Britney Spears – Hold It Against Me

How about we take a quick break from the usual?

Tim: Well, the final version of the new Britney single got leaked yesterday and the whole music internet and his dog is talking about it – how about we take a quick break from the usual and have a look at it?

Tom: Go for it. What do you think, Tim?

Tim: CAN’T STAND: the dubstep bits, which sort of includes the verses and definitely includes the first half of the bridge, which is absolutely not my type of thing.

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF: the rest of it. This includes the choruses and the second part of the bridge, which will have lasers and smoke machines and hands in the air in any self-respecting club, and everything later than that.

That is what I think, and because it ends on a high, the positiveness wins over.

Tom: I have yet to find a dubstep track that I like, which is strange – normally, even in genres I don’t like, there are a couple of tracks that I’ll still enjoy. Dubstep? Not one, yet. It completely kills the energy in the bridge: there’s even a ramp up to it and then it just dies. That second half of the bridge, though, with the sparse drum hits? That’s bloody amazing. I want to dance to that.

Tim: Oh, and apparently if you, like me, thought you knew how to pronounce ‘hazy’, you were quite clearly wrong.

Tom: Tim, I have a degree in linguistics, I know the International Phonetic Alphabet, and I’m not sure I could transcribe what she sang there. I’m not sure those vowels are used in any human language. Perhaps she’s signalling the mothership.

Le Kid – Mr Brightside

A present to keep their fans happy.

Tim: No soapy sailors this time round, as this is a free track off their website rather than an actual single – a present to keep their fans happy until they bring new stuff out in February.

Tom: Now, I really liked the bubblegum pop sound they had last time round – how much of that was due to attractive lead singers in low-cut outfits, I’m not sure, but I ended up listening to that track a lot of times. Hopefully this one’s similar.

Tom: Oh yes.

Tim: Not half bad, really, and remarkably different from The Killers’ original, in the backing instrumentation at least.

Tom: The first few notes of it gave me a bit of worry, but I needn’t have – it’s a great cover of a great song; when all the electronic gubbins kicks in on “Jealousy–“, I just burst out into a smile.

It’s basically into repeat-until-fade half way through, and – most disappointingly – it doesn’t use the “I never–” refrain to end it. I like that part, if only because every time I hear it I think Brandon Flowers is singing “PAELLA.”

Tim: Of course you do. Needless to say, fans of The Killers won’t like it much, but we’re not here for them. We’re here because we like happy camp music, and this is very much it.

Tom: Damn right.

Saturday Flashback: Roxette – Stars

During the final chorus, everything just clicked together.

Tim: Much like yesterday’s Lili & Susie, here’s an act from the olden days with a new single out.

Tom: Blimey, really?

Tim: Oh yes, but that single, She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio), has rather rudely been taken off YouTube.

Tom: That’s a pity, because that title has a lot of promise.

Tim: Doesn’t it just? Anyway, let’s take a look at this instead from 1999, in which we can see the effectiveness of aggressive singing.

https://youtu.be/agRK2AQwY5Q

Tim: This wasn’t as successful as many of her other tracks, but now sounds considerably less dated than most.

Tom: I’ll agree with you there – I wouldn’t have placed this as being over a decade old.

Tim: Also it has a children’s choir in the chorus, and that’s always fun.

Tom: No they’re not! They’re horrible. There’s never been a good song with a children’s choir in it, with the exception of William Shatner’s cover of Common People.

Tim: Oh, please.

Tom: I know what that link is before I click it. It’s the St. Winifred’s School Choir, isn’t it? There’s only one good performance of that, and it’s the time they were on Tiswas.

Tim: Man, you’re mean. Anyway, if you fancy something a bit more energetic, try a recent Almighty 7″ Mix, although I prefer this – it’s dance-y enough, and the choruses are much better.

Tom: I wasn’t really feeling this song until the final chorus, during which everything just clicked together for some reason. This is lovely.

Tim: A few things about the video:

  • If I was that bloke, I’d be more likely to get a restraining order than an engagement ring.
  • It’s a slight shame she couldn’t learn the words to the chorus before they started filming.

Tom: But the ducks, Tim! How could you not have immediately mentioned the ducks who quack in time with the lyrics?

Tim: Oh, good lord – how could I not have noticed that? It’s incredible. It may, however, be that my mind was still reeling from her dancing at about 1:12. This can only be described as utterly exquisite, especially when it looks like her head is going to fall off. I tried to imitate it it, but my neck just refused to bend that far.

