Same Difference feat. Alcazar – Karma Karma

A bit late to the Slumdog Millionaire bandwagon.

Tim: Same Difference: an X Factor 2008 finalist group whose track we previously covered reached the dizzying heights of number 100 in the UK charts. Alcazar: a fairly well-known Swedish pop group, whose biggest success internationally was 2003’s Crying at the Discotheque and whose most recent activity was a rather good 2010 Melodifestivalen entry, Headlines. For some reason – can’t quite see any particular logic – they’ve decided to team up.

Tom: Sounds like they’re a bit late to the Slumdog Millionaire bandwagon.

Tim: It is repetitive, and it is catchy, and it is pretty much what you’d get if you looked ‘pop music’ up in a dictionary, if you owned some weird dictionary that had videos in it instead of words.

Tom: It’s bloody not. I haven’t properly cringed listening to a pop song in a long time, but I did at this. It’s retro in all the worst ways: it reminds me of a dozen songs I hated when I was younger, and seems to jam in some Asian references and chord progressions that seem incredibly out of place.

Tim: Seriously? Because overall, I have to say: I think it’s brilliant.

Tom: I’m sorry to use this as a baseline, Tim, but I would honestly rather listen to the Black Eyed Peas’ “The Time (Dirty Bit)” than Karma Karma. Hell, I think I’d rather listen to dubstep. Now that’s saying something.

Tim: NO! I will NOT let that stand. You are WRONG. Just plain WRONG.

Extra points should be awarded for chaining together about five million ‘woah’s, and the bass line for some reasons makes me think of Super Mario Land. The only thing I’m not hugely keen on is the bridge exit, which is… odd, and I don’t really know whether I dislike it or not.

Tom: I almost thought the key change might redeem the song, but it doesn’t. It’s just as dire, only a couple of semi-tones higher.

Tim: Actually, scratch that – I’ve heard it several times now and it’s great. Like the rest of it.

Tom: I tried listening a second time, and it got worse. Probably because I knew what was coming.

Tim: And I now see the logic of the collaboration: together, they can make Proper Pop. And that is Good.

Tom: They can’t, and it isn’t.

Tim: WRONG.

Andreas Johnson – One Man Army

Energetic instrumentation, choruses and YouTube compression.

Tom: Ooh, Andreas Johnson. This bodes well.

Tom: Those opening notes have so much promise. It’s just waiting to burst out into a massive chorus!

Tim: Now, this isn’t as big or as loud as Solace was, but we still have the traditionally energetic instrumentation, choruses and YouTube compression that we expect from Herr Johnson, and I like this considerably. It’s basically your typical ‘I’ll do anything for you’ love song but ramped up to way beyond the usual.

Tom: And somehow it doesn’t seem melodramatic: I don’t know if it’s refuge in audacity or just very good production, but this sounds lovely. And how can an electric guitar part be ‘the quiet bit’? That’s amazing.

Tim: One of the best things about it is how just as you think it might be settling into repeat until fade territory, it comes back and blasts you with a bridge full of reasons why this person’s so great, why he loves her so much, and then a final declaration of devotion once again. If you’re paying attention to the lyrics, it’s beautiful.

Tom: Maybe when I go back and press ‘play’ again, I’ll do just that.

Tim: On the other hand, if you’re just paying attention to the lyrics, you’re missing out on a whole lot of fantastic music, so don’t do that.

Saturday Reject: Le Kid – Oh My God

Dancing and singing liquorice allsorts, ejaculating cupcakes

Tim: You may be expecting a Saturday Flashback round about now, but no! Since there are now less than three months to go until Eurovision 2011, changes are afoot: most countries have begun their selection process, and some have already chosen. There is of course only room for one song per country (which is kind of the point, I suppose) and so some otherwise excellent tracks will fall by the wayside, destined for album track obscurity (and some terrible tracks will go forward, but that’s a whinge for another time). Anyway, we feel that many of those deserve more attention, and we start with a song that got kicked out of the first heat of Melodifestivalen in fifth place* a couple of weeks back.

* Melodifestivalen workings, for any who don’t know: four heats of eight; the top two go straight to the final, third and fourth go through to the second chance round (‘Andra Chansen’), from which another two go through to the final.

Tim: OMG indeed. A disappointing exit, as right from the get go it was by far and away the most enthusiastic performance there was that night.

Tom: Enthusiastic, to be sure, but I can’t help but start singing ‘Spaceman’ by the Killers every time they start on the ‘oh, oh, oh’ bit of the chorus. Or the ‘don’t stop, push it now’ from The Sounds’ ‘Tony The Beat’ over… well, all of it.

