift: your challenge is to sing You Belong With Me over the top of it. Provided you nail the key change at the end, and can deal with the harmony singer on the backing track throwing you off, they fit perfectly.

Tim: Oh, you and your… you-ness. Good work. You been doing karaoke?

Tom: If by “karaoke” you mean “singing along too loud while wearing headphones” then yes. The two songs have the same structure and same chords.

The new one’s got roughly the same structure, but then so does every schlager song in existence. At least it sounds a bit different, even if it’s the same “oh look, we’re in love, and despite some setbacks we’re still in love at the end” that describes most of her songs.

Tim: In a similar vein, did you know Tik Tok and California Gurls are the same song?

Tom: Not surprising – they’re by the same producer.

Tim: Do we need to bother reviewing Mine? It’s absolutely nothing special at all: if people liked Love Story and You Belong With Me they’ll like this as well, and if they didn’t they won’t. I think we should leave the summing up for YouTube commenter MoonfulBlue, who seems to live in her own little world of fluffy bunnies and pink clouds, but has an appropriate take on Taylor Swift’s music:

‘I love how Taylor’s songs always talk about things in life that could actually happen and they don’t talk about drugs/sex/violence and instead, love is in place.’

Alexandra Burke feat. Laza Morgan – Start Without You

The first mainstream song about female masturbation since “I Touch Myself”.

Tim: So Alexandra Burke’s bringing out her new single in two and a half weeks, and the video’s so ridiculously gay it’s quite likely this song’ll be the new Torchwood theme.

Tim: The music starts off entirely cack, with a trademark Alexandra moment of self-doubt having everybody else’s name shouted out first*, but then the chorus lands and you feel you should be in Hawaii surrounded by coconuts and pineapples, and it’s rather catchy. The rest of the song improves as a whole, and I think it’s a good’un.

But dear lord, the video… It’s just…I really don’t know. I have absolutely no clue what logical thought process could possibly have led to this as an idea for a music video. It’s not bad, yet nor is it good, and it sure as hell isn’t average. On your standard scale of quality, it seems to defy placement.

* This is the one thing that really annoyed me about Bad Boys, which was otherwise a ruddy marvellous effort. That cock Flo Rida had only a few rapping lines and wasn’t the lead artist, yet it started by him yelling ‘FLO RIDA! Alexandra…’ Nob. And I know RedOne’s good and all that (*cough* Darin *cough*), but since when did the producer ever get a shout out?

Tom: Haha. This is terrible. I mean, there’s nothing particularly bad about it musically, but it sounds like someone took the backing of Agadoo, jazzed it up a bit, and then got Ranking Roger to do a bit of Jamaican sort-of-rap at the start like in mostly-forgotten mid-90s Pato Banton hit Bubblin’ Hot.

Also, as soon as you realise the lyrics are one giant sexual metaphor, the whole song makes sense:

“Oh, here I go, drip droppin’ way down low
You’re ’bout to miss
Winding to this
Don’t make me start without you”

Er, anyone under 12 probably shouldn’t read that last paragraph. Not that they’ll understand it anyway. Actually, let me rephrase: don’t let your parents read that last paragraph, it’ll just be awkward.

Tim: I hadn’t actually looked at the lyrics, and I’m a little disturbed. Not by them, but by you and your choice of lyrics to display the metaphor. You could have had

Body like a weapon that’ll make you go boom
Get like a drum I’ll make you go…boom

or, even more so,

You’re the only one and I’m all on my back
The only one I want on my back

— but no. You chose drip droppin’ way down low. Seriously, man, what’s the matter with you?

Tom: Because all the others are generic, all the others sound like the vague comments made in every other song. There’s no other explanation for that particular verse though – I even checked Urban Dictionary, and the only definition it gave was a visit from Aunt Flo, which frankly turns the song down an entirely different route.

Once you start looking, there’s even more evidence: her hand gesture at 1:51, for example. The only conclusion I can draw is this: Alexandra Burke’s “Start Without You” is the first truly mainstream song about female masturbation since “I Touch Myself”.

