Galantis feat. Charli XCX – We Are Born To Play

“Having Mario shout ‘here we go’ before the drop is ghastly.”

Tom: This is an advert, Tim, and you know how I feel about giving adverts additional promotion, or even listening to them deliberately. But I get the feeling that if I don’t send this to you, you’re going to send this to me, and I don’t think I can deal with the amount of enthusiasm you’d start this with.

Tim: CORRECT! 

Tom: So yes. Galantis got asked to build a track around the Mario soundtrack, for the upcoming Super Nintendo Worlds that’ll be built at the Universal theme parks over the next decade.

Tom: Let’s get the awful things out of the way first: “power up and go” is an awful lyric, and having Mario shout “here we go” before the drop is ghastly.

Tim: Ghastly? Or brilliant? I think brilliant. You see, I’m going to heavily subvert expectation here, and slightly seriously discuss this thing (I know, sorry), because the way that sounds kind of depends how you look at this: it’s clearly not just written as a promo track, because way too much effort has gone into it, but it’s clearly not a proper dance track, even a ‘stick on the album as a bonus track’ one. And so for the hybrid that this is, I think putting Mario in there works, however ghastly you may find it. 

Tom: Mind you, Galantis don’t appear to have just cashed the cheque on this and churned out a minimal-effort track: they’ve reinterpreted pretty much everything into their style. It’s not actually that bad.

Tim: True, and the first two minutes of this is straight up dance tune: you could take that and the last ten seconds, add some extra stuff in the middle and have a perfectly decent track, if a tad novelty-ish with all the power-up and coin sound effects. That thirty seconds of Mario theme sample, though, changes it, hugely. As a promo it’s now great. Dance track? Yeah, we’re done.

Tom: But obviously: Super Nintendo World will be nothing like this. It’s a Universal Studios park, so it will be a series of rides that bounce you around a bit in front of a 3D screen while you’re occasionally sprayed with water. If they manage anything greater than that, I will be shocked and amazed.

Tim: What, you mean there won’t be actual boxes suspended in the air that you can punch to get coins? DAMMIT, TOM.

Tom: The thing I’m most impressed by here? The video production team. That is movie-quality green-screen work.

Tim: Yep. That’s almost as good as the Mario sample.

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: Jon Secada – If You Go

“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”.

Although the best performance of this track was, of course, that time a stage lift didn’t work and Jon Secada had to sing while clambering out of a hole at the ’94 World Cup opening ceremonies in Chicago. It starts at 6’35” in.

Tim: And the absolutely perfect thing is that the camera cuts to him right has he sings “I’m almost there”. Beautiful stuff. 

Tom: Turns out he dislocated his shoulder, so, uh, sorry Jon. 

Melissa Naschenweng – Schutzengerl

“I just think that it would be difficult to put a euphoric key change in a song about death.”

Tim: Presenting a rather lovely song that is completely and utterly ruined by the video. Title translates to ‘Guardian Angel’.

Tim: First verse: mm, yeah, it’s okay. First chorus: oh, this is absolutely beautiful and wonderful and heartwarming and everything.

Tom: I actually broke out into a smile at that first chorus. And I know it’s because it’s schlager, it’s perfectly valid to call it uninspired and by-the-numbers, but– I still smiled. For a moment. And then I realised what was going on in the video, and that it’s actually about a father dying in a car crash, it’s basically a “don’t text and drive” PSA, and ‘Guardian Angel’ in the title is not intended as a metaphor.

Tim: Yeah, quite the change of beat when you realise that, isn’t it?

Tom: It is odd, though. You could swap the lyrics of this out with a sappy love song and it would work perfectly. I wonder how often that’s true in this genre, and in others? Because that first chorus could be a proper hands-in-the-air moment.

Tim: Second verse: not much interesting happening, jump to another tab. Second chorus: OOH, it’s gone quiet, we’re getting one hell of a key change here. Except, no. We have a car crash instead, and…well, I actually meant that about it happening literally in the video, but it also works perfectly well to describe the song.

Tom: I know where you’re going, Tim, and I just think that it would be difficult to put a euphoric key change in a song about death.

Tim: True, AND YET, that sudden pause shows the potential for what could be. And sure, it’d be a key change that’s a good couple of decades out of fashion, and way off beat with the lyrics, but I don’t care, I want it, you’ve shown me it, and at each one of the drum builds that come throughout the rest of the song, I want that key change. YOU’VE STOLEN MY KEY CHANGE, DAMMIT.

I said ‘ruined by the video’, though: the studio version doesn’t have that pause, and as such doesn’t bring out anywhere near as much frustration. So maybe the video wouldn’t, if it did’t have that exact drama in that exact place. Silly people.

Lvndscape x John Adams – I’m Like A Bird

“The PR bumf for this describes it as having a ‘sparkling drop’.”

Tom: Nelly Furtado’s original is twenty years old now. And I didn’t know what to expect from this: Spinnin’ Records are a dance label, after all, and the PR bumf for this describes it as having a ‘sparkling drop’.

Tim: Hmm. In that case I’ll press play and not read ahead, for fear of spoilers.

Tom: Well, that’s lovely, isn’t it?

Tim: Oh, it really is, yes. Not remotely what I expected, but yeah.

Tom: There’s a lot to be uncertain about, mind. I’m not sure about the fast vibrato on those vocals: it almost feels like the vocal line’s been sped up a lot. And the sooner we can get over this trend of artificially adding vinyl pops and scratches over tracks, the better: it was a cliché when Mike Flowers did it in 1995. Yes, that’s an obscure reference for you.

