Saturday Flashback: Ben Haenow – Lions

“This calls for goddamn flamethrowers.”

Tim: Remember when I said his disappointingly quickly abandoned album was really quite good? Well here’s an example of why. (It starts out a bit strummy and rubbish, but you won’t regret sticking with it.)

Tom: That does start out strummy and rubbish, you’re right, and then…

Tim: WHAT A CHORUS. I mean sometimes you have a lighters out moment, but this calls for goddamn flamethrowers. I can also recommend Way Back When and Testify, but this is the real highlight for me. It’s all about the chorus – of course it is – which can sometimes be a problem, particularly if the verses are a bit weak.

Tom: Which they are here. Quite a bit.

Tim: Yes, fair point, or at least the first verse. Fortunately, we’ve got a fairly strong second verse, and also a middle eight that’s almost as good as the chorus, and the chorus itself which is just damn fantastic.

Tom: I think I’m just not sold on that chorus the way you are. I will agree with you that the middle eight — and the added backing over that final chorus — are good, but it takes a long time to get there.

Tim: It’s a great song, and it’s such a shame it never got any real recognition.

Tom: It’s no Second Hand Heart, though, is it?

Tim: Well, that’s just stating the obvious.

Ben Haenow – Alive

“A lot of missed opportunities here.”

Tim: Would you like to see the single most convincing argument ever for lyric videos to be professionally made?

Tom: I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?

Tim: I mean really, if you’re going to make a copyright infringing lyric video, at least put some effort to get the timing, and indeed the lyrics themselves, right.

Tom: I get the feeling the tool they used didn’t let them.

Tim: Hmm, possibly. But ANYWAY, let’s talk about Ben Haenow, because upsettingly basically nobody else is. Winner’s single aside, he got just one track from his (really quite good) first album released, with roughly no promotion at all even though it featured actual Kelly Clarkson, and then got binned off by Syco just three months later. Not quite a record – Steve Brookstein only lasted seven months, but then he’s Steve Brookstein.

Tom: And meanwhile, Fleur East is… well, still technically going.

Tim: Well fortunately, Ben’s a nice chap, and so is BACK with this, a darned good track.

Tom: Really? I mean, it’s not actively bad, but it seems like a lot of missed opportunities here. Each part of it seems to be just not quite there — the vocals are a bit buried in the mix, the backing almost seems discordant at times. What do you like?

Tim: There’s a slight Take Me To Church vibe about it – a (comparatively, but really not) calm verse, a quiet part and then going properly all in, deep, emotional and heartfelt, for that chorus. For me, that works so, so well, and I love it. Not as much as either of his previous ones, admittedly, but it’s still damn good.

Ben Haenow feat. Kelly Clarkson – Second Hand Heart

“That’s a number one right there.”


Tom: Blimey. He got Kelly Clarkson. That shows rather a lot of faith in him from his record company: they’re rolling out the big stars.

Tim: Singers, yes, but how are the writers doing?

Tom: And that’s a number one right there, I reckon. I don’t often make bold predictions like that, but it’s close to a perfect country-pop song.

Tim: It really really is, and he’s also looking very manly in that video which is excellent news.

Tom: Both of their vocals are flawless. The harmonies are incredible. The composition’s great, the lyrics are singable and memorable, and the production is top-notch.

Tim: And better still, those flawless vocals fit together very well indeed – it sounds like a natural fit.

Tom: Never mind that the two singers never actually met — that’s blatantly a body double in the final shot — it’s a good pairing, and could serve to introduce him to the US as well. Update: apparently they did meet! Well why the heck didn’t they use that shot, then?!

Tim: Not only that, the ending to the video is exactly what it should be when you’ve got two people singing at each other how great they are, unlike F√§ltzkog & Barlow’s tragic tale.

Tom: I’m strugging for anything negative to say about this, really. Maybe it’s bit similar to Bonfire Heart? No, not even enough I can complain about that. They’ve pulled out the big guns for Ben Haenow, and I think he’s going to do very well from it.

Tim: Let’s hope so, and also for more excellent videos.

Ben Haenow – Something I Need

“Croakiness and apparent desperation”

Tim: On Sunday, the wonderful Ben Haenow was crowned winner of The X Factor 2014, so shall we write about him before he fades into obscurity?

Tom: I still think his song should have been “Haenow, Haenow, don’t dream it’s over.”

Tim: A cover of OneRepublic’s track that never actually got released in Britain.

Tom: It’s an interesting choice: I wonder how many of the audience have ever heard the original? ‘Cos I haven’t: and it doesn’t seem too much like a Big Winner’s Single.

Tim: Perhaps not, but I think it fits his voice very well – slightly better, as I see it, than that of Fleur East, runner up. Even if she did sing it slightly better, he has the croakiness and apparent desperation there to emphasise that he NEEDS whatever the something it is that you got.

Tom: Mm. I’m not sure how healthy that is for your voice, but it clearly got him the votes. Incidentally, the first related video was him singing “Man in the Mirror“, which sounds exactly like the kind of song that should be his winner’s single.

Tim: Yes, you could be right there. This is, though, I suppose, an excellent demonstration of how songs fit people and how it may be better to have different songs for different winners. But I’m not ITV so I don’t get a say in this.

Tom: Well, you do, but it’s limited to five free votes on the app before they freeze the count, and five more after.

Tim: Well that it true at least, but all I really need to say is that I like this track, I like this winner, and my only regret about this year’s X Factor is that Only The Young got kicked out so early. Because they could be good.