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.

Play – Destiny

Describing this as cheesy would be like calling the Pacific Ocean a bit damp.

Tim: Some kids’ film soundtracks are sensible, proper music, that it is respectable to like. Others are a little bit cheesy, and the only acceptable response when in decent company is something like, “Oh, good heavens, no.

Then there’s this, from Avalon High, and you couldn’t sensibly describe this as cheesy, because it would be like calling the Pacific Ocean a bit damp.

Tom: Oh, blimey, Avalon High is actually a Disney movie, isn’t it?

Tim: Well, technically speaking it’s a Disney Channel Original Movie. The key difference? They’re not targeting mainstream audiences, they’re targeting people who’ve paid a subscription because they just love Disney.

Tom: Somehow I have a feeling this is going to be more You’ll Be In My Heart than Circle of Life. And this version’s a rip from Radio Disney. I feel like I’ve fallen into some kind of corporate nightmare.

Tim: Now now Thomas, open mind please.

Tim: So, yes. The lyrics are stupidly Disney, the chorus does its best to sway you right out of the window, and when the key change inevitably hit I actually laughed at the unashamedness of it all. And yet, it’s not horrendous.

Tom: I actually made a brief, guttural “gak” noise when the key change hit. And then I had an urge to wave my hands in the air. Damn it, Disney. They’ve actually gone and put a crowd-handclap sample on beats two and four. All the way through the song. It never, ever stops, not even during the bridge. Once you notice it, it’s permanently there. You can’t hear anything else. It is quite horrendous.

Tim: But, it really isn’t. I don’t know, maybe I’ve been sucked in by the level of sugar it emanates, but I really like it. It’s almost heartwarming, although I never thought that word could describe a song, and after hearing it a few times I’m just left with a massive grin on my face, as though everything is now going to be fine, and that any nastiness has vanished from the face of the planet.

Tom: That’s not the song, that’s that damned new iMac you’ve just bought.

Tim: Perhaps, although I’m not the one waving his hands in the air, am I?

Tove Styrke – White Light Moment

Interesting, this one.

Tim: Interesting, this one. First up: I think it’s brilliant. The chorus has a perfect amount of energy, and the pauses that serve as lead-in and lead-out only help that. I love the chanting type thing in the bridge, and while I’m not entirely keen on the underlying verse beat, I think the vocals go with it in such a way that I don’t mind it.

Having said all that, it’s not something I’d want to listen to over and over again, like I would, say, Et Cetera; I have no idea why, though. It’s not that it grows repetitive – it’s rather that, after a couple of listens, I think, ‘Right, what’s next?’

Tom: I got the exact same thing: half way through listening to this, my brain wandered and I idly started up another browser tab. Until the end-of-chorus pause hit in, I wasn’t listening. I propose that’s the reason those pauses are there: to jolt people out of the soporific stupor that the song’s put them into. Which is strange, because it’s a high-energy song and on paper I should be bouncing along to it. But I’m not.

Right, what’s next?

Robyn – Indestructible & Call Your Girlfriend

Do they suffer the same problems?

Tom: We’ve harped on about Robyn’s songs for a while, and our complaint is always the same: they start at a moderate level of enthusiasm, the end at the same level, and they go nowhere in between. There’s no rise and fall, just a constant electronic beat and her singing.

Tim: Although it should perhaps be said that in some songs, such as Hang With Me, the moderate level is enough to enjoy the track if it’s on in the background.

Tom: Indestructible has been out as an acoustic version for a while, but the full synth-backed version is being released as a single soon. The question is, of course, is it the same as all the rest?

Tom: Yes, yes it is.

So, rather than say anything further, I suggest we use the rest of this post to discuss what the hell the bridge bit sounds like. Something from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, perhaps? The opening theme to Treasure Hunt? I can’t quite place it.

Tim: Haha, it is a bit like Treasure Hunt, isn’t it? However, I feel that instead of moving on we should provide properly constructive criticism, rather than just ‘make it louder’. For this song, I have two recommendations:

  • The ‘let the bad ones in and the good ones go’ before the chorus is nice and sway-y, but that is spoiled by the ‘but. PAUSE.’ that happens next. I suggest losing those and instead having a ‘good ones go-o-oh’ leading gently into ‘I’m gonna…’
  • The parts of each verse that first occur with ‘not alone’ and then ‘don’t let go’ should have at least an echo, if not proper backing singers. Although this is optional for the first verse, there is no way the second verse and later should not have it.

Tom: Sorry, what was that? I was busy watching Anneka Rice.

Tim: Well, actually, stop that and pay attention. Because this just in, from fan of the site Gerald: a track from the new album (a culmination of 2010’s Body Talk trilogy) entitled Call Your Girlfriend. Now sit down and brace yourself: it’s actually really good. (In his words: “12 times in one day good”.)

Tim: If we’re being honest, and looking back at what we’ve said above, we’ve always been a little bit harsher on Robyn than she deserves – we’ve said that the songs, when heard just as songs, have not been great, for one reason or another. While all that is true, and I stand by it, we’ve not really mentioned that the music itself is quite good – it’s danceable, especially when mixed into other tracks, and if you hear it in the background of a shop of something you will likely think ‘Ooh, I like this’.

