Saturday Flashback: Eric Saade – Manboy

You know what else no-one’s doing? Raccoons.

Tim: This really, really, really should have been Sweden’s entry to Eurovision 2010.

Tom: It’s Womanizer by Britney Spears, isn’t it? When he started his vocals, I muttered “Superstar, where you from, how’s it going”. Decent choreography though, although he seems to forget where the audience is half way through.

Tim: Perhaps, but this is Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s (vastly superior) version of Your Country Needs You, so he just needs to remember where the camera is. Also, you need to wait ’til after the key change before you can properly judge the dancing.

Tom: Ah, he’s been to the George Sampson school of stage performance then. (Not Daz Sampson, thankfully.)

Tim: Apparently, ‘everybody does fire’ and it’s quite boring.

Tom: He’s got a point there. You know what else no-one’s doing? Raccoons. No-one ever unleashes a hundred ravenous raccoons to attack the singer on the key change.

Tim: True, although raccoons would probably poo everywhere. Just not practical.

Tom: Neither’s rigging up a power shower above the stage, but they manage that.

Tim: Ah, but he practically had to beg them to. (Really, he did.) He probably wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about unleashing rabid animals to munch on him.

Tom: Not sure about these lyrics either. “You can call me manboy” sounds like an odd way of saying “I have learning difficulties”. Can I do that joke?

Tim: Yeah, why not.

Tom: Hmm.

Manboy, manboy,
You can call me manboy,
I don’t care, I’ll show you how to love.

I’m not an expert, but I’d guess most women would prefer ‘man’ over ‘boy’. There’s not a whole lot of ‘showing how to love’ when your entire experience of love is the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Or, if you weren’t born in an 80s sitcom, the internet.

Tim: Well I think that’s it. He pretty much is only a boy (19), so he wants the man to shine though. And, after all, what better way is there to prove manliness than stand in the pouring rain?

Tom:Raccoons. Fighting raccoons.

a-ha – Butterfly, Butterfly

It seems, weirdly, almost noble.

Tom: a-ha are releasing their last ever single. This isn’t a comeback – it’s more that they’ve just been trundling on in Norway all these years, while not many people in the UK noticed. They’ve decided to call it a day now, and this is their slightly melancholy last hurrah. It’s called “Butterfly, Butterfly”, and while it’s not going to make anyone dance like an idiot, it does make a rather nice coda to their quarter-century in music.

Tim: Right from the start you can tell it’s going to be slightly downbeat, but it’s nice. There’s not many bands that say, ‘this is it,’ so it seems, weirdly, almost noble. Like, yes, we could keep releasing records, but it’s going to stop at some point, and we’re all getting old, so we may as well quit while we’re still going fairly strong, and thanks for everything.

Tom: I’d bet on a comeback tour in ten years’ time though.

Tim: Good lyrics, as well – they say goodbye, but not in such an obvious way that someone listening twenty years from now will immediately know this was their last single. Only criticism is that is does go on a bit at the end, though, as though they can’t quite bear to let it go.

Tom: Still, after 25 years, I think they’re allowed one more chorus.

Vengaboys – Rocket to Uranus

Oh hell no. There are so many things wrong with this.

Tom: Oh hell no. There are so many things wrong with this: Perez Hilton. The rip-off of “House of the Rising Sun”. Just the fact that the Vengaboys are attempting a comeback.

Tim: The first time I heard this, I thought, “Oh God, the Vengaboys are back, doing a rubbish song filled with cheap innuendo, where they want to say ‘Rock It to Your Anus’ but that would be too rude.” Then, however, I watch the video and I’m pleasantly surprised to discover I was wrong – it is actually a song about a real space mission! As their YouTube channel says, ‘it’s about personal freedom and interplanetary travel.’

I don’t think you can mention Perez (who, it seems, used to be the baby in the Teletubbies – who knew?) without also mentioning Pete Burns, who has an army of bikini-clad warriors trying to destroy a dance party but whose one weakness seems to be dance music – go figure.

It’s a slight shame that they resorted to really really tacky innuendo (a cock-shaped rocket? Seriously?) despite the fact that they managed fine without it 10 years ago, because it means a lot of their old fans now have a(nother) reason to distance themselves from it, but for me, this just about manages to fit in the guilty pleasure category.

INJU5TICE – Long Long Way From Home

It’s just painful, it really is.

