Velvet & Therese – Heart of Glass

“What could go wrong?”

Tim: A cover of a Blondie classic from two Swedish dancepop veterans, what could go wrong?

Tom: I mean, honestly, a lot of things, but sure, let’s tempt fate. What could go wrong?

Tim: Very little, it turns out. When I first heard it, I thought “hang on, have they actually done anything to this”, but then I relistened to the original for the first time in ages and realised that it’s a lot less energetic than I remember it being, and this has taken what was there and dialled it up enormously, and it’s utterly fantastic.

Tom: Whereas I disagree: to me, this sits in that uncanny cover-valley where it’s too close to the original. We’ve lost a lot of that great bassline, we’ve lost the interesting vocals and instruments, and it’s all been replaced with something a bit more generic. It is, as Jarvis Cocker would say, like the last days of Southfork. And what’s going on with those time signatures in the outro? That’s just uncomfortable.

Tim: This may well be slight heresy, but much like The Saturdays’ cover of Just Can’t Get Enough, part of me think this is what the original should have sounded like. It’s just that good.

Tom: I agree with your heresy about the Saturdays; but this, not so much.

Pink – Walk Me Home

“Twenty years? Twenty years. I don’t think I’m OK with that.”

Tim: Twenty years to the day from the release of her debut, it’s a new Pink track! Spoiler alert: it’s bloody good.

Tom: Twenty years? Twenty years. I don’t think I’m OK with that.

Tom: And you’re right: this is great.

Tim: Isn’t it just? It’s very rare that my single criticism of a song is that it’s too short, but it just seems to be over before it’s started. I want more of that incredible chorus, so much more.

Tom: I was sure I’d heard parts of this before, and I was racking my brains for which particular anthem it was cribbing from — but no, I’ve got nothing. It’s absolutely in her familiar style, but it’s all new.

Tim: I was going to say “it’s my favourite Pink song since…”, but then I realised she really does have form for just great tracks, and that her last album’s lead track, What About Us, was also great. Having said that, I do think this is the first one that’s clicked with me immediately in a while, possibly since Raise Your Glass, which as a comparison isn’t so surprising because they’re similar styles. However you look at it, though, this is flipping brilliant. Entirely, entirely great.

Saturday Reject: Famous Oberogo – No Puedo Más

“Don’t make them look like contestants on a game show.”

Tim: It’s that time of year, Tom: less than three months to go until Eurovision, and countries have started choosing their Eurovision entries. Here, as ever, we’ll be celebrating those missed opportunities. Spain was first out of the gates, so it makes sense to start with this, which came seventh out of ten in its final; my favourite, though.

Tim: Suggestion: if you’re wanting to go to Eurovision, don’t give your backing singers illuminated mic stands that make them look like contestants on a game show with an incredibly passionate host.

Tom: Ha! That’s exactly what I saw as well. It looks like they’re on Y Ras.

Tim: Nice to know I can still count on you for the obscure yet accurate reference. No, Famous, instead perhaps give the look you want: of a guy who just, as the title says, ‘Can’t Any More’. The lyrics don’t make it clear whether he can’t manage any more because he’s just had a break up or because he’s needs to break up; either way, there’s some sort of relationship ending involved, and my word he’s getting emotional about it, right down to that definitely real crying at the end of the middle eight. Snarkiness aside (I know, sorry) I actually like this a lot.

Tom: There’s a lot to be said for it: he’s got a spectacular good voice, and it’s a competently constructed pop song. Is it a Eurovision winner? Well…

Tim: Don’t know how well it would have gone down there – to be honest, probably filed away in the middle with a load of other Big Wholesome Ballads – but I like it.

Oh, and a warning: based on Spain’s winner, we may well be up for a lot of novelty tracks this year. Makes sense given Israel’s win last year, but still, be prepared.

Tom: After the last two years of ‘meh’, I am 100% in favour of that.

voXXclub feat. Paveier – Leev Marie

“They really do just seem to be having fun.”

Tim: Tom, I’ve been playing a lot of Red Dead Redemption 2 recently, and I’m fairly invested, and I’ll be honest: things aren’t going well. Things are, in fact, going about as badly as they possibly could be going, though I won’t say anything else here in case our reader doesn’t want spoilers.

Tom: Are you about to send me a sad cowboy-themed track?

Tim: Long story short, I want cheering up, and where better to go for that than my favourite German pop YouTube channel?

