Dolly Style – Boom Boom Box

“We’ve got a decent dance routine to go with it so the important stuff’s there.”

Tim: Tom, you’ve always had time for country music, right?

Tom: Yep. And I maintain that country music — by which I mean modern pop-country, the sort of thing you get on US radio stations — is pretty much just schlager with different instruments. Of course, when a European band tries to imitate that…

Tim: Now, admittedly, this is about as country as 5, 6, 7, 8 but the intentions were good so I think that counts, and we’ve got a decent dance routine to go with it so the important stuff’s there.

Tom: Good intentions and a dance routine. That is basically every basic Europop act, isn’t it?

Tim: I’d say minimum requirements, certainly. I don’t know what my favourite part about the ‘yes, we’re honestly playing the instruments’ video is – it’s definitely her with the banjo, but it’s 50-50 between just after a minute where she decisively stops playing while the music carries on, or around two minutes where she’s playing but there’s nothing in the music.

Tom: Or the fact that the drummer is almost always covered by someone else while playing, or else cut away from so fast that it’s extremely difficult to tell if anything’s being hit remotely correctly. Maybe she can drum! But, uh, I’m not convinced.

Tim: Either way, it’s a cracker of a track, cracker of a video, and when lockdown’s over I’d like to arrange a street party where we all do that dance, please.

Dolly Style – FRKN PERFECT

“Sometimes, formula is absolutely FRKN PERFECT.”

Tim: A song for you today in which it continues to be confirmed that, for all their monthly line-up changes and cynical merchandisability origins, Dolly Style are actually a really good girlband.

Tom: Good production, if saddled with songs that are… well, let’s say inconsistent.

Tim: WHAT. A. CHORUS. Not that the rest of it’s bad, by any means – within a few seconds of it starting we’ve established the genre and that they know what they’re doing, and all we have to do is wait for the good stuff to come along, and oh boy, we are not disappointed.

Tom: Careful with “we”, there. I’ll grant you it’s a good chorus melody, but a lot of the production behind it sounds like someone’s just plugged a vague “early 2000s” synth and percussion pack into their computer, and kept it on the default settings. It might well be a style choice, but it doesn’t sound like a deliberate one.

To be fair: there are some occasional strings in there that do lift it up a bit. But as for that verse…

Tim: The verse is, sure, standard stuff – nothing special, but the second half comes along and it dutifully ramps up a little bit – then it goes a bit quiet for the pre-chorus, all yes, yes, yes, box ticking stuff. And then the chorus happens And the melody, the vocal power, the lyrics, the shoutalongability, again those lyrics I’M TOO FREAKING PERFECT FOR YOU.

Tom: Yep, that’s not bad at all. For a band that was originally set up to be a full-on bubblegum pop act, this is… much more credible than I’d have ever thought.

Tim: After that, we’re back to the start, and of course we have the exact same verse structure, then a decent middle eight, and then, oh, would you believe it, there’s a closing chorus with some added howling over the top of it. Of course there is, it’s formula. And sometimes, formula is absolutely FRKN PERFECT.

Tom: No key change though, is there?

Tim: Out of character as it may be for me to say this: sometimes they’re not needed.

Dolly Style – Sayonara

“Not as we know them. Not remotely as we know them.”

Tim: It’s Dolly Style, Tom, but but not as we know them. Not remotely as we know them.

Tom: Triplet flow. In a Dolly Style song. What.

Tim: I don’t like it, Tom, I really don’t. Dolly Style are meant to be fun and irreverent and unapologetically unfashionable – not this, which sounds all modern and aiming for the charts and stuff.

Tom: There’s an argument that a band can’t be “meant to be” anything — it’s just what the members want to be — but given that they’re one of the most-constructed of constructed girl groups, then yes, that’s fair.

Tim: Thing is, however much they might aim there (and in fairness to them, it’s not bad, it’s perfectly decent 2019 girl group fare) but I’m really not sure they’ll ever hit the target. They have a market, and, well, it’s us. It’s people who like awful pop, who don’t care that it’s 2019, who still like Hello Hi and Unicorns & Ice Cream. Sure, it might work, and maybe I’ll be proved wrong (though I hope not, as that means we’ll get more of this), but it’s not them. Or at least it really shouldn’t be.

Tom: “Sayonara” is generally used as “goodbye forever”. I’ll leave the obvious jokes to our reader.

