Tim: And now, for no reason whatsoever other than “well duh, why not?”, let’s have some beautifully textbook mid-’00s Eurodance.
Tim: Not a lot to say about it, really – it’s a cover of Roxette’s (rather more successful) original song, and it makes me smile every single time it pops up on my phone.
Tom: There’s a lot to be said for a good cover like this: yes, Cascada could basically be any session singer, and yes, it’s a by-the-numbers remix — but in a style that I grew up with. Now I’m older, I’m aware that “repeating the chorus with one particular Eurodance synth patch” is not an objectively great bit of music: but that doesn’t stop me liking it. And let’s be honest, the talking bit does not fit in this song. But…
Tim: …it has a ludicrous dance beat, lyrics that are great to sing along with, and all in all I just love it. Unapologetically.
Tim: Now, until I flicked back through Scooter’s history for Wednesday’s post, I had absolutely no idea that their follow-up to The Logical Song, and their only other UK top 10 track, was a sort-of cover. Now, press play, sit back, and please allow me to educate you – the history is fascinating.
Tom: I knew this was a cover – and there’s a KLF sample or two in there as well – but I did not know there was a long history.
Tim: Oh, yes. You see, Peter Maffay is a German musician, and was well known in the 70s & 80s – his first single, Du, was 1970’s biggest selling track in Germany, and he holds the German records for most million-plus selling albums (14) and most number one albums (16). Now, in 1983, he decided to get a bit experimental. He began a series of musical fairy tales, all starring a little green dragon called Tabaluga, which so far span five albums.
Tom: Right. Okay. Well, I guess everyone has a hobby.
Tim: The first (which contains this song) was called Tabaluga…or The Journey to Reason (but in German), and since then there have been tours, books, cartoons, a full size musical and even a long-running TV game show in which contestants win prizes that they donate to schools and children’s homes.
Tom: And Scooter decided to come along and cover it, along with a video containing a lot of scantily clad women. Well, it was the early 2000s.
Tim: Oh, and you might be wondering why it’s called Nessaja. Simple: Nessaja was Tabaluga’s mentor, a giant turtle who here is singing about how he never wanted to grow up, but that Tabaluga has his whole life ahead of him. And you know, typing that last sentence almost got me a bit tearful – no wonder Scooter wanted to honour it.
Tim: Because to the best of my knowledge, I have never heard it before. It’s from 2016, but we didn’t feature it, it wasn’t a potential Eurovision competitor, and a Google search brings up next to nothing about the artist. She’s not on any Wikipedia except for the German one, and she’s only had a couple of tracks out, yet when Apple Music put it on a ‘tracks you’ll probably like’ I pretty much was immediately familiar with it.
Tom: That’s because you’ve heard every component of it before. No, I don’t recognise the song, but I recognise many parts From the Seven Nation Army-esque intro, to the Modern Talking-esque chorus, to the melody line that’s close to Robin Gibb’s Juliet, to… well, everything, basically.
Tim: Yes, that’s true – there’s also the pre-chorus from I Think We’re Alone Now. Though it’s interesting you mention Modern Talking – it was co-written and produced by Dieter Bohlen, half of that duo (whose name I found rather confusing last night when Google Translate told me this song had been “produced by planks”. Anyway, whether or not I have heard it before doesn’t change one thing: I do like it. I like it a lot. It’s a German language cover of the 1997 track “And Then I Die” by the also German band Touché, and is substantially more schlager-y, particularly when you add the dance routine and wind machine in the video. I LOVE it. Dancey, fun, exciting, it’s GLORIOUS.
“Literally, I can’t find anything wrong with this track.”
Tom: I had forgotten about this track. Which is a shame, because I think it might be a perfect piece of pop music.
Tim: Do you know, I actually had to check Wikipedia to make sure that wasn’t a young Christopher Eccleston playing the drums.
Tom: Really? I was thinking young Paul Gross myself. Anyway. The band had your standard minor-hit history, including three top 10 hits and an unsuccessful reunion attempt in the late 2000s. It’s a perfectly respectable showing.
Tim: YES I KNOW but let me speak. Squeakiness is a cheap easy gimmick – bit rubbish, but it seems it sells well enough for them to keep doing it. That’s why they’ve made over fifty albums (including many Greatest Hits albums, several Christmas albums, and indeed more than a couple of Greatest Christmas Hits albums). A typical reaction is to listen for twenty seconds, think “oh this is a bit fun”, skip to the next track and repeat until bored. One other reaction, had by SoundCloud user chipmunkson16speed, is to think “what would happen if I slowed this down?”
Tom: Huh. They covered the Pet Shop Boys version, not the original. That dates this record, certainly.
Tim: So, as it turns out, a de-Chipmunked Chipmunks cover is the version of Always On My Mind that you never realised could be so good.
Tim: Oh, and I’m not remotely suggesting it is. My point is just that it’s just so unexpected – the slightly whiny backing vocal sounds a bit off, but otherwise I find this really enjoyable. It’s worth remembering that this was recorded back in the days before digital pitch shifting, so this is, roughly, what was originally recorded, and it does sound good. The most surprising thing is that even though the whole Chipmunk song idea is so cheap and cynical, the singer, whoever he is, is singing it with no small amount of emotion. No need to do it, there’ll never be any recognition, but he still went for it.
Tom: I’ll grant that, but I suspect a lot of that emotion is brought in by the graininess that comes from all the processing that’s been done. Although I’ll grant you the harmonies are pretty good.
Tim: A sad post script, though: according to the Alvin & The Chipmunks fan wiki (because of course there’s one), the Reception section for this one’s album consists of one single sentence: “This album did not chart.” Oh well.