Tim: Hmm, maybe, but what with the colours, the outfits, the dancing and singing liquorice allsorts and the ejaculating cupcakes, it’s basically everything we know and like about Le Kid.

Tom: It is that. I can’t help but like it – although that is, as I’ve mentioned before, partly due to the attractive women in low-cut outfits. But despite all that, I think Sweden made the right decision here. It’s happy, it’s bouncy, but it ain’t a Eurovision winner.

Tim: Maybe it was just too much – who knows.

Tom: Where was the key change, Tim? There should have been a key change.

Isis Gee – How About That

A song I have trouble paying attention to.

Tim: Information: I spent twenty minutes trying to think what the first three notes of this chorus reminded me of, then gave up and started writing this post, which was to begin with the words ‘HELP ME.’ Just as I’d finished, I realised what it was, so now we can just start listening properly.

Tom: Oh, what the hell is that? I know it!

Tim: Twenty minutes. You think I’m going to give you the answer just like that?

Tom: You son of a bitch.

Tim: And boy, can this lady hold a note.

To be honest, though, this is a song I have trouble paying attention to. It has a decent beat, and a good enough melody, but that’s just it – it’s good enough. The chorus is catchy for a brief moment, until it finishes, and the verses are nothing special, or at least not for me.

Overall thought: why can’t the video focus a bit more on the motorbikes than the music? They’d be more interesting.

Tom: Got it! Those notes. I know what it is now. Right, what do you think of the song?

Alex Saidac – We Shine

There is a moment in this song at which you will raise your eyebrows and think ‘huh’.

Tim: There is a moment in this song at which you will raise your eyebrows and think ‘huh’.

Tim: Now, this is very, very odd. Verses that, for me, are almost unlistenable, and chorus that, for me, is almost ‘repeat until death’. I don’t really know what market is being aimed at, here – she’s a professional DJ, so I suppose she must know her audience, but there are people I know who will like the verse, and there are people I know who will like the chorus. Those groups do not intersect – they barely mingle, in fact.

Tom: A bit of techie geekery here: in the waveform that shows up in Soundcloud’s player, you can actually see the difference between verses and chorus. That doesn’t normally happen on modern dance records: they’re all normally compressed into one glutinous mass.

I’m in the chorus-liking group, by the way – and you’re right, I did raise my eyebrows.

Tim: Overall, I have to give it a thumbs-down – much as I love the chorus, the verses cancel that out, and there’s no real big hands in the air moment to get excited about.

Tom: It’s a shame, because it is a lovely chorus, at least to begin with. Shame about the rest of it.

Three – Lucky Number

A faceful of autotune

Tim: Teenage triplets, and identical ones at that.

Tom: I was going to make a “be still my beating heart”, but I’m getting a more “Children of the Corn” vibe off them. They’re really rather creepy.

Tim: As a girlband they’ve been a while in the making, but here’s their first single, so get ready for a faceful of autotune, although rest assured that it does calm down after a bit.

Tom: That is, indeed, a faceful of autotuning.

Tim: Now, I think this is what they call ‘catchy’. It’s happy, it’s chirpy, and it’s rather nice.

Tom: It’s almost too much sugar, and that’s saying something from someone who used to listen to rather too much J-Pop.

Tim: I do like the ending, which is abrupt, but not in such a way that it feels like someone’s just turned the microphones off by accident, what with the final revelation of the (not remotely surprising) lucky number.

Tom: They actually appear to have used DTMF tones – or something very close to them – as an actual melody line. Top works to whoever wrote that.

Tim: It also has the benefit of being educational – now, children, you can greet people wherever you are in the world!

Tom: I just generally SPEAK LOUDLY and SLOWLY. It seems to work.

The Benefits – Crash and Burn

I don’t have a problem with this.

Tim: You, reader, may be hoping for a cover of an Australian duo. If you are, get off this site.

Tom: Hey, Savage Garden weren’t that bad. I mean, admittedly “Affirmation” makes me want to punch the lead singer every time I hear it, and “The Animal Song” was bloody awful, but there was always “Truly Madly Deeply”. Although the cover Cascada* did was better.

Actually, you’re right, Savage Garden were quite bad.

* Would.

Tim: Unfortunately, the first few notes of the chorus remind me of Nickelback and/or Shayne Ward’s Gotta Be Somebody.

Tom: I’ve got Joe McWhatshisface’s version of “Ambition” through most of the chorus – there’s similar notes and that same falsetto break.

Tim: That aside, I don’t have a problem with this. I like: the buildup to the chorus, the chorus itself, the lengthy and varied bridge.

Tom: And I’m always a fan of string instrumentation in tracks like this.