Tim: voXXclub, if you don’t remember, went for Eurovision selection last year with one of my favourite rejects, based purely on the fact they were plain and simple enjoying themselves.

Tom: It’s like Hermes House Band if they somehow made it even less serious and more blokey. I tried to translate the lyrics, and the only sensible takeaway I could get was “I’m not a man for one night”. You’re right: they really do just seem to be having fun.

Tim: And that’s just what they do, and it’s infectious, and from just a few seconds in with this song I had a massive “what the f…” smile on my face. As I’m typing this, the fake ending’s just happened and now I’m in fits of giggles.

Tom: I was expecting a massive “HEY!” at the end and I got one. No complaints. This might not be the best track we’ve talked about for a while, but it’s certainly the most enjoyable.

Tim: This song is absolutely ridiculous and glorious and I absolutely love it.

Rob Thomas – One Less Day (Dying Young)

“This sounds like a less electronic Avicii.”

Tom: I know, I know, not Europop. But I think this is worth talking about.

Tim: Oh yes?

Tom: Here’s why: this sounds like a less electronic Avicii. You know how that farm-house style took more traditional music and then added synths and samples? This sounds like the reverse has happened: someone’s taken an Avicii track, singalong inspiration chorus and all, and tried to backsolve it so that it sounds more traditional.

Tim: Hmmmmmm…maaaaybe, I guess. I mean, sounds to me like standard percussion heavy upbeat and inspirational pop, but I guess your description works.

Tom: I mean, sure, here “traditional” sounds like a bit like Status Quo chugga-chugga pub-rock, but I’m old enough that I’m okay with that.

Tim: Kind of sounds to me (and I promise this is a good thing) as if someone took an inspirational Eurovision track, maybe along the lines of ours this year, and put it through a ‘proper music’ machine. And yeah, it sounds good.

Tom: And it works as a track! I genuinely think it works. I could sing the chorus after one listen, and I wanted to hear it again.

Tim: Me too. That’s nice.

Jenny Silver – Mitt innersta rum

“The saxophoning will, of course, be rated on a scale of zero to Careless Whisper.”

Tim: You may or may not know Jessica Andersson’s 2010 Melodifestivalen entry I Did It For Love. Either way, Jenny’s done a Swedish language cover, and I do hope you’re in the mood for some saxophoning.

Tom: I don’t know it, and I am! The saxophoning will, of course, be rated on a scale of zero to Careless Whisper.

Tom: I do like Swedish Mick Hucknall just awkwardly standing in the background with his sax there. I also like the steady build they’ve got going on before he gets his cue.

Tim: Nice, isn’t it? I had a lot of time for Jessica’s original, despite it being a fairly slow ballad, because the melody and lyrics were nice. Here – well, I don’t get the lyrics, but the tune’s still great, and that sax sounds…interesting, at least for the parts when it doesn’t sound like a rubber duck being squeezed.

Tom: It’s about 0.2 Raffertys, and that’s a log scale. But at least we know he was playing it live? Probably?

Tim: To be honest, part of me wants that guy to get if not joint billing then at the very least a feat., because I’m fairly sure he’s doing more work than she is. But it sounds good. I’m fairly sure it sounds good.

SuRie – Black Dove January

“Aadvance warning: the club banger style has been entirely discarded.”

Tim: SuRie, off Eurovision and getting stage invaded last year, has brought us an album, Dozen, which was released a couple of days ago. Interesting concept: twelve tracks, each related to a month.

Tom: Huh. I mean, I’ve heard much worse ideas for concept albums. Let’s be honest, my expectations are pretty low: ‘Eurovision contestant’s follow-up album’ isn’t an easy sell.

Tim: Here’s the first one, and (advance warning) the club banger style has been entirely discarded.

Tom: She’s got a beautiful voice, and she knows how to use it well. Pity that the song sounds like it’s playing during the bleak interlude in the middle of a made-for-TV Christmas movie.

Tim: When she was on Eurovision: You Decide she sung a John Lewis version of Storm, and it almost seemed like that was how she’d rather have performed it all along, and this kind of reinforces that.

I don’t mind that too much, though, because it sounds nice enough and now at least she can do what she wants.

Tom: What a bizarre set of lyrics, though. It’s like someone wrote a prog-rock song and then decided to score it for strings and piano.

