“It’s got an interesting history to it, purely in terms of its musical DNA.”
Tim: For no reason at all other than I heard it the other day for the first time in years and was reminded how brilliant it is, this underappreciated 2003 number.
Tom: I… huh. Underappreciated is right, because I can’t work out if I’ve ever heard this exact version, or whether I just know that melody from… where did it come from?
Tim: It’s got an interesting history to it, purely in terms of its musical DNA. Technically it’s a cover of the 1969 song Daydream by the Belgian band Wallace Collection, though it shares much more in common with the 1970 cover of it by the German group Günter Kallmann Choir. The genre in the verse is very different, but the underlying instruments are the same, and I’ve a feeling the chorus is a direct sample. All that’s kind of null and void, though, given that a fair amount of the melody originally came from multiple pieces by, erm, Tchaikovsky.
Tom: This is why I’m in favour of shorter copyright terms. I would love to see what could happen if this amount of creativity was just allowed, without fear of lawsuits or licensing agreements.
“The sort of thing that’d get someone’s attention as they’re scanning through an FM radio dial.”
Tom: Peak 1994 “Latin-influenced adult contemporary American pop” here. As in, this was designed for the CD collections of soccer moms across the United States.
Tim: Hmm, okay.
Tom: Good enough, really, isn’t it?
Tim: Yep, and certainly very 1994 pop – I’m filing that alphabetically right ahead of Lighthouse Family and M People.
Tom: Catchy chorus, the sort of thing that’d get someone’s attention as they’re scanning through an FM radio dial. Key change, of course, to push it past four minutes. I never heard this before last week, and somehow it still makes me feel a bit nostalgic.
Tim: Well, it’s the sound – entirely typical. Good, mind, but typical.
Tom: Also, well done to the director at the end, who just told the extras “bounce up and down on your seats a bit, it’ll look like the bus is moving, honest”.
“You’re singing along even though you’ve never heard it before.”
Tom: There’s not much to write about in early January, is there? Bieber’s latest sounds like a parody, a mumbling baby-talk mess. I can’t even think of an appropriate Saturday Flashback. But you know what? Yesterday we talked about Euro-not-quite-country: this time we’re talking going FULL GERMAN FAUXMERICAN BLUEGRASS. Eurovision. 2006. Fourteen years ago.
Tom: They’d finished in last place the year before. This managed 14th.
Tim: And yep, that feels entirely an appropriate place for this to end up. It is nice, though – the sort of song where somehow you’re singing along to the first line of the first chorus, even though you’ve never ever heard it before.
Tom: At least the guy with the double bass seemed like he was having fun.
Tim: Oh, I think they all do, really – and quite right too.
Tim: I know it’s not Christmassy, but there’s something that needs clearing up. On Wednesday you made a claim that the Johnny Cash version of this song is “now the definitive version of the song”, to which my only response is: are you on glue?
Tom: Harsh. Admittedly that’s arguably much more true for “Hurt” than it is for “One” — because Nine Inch Nails were never what you could call a truly mainstream act, and Trent Renzor literally said “that song isn’t mine any more”. But I don’t think it’s a statement than can be dismissed automatically.
Tim: Even if you want to claim that it’s more notable than U2’s original version (which is laughable enough in itself), had you forgotten this?
Tim: Now, if you’ve recently developed a love for country music without telling me, that’s fine, you’re allowed to prefer an album track off a covers album.
Tom: Hold on hold on hold on. We’re both coming at this from very different angles. American III isn’t just “a covers album”, it’s one of Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series.
Tim: Hmm, maybe fair – but firstly, it still wasn’t released as a single, unlike a few others, and secondly (and more relevantly): you’re letting your emotions in here. Sure, it’s important to you, but please, don’t try to claim that it’s more notable or more definitive than either the original or this, which truly is an incredible collaboration. Figures alone show that much: this charted higher around the world (in the UK, for example, it was kept off the top spot only by Crazy by Gnarls Barkley), sold better, got a standing ovation when it was initially performed at U2’s New York gig. But you don’t need figures to show why it’s the case: it keeps Bono’s great initial vocals and adds on Mary J. Blige’s outstanding ones, with a phenomenal level of emotion. They work together and sound flawless.
Tom: I have, as far as I can recall, never heard this version of One. Ever. That is, no doubt, just as surprising to you as your dismissal of American IV is to me. And because I’m used to the other versions, I just don’t agree with you. I agree that the vocals are brilliant, but I think this is too… well, it’s too “pop music”, everything’s turned up too much, you’ve got that godawful thing where a studio single tries to sound like a live performance, with bits of what should be on-stage improv baked into the track.