Tim: Before we see the video, these people need an introduction, and the first thing you should know is that everything I am about to say is true. I am not making it up, and if I’m honest part of me wishes I was. What we have here is a band that believes (or at least the bloke that put them together believes) that all is Not Right within the music industry, because boybands just aren’t what they used to be. As such, they’ve set themselves up as a Millennium-era Backstreet Boys in an attempt to bring back the Golden Age of boybands. (I’ve actually seen the phrase ‘anti-JLS’ in some of their promo stuff, I think.)

Oh, and they also have the most ridiculous name since Ke$ha.

So, as you can see, it’s all there. The weird dancing, the cheesy music, a ridiculous hook made up of a few random syllables. All that would be well and good, perhaps even laudable, except for the third quarter of the chorus. Or, to be more specific, the lack of autotune in it, as it becomes thuddingly apparent that looks were more important than vocal ability. Because it’s just painful, it really is. Normally I hate autotune, but here… man, what were they thinking? They’ve been touring schools for months trying to build themselves up a good fanbase – why can’t they launch with a single that more than 60% of them can sing?

Tom: No. No. Really? This has to be a parody. The Teletubbies-esque lyrics, the tour of schools, the fact that the first key change takes the song outside their vocal range. And there’s a second key change too! It’s only three minutes in, but it felt like I’d been listening to half an album.

Boy bands, even in their worst days, always included things like ‘harmony’ and at least a pretence of singing ability. Surely this is just an elaborate prank.

Tim: No parody, or if it is it’s a shockingly detailed one. These guys have had a longer gestation period than some babies: they’ve done tours, there’s an album trailer and clips of all their other songs on YouTube, there’s a big website – much as it pains me to say it, this is an actual band. Speaking of their album, if the name of it isn’t a case of wishful thinking, I don’t know what is: ‘World’s Most Wanted’.

However, I do have a theory regarding the painful key change. An alternative interpretation of

I need some loving
I’m a long long way from home

is ‘You know that not-cheating-if-you’re-in-different-area-codes thing? What do you think of that?’ The sudden high pitchedness is then justified by the girlfriend punching them all in the bollocks. How does that sound? After all, we only have to look at Taylor Swift to see how brilliant narratively justified key changes can be when executed properly.

OMD – If You Want It

…makes me go ‘awww’ and ‘yes’ simultaneously.

Tom: OMD have a new single coming out, called “If You Want It” – and the video’s just leaked.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for OMD, or at least some of their singles, for complicated reasons that aren’t worth going into here. They’re always good at overblown, heartstring-tugging synthesiser pop, and this is no exception. Yes, the lyrics are a bit trite and the new video’s pretentious rubbish, but I don’t give a damn because that aah-aah break three minutes in bypasses all the rational bits of my music-listening brain and just makes me go ‘awww’ and ‘yes’ simultaneously.

Tim: This is great. As you say, the lyrics are slightly banal, and the video would only mean something to a public school A-level Drama student, but that’s not what the track’s there for. It’s about the music, and the music is fantastic. I’ve listened to this on repeat for the past half hour, and I’m still not tired of it. Aside from a slight low point in the first pre-chorus bit, it’s on the perfect level of energetic, and it doesn’t let up. And yes, yes, yes about the aah-aah.

Come to think of it, this is a perfect comeback track, unlike anything we’ve heard lately. It gives the old fans something to get excited about, as demonstrated by your reaction, and gets potential new fans interested and firing up Spotify to check out their back catalogue, as demonstrated by my reaction (I’d heard Enola Gay, but that was all).

Also, listening back to the Villa Nah remix they put online the other week, I really don’t think it does anything to improve the track. The Chariots of Fire-esque bit that comes in occasionally is quite nice, but aside from that I think the original is better.

Tom: I’ve just found out that OMD appeared at the Vintage Computing Festival at Bletchley Park back in June. I am genuinely gutted – like, need-a-hug gutted – that I missed that, because I think it would have been the greatest gig I could ever possibly have attended and it’s almost certainly never going to happen again.

Eliza Doolittle – Pack Up

It sounds like Lily Allen’s more talented little sister time-travelled back to Motown.

Tom: In other “Songs I’m Incredibly Glad Made It To The British Charts” news: this one’s been bubbling around, peaking at number 5 the other week.

It sounds like Lily Allen’s more talented little sister time-travelled back to Motown. The hook’s sung by a fantastic and incredibly hard-working soul singer called Lloyd Wade.

I reckon this might be concrete evidence that people outside the normal 16-25 teen demographic are downloading music – and, to an extent, controlling the charts – now. Just wait until the Beatles catalogue finally arrives online: I’d be surprised if any other artist gets a spot in the Top 10 that week.

