Takida – Never Alone Always Alone (Box Room Version)

Not the most upbeat song ever.

Tim: Released a few weeks back, it’s gradually making its way up the Swedish charts, and it’s not half bad. Not the most upbeat song ever, but what I particularly like about this version is the way it keeps building throughout, continually adding instrumentation, until it comes back after the bridge (such as it is) as a properly vibrant piece of music.

Tom: On the plus side, this reminds me of the Love Album version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. What started out as a simple track is steadily built upon, adding layer after layer, until you end up with this complex, soaring, beautiful piece of music. This track is like that, only with the genius of George Harrison replaced by the plodding monotony of Nickelback.

Tim: I don’t know – I think the voice works well against the backing, sort of remaining steady and showing how far the music’s growing, right up to the big near-to-the-end. It is a bit of a shame that it can’t keep that up for long, but nonetheless very pleasant while it lasts.

Tom: That’s what she said.

Tim: Oh, god.

Tom: Again, that’s… ah, never mind.

Tim: Anyway, that, combined with the infectious lyrics, make for a rather pleasant four minutes.

Tom: We have different definitions of ‘pleasant’.

Europlop’s Sunday Mashups: Vol. 2

Thirty years of pop culture in three and a half minutes.

Tom: It’s been a few weeks, so let’s have some more mashups. First of all, here’s Miracles by Norwegian Recycling.

Tom: It’s one of those genius mashups that pulls in a dozen different sources to make a coherent whole. It doesn’t really seem to go anywhere, or do any building, but it’s just rather pleasant to listen to. It’s a run through thirty years of pop culture in three and a half minutes, and the video brings it all together nicely.

Tim: Ooh, I like that – I’ve always quite liked mashups that pile in a whole load of songs together just to see what happens, such as the United State of Pop ones, and Party Ben‘s Boulevard of Broken Songs, and this one pulls it off well.*

* There’s also Axis of Awesome’s Four Chord Song, which whilst not actually being a mashup is still fun to listen to.

Tom: There’s been some very clever autotuning on Cee-Lo Green, as well; while it still sounds like him, I’m fairly sure those aren’t exactly the notes he was originally singing…

Tim: Well, with so many songs you’re bound to need a little pitch correction on there just to keep them in the same key, surely.

Tom: No, it’s more than that: I think they’ve actually got him singing a different melody, not just a different key. I might be wrong, though.

Tim: The only thing I dislike about it is the Jason Derulo track – it’s one of his better ones, but it sounds like he forgot to write words to half the chorus, which gets me every time I hear it.

Tom: Second up, here’s a simple A+B mashup by Sam Flanagan. It’s called “Brimful of Bonkers”, and that tells you all you need to know really. Oh, but watch out for an unexpected cameo just after three minutes in.

Tom: It’s easy – there is, of course, not even any pitch correction to do – but it’s still a hell of a party tune. It could use being a bit shorter, but it’s good enough that I don’t really mind.

Tim: I thought that as well – it could easily lose the first verse/chorus, since it’s identical to the second. Anyway, you’re right, it is good, especially the cameo.

Tom: I know both the original songs off by heart, which normally would just make a mashup like this confusing – but this is just pulled together so nicely that it doesn’t matter.

Tim: Personally, I prefer it when I know the original songs – you get to think ‘Ooh, this is fun – never thought of these going together.’ And speaking of knowing the original songs, here’s a mixture of two Europlop favourites merged together by Benji of Sweden (apparently he’s the only one in the country) to form one big Bromance Killer:

Tim: Aside from the Radio Sweden jingle (which is surprisingly nonintrusive anyway), I think it’s ruddy marvellous, with him still managing to keep the big Lovekiller climax and all the energy that was originally there. Well done Mr Sweden.

Tom: Wow, that’s a belter. Bromance itself is steadily picking up more and more airplay and traction in the UK – the vocal remix with Love U Seek gets released on 25th October, which means it might well be a Big Autumn Hit.

Saturday Flashback: Markoolio and Linda Bengtzing – Värsta Schlagern

A massive Take That to the whole Swedish pop music scene.

Tim: This symbolises everything that is perfect about the music we love, although it’s in Swedish. The lyrics, when translated, are a massive Take That to the whole Swedish pop music scene. Thoughts?

Tom: Hahaha. This is Verka Seduchka all over again, isn’t it? Actually, no, this is the Swedish version of “The Winner’s Song“! There had better be a brutal key change on the way.

Tim: Oh yes, and the best thing is that the lyrics before it are “…and here comes the key change!”

