State of Sound – Heaven

“This has already been done, and so much better.”

Tim: Remember how last week we said that tropical pop had more or less finished, and by extension that we were done with dodgy covers of classic songs? Yeah, well apparently that memo didn’t reach this lot.

Tom: It’s a cover! It’s actually a cover. And… I don’t know how I feel about that.

Tim: Well, quite. See, I still don’t really know what it is that makes me like or dislike tropical covers. Why I liked Africa, and why I really, really didn’t like Never Gonna Give You Up. This…this doesn’t actually get me going either way, and in fact I’m entirely neutral on it. It’s certainly an improvement on their previous, which rubbed us both up the wrong way, though.

Tom: The trouble here is that this has already been done, and so much better. The DJ Sammy version is the definitive one for me, over and above the original. This isn’t bringing anything new to the table: it’s just being compared to something better.

Tim: Is it necessary? No. Is it offensive? No. Is it, really, just designed to fit on your standard tropical sounding playlist, even though people have moved on? Probably.

Kelly Clarkson – Love So Soft

“The intro! The brass section! The whistle register!”

Tom: I like everything about this…

Tom: …apart from the chorus.

Tim: Yes – I certainly see where you’re coming from. Personally, not much of this does anything for me, and the chorus is a particular nadir.

Tom: Really? But there are so many other good things about this! The intro! The brass section! The whistle register! The steady build in the verse towards… well, towards a really disappointing chorus.

Tim: It is, and I certainly won’t deny that there aren’t enjoyable bits – the closing section is good when everything but the kitchen’s musical sink is in there, but otherwise it leaves me a bit cold.

Tom: It’s a real shame, because the last minute or so shows exactly what this could have been — but instead it goes all stripped-down, for no valid reason that I can see. It doesn’t fit her style, it doesn’t fit the song, it doesn’t fit… anything, really.

Saturday Flashback: Vanessa Mai – Ich Sterb Für Dich

“Do you recognise this?”

Tim: Question, please: do you recognise this?

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.

ZAYN feat. Sia – Dusk Till Dawn

“Way, way above most of the other ex-One Direction singles.”

Tom: Time for an unnecessarily dramatic video. (Perhaps he’s envious of Harry Styles’ turn on Dunkirk.)

I reckon that, when it gets to the chorus, you’re going to go “oh,” and then one or two beats later go “oh!”

Tim: On count 1: yes, that really is unnecessarily dramatic, though it is quite fun. Count 2: yes, pretty much. Chorus starts okay, and suddenly becomes GREAT.

Tom: I’ll be honest, that “ee-ee-ee-ee” bit in the chorus doesn’t work for me, which means there’s no way I could give this track full marks: but it’s still definitely a cut above most of the other ex-One Direction singles.

Tim: Oh, way, way above them, as I have a massive amount of time for this. Sure, the ee-ee-ee-ee is possibly a slight irritant that detracts from the rest, but it’s still damn good.

Tom: There’s a lot going on here — possibly too much. And it’s possibly a poor choice to use Sia just for backup vocals: that voice deserves to at least have a bit of a solo.

Tim: Quite pleasing how much we’re agreeing here – I too found it weird that she’s only there to directly duet, there’s no variation from Zayn’s line to hers.

Tom: But still, as Credible Big Pop Tracks go, Zayn could be doing a lot worse.

Tim: Much, much worse.

Matoma & The Vamps – Staying Up

“It’s just not something you’d expect to hear in mid-to-late 2017.”

Tim: Three boybands came out with tracks this week: one a new group from the ludicrously complicated American TV show Boy Band (and the song’s awful); one called Why Don’t We who have been going a year now and are yet to produce anything that isn’t awful; and The Vamps.

Tom: An understated third part to that list, there.

Tim: True, but most of the stated-ness was due to the others being awful, which isn’t something I can say about The Vamps, particularly with Matoma on board.

Tom: Interesting who got first billing there, isn’t it?

Tim: And hearing that makes me realise that, pleasantly, tropical dance has largely been absent this year, which means we can actually enjoy it in the small doses that it presents itself in, such as this.

Tom: It actually sounds a bit dated now, doesn’t it? I’m not sure that it’s a bad sound, it’s just not something you’d expect to hear in mid-to-late 2017.

Tim: In terms of what it does, it’s not dissimilar to last year’s All Night – takes your regular boyband sound, and merges that nicely with something different, turning more into something sounding like a banging remix.

Tom: It’s not quite a BANGER: there’s too much pre-chorus and not enough actual full-on chorus. It’s got the same problem as Galantis earlier this week: there’s basically no bass, which is fine for tropical house but not really great to dance too. But yes, it is at least different.

Tim: That is, in fact, probably what saves it right now from being a generic boyband track destined for the shame and ignominy that hopefully await those two I mentioned earlier, which could easily be generic solo album tracks with a few extra vocals. All in all, this really works for me, as a sound and as a track.

Galantis & ROZES – Girls on Boys

“Everything’s great about this apart from the chorus.”

Tom: “We been waiting to throw you this curve ball!”, write Galantis excitedly. “It’s a style of song-writing that’s been a part of Galantis from the start but we never really had the chance to show you.”

Tim: It normally gets me nervous when bands I like say that; on the other hand, they’ve not exactly been knocking it out of the park recently, so I’m open minded.

Tom: (A warning for flashing images in the video.)

Tom: Here’s a reversal of the usual status quo around here: I think everything’s great about this apart from the chorus.