Tim: Sure, it may drag along a bit, and sure, if you’re not in the mood for a piano ballad this won’t do much for you; on the other hand, though, when the time comes for her to raise her voice and get enthusiastic, she’s more than capable of that. So fair play to her – unlike most of our unsuccessful Eurovision entries, she’s done something. And, indeed, something worth listening to.

Tom: This isn’t aiming for the pop charts, and that’s absolutely fine. I do hope there’s an audience for this: I’m not part of it, but I hope there’s an audience out there.

Tim: As for the rest of the album, I’ve not yet had a chance to check it all out, but I can tell you that (a) as implied above, it’s all in this style, (b) the Green Day cover is pretty nice, and (c) the December entry is upsettingly non-Christmassy.

Rat City feat. Isak Heim – Kind Of Love

“Fun, dancey, excitable, brassy, with a very weird video thrown in on the side.”

Tim: We’ve featured Rat City a couple of times before, but the last time was well over eighteen months ago so I’ll refresh your memory: it’s basically a rebranded Donkeyboy.

Tom: And the name’s just as bad!

Tim: Different sound, same people.

Tom: I actually said “huh, that’s good” out loud at the first chorus, which means I wasn’t expecting it to be good.

Tim: Nice, isn’t it? Fun, dancey, excitable, brassy, with a very weird video thrown in on the side.

Tom: I’m not entirely sure that reducing the female character to a large pair of lips on a lingerie-clad body is something that generally flies in the late 2010s. But given the whole thing looks like a fever dream anyway, perhaps it’s best to talk about the music.

Tim: Vocal that sounds right and good, and I particularly love what’s going on with that in the chorus – the call and repeat with the backing is the complete reverse of what you’d expect, yet it works brilliantly.

Tom: I was singing the chorus after one listen, and I didn’t mind. This isn’t bad at all.

Tim: All in, really quite special. Lovely.

Saturday Flashback: Jill Johnson – Crazy In Love

“Right old country banger that even Shania would be proud of, and then a key change thrown in just for fun.“

Tim: I described Jill as ‘the queen of country schlager’ yesterday, but didn’t actually provide any justification; here’s her entry for Melodifestivalen 2003, where it went straight through to the final and placed fourth.

Tom: Not a Beyoncé cover?

Tom: Definitely not a Beyoncé cover.

Tim: No, and not least because it came out several months previously. It is, however and somewhat presciently, a PROPER TUNE. Right old country banger that even Shania would be proud of, and then a key change thrown in just for fun.

Tom: And, like a lot of good schlager, it sounds like bits of a dozen other fun songs glommed together into one. Not a complaint, just an observation, made while tapping my foot.

Tim: Nothing much on stage, except for four singers and dancers (who really do reinforce my recent realisation about early ’00s haircuts), with their perfect timing at 1:28. Turns out that with a good enough song, you don’t need the rest of it to do very well. You might need it to win, but not to come a pretty good fourth. Nice one Jill.

Jill Johnson – Is It Hard Being A Man

“A strong “look, dickhead, appreciate what you’ve got and quit moaning” message.“

Tim: Starting in 1996, the queen of country schlager…

Tom: Wait, I remember saying that modern pop-country was just schlager with a mandolin! And now you’re telling me there’s actually a mixed genre of them?

Tim: Pretty much, yeah – and Jill is the absolute master. She used to release albums on a roughly annual basis, but nothing’s been seen since the end of 2016. Well, until now.

Tim: Pretty good return, no? Nice crash in for the chorus, with a strong “look, dickhead, appreciate what you’ve got and quit moaning” message.

Tom: It is, with the caveat that the part immediately before that crash-in gives me a brief, frustrating flash of either Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, or the Hollies’ ‘Air That I Breathe’. I know that’s a really specific complaint to have, but it’s some odd combination of the melody and vocal style, the particular chord progression those songs share, and the percussion. Listen to the “no” at 0:48, the “choose” at 1:35.

Tim: Hmm…

Tom: Anyway, yes, once I got over that and we got back to the chorus: it’s not bad! And schlager, even down-tempo schlager like this, is always fun.

Tim: Favourite part for me: those twiddly counter melody guitar bits right at the end, which just about stops it getting boring by repeating too much. It’s in danger of it, as I don’t think anyone would really complain if it stopped just before they came in, but it’s saved. And it stays a decent track. It’s good.