Tom: That must be CGI. Surely that’s CGI? Wait. 1999. Damn.

Lili & Susie – Kom Och Ta Oss

Energetic, danceable, vibrant – generally everything a good piece of schlager should be.

Tim: These two sisters have been going for well over twenty years now, although they’re not producing much these days – their last was Show Me Heaven in Melodifestivalen a couple of years back; now, they bring us this.

Tim: Lyrically, I have no idea what this is all about, although the title – which translates to ‘Come and Find Me’ – suggests it’s some sort of game of Hide and Seek; having said that, the song seems a bit loud to be singing in that situation so it’s probably not that.

Tom: I’m clearly a bit immature, because I’m hearing the title as “Come And Toss” every time they sing it. I’ll set that aside.

Tim: Yeah, I think that would be best. So, we’re stuck judging the music alone, and that’s not a bad thing, really, since the music’s quite good.

Tom: It’s a bit anthemic, isn’t it? There’s a hell of a lot going on, and that’s not a bad thing.

Tim: Certainly isn’t. The voices hold up nicely, and the blokes joining in at the end add a bit of gravity, should you feel that’s what it needs.

Tom: I’m not even sure it counts as schlager – yes, it’s three minutes long and from Scandinavia, but you couldn’t call this bubblegum pop by any means.

Tim: Ah, but the non-vocal part is energetic, danceable, vibrant – generally everything a good piece of schlager should be. And that is, after all, what we are here to celebrate.

Natasha Thomas – Alene

Now what we have here, children, is a lesson for life.

Tim: Now what we have here, children, is a lesson for life.

Tom: Ooh, right. I’m sitting comfortably. You should begin.

Tim: You see, it starts off with a fairly healthy bass line and plenty of potential. With the beat that it has, it could go anywhere – turn into a proper dance tune, give us a great big cheesy chorus and massive key change or maybe even become some sort of Danish hip hop.

Tom: It’s like an ugly duckling, all ready to turn into a swan!

Tim: Does it do any of this? No. Absolutely not.

Tom: Oh.

Tim: It started with a healthy beat, it finished with a healthy beat, but it did absolutely nothing in between, and was entirely disappointing. It’s the musical equivalent of someone who is born, goes to school, just about passes his exams, gets a job in a small accountancy firm, retires at the age of 65 and then has a heart attack without anyone really noticing.

Tom: Damn.

Tim: Don’t be this song, kids. Do something with your lives.

Tom: You are so not Aesop, Tim.

Ilia Darlin – Car Crash

The video begins with her chopping up pieces of her ex-boyfriends.

Tim: This lady is Greek. The video begins with her chopping up pieces of her ex-boyfriends, because they lied to her. There is no way we are not taking a deeper look at this.

Tom: That first note? My brain went straight to Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’, and then got very very confused. It remained in that state for the whole video. Alternating between blatantly sexualised dance routines and shots of raw meat? That’s just wrong, Tim. It’s just wrong.

Tim: Now I’m not sure why, but I really really want to like this. But I don’t. A minute and a half in I was surprised to find out the song wasn’t even half done yet, and when it kept going I just found it absolutely and entirely not registering in my head. It’s just a bit boring, really (lyrics aside, that is). The verses plod along line by line without even that much of a tune (despite an annoying amount of autotune), and the chorus is nowhere near as energetic as it should be.

Tom: I think she wants to be the Greek Lady Gaga. Ridiculous costumes, opaque sunglasses, wigs, electronic production and somewhat-disturbing videos? It’s a straight rip – only the music’s just not good enough to match.

Tim: Hopefully she’ll do some more that are better, though, as there does seem to be something here – just not in this song.

Emma’s Imagination – This Day

It does go on a bit.

Tom: So this cheery singer won Sky’s “Must Be The Music” – no, I didn’t watch it either – with a lovely under-two-minute acoustic number.

Tim: It is quite nice, although it doesn’t help that my brain keeps interrupting with Hey There Delilah every time the guitar takes the focus.

Tom: The producers have added a few session musicians with strings and percussion and turned it into a proper single, and…

Tom: …well, it’s lovely but I wish it was still under two minutes. It does go on a bit.

Tim: Blimey, it does and all, doesn’t it? For me it’s the backing drum – once it starts it almost never stops or even varies from the same two second loop. There’s just too much instrumental in general – let’s have some lyrics, dearie.

Tom: It’s rare for me to outright call for this, Tim – but I want a remix. I want Almighty Records to take this and run with it and turn it into a key-change blasting pop spectacular. Because this is lovely, it’s wonderful, but there’s just not quite enough there. And no, dubstep doesn’t bloody count and it sounds awful. Like all dubstep.