Tim: While I think it’s time to realise that Galantis are not the dance music saviours I previously believed them to be 🙁

Tom: The intro, the verses, the build, the vocals, everything about this has so much promise — but then it leads into a bassless, repetitive instrumental chorus hook, complete with that irritating precussion that sounds like someone’s failing to light a gas hob.

Tim: Haha, yes, I hear the one you mean. I’m the same – sounds great, right up through the opening, verse, pre-chorus, but then it’s not really good at all.

Tom: I get that instrumental choruses are a thing these days, but this just doesn’t work for me.

Tim: I can’t help wondering what’s so ‘curve ball’ about it – it doesn’t sound particularly different from their other recent disappointments. OH GALANTIS, WHY MUST YOU ABANDON ME SO?

Ambivalensen – Allt För Mig

“Alas, poor Tom”

Tim: Two Swedes here, Joel and Sandra, presenting a nice chanty chorus surrounding one of Shakespeare’s better known tales.

Tom: Hamlet? Tell me it’s Hamlet.

Tim: Alas, poor Tom, it is not.

Tim: But what a lovely track that is anyway, with a mix of jaunty whistling, gentle electronic beats, bouncy piano and hefty chanting all somehow working well together – doesn’t sound like a recipe that’d work, but for me it really does.

Tom: As ever, I’m more cynical. It is a song where the middle eight is better than the rest of the track — and where the chorus just grates. If your chorus is just a few words endlessly repeating, you’d better have an absolutely incredible melody to go with them — not just five shouted notes. I’m not into this.

Tim: Oh, shame. Perhaps we’re at an Icona Pop-style impasse, here, as I thoroughly enjoy the shoutedness. And as for the lyrics, well, I can’t find them online so I’ve no idea what the actual message of it is, but it doesn’t sound like it’s about suicidally tragic romances so that’s nice. All in all: a good fun track (hopefully).

Birgir – Can You Feel It

“I think it’s more ‘inspired by’ rather than ‘ripping off’.”

Tim: Birgir’s new and off Sweden, and here’s a track for us to get our teeth into.

Tom: I’m always baffled when someone releases a song that has the same name as a classic. I get why, it’s the big line in the chorus, but surely it’ll always be eclipsed?

Tim: Perhaps, yes, but it’s not the only part you might recognise…

Tim: Now, I love that. It’s a brilliant track. And I can tell you exactly why, and upsettingly it’s not a good reason: it’s full of other people’s brilliant bits.

Tom: Which, given the title, isn’t surprising. I’m not getting anything specific, though: what do you hear?

Tim: The first few notes of the “whoah-oh-oh” line are familiar, I think it’s Coldplay? I’m fairly sure I’ve heard the exact melody of the very first line before. The pre-chorus is similar to that of Ben Haenow’s Something I Need, and they just keep coming. They’re all good bits, and I love the song because of it – but they’re all second hand good bits.

Tom: I think it’s more “inspired by” rather than “ripping off” – but then, I reread The Manual1 recently, so perhaps I’m more willing to forgive that at the moment.

Tim: I don’t know, you may be right – in fact you probably are, as it’s almost certainly not a deliberate “right, we’ll take that bit from there, and that from there, and ooh, let’s use that bit as well”, but it’s still too recognisable. It’s annoying, because the original parts of this are great as well (looking at you, electric guitar in the middle eight), but the level of familiarity is just too much. And that really sucks.

Saturday Flashback: Let Loose – Crazy For You

“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 – and it’s certainly impressive to get a 35 track Greatest Hits album out of only 10 singles.

Tom: But somehow, I feel like this track deserved more.

Tim: Really? A number 2 (lol) is a perfectly decent showing, no?

Tom: When I say “there’s nothing wrong with it”, I don’t mean that as faint praise. I mean, literally, I can’t find anything wrong with this track.

Tim: Nitpicking, I’d say the vocals could be a bit higher in the mix, but yeah, it’s good enough. It’s no What Makes You Beautiful or Lovekiller, but it’s good.

Frida Sundemo – Gold

“I don’t often describe tracks as gorgeous and beautiful, so you’d better believe I’m serious here.”

Tim: To recap, when we last featured Frida I remarked that it was great, as with so much of her output, and you could see why it was a good song, but weren’t so keen. Shall we try again?

Tim: And that. is. GORGEOUS.

Tom: Took a while to get going, but yes, that’s entirely the right adjective.

Tim: I wasn’t so sure about the first thirty seconds or so, because until the big violin roll at that point, the vocal and instrumental parts didn’t really seem to connect. That moment drew them together, though, and after that big drumbeat one minute in I had no doubts. Her voice, matched with the beautiful instrumental underneath, sounds absolutely wonderful (and I don’t often describe tracks as gorgeous and beautiful, so you’d better believe I’m serious here).

Tom: So I agree with you: “gorgeous” and “beautiful” are the correct words here. However, “entertaining” and “memorable” are a bit lower down the list for me: ‘deep into the ocean’ started to grate after a few repeats, and I don’t think I’d actually want this in a playlist.

Tim: Hmm…I can maybe see where you’re coming from with that, though I can’t say I agree with you.

Tom: Also, is that a key change down in the middle eight that never comes back up?

Tim: A slight key change, yes, but I don’t think think it’s a downward one. The song as a whole is about bravery and “having the courage to risk something that’s ‘alright’ for the chances of getting something you really dream about”, which right now connects with me as wanting to throw out my futon to make room for the newly announced LEGO Millennium Falcon.

Tom: …mate.

Tim: IT’S A SIGN, but I think I’ve got distracted. To sum up: what a glorious song.

Annoyingly, I always seem to forget how much I like Frida until every time we feature her here, BUT she’s bringing out her first international album five weeks from today so can we put that in our calendars please.