Rita Ora – How To Be Lonely

“Hun, read the room.”

Tim: “I know!” thinks Rita. “Everyone’s stuck inside at the moment, so I’m going to release a song with a title that suggests it will guide them through that, with helpful tips and instructions. This can’t possibly go wrong.” Oh, wait.

Tom: See, I saw this a few days ago, and thought about sending it to you: but I genuinely just found it a bit too much of a downer.

Tim: Well, that’s just it. Maybe it’s just bad luck – I don’t know how far in advance it’s possible to push back a song’s release, or abandon it altogether, but hun, read the room. It’s a decent track, there’s no doubting that – the melody’s fine, I can remember the chorus after it’s finished, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the vocals or production.

Tom: Musically, it’s decent: of course it is, it’s a Rita Ora single. The production isn’t going to be anything other than excellent.

Tim: But how many people really want to hear lines like “end up on my own almost every night” and “you could be the one to take me home”?

Tom: Right! There’s actually a lot right with this. And the radio is playing it — I’m not convinced it’s a complete flop.

Tim: Oh, sure – I might be wrong, and it could pick up as the weeks progress. But still, that timing.

Tomi Saario – Just A Little

“You know how when you hear a song described as ‘jaunty’, it can either be a compliment or a sign of something terrible to come? Well.”

Tim: You know how when you hear a song described as ‘jaunty’, it can either be a compliment or a sign of something terrible to come? Well.

Tom: “Something about your naked body when it’s shaking / tells me all I need to know” isn’t technically the worst lyric we’ve heard here, but it certainly made me grimace. I think it’s mostly that he used “it”, not “you”: that tips it over into creepy. I think the typewriter makes it worse.

Tim: Why a typewriter? No idea, but I can’t help the feeling that if this were happening eight years ago he’d be wearing a stupid fedora or something, and that we’re only a couple of songs away from the video being him busking. I don’t know, I’m probably being unfair (though I doubt it), so let’s move on to the song, and in this case I’m actually enjoying it.

Tom: I can see why: and that introduction showed a lot of promise. I just can’t get over those lyrics, the weird vocal samples in the verses, and the fact the entire track is just proclaiming how much sex he’s having.

Tim: Yes, it wouldn’t take much for it to push it over into ‘irritating’ territory, but as it is I like it. It’s catchy in a good way, the melody (or lack of it, in the chorus) is nice, everything in the background works as well (though I suspect that kazoo sound may prove divisive). For me, I’m just about in. Just about.

Tom: As, apparently, is he.

Torine – Make U Cry

“Who cares about your personality when you’re producing really rather good pop music? NOT ME.”

Tim: Norwegian here, new to these pages and alumnus of Norwegian Idol, and I have no idea why she’s chosen a letter rather than the full You in the title, but perhaps neither does Torine herself, given the lyrics of this.

Tim: Not exactly setting herself up as a likeable person there, so I’m not quite how much good that’ll do for a career she’s only three songs into.

Tom: The lyrics do baffle me a little: does she wish she could have him back, just so she can dump him? I mean, I know complaining about nonsensical pop music is a fool’s errand, but this does seem a little, uh, vengeful.

Tim: But then if the rest of her output’s as good as this she might not need to worry about it – who cares about your personality when you’re producing really rather good pop music? NOT ME.

Tom: “Really rather good”, though? As often happens, I feel like I’m missing something.

Tim: The production’s sounding great, she’s got the vocal talent, the melody’s strong and there’s nothing more a good song really needs. Nice stuff.

Tom: I can’t disagree with you on any of that: and yet, somehow, all I can muster is an “it’s okay, I guess”. As soon as it’s over, it’s forgotten.

Saturday Flashback: Daddy Yankee & Snow – Con Calma

“I’m willing to bet most of Britain hasn’t heard it.”

Tom: I’m not sending this to you because I think it’s a good track. Despite it being staggeringly popular in the Spanish-speaking world — over 1.4 billion views on YouTube — it only peaked at 66 in the UK charts. I’m willing to bet most of Britain hasn’t heard it.

Tim: Well, the title doesn’t ring a bell for me, so…

Tom: Or at least, most of Britain hasn’t heard this version.

Tim: Oh. That’s…I don’t…just…um.

Tom: Daddy Yankee, you’ll know from Despacito. And Snow? Well, it turns out he was the guy who did Informer. They just went back to him with new lyrics and asked if he wanted to be on the track. I suspect he’ll be very happy with the result.

Tim: Yeah, I can imagine – half an hour in front of the microphone, a whole lot of money coming in later.

