Black Eyed Peas – The Time (Dirty Bit)

Is it music? Not really. Is it listenable? Not at all.

Tim: Now, what is this? Is it music? Not really. Is it listenable? Not at all. Why, then, are we featuring it? Because it’s too awful not to, and for some unknown (and to me utterly inconceivable) reason the normally fairly sensible British public have bought more copies of it this past week than of any other single. The thing is, I could cope with it if it was a Black Eyed Peas version of Time of My Life, and I might even enjoy it somewhat.

Tom: For the first minute, I was wondering what was so offensive about it – it sounded like they’d just covered Time of My Life, which wouldn’t be a bad thing in itself.

Tim: I could just about cope with it if it was just the other part of it, although I’d probably just dismiss it and forget about it. But as it is, it’s just appalling. The fact that part of it is a cover implies that it’s meant to be music, but I really can’t work out any form of a tune for much of the rest of it, which is surely a necessary part.

The one redeeming thing about it is that, for a five minute song, it seems to pass fairly quickly.

Tom: Not for me, Tim. Not for me.

Tim: Oh, and as for the video: full marks to the CG people, but boxes on heads? What? I’m also wondering what the criteria are for whether someone gets turned into bricks or not – are these the people that are too ashamed to be seen in this video? And also, at 3:26, is that actually a girl fellating somebody on the dancefloor? Because that’s what it looks like, even if he is made of blocks.

Tom: For a while I thought it depended on whether their voices were filtered or not, but… no. It’s just there because it’s there.

Tim: Although having watched the video I am tempted to go out and pre-order a Blackberry Playbook. Except NO. I’M NOT. BECAUSE SHIT PRODUCT PLACEMENT LIKE THAT IS HORRENDOUS. AND I HATE THE SONG EVEN MORE NOW.

Tom: I think we’re in agreement there.

Saturday Flashback: Girls Can’t Catch – Echo

They possibly had potential.

Tim: You know how sometimes you get a song stuck in your head, but then you can’t remember the name of it no matter how hard you try? Yeah, well this isn’t one of those.

Tom: When the video starts, it looks like they’re performing in front of the first second of the ‘Futurama’ titles on loop. I expected the Planet Express ship to crash into their blatantly-not-on-the-Cliffs-of-Dover stage. They also appear to be sending out dangerous blasts of light towards France – which, despite the title of the song, never echo back. Opportunity missed there, video director.

Tim: Fifty per cent of the cost of the video saved there, video director. But part of me wants them to be shot out to sea by the shockwave effect they’re going for.

Tom: “Whoops, sorry love, mistimed that one. We’ll get the lifeboat for you, just hang on.”

Tim: This group existed for about a year, had two singles, broke up the day after after being dropped about six months ago, and have an album due out on 13th December (the logic presumably being that it’s a shame to waste all the stuff they’ve recorded). Bit of a shame they split up, because I very much enjoyed this song, and they possibly had potential.

Tom: They are Another Girl Group, and there’ll be another one along in a minute.

Tim: Well, quite. They will in all likelihood never be missed, especially given that they wrote practically none of their material – even their name was second-hand, after The Saturdays rejected it.

Tom: Surely there’s a whole line in vaguely sexist band names? How about “Men Never Want To Cuddle After Sex”? that could work.

Tim: I would definitely buy a single by Girls Who Spend Money On Clothing. Mind you, we could just rewrite some recent tracks, like OMD’s Sister Marie Says Get Out Of My Kitchen, perhaps, or Robyn’s Indestructible (My Love For These Shoes).

Tom: It’s all right, folks, he’s being ironically sexist.

Katy B feat. Ms Dynamite – Lights On

I’m sorry, is it the 90s all of a sudden?

Tom: I’m sorry, is it the 90s all of a sudden?

Tom: We need a name for something, Tim, and that something is “the feeling you get two minutes into a song when you realise no, it’s not over yet, and you haven’t even heard the bridge yet”. I got that feeling so strongly with this track.