Tim: Also from the lyrics comes a massive annoyance that I hadn’t previously noticed, although it’s not just in this song because I’ve had it for quite some time: when the sod did ‘I’m going to’ become ‘Imma’? It’s the most ridiculous contraction since, well, ever. In fact, it’s not even a contraction when you compare it to ‘I’ll’. Utter crap. I blame Kanye West.

Tom: I’m sorry, are you from the past? First, the Black Eyed Peas released a single called ‘Imma Be‘ in May last year – although the cover of that was a picture of a bee, so well done there. Imma is now so common that even I use it on occasion, and (like everyone else on the internet) I’m a middle-class white guy. I tend to use ‘immana’ more, but it’s steadily creeping in.

Tim: I know it’s been around for a while, but it’s one thing that really really gets me, because I just don’t see how it makes sense. Although I did feel incredibly old when writing it, so I’ll accept you have a point.

Tom: One final comment: is Laza Morgan the guy off Mysterious Girl? Because the opening sounds remarkably similar now I think about it.

Tim: Wikipedia tells me the Mysterious Girl guy was called Bubbler Ranx, so no, although we still have the sublime Ant & Seb to link Alexandra and that song.

McFly – Party Girl

It’s the British Millennial generation’s version of Bob Dylan going electric.

Tom: Oh blimey. McFly have suddenly gone all Taio Cruz on us. I really disliked this on first listen, but now it’s growing on me. And that video’s a bit more grown-up than the image they used to project. Are they really making a full movie? That’s either Growing the Beard or Jumping the Shark and I’m really not sure which.

What we basically have here is the British Millennial generation’s version of Bob Dylan going electric. I reckon this is a carefully calculated single release: the rest of the album will be more traditional stuff for the long-term fans, but this is meant to attract the kids who’ve gotten used to Lady Gaga and 3OH!3 in the last couple of years.

Tim: Well, apparently they have ‘innovative plans‘ that look all intense, so I wouldn’t count on it being a one-off, especially considering that the next single is actually written with Taio Cruz. That said, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. If growing up involves making a film with Harry doing the dirty with a vampire, then I say bring it on. It’s only 30 minutes long, rather than a full film, and good or bad I think it’ll be worth watching.

Personally I think their best track was Do Ya (which had the zombie video a couple of years back), and I prefer that style, but this is more up to date and you can tell that they haven’t done it just to be modern, but because they like the stuff. They haven’t sold out or changed dramatically – I like this one, as much as I liked some of their older output – just adapted, and done that fairly well. The main thing is that this passes the biggest test of all, in that you can tell it’s McFly. A different McFly, sure, but still McFly.

Tom: I can’t believe I’m about to have this argument, but: there is no way in hell that Do Ya is McFly’s best single. That’s blatantly Star Girl – and 5 Colours In Her Hair wasn’t exactly shabby either. What song did they choose to duet with the Jonas Brothers on? Not Do Ya, that’s for sure.

Tim: Oh, I’m not saying the others are bad. Star Girl is good, but only really because of the woo-oooh-ooh-ooh. Yes, that’s great, and it’s brilliant to listen to because you can join in and get excited with it (especially if you’re duetting at Wembley in front of a ginormous crowd), but the rest of it just seems to be filler just leading up to the bit that everyone likes to sings along to. 5 Colours, Obviously and All About You were all decent enough as well, but there’s something about Do Ya that I really like. It starts big and never really calms down until the end.

It also has a bit that reminds me of Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.

Tom: You know, at this point I’m just going to nod and agree, because I think arguing my point any further would destroy whatever shreds of credibility I have left. Also, let’s be honest, the reason it sounds like McFly is mainly because of whatever Tom’s accent is. (Seriously, I can’t work out what it is, and I’ve got a bloody linguistics degree.)

Tim: The first two notes get me excited because I think I’m about to hear Bad Romance.

Tom: It is very close, isn’t it? It’s like Chipmunk’s Look for Me – everyone goes ‘ooh, it’s I Gotta Feeling‘, and then the woah-woahs start.

Tim: One other thing about McFly is that any time I hear someone say ‘it’s all about you’ I really really want someone to invent something where you can just push a button and a relevant bit of music would start playing and interrupt the conversation.