Tim: Honestly, Tom, I’ve learnt to expect nothing less.

Tom: And losing the “And baby all I need” lyrics is certainly a bold choice. I think it works after a while, but the absence is striking.

Tim: Yeah – certainly makes singing, or even humming, along a tad unsettling.

Tom: But still: this is a calm, fun cover that manages to have some dance-production elements in it. It nicely treads that line between novelty and familiarity. It’s the doldrums of January: I’ll take what I can get.

The Chainsmokers with Kygo – Family

“There’s something weird about the whole thing.”

Tim: Since the sensitive content warning at the beginning of the video is irritatingly vague: he gets in a car accident, recovers, everything’s lovely now.

Tim: First up: “gave him a little extra cash” is a really weird way to describe paying someone.

Tom: There’s something weird about the whole thing. Narratively, the story doesn’t quite make sense — I realise that’s how life is, of course, but every time the video tries to make a point it’s undermined by something else in it. He wrecked his car? Sure, but we’ve just seen him pulling a handbrake turn at speed, that’s not surprising. He tore his ACL? Okay, but we’ve seen him jumping into a swimming pool from a rooftop, again, that’s to be expected.

At one point, there’s an Instagram caption visible: “This is Ross. He helped me build the car I wrecked. Guess I’m gonna have to have him build me a new one.” And sure, in context he probably sounds like less of a bellend, but the video director’s job is to make an audience care about him and it just seems like miss after miss after miss.

And then at the end, Amy appears! Has Amy been introduced at any earlier point? No, she’s just “a long time friend”. There is almost certainly a lovely, sympathetic story to be told here, but the director just didn’t do a good job of telling it.

Tim: Second up, the music, which I’ll happily admit I completely lost track of the first time I watched the video, though I’ve a feeling that’s kind of the point.

Tom: It’s generic. Kygo has a good style; the Chainsmokers have… well, a style. Together, they’re just a bit meh.

Tim: To be honest, this is a bit of a weird one. The video makes it really, really personal, and so I’m wondering which came first: the song or the crash. Was the song written after it, linking it into a “check up on your mates” theme, or was it a coincidence, and one of them thought “hey, we can make a video about that”?

I don’t know, and the Instagram post they made about it was also irritatingly vague. ANYWAY, music is music so let’s listen to that, and it’s…perfectly okay. No, it’s better than that. It’s good. It’s what we’d expect. It’s nice.

Oh Wonder – Happy

“This will probably sound a bit familiar.”

Tom: This will probably sound a bit familiar.

Tom: I had to pause this, after the first chorus, just to check that I wasn’t accidentally listening to Clean Bandit — or maybe a band that included one of their members. I didn’t realise how much that staccato string-synth-pad style was associated with just one band in my head now. (Or maybe these are real strings. I doubt it, though.)

Tim: Ah – see, it does sound a bit familiar, but I got more of a Chainsmokers vibe from it.

Tom: Unfortunately, I don’t really like Clean Bandit, so this was basically doomed from the start for me.

Tim: Oh. On the other hand, I quite like the Chainsmokers, so it’s fine for me.

Julie Bergen & Seeb – Kiss Somebody

“Wait, is that it?”

Tim: Julie’s good at pop, Seeb do good dance – a combination’s gotta be worth hearing, right?

Tim: Right. Brief, mind – seems to be quite a “in, get it done, out” vibe, which…

Tom: …let’s be honest, fits the lyrics entirely. Two minutes and 18 seconds, though, is brief in many contexts: but, hey, if you’re trying to bring in the Spotify streaming revenue, that’s the way songs are going right now.

Tim: Often I’d praise that, because no-one likes a tune that hangs around longer than it should, but here we’re onto the second verse in less than a minute, there’s no semblance of any middle eight and barely a nod to even a closing chorus, and it just leaves me feeling a bit ‘wait, is that it?’

Tom: I disagree there: I think that quiet “make out” works as a middle eight, even if it is technically part of the chorus lyrics: and there’s definitely a bigger final chorus in there. I think this song lasts just as long as it needs to: I think if it were longer, we’d both be muttering that the simplistic tune starts to grate. (It started to grate with me on the second time I played it.) But I did, at least, play it a second time.

Tim: Sure, there can be remixes, and I can always press play a second time, but this almost has a whiff of contractual obligation to it, kind of like one of them’s lost a bet. The weirdest thing is that we do get a few ‘will this do?’ tracks, but in every case it’s been the quality of the music rather than the quantity that’s suffered. Here, music’s as good as ever – there’s just very little of it.

Saturday Flashback: Texas Lightning – No No Never

“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.

Anna Bergendahl – Speak Love

“Country is basically schlager, just with different instruments and more pickup trucks.”

Tim: Bits of yesterday’s track reminded me of Avicii; here’s a country opening for you that’s right out of his playbook.

Tim: Not quite as hefty later on, of course, but as country tracks go it’s still a RIGHT ON BANGER, and one I’ve happily played several times now and not got even slightly bored of.

Tom: Country is basically schlager, just with different instruments and more pickup trucks. Which is why I’m surprised that you always seem to write it off as a genre. This isn’t full-on American country, of course, but it’s certainly on those lines. And you like it!

Tim: The melody, the vocal, the energy, the everything, it’s there! Right there!

Tom: It’s a bit by-the-numbers, sure, but they are good numbers.

Tim: All flipping marvellous, so BRING IT, Anna, YES, with your walks down memory lane in the pouring rain. They might not be the greatest things, but at least they inspire good songs. Like this.