Lisa Ajax – Känn En Doft Av Kärleken

“It’s really, really jarring, and it upsets me.”

Tim: RIGHT THEN so you’ll recall back in June we got Dolly Style doing a cover of How Far I’ll Go as part of a new We Love Disney album, except then for months we had nothing at all, despite me hunting for stuff at least once a week.

HOWEVER, last week the whole album arrived, yippee! We’ve a variety of styles: some straight up covers, some simple translations (Aladdin’s En Helt Ny Värld), English covers that have really played with the genre (Circle of Life), and some that might as well be brand new songs, because I’m willing to bet you’d forgotten the existence of Brother Bear altogether.

And then…and then there’s this.

Tim: So, I have no problem at all with about 90% of that. The early part of it takes the same genre we’re used to, and a translation’s always fun (though, weirdly, they’ve used different lyrics from the translation they used in the film). The bit where the chorus has a big hefty backing underneath it, very very much so.

Tom: Agreed: there are, as far as I’m concerned, two canonical versions of this: the film version, and Elton John’s version. This doesn’t hold a candle to either of them, of course, but I’ve got to admit that the voice works, and the production for most of it is good too. It’s a solid Disney Cover. I think you’ve got the same problem with it that I have, though.

Tim: Most likely. Because that dance breakdown – where on earth did that come from? I don’t mind it particularly, and certainly if it was in a whole other song I’d have no problems with it at all. Except it isn’t in a whole other song, it’s in the middle of one of the most memorable film songs ever, and it completely and totally doesn’t belong. It’s really, really jarring, and it upsets me.

Tom: And it’s a real shame! Because the rest of it is good. Not spectacular, but good.

Tim: I’ll finish on a positive, though: we’ve got something similar with Kamferdrops’s version of Let It Go. And this time, it works for me.

Tim: I’ve no idea why it works, as logically I should have the same problem – still a great song, still a largely unrelated breakdown. But I don’t.

Tom: I think I know why: Let It Go is meant to be a big, showstopper, belt-it-out number — but here it’s being sung relatively quietly and calmly. That chorus sounds wrong, it’s underwhelming — but it means that your brain’s more prepared for the dance bit.

Tim: Hmm, yeah, could be.

Tom: What we’ve learned here is that nothing’s going to break Andrew WK covering the Mickey Mouse March.

Tim: Erm…well, okay, whatever works for you. I’ll stick with Dolly Style, if you don’t mind.

Au/Ra x Alan Walker – Ghost

“Oh.”

Tim: Not sure I’ll ever really understand the differences between &, ‘and’, x, a comma and any other way of indicating a pairing between artists, but never mind that. This is another one from that Death Stranding game that the recent CHVRCHES one came from (which, incidentally, I relistened to recently and realised I quite like). Let’s see how this one goes.

Tim: Oh.

Tom: Yep. I know that tap-tap-tap percussion style’s been popular for years, but ever since someone described it to me as “like someone failing to light a gas hob” it’s basically been ruined for me.

Tim: Well. I guess, the melody’s nice? And her vocal’s fine. And…and…and this really does nothing for me. Sure, maybe it’ll fit the mood (though I’m certainly not tempted by this to buy the game to find out), but without any context it’s just quiet, a bit dull, and not remotely what I was expecting when I saw those names together. Balls.

Tom: And that’s a shame! That’s always the problem for artists who want to make Something Different: it’s not what the fans were expecting.

Tim: Maybe I’ll like this one in a few weeks’ time as well? Hope so.

Tom: I doubt it.

Måns Zelmerlöw – On My Way

“One of the loveliest melodies I’ve heard in a while.”

Tim: Måns’s latest album came out the other week, and I’ve just got round to listening to it; pleasingly, it’s got some pretty good numbers on it, some of which we’ve already covered. This one is the first track, though, and it starts out with some rather fruity language, given who he’s singing it to.

Tom: Oh. Yes. Yes, you’re not wrong there.

Tim: I’ll be honest, I’ve no idea how the lyrics in the chorus relate to the lyrics in the verse, unless he’s doing a dialogue-style duet with himself, which’d be weird.

Tom: That is actually how I read it! I assumed it was ‘advice to past self’, but I suppose it could also be ‘I haven’t got it figured out either, kid’.