Tom: You and me both, Tim. You and me both.

INJU5TICE – Long Long Way From Home

It’s just painful, it really is.

Tim: Before we see the video, these people need an introduction, and the first thing you should know is that everything I am about to say is true. I am not making it up, and if I’m honest part of me wishes I was. What we have here is a band that believes (or at least the bloke that put them together believes) that all is Not Right within the music industry, because boybands just aren’t what they used to be. As such, they’ve set themselves up as a Millennium-era Backstreet Boys in an attempt to bring back the Golden Age of boybands. (I’ve actually seen the phrase ‘anti-JLS’ in some of their promo stuff, I think.)

Oh, and they also have the most ridiculous name since Ke$ha.

So, as you can see, it’s all there. The weird dancing, the cheesy music, a ridiculous hook made up of a few random syllables. All that would be well and good, perhaps even laudable, except for the third quarter of the chorus. Or, to be more specific, the lack of autotune in it, as it becomes thuddingly apparent that looks were more important than vocal ability. Because it’s just painful, it really is. Normally I hate autotune, but here… man, what were they thinking? They’ve been touring schools for months trying to build themselves up a good fanbase – why can’t they launch with a single that more than 60% of them can sing?

Tom: No. No. Really? This has to be a parody. The Teletubbies-esque lyrics, the tour of schools, the fact that the first key change takes the song outside their vocal range. And there’s a second key change too! It’s only three minutes in, but it felt like I’d been listening to half an album.

Boy bands, even in their worst days, always included things like ‘harmony’ and at least a pretence of singing ability. Surely this is just an elaborate prank.

Tim: No parody, or if it is it’s a shockingly detailed one. These guys have had a longer gestation period than some babies: they’ve done tours, there’s an album trailer and clips of all their other songs on YouTube, there’s a big website – much as it pains me to say it, this is an actual band. Speaking of their album, if the name of it isn’t a case of wishful thinking, I don’t know what is: ‘World’s Most Wanted’.

However, I do have a theory regarding the painful key change. An alternative interpretation of

I need some loving
I’m a long long way from home

is ‘You know that not-cheating-if-you’re-in-different-area-codes thing? What do you think of that?’ The sudden high pitchedness is then justified by the girlfriend punching them all in the bollocks. How does that sound? After all, we only have to look at Taylor Swift to see how brilliant narratively justified key changes can be when executed properly.

OMD – If You Want It

…makes me go ‘awww’ and ‘yes’ simultaneously.

Tom: OMD have a new single coming out, called “If You Want It” – and the video’s just leaked.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for OMD, or at least some of their singles, for complicated reasons that aren’t worth going into here. They’re always good at overblown, heartstring-tugging synthesiser pop, and this is no exception. Yes, the lyrics are a bit trite and the new video’s pretentious rubbish, but I don’t give a damn because that aah-aah break three minutes in bypasses all the rational bits of my music-listening brain and just makes me go ‘awww’ and ‘yes’ simultaneously.

Tim: This is great. As you say, the lyrics are slightly banal, and the video would only mean something to a public school A-level Drama student, but that’s not what the track’s there for. It’s about the music, and the music is fantastic. I’ve listened to this on repeat for the past half hour, and I’m still not tired of it. Aside from a slight low point in the first pre-chorus bit, it’s on the perfect level of energetic, and it doesn’t let up. And yes, yes, yes about the aah-aah.

Come to think of it, this is a perfect comeback track, unlike anything we’ve heard lately. It gives the old fans something to get excited about, as demonstrated by your reaction, and gets potential new fans interested and firing up Spotify to check out their back catalogue, as demonstrated by my reaction (I’d heard Enola Gay, but that was all).

Also, listening back to the Villa Nah remix they put online the other week, I really don’t think it does anything to improve the track. The Chariots of Fire-esque bit that comes in occasionally is quite nice, but aside from that I think the original is better.

Tom: I’ve just found out that OMD appeared at the Vintage Computing Festival at Bletchley Park back in June. I am genuinely gutted – like, need-a-hug gutted – that I missed that, because I think it would have been the greatest gig I could ever possibly have attended and it’s almost certainly never going to happen again.