Dolly Style – How Far I’ll Go

“So far out of the blue that you’re ending up with a musical concussion.”

Tom: A bit of context for you here: We Love Disney is a series of cover albums. I thought it was dead, but apparently not — although I can’t find any context for this. Anyway: this seems like the right people to cover a song like this.

Tim: The original of this song has a decent key change. It’s pleasant, standard, and adds a bit to the song. In addition, it’s telegraphed a good few seconds in advance, and so you’ve got time to prepare for it.

Tim: Dolly Style, on the other hand, bring it so far out of the blue that you’re ending up with a musical concussion, and HOT DAMN it’s wonderful. Aside from that there’s not much new here, although it’s a bit heavier on the dance bits and lighter on the marimbas; for me, though, that key change makes the whole recording worthwhile.

Tom: I can see why you’d say that: but there’s a different and more subtle change that means the whole song doesn’t work for me. The original chorus of How Far I’ll Go has a really nice bit of musicianship in it that sells the whole thing.

From the sheet music, “see the line / where the sky / meets the sea” sounds like the syllables should land on the 1, 2 and 3, with the emphasis on the 3. That’s what Dolly Style is doing here, and it’s common for this genre, but it sounds staccato and metronomic when compared. That’s because in the original, the timing is softened and subtly changed so the words aren’t exactly on the beat, and as a result it sounds emotional.

Tim: Hmm, yeah, I can hear that, I guess.

Tom: Yes, that’s music-nerdy. But honestly, it makes all the difference.

Tim: But then, so does that key change.

Dolly Style – Sunrise

“YEP, the mouth starts smiling, the head starts nodding, the shoulders start bouncing.”

Tim: Unperturbed by their crashing out of Melodifestivalen this year, here’s one for anybody who needs a smile on their face.

Tim: And that’s early Katy Perry, there, isn’t it? Stylistically, that is, as well as the fact that the very first three opening notes lead me into the chorus of Hot N Cold.

Tom: You’re not wrong. Even the vocal quality’s a match in that first verse. It’s like someone gave a machine-learning algorithm “One of the Boys” — more than a decade old, that album — and someone cleaned up the result. There’s a little bit of early Ke$ha in there, too, back when she had the dollar sign.

Tim: It’s Teenage Dream, it’s I Kissed A Girl, it’s lovely lovely pop music being very well produced. The initial muted chorus and first verse got me thinking “yeah, yeah, standard”, but then when the chorus came in properly, YEP, the mouth starts smiling, the head starts nodding, the shoulders start bouncing.

Tom: Or, if you’re me, your foot starts tapping slightly.

Tim: Nah, you need to let yourself go a bit, mate. Second time round, I’m using the TV remote as a microphone and isn’t pop music just GREAT sometimes? Yes, yes it is, and the haters can jog right on.

Saturday Reject: Dolly Style – Habibi

“Most of what I want in a Eurovision selection show from a song that’s never going to win anyway.”

Tim: It’s four years since Dolly Style launched themselves with Melodifestivalen’s help, and we’re now our our second Holly, second Molly and fourth Polly, and our third attempt at Eurovision.

Tom: I’ve got to admit I respect the producer’s persistence. The characters are more important than the people playing them: it’s an odd strategy, but apparently it works.

Tim: Did it matter that Molly’s vocals sounded a bit shaky? Hmm, probably not, because let’s face it anyone who got turned off by that would have been even more turned off when it looked like the creepy CG one was singing a vocal sample, or indeed as soon as the hosts said the words Dolly Style.

Tom: Yep. The lyrics are terrible, the song is forgettable, and… well, yes, I respect the persistence but not much else.

Tim: I don’t know, I’d say it’s fun and catchy, and really that’s most of what I want in a Eurovision selection show from a song that’s never going to win anyway. It’s filler, and it’s fun filler.

Dolly Style – Moonlight

“We suddenly have high standards for them, don’t we?”

Tim: For all their slightly trashy and cheap beginnings, Dolly Style are rapidly approaching the status of Favourite Girlband for me, and so I am delighted to present to you their new one.

Tom: Given how much I despised their first track, I’m surprised that a) they’re still around and b) I’m actually looking forward to this.

Tim: Video kicks off by reminding us how good their previous one was, before getting right down to business.

Tim: And I can’t help thinking that actually, that wasn’t the greatest idea, because Bye Bye Bby Boo was, for all the weird spelling, a phenomenally good track. This, other the other hand, is ‘just’ a very good track.

