Saturday Flashback: Dario G – Cry

“All the positives, really.”

Tim: I said on Wednesday that his new one, Hola, came somewhat of the blue; a little more digging revealed that’s not quite true, actually, as he also brought this out back last September.

Tim: It is, if anything, even more textbook Dario G than Hola was, with the whispering and those operatic vocals, and you know what? I ABSOLUTELY ADORE IT. Yes, it’s 99% plain and simple nostalgia, but damn it’s a good sound.

Tom: I mean, it’s not Sunchyme, and I’d argue that it’s not even quite as good as Hola. But when it gets half way through and you start hearing what’s basically the same extended long-build that was used twenty years ago? Sure, it’ll do.

Tim: It’s nice and pleasant and summery and relaxing and joyful and beachy and wonderful and, well, all the positives, really. Given all that, you may be asking if there’s an album on the way.

Tom: I wasn’t, but sure, for the purposes of this I will.

Tim: Good, because I got in touch and asked him: apparently he’s “toying with the idea”, so that’s nice. In the meantime, you’ve also got Savour The Miracle Of Life from February to enjoy as well.

Alyssandra – Himbo

“Now she’s sleeping in my bed, God I wish that you were dead.”

Tim: Remember when TLC made that song where they spent some of the time saying that they didn’t want no scrubs, but spent most of the time explaining exactly what a scrub is? Well, Alyssandra, formerly of Dolly Style, never really gets round to the explanation.

Tim: If you can’t guess it from the context, Urban Dictionary reports that it’s basically a male bimbo, which makes sense as a portmanteau, I guess. There are a number of good things about the lyrics, though, not least the line “now she’s sleeping in my bed, God I wish that you were dead”, which takes the prize of being my new favourite of at least the month so far.

Tom: It’s interesting how often you describe the same lyric as “favourite” and I describe it as “cringeworthy”. Which applies to the word ‘himbo’, the line ‘goofy in that Gucci dress’, ‘which bone in your body should I break first’, and ‘the himbo’s got to go’, which all appear within about fifteen seconds of each other. Which is a shame, because the composition and production are pretty good.

Tim: Some of those I will grant you are a little iffy, but it’s not all bad, not by a long way. As you said, musically it’s pretty good as well, and you might expect that given the talent on board: co-writing credit goes to none other than the great and glorious Max Martin, proving once and for all that, yep, Sweden’s still got it.

Ea Kaya – Cruel To Be Kind

“He’s really not all that.”

Tim: More music for you today of a mid-2010s female power pop variety, with this Swedish lady telling a guy that actually, he’s really not all that.

Tom: I wonder if the director thinks they’re saying something with all the mishmash of video filters from different eras, or if they just think it looks pretty? (It is, to be fair, a brilliantly shot and graded video.) Anyway, yes: female power pop.

Tim: And it’s similar in a lot of ways to yesterday’s track; the main way is that it’s really really good. Similarly 1989 style, similarly high quality, similarly aggressive vibe to it, and just a similarly great listen.

Tom: I could hum the chorus after one listen, and it wasn’t grating on me. It is rather like the video: it’s all very pretty, I’m just not sure there’s anything more there. Not that there has to be — it just feels like the sort of song where, somehow, there should be something more.

Tim: Again, there are a few familiar bits here and there, but again, they’re all put together so well that it’s just a sign of great composition more than anything else. It’s a great track.

Saturday Reject: Sigmund – Say My Name

“I’d like this to look like most camp low-budget science fiction there’s ever been.”

Tom: Another one for the list of “stop giving new songs the same as classics”. It’s not a Destiny’s Child cover, I presume?

Tim: It is not, no. Though, speaking of big pop songs, you know how occasionally there are Eurovision songs that sound like they could actually be normal pop songs, and you almost feel they’re being wasted as competition entrants? Well, this is kind of like that. Ish.

Tom: “Hello, is that the staging director? Yes, I’d like this to look like most camp low-budget science fiction there’s ever been.” And full marks to the choreographer, they’ve done a great and wholly unnecessary job.

Tim: Choreography is never unnecessary, Tom, not ever. And the thing is, there are also musical elements here that make it seem like a proper song. It’s hard to qualify them exactly, but it’s more the general tone of it, the style, the emotion in the vocal, seems like the singer wants this to be a proper track. Except, it isn’t, and won’t be, because it’s been edited and hacked apart to make it suitable for a Eurovision entrant.

