Saturday Flashback: Helene Fischer – Atemlos durch die Nacht

“Anyone who describes it as even slightly awful really needs to go and get their ears cleaned out.”

Tim: It emerged this week that Helene Fischer is, in cash terms, the eighth most successful female artist in the world, and so quite naturally someone in the Guardian wrote about her, and schlager in general, and described the music as ‘frankly awful’. Fortunately, we’re here to say: bollocks to that.

Tom: That is… okay, it’s not ‘frankly awful’, but I’m not going to rate it above ‘okay’. Is that a new one?

Tim: That’s Helene’s most successful song, from 2013, and anyone who describes it as even slightly awful really needs to go and get their ears cleaned out. The title translates as Breathless Through The Night, and it’s about having the most amazing night out with someone, staying right up through till sunrise, being inseparable and immortal and just having one hell of a good time.

Tom: I’ll grant you that, by the last chorus, I was on board with it (well done to whoever added that whoop at 2:24). It’s good! It’s above average, even! But I’m baffled as to why it’s the most popular song of the eighth-most-moneyed female artist.

Tim: And if this was playing on my night out? I would be absolutely right there with Helene. Let’s be honest, anyone who doesn’t appreciate that deserves to be pitied more than anything else. Because it’s FABULOUS.

Saturday Flashback: Måns Zelmerlöw – Hope & Glory

Tim: Item two in the current collection of “oh, I forgot all about this one”: Måns’s entry for Melodifestivalen 2009. Topped the final with the juries but only came fifth with the voters, leaving to a final fourth place.

Tom: Okay, just take a moment here, because I want to talk about a technical thing that speaks of the professionalism of both Måns and the production crew. The second shot: the one that cuts straight to his finger. It looks really simple, but that’s a perfectly framed and focused shot. That means Måns had to hit his mark exactly, raised his finger to the planned position exactly, and then the camera op had to make any final adjustments in under a second so the director could cut to it.

That one shot sums up Melodifestivalen’s tech for me: they didn’t need to do that, barely anyone will have cared about it, but artistically they wanted to so they made it happen.

Tim: Yeah – and that is, genuinely, one of my favourite things about Melodifestivalen, and frequently Eurovision as well – the creativity and expertise with the camerawork, like the other example we had last month, with dancers coming out of nowhere. It’s something you rarely get anywhere else, yet it’s such an art form.

ANYWAY. The song.

Now I don’t want to say it was the outfit that killed it, but I will say that while I think the song’s fantastic, and the backing graphics are good as well, there’s no way I’d pick up the phone for someone wearing that jacket/shirt/bow tie combination. Too harsh? I don’t know, but like I said, I do think that song’s brilliant.

Tom: Really? It almost sounds off-key during the verses. I don’t think that’s accidental, because Måns has proved that he can reliably hit live notes; I think that’s down to the composition. I’ll grant you that’s a decent chorus and a fantastic middle eight, though.

Tim: Right – and indeed that part right after the middle eight, though it’s funny: it uses almost the exact same trick that Cara Mia did two years previously of going slightly euphoric, albeit a tad less enthusiastically. It works well here just as well, but it could be argued that maybe it got some people being less impressed? I don’t know – almost a decade on it’s hard to know anything, except simply that this is a damn good track.

Saturday Flashback: Polina Gagarina – A Million Voices

“She’s acting well enough to actually make it look like she believes it.”

Tim: So, you know how, on occasion, if you’re out for an evening in a club or wherever, you hear a song that you’ve never heard before, or might have forgotten, and feel it to be absolutely amazing, and then get remarkably obsessed with it over the next few days?

Tom: I remember, many years ago, having that happen for Special D’s Come With Me. 2004, there.

Tim: Ah, what a track that was, and indeed still is. For me, the most recent example is this, which I played a good few dozen times last weekend, after a FABULOUS night out.

Tom: Well, not only is she belting that out with a lot of power, but she’s acting well enough to actually make it look like she believes it. Or, perhaps, she actually does believe it.

Tim: Hmm, she’d be in quite the minority of her compatriots if she did, given the number of rainbow flags flying that evening, but sure, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt – Europe certainly did, with it actually beating Måns’s winner in the televote.

Tom: Side note: does someone fix a light at 2:09 or something, or is that a miscue? I’m fairly sure the backing singers aren’t meant to suddenly be spotlit like that.

Tim: Huh, yes, that is weird. Musically, mind, we could talk about clichés all day long – that ‘hold off on the main drums until she mentions them in the inspirational lyrics’ is as textbook as they come, and absolutely brilliant – but all in all this is a terrific track (with brilliant staging, dodgy lights aside) and as far as a room full of drunk gays in a club in London was concerned, seemingly the best song to have been performed in the world ever. Until the next one came along, anyway.

Saturday Flashback: G.R.L. – Ugly Heart

“Good Pop Choruses! And a good middle eight! And good verses!”

Tim: It’s not European (well, one of them’s British), and it’s definitely not Europop, but I heard it for the first time in ages a week or so ago and I’ve listened multiple times a day ever since, so here you go.

Tim: At least I’m fairly sure it was this I heard, and not the Little Mix cover version, but either way it’s a brilliant track.

Tom: Good Pop Choruses! This is what we’ve been talking about this week! And a good middle eight! And good verses! My two rules hold true: I can sing the chorus by the end of the first listen, and I want to hear it again right afterwards. This right here? This is a good pop chorus.