Tim: I’m not so keen on this song – I never really liked Motown/soul at all, and her music, while OK, doesn’t do enough to redeem it for me. You may be right about it being a good sign for the charts though.

Tom: Whoa. Whoa. Hold on. How can you not like Motown at all? Stevie Wonder! Marvin Gaye! The Supremes! The Jackson 5!

Strange person.

Tim: Well, maybe not ‘not at all’ with the Motown, but hearing that part of the track just turned me off the whole thing, really. It’s probably partly because I’ve never really sat down and listened properly to any, but what I have heard has never really made me want to. Maybe that makes me closed-minded.

Looking at the chart I noticed that in this week’s top 15 singles, there are a total of 25 individual artists. That’s less about the diversity of the charts, more about the staggering number of collaborations that seem to be in vogue at the moment. You’re certainly right about downloads changing things – back when Michael Jackson died, his tracks accounted for about a quarter of the Top 40 that weekend.

Hurts – Wonderful Life

Do the research in your lyrics, people. And sort the video out.

Tim: To continue our impromptu Songs That We’re Glad Are Doing Well In The Charts Week, I look to the future and present a song I like very much indeed, which is being (re)released on the 23rd and will hopefully do quite well.

Tom: Hmm. It reminds me of so many different bands. There’s a bit of the Eurythmics in there; hell, there’s a lot of 80s and 90s synth-pop. I’m glad the song kicked in a bit at the chorus, and I’ll admit the instrumentation’s nice in a generic sort of way, but it’s not enough to redeem the whole thing when you’re only singing about three different notes in each line.

“On a bridge across the Severn on a Saturday night
Susie meets the main of her dreams”

That, and the reference to Temple Station later, means either they were out on a bizarre Severn-bridge-crossing Saturday night walk or they met on a National Express coach. Do the research in your lyrics, people.

Tim: Fair point about the lyrics if you were to take them literally, although if we’re doing that I fear a far bigger problem would be her slamming him against the wall to kiss him whilst he’s driving, which really just isn’t safe. Don’t do this at home, kids.

Tom: How did I not notice that? Okay, I know that it’s not to be taken literally, that song lyrics are by necessity poetic and any amount of time could have passed between the two lines, but that’s the kind of thing that will grate every time I hear it from now on – like John Lennon swearing in Hey Jude.

Tim: I also don’t get that video at all. The song says that he got in trouble (implication: some sort of crime), but from the video it looks like he’s lost his wife or something. Maybe he killed her, I don’t know. Then, a little bit after the song says “he starts to believe…he begins to see” (i.e. he’s getting happier, Suzy’s made his life alright), we see him cast the photo into the swimming pool (after we’ve already seen it at the bottom, but never mind). Fine, he’s moved on, all is good. But then he’s floating face down in the pool, looking like he’s drowned himself (nigh on impossible to do in a swimming pool, by the way) because he can’t cope with the loss.

So what we’ve really got is Suzy, bless her, who went out for a midnight stroll, fell in love with a seriously depressed guy, stayed with him through his troubles and helped him get out of it because he was perfect for her, and then he goes and kills himself. Like, seriously dude, what’s going on? Don’t you know how rude that is?

I wouldn’t, really wouldn’t, normally put this much effort into analysing a video, but it’s quite clear here that it’s all arty and they’re trying to mean something with it, and I just don’t get it. I do, however, like that it’s probably the most melancholy tune ever to have a proper dance routine to it. This’ll be the new Macarena, I tell you.

Musically, though, I still like it a lot – the bridge is the type of music I could happily have as backing music while, say, relaxing in the garden with a book or something. It’s also partly because of the strangely uplifting lyrics contrasting with the really mellow music. Mind you, having spent half an hour trying to comprehend the video I’m not sure the lyrics are meant to be uplifting after all. Oh, bugger.

True story: two o’clock in the morning is oddly conducive to excessive music analysis.

Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP – We No Speak Americano

Sort of an eight years later Las Ketchup.

Tom: You’re temporarily Canadian, so you probably won’t have heard this yet – and I want to know what your virgin ears think of it.

It hit number one at the end of July in pretty much every major European chart – and it’s so completely unlike anything that normally reaches the top of the charts that I’m a bit stunned. No vocal over the top. No boy band singing. Not even a “feat. Kayne West” added to boost sales.

Just a sample from the 1950s and a fantastic beat – together making a song that’s going to be played in every club on this continent for the rest of the summer.