Tim: Well, whichever it is, never mind that because that chorus has one of the loveliest melodies I’ve heard in a while. Thing is, it starts out pretty good anyway with the opening “I’m on my way!” line, but then when the flowing “I know it’s only…” arrives it suddenly becomes even better. As for the rest of it: well, it’s fine.

Tom: Alas, the chorus just doesn’t work that well for me, which means that… well, yes. “Fine” about sums it up, which is a shame.

Tim: Nothing brilliant, but nothing that could be described as bad. Well, except for maybe that artwork, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Tom: One observation: it sounds very weird to hear very British-southern long vowels in Måns’ voice. “Dis-arse-ster” just doesn’t seem right somehow.

Tim: Well, let’s just play the chorus again.

Saturday Flashback: UNDRESSD – Forever Young

“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.

Galantis & Dolly Parton feat. Mr. Probz – Faith

“The first thing that stuck out to me here was the structure, or rather the weirdness of it.”

Tim: Galantis, we know very well. Mr Probz, never heard of him before in my life, but sure, he could be a featured artist. And then…and then there’s Dolly Parton. Unusually for me, I haven’t listened to the track before writing this introduction, and have no idea what I’m in for. Fingers crossed it’s good.

Tim: Right: here’s something annoying, about doing this whole music review thing: first time I hear a track, I pay full attention to it, beat by beat, line by line. And that means that the first thing that stuck out to me here was the structure, or rather the weirdness of it.

Sure, the standard verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, chorus – but the verse is just a few lines, and then the chorus is roughly one single line repeated over and over again for a full minute, each time with slightly different backing underneath it.

It’s like they’re saying “fine, we’ll play by the rules, but boy are we going to struggle against them”. And I have all those thoughts, and even go back to listen to it again to check that, without ever really paying attention to what the song sounds like as a whole. And that’s absolutely and entirely not what a song credited to bloody “Galantis & Dolly Parton” deserves.

Tom: If it’s any consolation, I generally just write a stream of consciousness while I’m listening, and then tidy it all up later. Anyway. The track.

Tim: SO. The main review: it’s weird! Keeping Dolly Parton away for a full fifty per cent of the song!

Tom: And using vocal effects that take her incredibly recognisable voice and it sound like it’s somehow being simulated by an offbrand Dolly-Parton sythesizer!

Tim: Giving the first verse solely to your feat. guy! The lack of any real underlying defining sound, careering between piano house, tropical, light drum & bass, euphoric! Hell, the fact that it’s happening at all! But it’s good! It’s a great listen, for some of these aforementioned reasons, and I like it.

Tom: It sounds like a mashup. It sounds like an old Madeon track. There are so many things going on here. I have issues with the structure: I think you could start this where Dolly Parton comes in, add an extra chorus on the end after that , and have a track that sounds more like Traditional Pop instead of a frankly disappointing ending. But then that’s not really what Galantis do, is it?

Tim: I was entirely unsure what to expect, but I’m glad of what it turned out to be.

Armin van Buuren feat. Ne-Yo – Unlove You

“Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.”

Tom: This is not an intro that you’d expect from Armin van Buuren. The rest of it…

Tom: Let’s get something out of the way: the lyrics here are not great. “How am I supposed to only / look at you as my homie” is one of several really rough examples.

Tim: Yeah – that whole second verse, really, with the shower line and the legs shaking bit as well.

Tom: It’s a shame, because everything else about that chorus is good: particularly those brass-like synth stabs in the background.

Tim: It really is – and far more than I was hoping for from a song with Ne-Yo in the artist credits.

Tom: Then we have a middle eight, and it ends! I know, that’s how music works these days, but I really do think this needed a Big Final Chorus. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

Tim: Hmm, interesting you put it like that – that disappointing bit around the one minute mark strikes me as more middle eight-y, with its complete lack of resemblance to anything else. I’d say we’ve just a complete lack of standard structure, but you know what? That’s fine.

Julia Bergwall – Open Your Eyes

“New synthy dance slightly country-ish pop off Sweden.”

Tim: New synthy dance slightly country-ish pop off Sweden.

Tom: That is a lot of adjectives there.