Like Adam Lambert’s cover of Believe, U2’s “One” is an excellent track to perform on stage. Cash’s version is a better studio single.
Tim: Hmm, I’m still really not persuaded. But again, check the figures: if we’ve a definitive version of a song, it’s the one most people, if not everybody, thinks of when they think of the song. And hell, I’m not arguing that about this one. I’m just saying it absolutely isn’t Johnny Cash’s one. There’s just no competition. None at all.
Tom: So I did go and check the figures, and you’re right there: the order, in terms of Spotify’s slightly-rickety popularity ranking, goes U2’s original, then Cash, then this version. So, yes, I’ll grant you: Cash’s “One” is not the definitive version. But I don’t think U2’s is either.
Tom: We never talked about it here, but I do remember us both being grumpy that they’d just gone a crap version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Not just the chord progression, but the melody and everything.
Tim: I was further annoyed because, although the studio version was complete and total garbage, the staging around it made it not quite so bad.
Tom: And then I was even more annoyed, because the bloody song got stuck in my head, because of course it did, it’s Canon in D.
Tom: No, really, that’s all I’ve got, I just stumbled across it and it’s been stuck in my head for a couple of days now.
Tim: Nothing wrong with that, it’s a pretty good track. And incidentally, I’ve just looked at their Wikipedia page, and found the most outstanding sentence: “In June 2011, one of the Karlstad transit buses was named after the group.” And what greater an honour can there be than that?
“I think this song’s actually got to the point where you either need to do something spectacularly good, or spectacularly different.”
Tim: Forever Young has been done many, many times – there’s the original, the Jay-Z monstrosity, the dodgy Australian rock version, the German rap version, the 90s Eurodance version, and then of course the truly definitive one. But am I going to turn down another version, this time by a Swedish duo from the earlier this year? No, of course of I’m not.
Tim: I’ve got nothing really to say about it – as with most covers of this song, it’s exactly as you’d expect, except for doing a couple of odd and therefore mildly disconcerting things with the melody.
Tom: Yep, it’s a standard, middle-of-the-road cover version. I think this song’s actually got to the point where you either need to do something spectacularly good, or spectacularly different. This… is neither. Imagine a Joe Cocker-style over-the-top gospel version!
Tim: Or, as Rolling Stone recently had him, Joe ****er. Yeah, that’d be fun. But it wouldn’t have this one’sThere’s also the finger clicks, and I’m not sure which is more annoying: the fact that they happen on basically every other beat, or that for a few bars they stop happening and you think “oh thank god” but then they come back and you want to die.
Tom: In a departure for our usual style, Tim, I hadn’t noticed the clicks. And now I have. And now I hate this.
Tim: Oh, you’re SO WELCOME. I won’t end on a negative, though, so: nice song, nice genre, nice sound. Nice.
Tim: Most news right now is distinctly downbeat. Up until about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, in fact, I couldn’t really remember the last piece of news that made me absolutely, entirely, 100% unequivocally happy. And then the Spider-Man news happened, and I felt joy like I’d not felt in quite some time. So let’s listen to this great song, and watch the brilliant video, and be happy.
Tim: This track was on Shortlist’s Top 50 Tracks of 2018; this video was posted in March; their PR sent us it a couple of days ago. Well done everyone. This Norwegian gent goes by the name of Ole Gunnar Gundersen, who previously fronted a ’00s band called Lorraine, and now he’s out with this, which “embraces his love of 80’s era synthesizers and his unique pop sensibilities”.
Tom: Well now, that’s a good chorus, isn’t it? The word that comes to mind is ‘soft’, but I mean that as a compliment. It’s just genuinely quite nice.
Tim: First forty seconds or so, I was enjoying it, but not particularly enthused – sure, it sounded okay, production was decent, vocal fine and all that, but there was nothing that special. Come the chorus though, or to be more precise, come that guitar, and oh, suddenly that missing component is right in there – which makes it entirely mystifying why they pretty much remove it for the second verse. Sure, it’s common to drop the level after the first chorus back to the original level for the second verse, but when you’ve added that little bit extra, the new 10% that makes the song just click, why remove it?
Tom: That’s fair, although I’m liking the melody of that chorus enough that I can stand it without. This is a really lovely track, and while I’m not going to race to put it on any playlists, I’m not going to object in the slightest if it turns up on one.
As for why they removed the guitar: no idea.
Tim: Admittedly the song isn’t bothered with usual structure – we pretty much go straight to a middle eight after the second verse, and I can’t remember the last time I heard a good old fashioned instrumental fade out – but still seems a very odd decision.