Tim: Me too, and so much so that I can’t really think anything other than ‘why hasn’t this finished yet?’ It’s just seems so pointless.

Tom: Yes, we get it Katy, you’re drunk and you don’t want to stop dancing. Now stop embarrassing yourself and head to the cloakroom, the bouncers are starting to look at you funny. No, the floor isn’t tilting. Just… walk with me, okay, just over here. Okay, great.

As for Ms Dynamite: when did mid-90s half-singing half-rapping come back into fashion? It was a bit embarrassing back then, and it definitely is now.

Tim: I believe we can attribute that to Alesha Dixon’s The Boy Does Nothing, which wouldn’t really have happened without Strictly Come Dancing; as such, I blame Bruce Forsyth.

Tom: Yes, but you blame everything on Bruce Forsyth.

Tim: Look, I don’t care what you say about my tripping over that bucket – if it wasn’t for him and that bloody catchphrase we’d never have come anywhere near to getting caught and you know it. I might still have most of my hair as well.

Cee-Lo Green – It’s OK

It seems that pretty much everything Cee-Lo touches turns to gold.

Tom: It seems that pretty much everything Cee-Lo touches turns to gold. I hope the second single off ‘The Ladykiller’ gets some attention, even though it doesn’t have the shock value of ‘Fuck You‘ – because it deserves it.

Tom: It doesn’t have quite the same singalong quality to it, but my word it’s an excellent track.

Tim: I agree.

Tom: This is neo-soul – like Motown only with modern production values – and I have the feeling that record labels are already hunting round for the next ten singers they’re going to try and shoehorn into that slot.

Tim: Probably, although one of the most likely contenders was voted off the X Factor, after being compared to just about any black person going (seriously – there was Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and, um, Lenny Henry).

Tom: Honestly, this song just makes me smile.

Tim: Yes. I really like the lyrics videos they’ve done – even if the song takes a bit of dip at one point, you can just follow the words like a dog watching TV, not really knowing what’s going on but enchanted by the pretty patterns.

Tom: It’s called “kinetic typography“, and it’s one of those things that’s easy to do – but very difficult to do well. Folks who try to rip it off will just… well, they’ll look like they’re ripping it off.

Daniel Adams-Ray – Gubben i Lådan

I started pumping my fist in the air during the intro.

Tim: Daniel Adams-Ray (Swedish/Scottish/Indonesian/Kenyan, but mostly Swedish) used to be half of hip-hop duo Snook, who drifted apart about six years ago; he took a break to go to design school and start a fashion label, but now he’s back on the scene as a solo artist and with an entirely different form of music. Such as this, which nine weeks on has only recently stopped being number one in Sweden, and whose title translates to ‘The Old Man in the Box’.

Tom: I started pumping my fist in the air during the intro. That’s the simplest and yet the heaviest percussion I’ve heard on a track like this, and it works perfectly.

Tim: Yes – I think it’s rather pleasant, really. It’s sung from the perspective of a man utterly devoted to his woman – ‘I took a bullet for you, and got little back / For you I will do it, a thousand times over’ – and musically I think fits well with that, being appropriately loud and energetic without being overly so.

Tom: It’s quite a spartan track, and that works – I can see why it was number one. There’ll be a remix that speeds it up a bit, no doubt, which will remove some of the plodding feeling that comes with it being basically a march in 2/4 time.

Tim: There are moments of ‘is it really still going?’ when it gets quiet two minutes in, but they quickly dissipate to be replaced by the same raw enthusiasm that the song returns with.

Tom: I got exactly that same feeling – but it’s worth it when it kicks back in. I want it to be faster and more danceable, but I respect the fact that it’s not.

Kaija Koo – Vapaa

It could be the theme to a sixties European spy film.

Tim: From a Finnish woman who here looks like she’s stepped straight out of forty years ago comes this, a fairly normal – and thus fairly good – piece of schlager.