Tom: Oh, and it turns out that neither of your stars can’t be bothered to do a music video, you can just replace them with a) a giant ugly CGI head and b) someone who looks vaguely like a younger version of them, and everyone’ll be fine with it. Sure.

John Lundvik – One Night In Bangkok

“Huh. It’s a really good song. I just find the title inexplicable.”

Tim: So for those that don’t know, in the 1980s, Tim Rice teamed with Björn & Benny from ABBA to write a concept album called Chess, which then became a musical, and One Night In Bangkok was a pretty successful track from that.

This here, John’s first release since being robbed of victory in Tel Aviv, is a completely different song.

Tom: You’re kidding me. I mean, I think I’d be even more surprised if John Lundvik had decided to cover the original, it’s a weird song, but why on earth would you release a track with the same, offbeat name?!

Tom: Huh. It’s a really good song. I just find the title inexplicable: you could put any other town with the same cadence in there. Stockholm. Tokyo. London. You also wouldn’t have the tricky matter of trying to sing a word-final /k/, or any title confusion.

Tim: See, I was expected another of the standard upbeat power ballads we’ve come to expect from basically every other track he’s written or sung, so this really surprised me – so far over to the dance end of pop, I was almost expecting a proper dance breakdown after the chorus.

Tom: His voice also stands out: you couldn’t just replace him with any session singer here, this is clearly still a John Lundvik Track.

Tim: It’s nice to know he can do multiple genres, and indeed do them really well – this is a top notch song. Nice melody, great beat, emotion in his vocals selling the narrative, all working together brilliantly. Good stuff.

Tom: Just a very strange title.

Oscar Zia – Ingen Kan Göra Dig Hel

“Is it good enough?”

Tim: Expectation adjustment for you: I wanted to switch this off within a couple of seconds.

Tom: You really know how to sell a song.

Tim: Then I remembered that Oscar is responsible for one of my favourite ever Melodifestivalen performances, so I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, but then the verse wasn’t great, but I kept listening, and then the chorus came along. And it’s good. But what I really want to know is: is it good enough?

Tom: Wow, you’re right about the first few seconds. Those few seconds sound like someone’s trying to rip off Scooter’s style really badly, and those staccato synths are just obnoxious.

Tim: Because it is a really good chorus. If the whole song was in the style of that chorus, I’d love it. But the rest of it is instead, well, average at best, and downright irritating at some points, not least those squeaky vocal samples at the start and then return intermittently throughout.

Tom: And I’m sure I’ve heard that descending melody in the chorus before, too, in many different track. It’s not retro enough to be pleasantly nostalgic; it just sounds a bit like a kids’ song to me.

But I think my initial reaction of disappointment was wrong, because I did at least have some sort of actual reaction to the chorus. I didn’t just go ‘meh’, and that’s basically an endorsement by my standards.

Tim: The rest is okay, sure, though there’s not much I actively like. But then I keep coming back to the chorus, and wondering if it redeems it. And I don’t really know, and that kind of annoys me.

Hogland feat. Philip Strand – Cross My Heart

“Wow, this is Kygo in his heyday.”

Tim: You may remember Hogland: we featured him a couple of times in June and, in an an unusual turn of events, we both really liked his tracks.

Tim: See, I hear this track, and I think ‘wow, this is Kygo in his heyday’. It’s very much your regular tropical dance track: immediate vocal with a light backing that shortly builds up, strong pre-chorus with a big vocal, full on dance breakdown for the standard chorus, repeat as necessary.

Tom: There’s even a washing-machine-spinning-up euphoric build in there.

Tim: And, well, I say ‘regular tropical dance track’: structurally yes, but the melody, the production, the everything holds together really, really well, and lifts it well above regular. We’ve a great tune in general, and one I can hear multiple times and still think ‘yep, this is really good’.

Tom: I can’t disagree with that — it’s certainly above a lot of the generic tropical-dance stuff that comes out — but I’m not convinced that it’s got what it takes to be the sound of… well, I was going to say “sound of the summer”, but I guess “sound of the autumn”. Nothing wrong with it, sure, but I’m not convinced it’s that much of a banger.

Tim: I also remembered that at the beginning of last year we were reviewing a track by Sigrid and I said that “part of me is starting to wonder when she’ll be noticed over here”, and then a few months later she entirely was and she got a load of Radio 1 play and a few top 20 singles. Now, I’m not saying we have a massive amount of influence or anything, but well, maybe someone could take a look this way?

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.