Tim: Technically the band is still going, sort of – the disbanded in June 2015, reformed in August 2016 and have since put out a whole two tracks. They’re touring next year, though, so that’ll be interesting to see what they can cobble together. Anyway, until then we have this. What a song.

Saturday Flashback: Robyn – Dancing On My Own

“Why couldn’t we have more of this?”

Tim: Okay, folks: so, when we reviewed Missing U, I remarked that if the upcoming album Honey was as good as that I’d be very happy. Released yesterday, the album is good, as long as you’re having trouble sleeping and are looking for something to help you nod off. So let’s have a listen to a decent Robyn track.

Tim: Because IT’S JUST SO GOOD. So much so that even a limp guitar cover version of it is somewhat listenable. Why couldn’t we have more of this? That would have been nice. Can we, maybe just have a remix album? At least?

Saturday Flashback: Jenny Silver – Something in Your Eyes

“Wait, what just happened?”

Tim: Tom, I mentioned last Saturday that I recently went to see Ace Wilder sing; I won’t repeat myself too much, save to say that her set was awful but the rest of the night was brilliant. For example, this got played, and I’m fairly sure this performance will give you the strongest feeling of “wait, what just happened?” in a long while.

Tom: I’ll be honest, I was on board from the introduction. That is a Big Melodifestivalen Number, isn’t it?

Tim: Oh, it very much is, signalled right from the moment moment that mic stand appeared. But that camera cut: I had to skip and rewatch the entrance of those dancers a few times, and even though I can now see how they did it, it still impresses me the amount of practice and rehearsals that must have gone into that to be entirely confident that none of them would get picked up by any camera, and nor would whoever it was that sprinted on to remove the mic stand, across half the stage and back again, in the six seconds given before the next cut.

Tom: Let’s not forget the choreographer and stage manager who thought that surprising and confusing the audience would actually be worth it. I think it was, but that’s a risky move to make.

Tim: Isn’t it just? I’d almost, in fact, say that that was the most impressive part of this whole shebang. Almost, that is, because I’m not such a silly billy that I can’t recognise a flipping brilliant track when I hear it, with the tune and the beat and the key change, and you know what actually I still find that stage work bloody good. What a performance.

Saturday Flashback: Linda Bengtzing – Jag Ljuger Så Bra

“WHAT A BANGER.”

Tim: So I was out last night seeing Ace Wilder perform, and tbh it was a bit disappointing – despite having a fairly extensive back catalogue of great songs, she only sung Wild Child, Dansa i Neon and Busy Doin’ Nothing, and then for an encore did Busy Doin’ Nothing a second time. On the other hand, the rest of the music played was absolutely cracking, such as this, which I was OUTRAGED to discover we’d never covered. So here it is.

Tim: Finished a close second in its heat in Melodifestivalen 2006, bang in the middle of what could justifiably be described as schlager’s golden age, or maybe its renaissance, and would later come 7th in the final. WHAT A BANGER.

Saturday Flashback: The Wanted – Chasing The Sun

“A song by The Wanted written by Example. And boy, does it show.”

Tim: So here’s something I didn’t realise existed until a few days ago: a song by The Wanted written by Example. And boy, does it show.

Tim: Isn’t that just very, very Example? Almost enough that, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were credited as ‘Example feat. The Wanted’.

Tom: Yep: there’s a clear distinction between songwriter and producer here. And speaking of production: this is the first pop song I’ve heard in a long, long while where there’s a clear difference in loudness between verse and chorus. It’s not just my imagination: I actually pulled it into a waveform editor to check. That chorus is genuinely louder, just like the Old Days.

Tim: It’s nice – combination of good boyband and a good DJ. Nothing much to say about it, really – I was just quite intrigued to discover that it existed.

Saturday Flashback: BWO – Temple of Love

“A song that would get me right down on the dance floor, not even slightly caring what people think of me.”

Tim: So, for some reason I thought this had been very successful internationally, but then I checked the figures and apparently no – BWO have only had two charting hits over here, both of which peaked, rather nicely, at 69.

Tom: Nice.

Tim: This track wasn’t one of them, but it came a close second to Carola’s fabulous Evighet in Melodifestivalen 2006, and it is what the kids today call a PROPER BANGER.

Tom: I was going to say “tell me it’s a bit stronger than the Enyaesque track last week”, but it’s BWO, so it will be.

Tim: Right from the off we are heavy in on the dance beats, with a good vocal, colourful lights all over the place, dancing around everywhere, all reinforcing the idea that this is a song to be danced to, very physically. Hell, the title alone sounds really quite rude, and although I’m normally all in for that sort of thing this is meant to be a family show.

Tom: This is exactly what I expected, including the fact that it peaks far too early.

Tim: Right – thing is, it could easily have finished at the 2:37 mark. We’ve already had a middle eight and a final chorus, and if all you’re following it with is an instrumental second middle eight and another final chorus, is it necessary? Perhaps not musically, but performance-wise, given that we haven’t yet lit the flares by the walkway he uses at the end of it, yes, it is entirely necessary. This is, all in, a song that would get me right down on the dance floor, not even slightly caring what people think of me, and that’s really all I look for in a dance tune.

Tom: I mean, yes, I would dance to this, although it’s not something I’d put on a playlist.

Tim: Incidentally, on keyboards you may notice a certain Alexander Bard, perhaps better known as a member of the band Army of Lovers, but who has more recently ditched music and gone from synths to syntheism, a movement about how atheists can still feel as good as proper religious people do, or something. I dunno, he’s written a book about it.

Tom: If it doesn’t have a walkway with flares on it, I’m not interested.