It does go on a bit though – the radio edit’s only 2:10 long, which could explain the popularity.

Tim: You’re right, I hadn’t heard of this, and my first thought is ‘wow’; I’m not sure in what way that’s meant. Either wow that that tune got so huge, or wow that it’s just so weird. As an outsider, I’m guessing it’s sort of an eight years later Las Ketchup, and musically I find it ever so slightly reminiscent of Stereo Love.

The video seems weird, given the title, although the internet tells me that the line of the chorus actually translates as ‘you’re acting all American’ – the video is therefore a simple racist stereotype of America from way back, which is… all fine?

Verdict: huh.

Tom: The video’s weird enough in itself, but stranger still it’s promoted by All Around The World. They’re the team behind Clubland and all the associated artists – but they have nothing to do with the record itself, which is released off an indie Australian label.

Tim: Also, a worry: is it every teen kid’s ringtone of choice?

Tom: I have yet to hear it as a ringtone, but I suspect it won’t be long.

Robyn – Hang With Me

Okay, so Robyn’s new single hit the internet a few weeks back, and to be honest it’s not much better than her last one.

Okay, so Robyn’s new single hit the internet a few weeks back; it’s out August 16th in Sweden and will gradually be released around the world over the following month or so, arriving in the UK on 5th September. Anyway, it’s called Hang With Me, and to be honest it’s not much better than her last one (although a decent remix helps a bit). That is: it’s typical Robyn, and it’s like all her others* – a vaguely good dance track that just gets bored halfway through and doesn’t go anywhere else.

*I should state that I haven’t actually listened to ‘all her others’: just this and her three Top 10 UK hits. I’ve decided that’s enough, though.

You’re right about her songs not going anywhere. Even the video for this one seems like the effort just isn’t there. Yes, you’ve got a fancy camera and yes, you can make even the British motorway system look atmospheric, but there’s got to be something more there.

Speaking about her last single, “Dancing on my Own”, I thought it needed more oomph, and I’ve found a remix that provides it. I have a tendency to improvise my own backing vocal line during the final chorus. Try it. It’s fun.

Agree that it adds a quite-needed ‘something’ to the song; however, it still suffers from the same two problems as the original:

  • the post-bridge bit goes on way too long – in my view, the original could quite easily finish at 3:35-ish and be better for it, and this one should finish at 3:37 with some sort of explosion, although it could perhaps push it to 4:10
  • main problem: there’s absolutely nothing to distinguish between before and after the bridge, which is Just Not On when it comes to this sort of music. As you suggest, backing singers would be perfect. We should write and offer our services for her next track.

To be honest I’m not sure why we felt let down by either of these in particular. They’re all like this.

You’re right. I’ve just listened to a few of the other Dancing On My Own remixes, and they all suffer the same problem: there’s just not enough song there. There’s only one vocal line, with the exception of occasional echoes; it needs a second one added – even just a few “whoa, oh, ohs” – after the bridge.

Lessons from Darin’s producer required, I feel.

Katy Perry – California Gurls

Do not make the mistake of listening to this. It’s a military-grade tactical nuclear earworm. I listened once, mainly for the video if I’m honest, and three days later the chorus is still occasionally with me.

Do not make the mistake of listening to this. It’s a military-grade tactical nuclear earworm. I listened once, mainly for the video if I’m honest, and three days later the chorus is still occasionally with me.

I hate you. I know perfectly well (and you know I know, which makes it even worse) that the only reason you told me that is because you want me to hear it; that I shall now want to listen to it, and thus be infected with aforementioned earworm as you are.

I could, of course, try to stay well away from it, but, as we both know, that would practically kill me, because even if I don’t listen to it now I will be trying to get to sleep tonight thinking ‘what was it about the song tom said i shouldn’t listen to, i really want to know’ … … ‘oh, probably nothing, just forget it and go to sleep’ … … ‘seriously, it was probably nothing, if you listen to it you’ll just give him exactly what he wants’ … … ‘oh, i’ll just turn my laptop on quickly, won’t take long, won’t be a problem, and then i can get some peace of mind’

Then, of course, I do turn my laptop on, hear it, and it is a problem, peace of mind is thrown out of the window and you get exactly what you wanted in the first place, except it’s even worse because it’s now going round in my head as I try to sleep.

As a Xanatos Gambit, it is impressive, and I salute you for it; as a way to treat a friend in real life it is pure evil, and I detest you for it.

Technically, it’d be Reverse Psychology rather than a Xanatos Gambit, but honestly, you’re giving me way too many evil points there.