Tom: That opening sounds like it’s from forty years ago. It could be the theme to a sixties European spy film until the chorus kicks in.

Tim: Medium level verses, quiet and sedated bridge and loud and energetic choruses.

Tom: The Finnish equivalent of Roger Moore sneaks around, raising an eyebrow as a naked woman, artfully filmed from behind, steps out of a sauna and into the ocean.

Tim: Um, okay. The Finns seem to love it, as it’s been scarpering around their top 10 for the past four or five months now, and I can see why.

Tom: She turns round to notice him – again, artfully filmed from behind, and he quips a one-liner about her appearance. She replies, he approaches, and then – seemingly for no reason – he shoves her into the ocean.

Tim: Um, Tom? You know we’re meant to be discussing this song, right? Anyway, outside of Eurovision entry competitions, this sort of stuff isn’t all that fashionable right now, but there’s clearly still a market for it, and a very good thing that is.

Tom: He spins round and, without stopping to aim, shoots the assassin with the blow dart that was about to kill them both.

Tim: Nope, he’s gone. He’ll come round eventually – he usually does, although it would be nice if this time doesn’t involve a gerbil and some pink hair dye.

Tom: She surfaces, sputtering, and realises what’s happened. Cut to sex scene, then cut to bad guy’s HQ. You can write the rest from there.

Amy Diamond – Only You

It doesn’t help that my brain keeps singing Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ over the top of it.

Tim: Question: How do you make a British person think it’s Christmas?

Tom: Put “The Great Escape” on the telly?

Tim: Is one option. The other is to play ‘Only You’, a song that has, much like The Power of Love, been on every single Christmas compilation for the past twenty-odd years despite having no relevance to Christmas whatsoever, all because of a December number one (in this case, a version by The Flying Pickets in 1983).

Tom: My word, that’s an awkward video. It doesn’t help that my brain keeps singing Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ over the top of it.

Tim: YES! I couldn’t work out what it was – I kept thinking Eternal Flame, but then listened to that and realised it wasn’t. Anyway, this version is by Amy Diamond, who had her first single back in 2005 and is now releasing her version to coincide with a Greatest Hits album at the grand old age of 18. Yes. Eighteen.

Tom: She has been in the charts since she was twelve, though; that’s almost certainly more justified than, say, Blue’s compilation album.

Tim: I know – I watched her first video the when I found this, and it was just weird.

Tim: I’ll be honest: this doesn’t do a huge amount for me. Formulaically, it’s all there – calm instrumentation soon backed up by a dancey beat, the soothing voice, the gentle key change that prompts an immediate reaction of ‘Ooh, that was nice. Right, what was I doing?’ There’s just not enough oomph, I guess – there almost seems to be a lack of humanity in it.

Tom: I got a completely different vibe from that key change: I instinctively grimaced at it. It’s just sugar piled on top of sugar.

Tim: Actually, I know exactly what it is. Anecdote time: when I was about ten, I played the piano. I was entirely unsuited to it, with no real music talent at all. However, I was good at the theory stuff – time signatures, various voices, cadences and all that malarkey. So I took the grade tests and everything, and at the end of each one you had to compose a short piece as well, and due to the aforementioned lack of musical talent I would just write what I’d been taught was a good piece – beats in all the right places, harmonic chords, good endings, the lot. And this song (or at least the production on it) is exactly that – nothing added, nothing taken away, just exactly what there needs to be. Except, well, there needs to be more.

Tom: I’d argue there needs to be less. About three minutes less, to be exact.

Saturday Flashback: Basshunter – Boten Anna (Instrumental)

Just a bit calming, really.

Tim: What? What on Earth is the point of me suggesting this? Which sensible person doesn’t know of the excellent Basshunter and his signature tune Boten Anna? Well, indeed. However, this version came on my generic nano-sized music player a while back and 50 seconds in I suddenly had absolutely no idea what was going on in the world. I kid you not, there was a part of me thought I had somehow taken some sort of drug without realising it.