Her Majesty and the Wolves – Stars In Your Eyes

Kimberly Wyatt. You know, Kimberly Wyatt?

Tom: Okay. Start with the backing from Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Dance Wiv Me’. Replace Dizzee Rascal with some American bloke, and Calvin Harris with an autotuned Kimberly Wyatt. You know, Kimberly Wyatt.

Tim: What, her off Kids in America?

Tom: Yeah, okay, I had to look her up as well. One of the Pussycat Dolls, apparently. Anyway, mash up all that and you get this:

Tom: I realised half way through that there is actually more to this song than that – once you get over the startling similarity to Dizzee’s track and she actually sings, this is actually quite danceable.

Tim: Yeah – it got me just after the first verse when the proper tune appeared, up until when I’d thought ‘why have you sent me this rubbish?’ And actually, all the way after that I really liked it – it was just the aforementioned American bloke that I didn’t get on with.

Tom: The chorus is a bit by-the-numbers, but despite that I rather like it. I wouldn’t say I’d head to the dancefloor if it got played, but I’d happily stay there.

They have blatantly ripped off Tron Legacy for the video though. He appears to be mixing on an electric hob.

Tim: Oh, please. Are you honestly telling me you’ve never made music with your kitchen implements?

Momofoko – Still Need To Dance

To be honest this is a bit annoying.

Tim: This video is, I think, the weirdest one we’ve seen since Underground.

Tom: A “Bed Intruder” reference? Blimey.

Tim: Yeah. And much like Underground, I was pretty much too engrossed in that than the song itself. Quite what still needing to dance has to do with going out hunting and investigating unusual weather phenomena is beyond me, but to be honest this is a bit annoying.

Tom: It’s a lovely bit of video, though, I’ll give it that much. But annoying?

Tim: The thing is, the music is good, but it seems to have been used just as a backing track for this video, rather than the other way round. You can’t really hear it much, and the fact that it keeps getting interrupted means you can’t even listen to it properly in the background.

Tom: Ah, now there’s a reason for that. Music videos are increasingly having interruptions or ‘extra bits’ added to them, to stop people ripping the audio from YouTube. They’re what they’ve always been – an advert for the track – but now they’re not the track itself.

Tim: I know that – it’s just, isn’t this a bit too far? One break I can cope with, but we have two stupidly long ones, the second of which finishes so close to the end that we can’t really be sure what the end of the track is actually like.

To sum up: good music, but can we actually hear it next time, please. And in a way that lets us know how the song finishes. Thank you.

Saturday Flashback: Dr. Bombay – Calcutta

It’s unnervingly racist Swedish Europop time!

Tom: Do you know what time it is, Tim? That’s right: it’s unnervingly racist Swedish Europop time!

Tom: This is textbook nineties bubblegum Europop. Bouncy sound-effect bassline, simple melodies, singalong chorus. It’s everything that we try to celebrate here: dancing like idiots to ridiculous, overproduced music. Or at least it would be, if it wasn’t performed by a Swedish guy in thick, questionably-racist makeup.

Tim: Wow, it’s like a musical Come Fly With Me.

Tom: Okay, so it was the nineties. This was apparently just-about-OK then, even for Top of the Pops. (Yes, Top of the Pops. Try getting that through the BBC now. And yes, there is stereotypical mock-Indian mumbling in there.) Jonny Jakobsen probably couldn’t get away with releasing a whole of album of this now, although his other character, the faux-Scottish but similarly-accented “Dr. Macdoo”, might just be able to survive. Because ironic bagpipe techno is, of course, so popular.

Tim: Towards the end of the intro, I started thinking this was a bit like the Special D track we reviewed – that I liked it, even though I didn’t really want to. The beat was just about happy and poppy enough to outweigh the dodginess. Then the verses started, which are appalling for multiple reasons, and then just no.

Tom: It gets stranger. Bizarrely, Jonny Jakobsen put out a ‘Greatest Hits’ album in 2007 – which was just the previous two characters’ albums combined and cut down. Even more bizarrely: Basshunter provided a remix of ‘Calcutta’. That’s right: in the twenty-first century, in Europe, some record producer thought it’d be a great idea to get Basshunter to remix this track.

Tim: Musically, this is a bit better, and to be honest I think I could get on with an instrumental version of it. As it is, with the verses, it’s… it’s not for me, and I’ll leave it at that.

Tom: I think we’ll both leave it at that.