Tom: I think I see what you mean. A proper pop version of this wouldn’t be quite as Full-On Stage Spectacular: that style shows though in the music, even without the ludicrous staging.

Tim: A sensible reworking of this could have made a good pop song, except it lost, and now it’ll never go anywhere. It’s thrown away, chucked out, and this website right here, with our peculiar devotion to songs other countries have firmly said “nope, not for us”, may well be the last place it’ll ever be discussed.

The thing that makes me saddest about that, this year more than ever, is that I’m really not a fan of Denmark’s entry at all – it’s twee, it’s peculiar, it belongs in 1970s Eurovision. This…this could work. Maybe.

Saturday Reject: Arja Saijonmaa – Mina fyra årstider

“It would have done very well in the 1970s.”

Tim: Tom, would you care to learn about one of the greatest injustices ever to have occurred in the entirety of human history?

Tom: On the assumption that you’re talking about a Melodifestivalen reject and not actual depressing history, then, sure.

Tim: This came last in its heat.

Tim: Yes, it turned me off from the very first second. And yes, when she appeared I thought ‘oh, bloody hell’.

Tom: I’ll be honest, I was wondering what was wrong with you through that whole first verse. That’s a lovely song for children or for middle-of-the-road radio airplay, I thought, but it’s not exactly Eurovi– but then.

Tim: BUT THEN. In not too short an amount of time, that utterly delightful chorus came along, and everything became marvellous.

Tom: I mean, “marvellous” is a strong term. I’ll go for “not terrible”.

Tim: The song’s title translates to ‘My Four Seasons’, and it’s about how all year round the earth seems lovely when she and the song’s target are together. And with that message, the sudden joyous display of energy in the chorus and that sheet blowing around behind her like she’s some sort of fairy, this song does have quite a bit going for it.

Maybe it didn’t deserve to come first – scratch that, actually, I’m not sure it even deserved to graduate to Andra Chansen – but last? That’s just upsetting.

Tom: It would have done very well in the 1970s Eurovision, I reckon.

Velvet & Therese – Heart of Glass

“What could go wrong?”

Tim: A cover of a Blondie classic from two Swedish dancepop veterans, what could go wrong?

Tom: I mean, honestly, a lot of things, but sure, let’s tempt fate. What could go wrong?

Tim: Very little, it turns out. When I first heard it, I thought “hang on, have they actually done anything to this”, but then I relistened to the original for the first time in ages and realised that it’s a lot less energetic than I remember it being, and this has taken what was there and dialled it up enormously, and it’s utterly fantastic.

Tom: Whereas I disagree: to me, this sits in that uncanny cover-valley where it’s too close to the original. We’ve lost a lot of that great bassline, we’ve lost the interesting vocals and instruments, and it’s all been replaced with something a bit more generic. It is, as Jarvis Cocker would say, like the last days of Southfork. And what’s going on with those time signatures in the outro? That’s just uncomfortable.

Tim: This may well be slight heresy, but much like The Saturdays’ cover of Just Can’t Get Enough, part of me think this is what the original should have sounded like. It’s just that good.

Tom: I agree with your heresy about the Saturdays; but this, not so much.

Jill Johnson – Is It Hard Being A Man

“A strong “look, dickhead, appreciate what you’ve got and quit moaning” message.“

Tim: Starting in 1996, the queen of country schlager…

Tom: Wait, I remember saying that modern pop-country was just schlager with a mandolin! And now you’re telling me there’s actually a mixed genre of them?

Tim: Pretty much, yeah – and Jill is the absolute master. She used to release albums on a roughly annual basis, but nothing’s been seen since the end of 2016. Well, until now.

Tim: Pretty good return, no? Nice crash in for the chorus, with a strong “look, dickhead, appreciate what you’ve got and quit moaning” message.

Tom: It is, with the caveat that the part immediately before that crash-in gives me a brief, frustrating flash of either Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, or the Hollies’ ‘Air That I Breathe’. I know that’s a really specific complaint to have, but it’s some odd combination of the melody and vocal style, the particular chord progression those songs share, and the percussion. Listen to the “no” at 0:48, the “choose” at 1:35.

Tim: Hmm…

Tom: Anyway, yes, once I got over that and we got back to the chorus: it’s not bad! And schlager, even down-tempo schlager like this, is always fun.