Tim: Remember when I said his disappointingly quickly abandoned album was really quite good? Well here’s an example of why. (It starts out a bit strummy and rubbish, but you won’t regret sticking with it.)
Tom: That does start out strummy and rubbish, you’re right, and then…
Tim: WHAT A CHORUS. I mean sometimes you have a lighters out moment, but this calls for goddamn flamethrowers. I can also recommend Way Back When and Testify, but this is the real highlight for me. It’s all about the chorus – of course it is – which can sometimes be a problem, particularly if the verses are a bit weak.
Tom: Which they are here. Quite a bit.
Tim: Yes, fair point, or at least the first verse. Fortunately, we’ve got a fairly strong second verse, and also a middle eight that’s almost as good as the chorus, and the chorus itself which is just damn fantastic.
Tom: I think I’m just not sold on that chorus the way you are. I will agree with you that the middle eight — and the added backing over that final chorus — are good, but it takes a long time to get there.
Tim: It’s a great song, and it’s such a shame it never got any real recognition.
Tom: We’ve talked about Almighty Records many times before. Who are Deja Vu? No-one knows. Who’s Tasmin? Not a clue, she could even be a different session singer every time, or a famous singer working under the radar. What we do know is they do spectacular high-energy cover versions of pop hits.
So here’s my question, Tim: who’s being covered here? This is the big club mix I’m linking to, so you can safely skip to about 1:14 without missing anything.
Tim: I… have no idea. When the vocal started I broke out into a massive grin because it sounds like a gloriously pumped up ABBA song, but I don’t recognise it, and Google doesn’t recognise the lyrics. Is this…is this an original song?
Tom: Correct! You spotted the trick question. Although I was fairly sure it was a Steps song I’d never heard of. So, next question: do I really like this because it sounds like a good Steps track, or just because you can basically do anything in Almighty’s style and I’ll like it?
Tim: For me, the former – the massive grin came from it sounding like a big ABBA or Steps song, and there have definitely been Almighty tracks that I’ve not enjoyed due to not knowing the original. This, though, despite having no original to compare it to, hits all the right buttons.
Tim: Sent in anonymously and described as “fun and upbeat”, this here is from a German producer who blends rap and pop and calls it Raop, not sure why. It’s from 2014, is his biggest hit yet, and the title translates as Dream (he’s made an English version if you’d rather, but that takes away the fun a bit).
Tom: Full marks for putting (most of) the English lyrics on the German music video as optional subtitles. More like that, please.*
*Side note: it is completely outside what we normally cover here, but “Immigrants: We Get The Job Done” from the Hamilton mixtape is bloody excellent and does exactly the same: turn on the subtitles and all the Spanish lyrics are translated for you. Codeswitching while rhyming’s a heck of a skill.
Tim: Fun story there in the video – not quite sure what the moral of it is, though I’m fairly sure it’s one of either “don’t go on TV dating shows” or “be careful of falling electrical equipment”.
Tom: I mean, those are both good morals.
Tim: The lyrics come with a disappointingly standard narrative, in contrast – he doesn’t want to be alone, only has eyes for her, dreams about her, ready and waiting. Tad creepy, but there you go.
Tom: Can you still get away with a love song like that in the 2010s? Unless you’re Ed Sheeran, of course.
Tim: The sound is unusual but not unpleasant, and to be honest I’m quite happy with a track that provides that for a weekend. Thank you, reader, for sending that in.
Tim: Yes, and there’s a story to it: for some reason, everyone was a bit miserable today at work (Thursday, as I write this). I, on the other hand, was not, possibly because I heard this blasting out of Jamie’s Italian as I walked past on my way in.
Tom: That sounds a lot like a Fall Out Boy track (with a bit of this one in too). I was about to go off on a riff about that, but it turns out the two songs were released about a month apart, so it’s just two similar bands making similar decisions.
Tim: I’d say that’s fair, although you’re certainly not wrong about that first one, the vocal style’s incredibly similar. But the thing is, I was all set to write a sentence here about having to be in the right mood, because otherwise that twigging banjo might get you in precisely the wrong way, but otherwise it’s chirpy, and generally lovely.
Tom: It is, although I’m so used to this sound being all Angry And Emotional that it took me a while to adjust to that. I think I got it when the bells chimed in.
Tim: Right, and that’s all fine, but then I realised I’d never seen the video for it before, and wow does that take priority. We’ve had folks dressed as animals multiple timespreviously, but never had a metaphor from the lyrics put literally in the video, or at least not that I can remember. Here, it makes it thoroughly entertaining, and it’s a fantastic idea, because now every time I hear that line, I’ll think back to this video. I’ll remember exactly how much fun it is, and then how much I like the song. It’s genius.
Tim: Tuesday’s track got me thinking about this lot, and wondering what they’d been up to since their 2014 Melodifestivalen performance. Sadly, the answer is not much, but I did find this from April 2015, with a peculiar sort-of-key-change-but-not-technically, and this, from October 2013.
Tim: I’m glad I found it, because I think that’s just marvellous.
Tom: There are some lovely parts in this: the 2000s-retro-eurodance synths mid-chorus, and the transition back into the verse were both excellent.
Tim: Weren’t they? It should be noted that the “fighter/fire” rhyming is both slightly iffy and tediously obvious at the same time, quite an achievement, and the chorus really could do with a few more lyrics, but otherwise this is just great. It doesn’t even feel too long, which as a four minute song means it’s doing something very well indeed in my book. I think it’s because a lot of that time is taken up with instrumental breaks – and they’re good instrumental breaks.
Tom: Yep, the bit before the middle eight is, I think, just half a chorus without the lyrics. When it’s this energetic, and this well written and produced, you can get away with it.
Tim: This is a Great Song, and it’d be even better if there was an extra lyric or two in the chorus.