Charli XCX & Troye Sivan – 1999

Tim: Charli XCX, creator of fine pop music. Troye Sivan, likewise. Should be a good song, then, as long was you’re up for some nostalgia?

Tim: And actually, despite a rocky start which was getting me all ready to be disappointed, I got on bored fairly soon. I think it was the first ‘ooooh’ that made it – although the backing didn’t get any less brash, it did provide a slightly gentle jumping on point, and from then on I could absolutely cope with it. Not going to come out and say I actively like it, mind – I’m all for a bit of nostalgia, but however much of a state we might be right now, things are definitely better overall – but musically at least, I can deal with it.

Dua Lipa – IDGAF

“Radio 1 managed to put together a really good girlband.”

Tim: Dua Lipa, from the same group of musicians as Ariana Grande as ‘people who sound like typefaces’. This has been doing the rounds for a few weeks now but is still great, and you can probably guess but there’s a rude word in the chorus.

Tom: And it’s the seventh single from the album! Seventh! Do singles even mean anything more?

Tim: That’s the proper version, at least. But here’s the thing: I think the radio edit sounds better.

Tom: Interesting. Why’s that?

Tim: Well, have a listen. It’s not online as standard, but you can see what happened when Radio 1 managed to put together a really good girlband, made up of Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, Zara Larsson, MØ and Alma (who I’d never heard of but is apparently off Finnish Idol and does actually have some pretty good tracks).

Tim: Now obviously there are some slight differences in the styling with the female backing vocals, but I do prefer that chorus. Not just because it sounds less gratuitously unpleasant, and more playable in a public space, but more because of the implications: she gives so little of a that she can’t even be bothered to finish the sentence.

Tom: I disagree there — it just seems unresolved to me. I accept there’s no other easy way to do a radio edit of the song, but there’s just too much of a gap there.

Tim: I don’t mind that it doesn’t resolve, because I don’t think it harms the song at all. And the rest of the song? Shouty, brash and enjoyable. I like it.

Charli XCX – Boys

“I’m just going to watch the video again.”

Tim: Last week you mentioned that Demi Lovato had a good few celebrity cameos in her Sorry Not Sorry video. WELL, care to count?

Tom: I am certain that some else will have counted already. I’ll let them handle it.

Tim: Apparently Charli got a mental image one day of Joe Jonas eating breakfast saucily and it kind of tumbled from there, leading to a collection of 60-odd pop stars and YouTubers, and one particular diver (can’t think why), all looking somewhat seductive. (If you want a guide to who’s who, BuzzFeed’s been helpful.)

Tom: See? Told you someone else had counted.

Tim: Nice thing, though, is that even though it does distract from the song the first seven, eight, nine, (I don’t know, it’s distracting me now and I’m in double figures) times you watch it…

Tom: Mate.

Tim: Not even remotely ashamed. But even though it is distracting, it’s still a pretty good song.

Tom: Really? The stripped-down (heh) instrumentation doesn’t really do anything for me — unlike Back To You, it never really turns into anything. Are you sure you haven’t just been fooled by the video?

Tim: Oh, I’m sure – for starters, the lyrics are unapologetic, and I love that because now I can use that as an excuse if I want and not feel entirely weird. Music’s also good – I’ve no problems with the level it stays at – and so I’ve no problems with the song at all. But if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to watch the video again.

Saturday Flashback: Charli XCX feat. Lil Yachty – After the Afterparty

“Everything about this should annoy me.”

Tom: We’ve covered lots of songs this year, Tim; this wasn’t one of them. In hindsight I think that was wrong, because inexplicably, more than two months after release, this is still on my regular playlist.

Tom: I say “inexplicably”, because on paper everything about this should annoy me. The repetitive chorus, for a start — and it doesn’t even have a counterpoint, the melody line underneath is repeating the exact same notes!

Tim: True.

Tom: The lyrics aren’t exactly clever; and the rap bit in the middle eight feels lazy, too. I shouldn’t be able to stand any of this.

Tim: That would be my prediction.

Tom: And yet, here I am. End of 2016. Still listening sometimes. Absolutely no idea why.

Tim: Simple: it works. As a call to arms to keep a party going, it’s got all it needs. It’s got stuff it doesn’t need – that appearance for Lil Yachty can certainly do one, in my view – but it’s hefty, powerful and beat-y. All as it should be.

Charli XCX feat. Rita Ora – Doing It

“Given the two vocalists here, I’ve got high expectations.”

Tom: Given the two vocalists here, I’ve got high expectations for this.

Tim: Well, the vocals were certainly on point.

Tom: Although now I come to think of it, normally you get a “featured” artist that sounds different from the “main” one. I’m not sure I could tell you which of them is singing which line: mostly it’s just regular harmony.

Tim: Yeah, but that’s not a bad thing – just gives it mores of a girlband feel than a regular duet.

Tom: Huh, that’s fair. I hadn’t thought of it like that.

An odd thing here: there was one more chorus than I expected, and that was the best part of the song. All the lead-up to it was a bit… well, a bit mediocre if I’m honest, not upbeat enough, not melodic enough, a bit by-the-numbers.

Tim: Thing is, it felt a lot longer than four minutes – after two and a half, I was kind of ready for it to end, although that might just be because I had seen more than I needed of the old guy in the swimming trunks.

Tom: That last chorus, though? Suddenly I realised what the song was trying to do. I just wish it had tried a bit harder.

Tim: I wish it had done it a bit faster – speed up by twenty per cent, I reckon you’d have a decent track. As it is, I’ll pass thank you.

Saturday Flashback: Charli XCX – Boom Clap

“One of 2014’s best songs.”

Tim: So, first flashback of 2015, let’s have one of 2014’s best songs, shall we?

Tom: Okay, so this is where I own up: I’ve never actually heard this all the way through. I picked up bits of it from various radio stations and background noise, but I’ll be coming to this as if it was new.

Tim: Starts as it means to go on, dips down for the verses but then comes back with a quite literal BOOM and CLAP for a stonking —

Tom: “Stonking”?

Tim: — yes, STONKING chorus that perfectly captures what the song’s about: the start of a relationship with someone new, who gets you going, who you’re enthralled with, who you can’t stop getting excited about when you think about them.

Tom: It’s good. I’ll grant you it’s good. But I just can’t get as excited about it. Is it because I’ve only heard it a couple of times, and it hasn’t had a chance to get into my head as an earworm?

Tim: And it’s not just the chorus – the entire song is very fast: we’ve got the standard two verses, two choruses, fully fledged middle eight and four (four!) repetitions of the chorus to close, and we’re all done in 2:47. Is it too short? No – the length is perfect.

Tom: That’s true: it’d definitely overstay its welcome if it were any longer. And I can see the appeal, even if it doesn’t quite work for me.

Tim: Everything that should be there is there, and if there was more, with that speed it might be too much. As it is, though: let’s just push play again anyway.