Tom: Right. It’s a schlager version of “The Song That Goes Like This” from Spamalot, then!

Rasmus Seebach – Natteravn

Manages to cram in three genres in the first minute.

Tim: This, by a Danish bloke, has been running around the top of the Swedish charts for the past few months – only been out of the top 10 three times since its physical release in the middle of May – and for good reason. (Oddly, it never even got to Denmark’s top 30, even though his three previous singles all made top 3.) Anyway, have a listen.

Tim: I think it’s the first song I’ve ever heard that manages to cram in three genres in the first minute, and it flits around a bit before eventually deciding to be a cracking good dance tune. I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean, and to be honest I couldn’t care less, because it’s great. Unlike Bromance, I don’t think that it would quite work without any, but he could be singing about taking out the empty beer cans for all I care.

Tom: In my head it’d be better either as an instrumental – I think it would work – or at least with slightly less repetitive lyrics. That may be my English-speaking brain refusing to accept “Jeg kalder på dig” as a common sentence though; if he was singing “I call on you” then I suspect the words would have faded into the background rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s a great track though.

Tim: The problem I’d have without lyrics is that the non-dancy bits would be too quiet (although not in a Robert MIles sense, just in a dull sense); the chorus I agree would work. However, one think I do like about the chorus lyrics is that they sound a bit like the name of that volcano that blew up in Iceland a few months back. No idea why I think that’s a good thing, though.

The three genres thing is a bit weird, but I think it works. It did mean that when I first heard it I started out thinking, oh, it’s another generic R&B tune, it’ll be just as rubbish as Flo Rida and stuff, but then it got good and clicked together nicely. Full marks, Herr Seebach.

Tom: Apparently they couldn’t pay the video’s actress enough to actually let him kiss her at the end, though.

Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow – Shame

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say: I think this song is perfect.

Tom: How did we miss this? Robbie Williams’ new single, featuring Gary Barlow, is coming out on October 4th and it completely passed us by.

Tom: First of all, let’s be clear: this is not the Take That we’re-friends-with-Robbie-again new single. This is a Robbie Williams track that Gary Barlow’s featuring on. Which is fine, because it turns out really quite nicely. It’s a slow one, and while I always preferred ‘Let Me Entertain You’ to ‘Angels’, I still have a soft spot for ‘Feel’, ‘Come Undone’, and so on. Is ‘Shame’ of that calibre? Well, no. But it’d be difficult for these two to turn out anything that wasn’t at least ‘rather good’, and sure enough this one’s a really nice bit of pop.

Tim: That is lovely. And not lovely like Sha-la-lie lovely, but lovely like end-of-a-Richard-Curtis-film lovely. It began at the first chorus, the second chorus was when I really thought ‘oh, yes’, and from then on it just snowballed to glacier-size by the end.

Tom: As for the video – well, I get the feeling that’s going to be more your domain.

Tim: Well, as long as you don’t mind enough homo-eroticism to fill a Russell T. Davies drama with enough left over to drown John Barrowman, you’ll be loving it. Particularly Robbie’s gaze at 2:25. The slightly sad part of me also liked the timing of the shot glass on the table and pointing the finger about 85 seconds in.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say: I think this song is perfect. As a song celebrating a reunion between two friends who broke up (which is exactly what it is and should be), there’s nothing it should have that it doesn’t. And it also fits in Toys R Us, which adds at least five bonus points.

Tom: Whoa, hang on. There’s no way this song is perfect. The Toys R Us reference grates like hell, the comedy ending will get old very quickly – they are not Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – and it’s really all that memorable. Does it tick all the boxes? Yes. Is it perfect like the medley off the end of the Beatles’ Abbey Road? No. No it’s not.

Tim: I’m not saying the song’s perfect in a best song of all time way, just in a sense of being absolutely and entirely appropriate for the current stage of their music careers. It’s a song about friends getting back together and forgetting old differences, and in that setting I think it’s brilliant.

Same Difference – Shine On Forever (Photo Frame)


Tim: I always get these guys confused with Peter Kay’s 2 Up 2 Down. A full three years since they were on the X Factor, they’re having another go at releasing stuff.

Tom: Who?

Tim: After they failed the first time when they targeted the kiddy market*, they’ve come up with this more grown-up track. Normally you’d only use a brackety bit in the song’s name if the main title wasn’t in the lyrics; here I get the impression that each of them wanted a different title so they had to compromise.

* As in, the market of children buying music, not a market where people can buy… yeah, anyway.

Tom: No, seriously, who?