Tom: Believe it or not, that happened to me yesterday when a remix of ‘Hang With Me’ got played at an event I was at. And I liked it. Rewatching it now, even the video seems charming.

Tim: But, there have always been problems. And yet here, no. From when the synth first hits after the initial ‘Call your’, the melody is strong and the verses vibrant. The chorus is energetic with a healthy beat, and I like the way it flows straight back into the verse afterwards. The first part of the bridge is a bit bonkers, in a very good way. The second part of it is proper emotional singing, which is unexpected but great. The ‘caaaalll…’ even comes perilously close to a previously unimaginable Robyn post-bridge climax. Yes, it’s possibly a chorus too long at the end, and the two lines following each of the early choruses are a bit weak, but other than that I just can’t fault it.

Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you and say it was another boring track, but then the chorus kicked in and I decided that you’re exactly right. “The only way her heart will mend” did the musical equivalent of hitting me in the face… in a good way.

Saturday Flashback: Pato Banton feat. Ranking Roger – Bubbling Hot

Talk about a difficult second single.

Tom: Talk about a difficult second single. Pato Banton had just had a big hit with ‘Baby Come Back‘, and needed to follow that up. What better than another collaboration? And that pop-reggae stuff seems popular these days, let’s do that.

Tim: I MISS MARK GOODIER. I know it’s been almost eight years now, but I was listening to ‘The Official Chart Show’ on Sunday and it suddenly struck me how properly shite it was when Reggie Yates played a clip from the previous week’s show (shite) of Gyptian (shite) singing My Heart Will Go On (shite) down the phone (shite). Bring back the proper Top 40.

Tom: I know this song because it was on a ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ cassette I had when I was a kid. I liked the song, which I think says quite a bit about where my questionable present-day musical tastes evolved from. But now… well, it just seems a bit embarrassing.

Tim: That’s one word for it.

Tom: “His name is Pato / and my name is Roger / the two o’we together like birds of a feather” is a bad enough lyric on its own, but then there’s an entire set of rhyming couplets following it that only rhyme because they’ve added the syllable ‘-a’ on to the end of them. It’s also terribly close to being a meta-song – a song entirely about itself.

Needless to say, it didn’t get quite to the same heights as its predecessor.

Tim: I would say, ‘Well, duh,’ but I’m actually surprised the first one took off, so anything could have happened and it wouldn’t surprise me too much.

Also, I bet Reggie Yates wouldn’t pronounce Björk’s name properly.

Plain White Ts – Rhythm Of Love

I like this, and I don’t know why.

Tom: You’ll recognise the Plain White Ts from their one big hit, “Hey There Delilah“.

Tim: Actually, no.

Tom: This one sounds very slow and similar to start off, and I was in the middle of writing a couple of paragraphs on how they haven’t deviated from that formula – and then the energetic bit kicked in.

Tim: Well, when I think of them I think of their more usual music style, exemplified by tracks such as Our Time Now and Hate (I Really Don’t Like You), which they’ve used for just about every other song they’ve done – part of me thinks Hey There Delilah was released as a bet, because I can’t see any other reason for it having been so different. Having said that, this is also entirely different, so I guess I was surprised as you were but coming from the opposite direction.

Tom: I like this, and I don’t know why. Handclaps, tambourine, and acoustic guitar – I should be complaining about damned hippies, and instead I’m happily bouncing around in my chair. Help me, Tim; remind me why these guys are crap. I’ve forgotten.

Tim: Erm, no, but I can help you identify what’s good about the song – it’s basically everything that was good about the Olly Murs song with a delightful lack of arrogant and badly rhyming lyrics. It’s right there in the video – it’s beach party music, and a soothing antidote to November.

Phil Collins – Going Back

It must be getting near Christmas.

Tom: If a royal wedding, a recession, and the Tories in power wasn’t enough to convince you that it’s the 1980s again – it’s a new Phil Collins album, this time of Motown covers. It must be getting near Christmas. Here’s the lead single, and… damn it, I hesitate to say it because it’s Phil Collins and hating him is almost de rigeur, but this is pleasant.

Tom: Is it fast-paced dance music? No. Should we really be reviewing it on this blog? Not really. But I’m surprised enough by this track that, damn it, I’m putting it up here. Whatcha think, Tim?

Tim: It’s… dull. It took 80 seconds for anything remotely interesting to happen, and even then it was nothing special. And that isn’t easy to say, because if I’m honest I quite like a few of his songs, but there is absolutely nothing to get excited about here whatsoever. It’s pleasant, yes, but only in the same way that My Family is pleasant – it’s just satisfying enough that turning it off isn’t quite worth the energy required to do so.

Tom: Hold on, what? My Family is still going?

Tim: Yep – ten series now. How? Who actually watches it? I don’t know – probably people that can’t be bothered to switch off after The One Show.

Tom: This is, he says, likely to be his final single – and so the video is filled with flashbacks and shots of the man himself either emoting or staring directly into your soul. (It depends on the camera angle.)

Tim: Just a shame it can’t be a memorable one, really.