Tim: From an artist we’ve not featured before but has nonetheless been going a fair while. Have a listen, see what you think.

Tom: Huh. There’s a lot of different parts to this track, and they’re all quite different.

Tim: A part of me was almost relieved by that, because so often we get tracks, particularly with the synthy chorus genre, with a perfectly decent opening verse and first chorus, but which then drop down into utterly unsatisfying post-choruses. Fortunately, that is entirely not the case here.

Tom: I think they’re all solid as individual parts. I’ve no idea how they work together at all, but… they do.

Tim: It is a fair old hodgepodge, with no particular dedication to one single genre – almost surprisingly, though, that works well enough throughout the whole song. A less competent producer might have sought to just chuck everything – light guitar, heavy synth, big drum beats – all in together for the closing section, sod how it came out sounding as long as it was suitably big and banging.

Tom: I mean, sometimes, that does work. Not usually, but I can see the temptation.

Tim: Fortunately, that’s not the case here at all, and in fact it sounds good throughout, no mean feat given these building blocks.

Robin Bengtsson – Just Let It Go

“It’s safe to say that this reminds us of a LOT of pop songs.”

Tim: Ready for an irritatingly catchy guitar strum?

Tom: My brain went straight into Train’s “Drive By” there, although given that it’s just one repeated guitar strum, I suspect that’s my fault, not the fault of the song. Also, am I wrong, or does the chorus sound weirdly like Pitbull and Kesha’s “Timber”? That’s what I kept breaking into, anyway.

Tim: Timber, not sure about – I did, however, lose count of the number of times I wanted to move into “when I see your face…” there.

Tom: Right. So between us, it’s safe to say that this reminds us of a LOT of pop songs. Perhaps a bit distracting. Although now I’ve pointed it out, I defy you not to call-and-reponse “just let it go” with “I’m yelling timber”.

Tim: Ohhh…oh, yep, there it is. But, never mind, because otherwise it’s a fairly decent track – fitting in perfectly, in fact, with all the other standard ‘white guy with guitar’ acts out there, showing that it’s not just in Britain that it’s all-pervasive. I like this song, mostly because it does pretty much nothing wrong. Nothing incredibly brilliant, mind, but nothing wrong either.

Actually, one more thing: speaking of losing count: why do so many songs keep mentioning kryptonite? I want one mentioning Infinity Stones instead, please, songwriters.

KEiiNO – Dancing In The Smoke

“Still fair levels of joikiness in there”

Tim: KEiiNO splashed onto the world (alright, continent) stage in May with the glorious Spirit In The Sky which should completely have won.

Tom: The one with the joik! I remember that! It was… well, there was a lot of joik.

They followed it up with a nicher, folkier number a couple of months later, which wasn’t quite as great. You’ll be delighted to know they’ve learnt their lesson.

Tom: I wasn’t sold on that until the second chorus.

Tim: Still fair levels of joikiness in there, so we’ve still a track that’s recognisably them, but we’re back to having a straight up pop verse and chorus – and I have absolutely no problems with that whatsoever.

Tom: Agreed: they seem to have found a good balance between Unique Sound and Generally Acceptable Pop Song, which is always a good thing. I can’t imagine an entire dancefloor singing along to the joik bit, but stranger things have happened.

Tim: It’s a song that after just a couple of listens you can go along with the intro, with a catchy beat, melody, rhythm, everything. A worthy follow-up to the almost-victor, if we just ignore that middle one. We’ll do that.

Saturday Flashback: Tiësto, Jonas Blue & Rita Ora – Ritual

“I enjoyed it, and that’s that.”

Tom: Parts of this sound like a Tiësto track, and parts of this sound like a Rita Ora track. And astonishingly, I think they both work together.

Tim: They do, as this is a good track.

Tom: I… I don’t think I could pick a Jonas Blue track out of a lineup, though.

Tim: Yeah, you remember – did that Fast Car cover that kickstarted 2016’s brief trend of tropical covers of old songs.

Tom: I’m sure he had some input.

Tom: There’s nothing that particularly stands out here for me, but somehow the whole seems greater than the sum of its parts. It’s catchy, I want to hear it again. And honestly, that’s the only reason I’m sending it over to you: I enjoyed it, and that’s that.

Tim: Good. Sensible reasoning.