Clean Bandit feat. Zara Larsson – Symphony

“I’m not convinced.”

Tim: I’ll be honest with you, Tom: I’ve not been much of a fan of Zara’s music since (and I’m aware of how hipster wankerish this’ll make me sound) she got big. That’s mostly because there was a slight genre shift, little more heavy, almost drum & bass-y; Clean Bandit, on the other hand, is typically very much not that.

Tom: True, but I’ll be honest, I’ve not been a fan of Clean Bandit. Rockabye left me entirely cold — despite managing to be number one for a spectacularly long time.

Tim: Fair enough. But the question is: what would that combination, along with a track called Symphony, do for me?

Tim: Quite a bit, it seems.

Tom: Synchronising the orchestral video with the definitely not orchestral audio is a clever touch — although I do now want to hear what it sounded like in that concert hall. I’m not convinced by the track itself, though: like a lot of Clean Bandit’s stuff, it’s well put together but doesn’t contain anything that makes me… well, anything that makes me like it.

Tim: I disagree – he’s pulling Zara in a bit, and so we’ve got some melody, we’ve got some instruments, all of the bits that have been missing from recent tracks, and all of which combine with her lovely vocal to make everything I want in a Zara Larsson track, from before she got corrupted by the evil American music scene.

Tom: Harsh.

Tim: True. Artists change, I know that, and I know I need to accept it. But sometimes, I really really wish they wouldn’t, you know?

Clean Bandit feat. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie – Rockabye

“At the top for seven weeks now; shall we investigate?”

Tim: It’s the first Christmas number one since 2003 that’s neither X Factor nor campaign-y and it’s been at the top for seven weeks now; shall we investigate?

Tim: Well, I’d say the obvious answer is that there is no campaign this year – last year had the NHS choir, 2012 had the Justice Collective, 2011 has Gareth Malone, 2009 had Rage Against The Machine – and this year’s X Factor single was…well, it was no A Moment Like This, was it?

Tom: I think it’s a sign of what’s happening with the charts now; as they move almost-entirely to streaming, we’ll find that the charts reflect what people are listening to, not what they’re buying. And that’s a very different chart – one less reflective of campaigns and trends.

Tim: And yes, there have been other good tracks around in the meantime, but none that are quite so catchy – however annoying you might find Sean Paul (and believe me, I really do), Anne-Marie’s got a decent voice, and tropical music still seems inexplicably popular.

Tom: I don’t think it’s a great song; but it’s clearly done enough.

Tim: People keep streaming it, and it stays right up the top. Bring on January.

Clean Bandit feat. Louisa Johnson – Tears

“I could see all that doing very well at Eurovision… But then it segues.”

Tom: Our reader, Laura, sends this in, saying that “the build really pays off”.

Tom: She’s not wrong. That build, and the first part of the chorus (“tears on the ground”) are absolutely wonderful, at least in terms of the sort of European pop we talk about.

Tim: Yeah – surprisingly so, really, as it’s not often we hear so-called ‘credible’ artists with songs like that.

Tom: In fact, I could see all that doing very well at Eurovision, and that’s not just because of the flaming instruments. But then it segues — not particularly well — into a drum-and-bass-y section that seems completely out of place. It doesn’t fit the rest, it kills all the energy.

Tim: And there I very much agree with you – we’re back to the ‘credible’ bit (and I hate that word and everything that accompanies it, but that’s a discussion for another day), and it’s nowhere near as much fun.

Tom: Lose those sections, bring back that beautiful first part of the chorus for one last, MASSIVE reprise and you’d have a brilliant track. As it is: not quite.

Clean Bandit – Stronger

“A decent fusion of a lot of genres”

Tom: Nathan sends this in, with suspiciously enthusiastic text that makes me wonder whether he’s shilling for them. And the history’s a bit complicated here: it’s been released, re-recorded, and re-released. Still…

Tom: Now I wasn’t expecting to like this, partly because the band name sounds like the bad guys from Home Alone, and partly because that introduction sounded like a really disappointing early-2000s boyband track. But by the time the gospel choir kicked in, I was sold.

Tim: Yeah – at the 50 second mark I was thinking “nope, not for me,” but then it dropped in and then “huh, fairly good, as it happens.” Not something I’d put on to listen to casually, but yes, that’s good for now, as long as I chop it off before the dodgy bit comes back at the end.

Tom: It’s not perfect, not by a long way, and it’s not going to be a summer floor-filler. But as a decent fusion of a lot of genres, I reckon it works.