Eliza Doolittle – Pack Up

It sounds like Lily Allen’s more talented little sister time-travelled back to Motown.

Tom: In other “Songs I’m Incredibly Glad Made It To The British Charts” news: this one’s been bubbling around, peaking at number 5 the other week.

It sounds like Lily Allen’s more talented little sister time-travelled back to Motown. The hook’s sung by a fantastic and incredibly hard-working soul singer called Lloyd Wade.

I reckon this might be concrete evidence that people outside the normal 16-25 teen demographic are downloading music – and, to an extent, controlling the charts – now. Just wait until the Beatles catalogue finally arrives online: I’d be surprised if any other artist gets a spot in the Top 10 that week.

Tim: I’m not so keen on this song – I never really liked Motown/soul at all, and her music, while OK, doesn’t do enough to redeem it for me. You may be right about it being a good sign for the charts though.

Tom: Whoa. Whoa. Hold on. How can you not like Motown at all? Stevie Wonder! Marvin Gaye! The Supremes! The Jackson 5!

Strange person.

Tim: Well, maybe not ‘not at all’ with the Motown, but hearing that part of the track just turned me off the whole thing, really. It’s probably partly because I’ve never really sat down and listened properly to any, but what I have heard has never really made me want to. Maybe that makes me closed-minded.

Looking at the chart I noticed that in this week’s top 15 singles, there are a total of 25 individual artists. That’s less about the diversity of the charts, more about the staggering number of collaborations that seem to be in vogue at the moment. You’re certainly right about downloads changing things – back when Michael Jackson died, his tracks accounted for about a quarter of the Top 40 that weekend.

Hurts – Wonderful Life

Do the research in your lyrics, people. And sort the video out.

Tim: To continue our impromptu Songs That We’re Glad Are Doing Well In The Charts Week, I look to the future and present a song I like very much indeed, which is being (re)released on the 23rd and will hopefully do quite well.

Tom: Hmm. It reminds me of so many different bands. There’s a bit of the Eurythmics in there; hell, there’s a lot of 80s and 90s synth-pop. I’m glad the song kicked in a bit at the chorus, and I’ll admit the instrumentation’s nice in a generic sort of way, but it’s not enough to redeem the whole thing when you’re only singing about three different notes in each line.

“On a bridge across the Severn on a Saturday night
Susie meets the main of her dreams”

That, and the reference to Temple Station later, means either they were out on a bizarre Severn-bridge-crossing Saturday night walk or they met on a National Express coach. Do the research in your lyrics, people.

Tim: Fair point about the lyrics if you were to take them literally, although if we’re doing that I fear a far bigger problem would be her slamming him against the wall to kiss him whilst he’s driving, which really just isn’t safe. Don’t do this at home, kids.

Tom: How did I not notice that? Okay, I know that it’s not to be taken literally, that song lyrics are by necessity poetic and any amount of time could have passed between the two lines, but that’s the kind of thing that will grate every time I hear it from now on – like John Lennon swearing in Hey Jude.

Tim: I also don’t get that video at all. The song says that he got in trouble (implication: some sort of crime), but from the video it looks like he’s lost his wife or something. Maybe he killed her, I don’t know. Then, a little bit after the song says “he starts to believe…he begins to see” (i.e. he’s getting happier, Suzy’s made his life alright), we see him cast the photo into the swimming pool (after we’ve already seen it at the bottom, but never mind). Fine, he’s moved on, all is good. But then he’s floating face down in the pool, looking like he’s drowned himself (nigh on impossible to do in a swimming pool, by the way) because he can’t cope with the loss.

So what we’ve really got is Suzy, bless her, who went out for a midnight stroll, fell in love with a seriously depressed guy, stayed with him through his troubles and helped him get out of it because he was perfect for her, and then he goes and kills himself. Like, seriously dude, what’s going on? Don’t you know how rude that is?