Tim: Favourite part for me: those twiddly counter melody guitar bits right at the end, which just about stops it getting boring by repeating too much. It’s in danger of it, as I don’t think anyone would really complain if it stopped just before they came in, but it’s saved. And it stays a decent track. It’s good.

Weezer – Stand By Me

“It’s possible to do covers in an interesting way!”

Tom: I know, I know, we’re meant to talk about europop here. This isn’t European, and it’s not really pop. But I want to talk about Weezer’s Teal Album, because it might be the laziest cover album I’ve ever heard.

Tim: Having heard a couple of songs from that, I’m not minded to disagree.

Tom: I can absolutely see why Weezer released a covers album. Their version of Africa has been getting a ridiculous amount of airplay (despite, in my opinion, not even being the best Africa cover of 2018), and their actual tracks… well, they haven’t. They’ve still got a fanbase that’ll buy it, and the press will cover it: why not do a cover album?

Tim: Fair.

Tom: But take a listen to the tracks. They sound like an imitation of the originals, like a tribute band. Mr Blue Sky even has the same spoken introduction. You might as well listen to the originals, because there’s nothing new here.

Tim: So…

Tom: The exception is this.

Tom: Because Stand By Me is a standard. It’s one of the most covered songs in the world. And because the original is so simply produced, it doesn’t take much for a band to put their own stamp on it: even if it’s just replacing the strings with a distorted electric guitar and maybe going to the harmony line a couple of times.

Tim: True. Still doesn’t make this a particularly interesting cover, though.

Tom: It’s possible to do covers well! It’s possible to do covers in an interesting way! The Teal Album is, sadly, neither of those. I’ll bet it’ll sell, though.

Saturday Flashback: Wizex – Tusen Och En Natt

“See if you can place it.”

Tom: I was driving through Sweden last week, Tim, and somehow I found this on the radio. Wizex have been going since 1973; this 1999 number translates as “Thousand And One Nights”, and it’s your typical dansband track with lyrics about love and devotion. It sounded familiar, but I couldn’t work out why until much, much later. See if you can place it.

Tim: Ah, see this is where me being more of a Melodifestivalen nut than you harms the narrative. I’ll play along for our reader, though,

Tim: Ooh, Tom, I don’t know. Tell me, do.

Tom: Oh, don’t patronise me. Anyway, the next stage along was this version, turned into almost-Christmassy schlager-pop with a near-aggressive key change and credited just to the singer, from Melodifestivalen 1999. And from there: well, you tell the story

Tim: Words are rewritten in English, as per Sweden’s tradition for a non-English victor, and then we’ve (SPOILER for 1999) a beautiful Eurovision champion. Let’s have a watch, shall we?

Tim: Fun education in return for your efforts, though: Charlotte’s the aunt of Sebastian Ingrosso, of Swedish House Mafia and Axwell Λ Ingrosso fame.

Hugo Helmig – Young Like This

“I’m well aware I’m going into Grampa Simpson territory”

Tim: It almost saddens me to say this, but we’re dragging out the ‘we’re young so let’s have fun’ trope again.

Tom: Two rhyme schemes I hate in a row! “Young like this / dumb like this” may be the most irritatingly trite lyric I’ve heard in a while.

Tim: I dunno, I think it’s alright. But it’s the message I want to discuss, because, while I’m well aware I’m going into Grampa Simpson territory, here’s the thing: it’s bullshit.

Tom: You are entirely correct, although how much of that is based on the no-doubt-reasonable explanation you’re about to give, and how much is based on me being in my thirties now, I’m not sure.

Tim: Hugo (from Denmark) is university age right now, and yes I will accept that it is good to have fun at university and engage in one’s youth. But it is arguably so much better to have fun in your early to mid twenties, when you don’t have to worry about essays and dissertations, and the worst that’ll happen is you’ll get a stern ticking off for turning up to work with a hangover. You have experience and knowledge under your belt to stop you making a complete prick of yourself and dying, and you’re also not so worried about waking up tomorrow needing reading glasses and a toupee that you feel you need to get it all out of your system.

Tom: Harsh.

Tim: But fair. Basically, RELAX HUN, you’ve got at least a decade left of enjoying yourself, so stop moaning.

Tom: Welcome to your thirties, Tim.

Tim: A pleasure to be here.