Tom: We suddenly have high standards for them, don’t we? That’s such a good chorus.

Tim: It is, yeah, with the music providing exactly the right level of excitement that the idea of a kiss under the moonlight warrants. My slight issue is that the verses don’t really keep that excitement up, dropping down to a slightly more melancholy tone. It’s right for the lyrics and story of the song – but it does mean the song as a whole isn’t as good as we’re reminded they can provide. And that’s a real shame.

Tom: Careful with that, Tim: it might be a “real shame” in context, but taken as a standalone song, this is still really good.

Dolly Style – Bye Bye Bby Boo

“Some actual, modern pop influences.”

Tim: Two years ago, a couple of industry folk put together a Swedish J-pop group and tested them out at Melodifestivalen; right now, though, it’s safe to say we’ve developed somewhat. (And no, that’s not a typo in the title – no idea why.)

Tom: First thought on reading the artist name: “They’re still going?” First thought on hearing that intro: “They’re still going!”

Tim: They sure are, and making very decent music. We’re currently on our second Molly and third Polly (though the original Holly hasn’t gone anywhere), so while we had the same reaction with their last song, I suppose what I’m most surprised about is that they’ve actually kept it going – it’s certainly hard to predict any future directions.

Tom: This certainly isn’t bubblegum pop any more — it’s verging that way, of course, it has to be given the pastel colours and bows — but this has clearly got some actual, modern pop influences, and it’s so much better for it.

Tim: They’ve yet to release a full album, and given the revolving line up I’d imagine negotiations might be tricky, but if it stays like this I’d absolutely love to hear one. If not – well, just keep the singles coming, please.

Dolly Style – Young & Restless

Tim: I’ve lost track of who plays the part of which Dolly (Molly, Polly and Holly, you’ll recall), because they seem to have a higher turnaround time than the Sugababes. Nonetheless, here’s their new one, with a message that’s very à la mode (a prominent line in the pre-chorus being very much so, and it’s the Tinie Tempah one you’re thinking of).

Tim: And that there is pop music, owing a lot to Katy Perry, and others.

Tom: Particularly in the vocals in that first chorus: the vocal quality is really similar. The track’s less bubblegum-pop than they’ve done before, as well.

Tim: But all on its own it is pure, unadulterated pop. It is not ashamed to be that, rightly: it is well aware that pop music is frequently looked down upon, but also that those who do look down just have a colossal lack of a sense of fun.

I’d call this textbook, but it’s not. This is to textbook what the 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary is to that Chambers Pocket thing lurking in a school rucksack.

Tom: There’s a reference from twenty years ago, Tim. Sorry, you were on a metaphor.

Tim: It takes what’s in the textbook, explores it in vast amounts of detail, and then takes in so much more. We’ve discussed previously the idea of ‘perfect pop’ – tracks that go alongside What Makes You Beautiful, Lovekiller and Exclusive Love on a pedestal of greatness – and my God, it’s a shame that these girls aren’t well known outside Sweden. Because damn, this track wouldn’t be too far out of place.

Dolly Style – Unicorns & Ice Cream

“Prepare to have your expectations missed.”

Tim: Dolly Style have a come quite a way since their Melodifestivalen debut last year – for a start they’ve had three follow up singles, which is a good three times as many as I’d have originally predicted.

Tom: Given my initial reaction to seeing their name was “oh, not again”, that’s an encouraging first line.

Tim: As for what to expect: well, see the title, but prepare to have your expectations missed.

Tim: And that’s really about as bubblegum as bubblegum pop gets, isn’t it? Right from the opening Looney Tunes reference, the jumping around, the pastel colours and the actual unicorns in the video.

Tom: It’s not bad as these things go, but it still misses the mark. It’s possible to make something like this sound really, really catchy: instead, it comes off as try-hand and a bit irritating.

Tim: Perhaps, maybe – but the thing is, despite their name, history and unicorns: it doesn’t fit too badly in the current scene of pop that encompasses Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen. Lyrics would be laughed out of the radio studio before it got anywhere near airplay, mind, but musically it’s a decent shot – I can actually see myself listening to an album of it.

Tom: It’s definitely not the lead single — or at least, it shouldn’t be — but yes, I can see what you mean.

Tim: And that’s a hell of a development since Hello Hi.