Tim: It’s not a bad tune, and the vocal bit of the chorus especially is nice; it could be so much better, though, with a decent instrumental bit behind it, and not some dull GarageBand loop**, which is what it sounds like. The chorus could be proper wave-your-hands-in-the-air, instead of yeah-this-is-okay-lets-keep-going.

** Not that stock loops are necessarily any indication of quality one way or the other: compare and contrast the sublime Symphonies with the dire Umbrella.

Tom: Hmm.

Shine on forever
The picture is so clear
I’ve had the greatest moment…

…of your career? About three years ago?

Andreas Johnson – Solace

It kicks in like a mule.

Tim: Andreas Johnson (known primarily for his aptly-titled 1999 hit, Glorious), has got a new song out. The chorus received its debut over the summer as the theme tune to Sweden’s version of The Biggest Loser*; the full song was released a week or two ago, and it’s called Solace.

* A reality TV show which is not, as I had hoped, a sort of X Factor for uber-geeks – instead it’s a ‘let’s all watch the fatties try to lose weight’ show.

Tom: What a fantastic song – and what a shame that YouTube has knackered the sound quality on it. There’s almost Polyphonic Spree levels of instrumentation there, all cranked up to 11, and it’s been destroyed by compression. If you have Spotify, listen to it there; it’s still overcompressed, but it’s not quite as bad.

Tim: Overall, and after a few listens, I think I quite like this. The chorus is good – lyrics are a bit generic, but they’re very singable, with a good tune – and the instrumentation is excited and energetic. And I’m not quite sure why exactly, but I really really like the bridge before the final chorus.

Tom: This is the first time in a long while I’ve heard the opening bars of a song and just said “oh, yes”. I always liked Glorious for its over-the-top production, and nearly ten years later it’s good to see that not too much has changed.

Tim: That final chorus, though, is one of a few things I’m not so keen on (another is that the verses can sound a bit whiny) – I know the lone voice fits perfectly with the ‘there’s a place where all the madness disappears’ and stuff, and so technically it’s a good ending for the song, but personally I would much prefer it if, say, the instrumentals had kicked in for one last bit, maybe the second half of the last chorus: ‘…I’ll be falling too. NOISE When you’re stuck…’ That’s just me, though.

Tom: You’re absolutely right. It kicks in like a mule, but just dies out like a simile you can’t think of an ending for. It needs to end on a bang, not a whimper. And a key change.

Tim: I disagree – I know I said I’d prefer it if the song finished with a bang, and I would, but as the song it is, it can’t. The song is about leaving this world behind and moving on to a place where Andreas and the listener can be free to relax and feel calm.

Tom: The Peak District?

Tim: Quiet, you. I’m trying to have a serious moment here. A loud ending would destroy all that. If the words were completely different, then yes, definitely finish it loud. Right now, though, the ending is exactly what it should be.

3OH!3 – Double Vision

Brace yourself. I’m about to say something startling.

Tom: Brace yourself, Tim. I’m about to say something startling: I’ve found a good 3OH!3 song.

Tom: Catchy as their previous ones have been, I can’t say I really enjoyed them – Starstrukk may have been in my head, but I didn’t want it to be there. This 3OH!3 track still seems to be autotuned and over-processed to hell, but it’s less shouty and in-your-face.

Tim: Really? I loved Starstrukk, and as tracks with Katy Perry go I thought it was much better than any other recent ones.

Tom: Well, yeah, if you see it as a Katy Perry track anything’s better than Teenage bloody Dream.

Tim: Fair point. Anyway, the first time I listened to this was at work on my lunch break, and I scribbled the following: “Hmm. It’s not bad, I’ll grant them that, but after about 1:30 I had a continual feeling that it was about to wrap up, and kept being surprised at how long there was left. That’s probably not a good thing, and to be honest, I don’t think there’s much to write about.”

Tom: You know what I think does the ending thing? The “HEYs” during the first chorus. They’re great when you’re expecting them – and they’ll go down very well with big crowds – but there’s so much energy in that first chorus that it sounds like it should be the last.

Tim: Having heard it a few more times at home and all that, I should like to revise my opinion. There’s still the ‘it’s almost finished’ feeling throughout most of it, but it’s gone from ‘It’s only been two minutes?’ to ‘Ooh, there’s still another minute or so to go!’ (or it would be if I thought with exclamation marks). It’s catchy, and good-catchy at that, so I hereby give it a big thumbs up from me.