Tim: It’s a slight shame the closing part isn’t a bit louder, though, because then we could say it comes crashing out of the bridge, and have a quiet chuckle at how humorous we are. As it is, we’ll just have to dream.

Arash – Broken Angel

A textbook Eurovision entry. (With bonus disturbing mental image!)

Tim: Arash Labaf, born in Iran and moved to Sweden at the age of ten, sings in Iranian. Helena Josefsson, Swedish through and through, sings in English. Got that? Good.

Tom: Tim, this is a textbook Eurovision entry right here. I don’t think it’d win – I think it’d be one of the plodding mid-level ones that sits somewhere in the middle of the board – but it’s a Eurovision song if I ever heard one.

Tim: Now, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what’s going on in the video, mainly because I don’t understand his singing, so let’s ignore that.

Tom: Fun fact for you though: if you ever do the “collapse in the shower, hugging your knees” thing that she does in the video? It is impossible to get back up with any dignity at all. Can’t be done. You have to sort of shift over onto sort-of-all-fours and then try to stand up without falling over – while you’re naked and being soaked by the shower. That’s something you never see in these music videos, is it?

Tim: That, sir, is an image I absolutely and definitely never ever wanted in my head. I hate you.

However, in the interests of professionalism (ha) I shall put that aside, and talk about the music, which for the first 25 seconds is a middle of the road summer Eurodance tune and is nice; this is the case for all the parts where she is singing. When he starts singing, it is rather different, and the combination almost results in it seeming like two songs spliced together.

I don’t mind this at all – in fact, I think it works very well, with the consistent backing beat coming in to link them up. Sure, it won’t be to everybody’s taste – that would be ridiculous – but it seems a rather uplifting tune. (Given what the video looks like, this is almost certainly not the case – remind me never to learn Iranian.)

Tom: There is a lot of crying in that video.

Saturday Flashback: Sasha – Goodbye

Oh, that’s fantastic.

Tom: Almost all ‘goodbye’ songs are somehow maudlin or melancholy. This is neither.

Tom: This isn’t an “oh, I’m so sad, I have to leave you” song – this is an “I’ve accomplished all I can do here, and now it’s time to move on”. It’s a little bit triumphant without being over the top; a little bit sad without being depressing. I played it quite a lot just before I left York – and while that won’t mean a lot to most of our readers, there’s a few out there that’ll understand it.

Tim: Oh, that’s fantastic. A proper sway your head from side to side chorus, and for a sad-ish song, albeit with a ‘you’ll be okay’ subtext, it sounds ridiculously cheerful. Though for leaving university, I have to admit I went with something a bit classier.

Tom: I’m not sure quite what the bridge does, musically speaking, but I can say that personally it makes me break out into a grin every time – as does the textbook key change at the end of it.

Tim: Exactly – it does what all good bridges do by providing a moment of calm in an otherwise energetic song, and a sense of anticipation for a good exit and final part. And it absolutely does not disappoint – a proper big smile on my face, there.

Tom: As for Sasha himself: well, he’s got quite a long and varied musical history – perhaps the strangest pat being when he performed as his alter ego “Dick Brave” for a couple of years. But right now I couldn’t care about that; I’m too busy wearing a contented smile and looking forward to whatever’s happening next.

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

An emergency late-night post: It’s amazing. And brilliant. And fantastic.

Tom: An emergency late-night post from the Europlop team now, as we’ve just had our first listen to this. We’re not waiting until Monday.

Tim: It’s amazing. And brilliant. And fantastic. And amazing. Even though I said that already.

Tom: That spoken-word introduction made me wary, but then bloody hell that is amazing. We’re talking one-man first-listen desk-rave rave here.

Tim: Is a lot of it just hype? Possibly.

Tom: A one-man first-listen desk-rave, Tim. That never happens. Although I did calm down a bit after and realise it’s probably just Very Good rather than The Greatest Thing Ever. But it’s still very good.

Tim: It broke a record, going to number one in iTunes within three hours of being released, and that certainly wouldn’t have happened if the same record had been released by some unknown person.

On the other hand, that’s a stupid thing to say because it hasn’t been released by some unknown person, it’s been released by the most notable person in music right now. And that shines right through in the music, which is brilliant. Did I say that already?

Tom: Don’t know. Too busy dancing.

Tim: You may be one of those people that hates songs with Messages, and this is undoubtably one of those. But I don’t care, even if I normally would, because it’s fun, it’s energetic, it’s happy, it’s jumping around like a kid who’s just been given a pogo stick. There is just so much here, there’s just, well, everything. Basically, anybody who doesn’t like it is a moron.