Tom: The dancey bits are doing that thing that Basshunter usually does – where the loud part of the synth line happens on the off-beat. I swear that’s designed to make less-musical clubbers lose their timing and look like idiots.

Tim: Tiësto‘s quite good at that as well. The guitar part in this took me a while to get used to it, but I think I actually prefer it, outside of a clubby/dancey environment. It’s unusual, it’s not as aggressive as the other instrumental version I’ve got, and it’s just a bit calming, really.

Tom: I wouldn’t go so far as ‘calming’, but the acoustic guitar and choral synth patch bit in the middle is almost like the soundtrack of a cheesy sci-fi movie. If any readers have skipped over listening to this because they ‘know what it sounds like’ – they’re wrong.

Not sure about the trio of vaguely-threatening Basshunters in the bottom right of the video clip, though.

Tim: To me it looks a little bit like the scrawny drug-dealer in the middle being protected by two hardcore goons on the outside. Or the nerdy kid who gets protected by the big guys because he does their homework for them.

Viktorious – When We Were Ten

I was quietly bouncing along in my chair.

Tim: Viktorious is known to his friends and family as Viktor Norén and used to be part of the rather loud but not altogether terrible Swedish band Sugarplum Fairy. He decided, however, that band life was not for him, and that he wanted a challenge, and loads of other old gubbins, and so he ‘threw out the guitar and used the computer as [his] only instrument’. It ‘opened a whole new world’ apparently.

Tom: There’s a surprising number of solo musicians being fairly successful from their basements – even if the ones who really make the big time tend to have that story retroactively added by their record company’s marketing team.

Tim: But enough of such talky rubbish. The main thing is the end result; i.e. this.

Tom: I thought this was really generic and dull when it started, and then I realised that – as I worked on something else – I was quietly bouncing along in my chair.

Tim: Odd one, really, what with the quiet then loud two-part chorus. When the second verse started I thought ‘God, this is going on a bit, isn’t it?’ even though it was only a minute or so in, and I think this is because the quiet part of the first chorus felt like the bridge, and then the loud ending should have finished the song. Once I got over that, though, I rather enjoyed it.

Tom: Aye, I’ll agree with that: it’s a song that’s constantly on the verge of finishing – but once you get over the slight feeling of aural blueballs, it’s a great track.

La Roux feat. Kanye West – In For The Kill

What’s he blithering about?

Tom: You remember ‘In For The Kill‘, right? Gorgeous, soaring vocals; brilliant danceable beat; and a brilliant remix where the beat doesn’t actually drop until four minutes in. What more could this possibly need?

Tim: I would guess, but I’m fairly sure you’re going to tell me. Or perhaps this is a trap.

Tom: If you answered ‘Kanye West’, then you’re so, so wrong.

Tom: Did he actually ask to do this? Or did he just turn up during a recording session, steal the microphone, and start babbling into it? This isn’t just a cover version – the whole original song’s been rerecorded.

Werewolves? Vampires? What’s he blithering about? For the whole time he’s rapping, all I can think is get back to the original track.

Tim: Well, you know, vampires and werewolves kill things, so going in for the kill works, maybe. Mind you, by that logic someone should make a song about Harold Shipman.

Tom: It’s been done. By a man who was convicted for abusing 14-year-olds. That really puts Kanye’s mic-grabbing and song-ruining into a better light, really.

Tim: True, although if it takes a convicted paedophile’s horrendous-taste song to put you in a better light, then…actually, I how no idea how to finish that sentence.

Tom: Anyway, I’m not just criticising Kanye West because he’s Kanye West – although there’s plenty of reasons to. His version of Daft Punk’s Harder Better Faster Stronger was pretty good, and despite the ego he does make some good tracks. This, though… this is not one of them.

Tim: No. Just…SHUT UP YOU STUPID RAPPER. Bloody hell. And what’s with the grunting noises at two minutes? It’s…uurgh.