Tom: The video impresses and annoys me in equal measure: the concept and execution are brilliant, and it was – according to the behind-the-scenes video – done with as little CGI as possible. But that has to be some of the most blatant in-video advertising I’ve ever seen – even if I have to concede that it does fit in.

Tim: Haha, it is and all, although I’m tempted to applaud them for their making it quite so obvious. I do like the two girls and the Daft Hands-esque routine, but the limbo thing looks weird, like the front one’s not long enough or something, and I find it mildly disconcerting.

Tom: It’s not. It’s forced-perspective. Clever trick though.

If they hadn’t had the Katy Perry hit, I’d say that this should have been one of the big summer hits. As it is: I’m hoping it’ll be one of the big autumn hits instead.

Tim: I’ll be honest – I don’t think there’s much chance of it not being.

Album Review: Hurts – Happiness

Yes, it really is called Happiness, and yes, it really has got Kylie on it.

Tim: Since, in my view, Wonderful Life is not far off Lovekiller in terms of excellence, and we reviewed Darin’s album, it would be plain rude not to review this one as well (and yes, it really is called Happiness, and yes, it really has got Kylie on it).

Hurts - Happiness

1 – Silver Lining: Great opener, really shows what they can do. Long but varied throughout. Upbeat chorus, gentle bridge, finishes with OMINOUS MALE CHANTING. 9/10

2 – Wonderful Life: As previously mentioned, brilliant provided you don’t have to watch the video and don’t mind public transport inconsistencies. 10/10

3 – Blood, Tears & Gold: Not sure how to describe this as a good song; it very definitely is, but I’m not entirely sure why. The bits all just fit together, really. 8/10

4 – Sunday: One of the most upbeat; chorus of ‘just another lonely Sunday’. Very sing-along-able if you’re happy, though you’d need to alter the words. 9/10

5 – Stay: ‘I’ve got Drops of Jupiter stuck in my head. Oh well. Let’s write some songs.’ Similarity aside, however, this song is utterly fantastic. 10/10

6 – Illuminated: Seems like a fight between quiet boring verses and a loud exciting chorus for control of the song; the chorus wins, which is a relief. 7/10

7 – Evelyn: A perfect example of a song that builds throughout. Starts quietly tapping on your window; ends up kicking your door down. 8/10

8 – Better Than Love: Deservedly their first single. Electrodance backing, unusually energetic singing; I find this impossible to criticise. 10/10

9 – Devotion (featuring Kylie Minogue): ‘I’ve got Nature’s Law stuck in my head.’ Verses aren’t much; good chorus, but too similar for my liking.* Nice instrumental close, though. 6/10

10 – Unspoken: Remarkably boring for the first three minutes, but builds up a little bit for a fairly good final 90 seconds. 6/10

11 – Water: ‘This is the last song, yes? Can we get away with reusing the chorus melody from the first one?’ No, and the rest of it’s just a bit dull. 4/10

11a – Verona (Hidden track): An odd one – the group male chanting from the beginning comes back as a personal love song, and I’m not sure what to think of it.

tl;dr: Can be a bit too reminiscent of other songs, tailing off towards the end. Good if you like your music happy and sad simultaneously, though. 8/10

* Nothing against Embrace – I love Nature’s Law, just not reused in a completely different song.

Saturday Flashback: Sanna Nielsen – Devotion

Camp, happy and harmless.

Tim: This is camp, happy and harmless, along the lines of Bellefire’s Perfect Bliss (and a similarly perfect style of bridge exit), was released back in January and has been hanging around on radio playlists and lurking in the iTunes charts ever since. The word on the schlager grapevine is that it was rejected from this year’s Melodifestivalen, but they decided to put it out there anyway. As far as I can tell, they never made a video, and I strongly suggest you don’t use that YouTube link as your only lyric source. They make for quite fun reading, but as it says at the end, “Maybe the text is wrong but the mostly is right.”

Tom: How can a song that camp and harmless – and I agree with you, it is – remind me of a military march? It’s the endless, plodding, one-two-one-two beat in the background, I think. I can see why it didn’t go into Melodifestivalen: to me, it sounds a bit like it’s been written by a six-year-old, plodding up and down the keyboard playing simple scales. It’s a pity, because it started with such promise: there’s more spark and creativity in that initial seven seconds than there is in the whole rest of the track. Even the key change just seems dutiful and by-the-book rather than actually injecting any new life into it.

Tim: I suppose that might be partly why I like it – it’s nothing special at all, strictly formula, but it’s got a chorus that just makes me smile without really knowing why. Just a sort of, ‘aah, this is nice’ feeling.