I wouldn’t, really wouldn’t, normally put this much effort into analysing a video, but it’s quite clear here that it’s all arty and they’re trying to mean something with it, and I just don’t get it. I do, however, like that it’s probably the most melancholy tune ever to have a proper dance routine to it. This’ll be the new Macarena, I tell you.

Musically, though, I still like it a lot – the bridge is the type of music I could happily have as backing music while, say, relaxing in the garden with a book or something. It’s also partly because of the strangely uplifting lyrics contrasting with the really mellow music. Mind you, having spent half an hour trying to comprehend the video I’m not sure the lyrics are meant to be uplifting after all. Oh, bugger.

True story: two o’clock in the morning is oddly conducive to excessive music analysis.

Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP – We No Speak Americano

Sort of an eight years later Las Ketchup.

Tom: You’re temporarily Canadian, so you probably won’t have heard this yet – and I want to know what your virgin ears think of it.

It hit number one at the end of July in pretty much every major European chart – and it’s so completely unlike anything that normally reaches the top of the charts that I’m a bit stunned. No vocal over the top. No boy band singing. Not even a “feat. Kayne West” added to boost sales.

Just a sample from the 1950s and a fantastic beat – together making a song that’s going to be played in every club on this continent for the rest of the summer.

It does go on a bit though – the radio edit’s only 2:10 long, which could explain the popularity.

Tim: You’re right, I hadn’t heard of this, and my first thought is ‘wow’; I’m not sure in what way that’s meant. Either wow that that tune got so huge, or wow that it’s just so weird. As an outsider, I’m guessing it’s sort of an eight years later Las Ketchup, and musically I find it ever so slightly reminiscent of Stereo Love.

The video seems weird, given the title, although the internet tells me that the line of the chorus actually translates as ‘you’re acting all American’ – the video is therefore a simple racist stereotype of America from way back, which is… all fine?

Verdict: huh.

Tom: The video’s weird enough in itself, but stranger still it’s promoted by All Around The World. They’re the team behind Clubland and all the associated artists – but they have nothing to do with the record itself, which is released off an indie Australian label.

Tim: Also, a worry: is it every teen kid’s ringtone of choice?

Tom: I have yet to hear it as a ringtone, but I suspect it won’t be long.

Robyn – Hang With Me

Okay, so Robyn’s new single hit the internet a few weeks back, and to be honest it’s not much better than her last one.

Okay, so Robyn’s new single hit the internet a few weeks back; it’s out August 16th in Sweden and will gradually be released around the world over the following month or so, arriving in the UK on 5th September. Anyway, it’s called Hang With Me, and to be honest it’s not much better than her last one (although a decent remix helps a bit). That is: it’s typical Robyn, and it’s like all her others* – a vaguely good dance track that just gets bored halfway through and doesn’t go anywhere else.

*I should state that I haven’t actually listened to ‘all her others’: just this and her three Top 10 UK hits. I’ve decided that’s enough, though.

You’re right about her songs not going anywhere. Even the video for this one seems like the effort just isn’t there. Yes, you’ve got a fancy camera and yes, you can make even the British motorway system look atmospheric, but there’s got to be something more there.

Speaking about her last single, “Dancing on my Own”, I thought it needed more oomph, and I’ve found a remix that provides it. I have a tendency to improvise my own backing vocal line during the final chorus. Try it. It’s fun.

Agree that it adds a quite-needed ‘something’ to the song; however, it still suffers from the same two problems as the original:

  • the post-bridge bit goes on way too long – in my view, the original could quite easily finish at 3:35-ish and be better for it, and this one should finish at 3:37 with some sort of explosion, although it could perhaps push it to 4:10
  • main problem: there’s absolutely nothing to distinguish between before and after the bridge, which is Just Not On when it comes to this sort of music. As you suggest, backing singers would be perfect. We should write and offer our services for her next track.

To be honest I’m not sure why we felt let down by either of these in particular. They’re all like this.

You’re right. I’ve just listened to a few of the other Dancing On My Own remixes, and they all suffer the same problem: there’s just not enough song there. There’s only one vocal line, with the exception of occasional echoes; it needs a second one added – even just a few “whoa, oh, ohs” – after the bridge.

Lessons from Darin’s producer required, I feel.