Tim: So Robyn’s new album is as dull as really, really dull ditchwater, but last Friday wasn’t all bad news. For starters, for the first time in YEARS Lady Gaga is at number one in both the singles and albums chart, and for seconds this one appeared.
Tim: And that is Good, because it takes the traditional Icona Pop shouty vocal sound, which is already very enjoyable, and throws in a fair amount of decent melody.
Tom: Oh, I didn’t expect to like that. It’s got a minimalist sound, the kind that I don’t usually like, but then I realised half way through that I was already humming along with the chorus.
Tim: We’ve musical vocals in the verses and a surprisingly earwormy hook in the chorus, which now I’ve heard this track three or four times I’m not sure I’ll ever lose. Nice one ladies, good to have you back.
Tim: Icona Pop, purveyors of loud brash music, here with a new one. Last track wasn’t so great, but can’t they pull it back?
Tim: Ah. See, you might not have particularly liked their style, but at least you could never accuse them of being boring. This, though – well, it’s upsettingly tedious. The message is one that’s been done hundreds of times over, typically much better, and the music doesn’t have too much going for it either.
Tom: You’re not wrong. Whatever those instruments in the verse are — they sound half way between cowbells and steel drums — they’re almost discordant. And as for that chorus…
Tim: The vocals are as we’d expect, but what the hell is that oooh-ing all about? It’s not following a particularly massive build, but it still feels like a horrible let down, and it goes on for so, so long.
Tom: How is this song less than three minutes? It sounds so much longer. And then it just… ends.
“Cutting back on the usual just to blend in? No thanks.”
Tom: That’s a bold title. “Brightside” as one word belongs to the Killers, surely? What’ve they done?
Tim: Well, here’s their recipe: take your typical Icona Pop track, realise any shoutiness needs to be toned down a bit to fit on the palm tree bandwagon, throw in a quick tropical post-chorus. Stir well, allow to settle until way after the party season’s over, because seriously, how is this still a thing, and press play to experience.
Tim: And I’m not happy, Tom. I mean, it’s not a bad track, but it’s not a great Icona Pop track, is it?
Tom: I guess not, but as someone who never really liked Icona Pop’s overly-shouty style, I think it might be better for it. Not that the half-assed coconuts they’ve added really help.
Tim: I don’t know how much of the toning down the shoutiness I mentioned above was something that went through their heads when they were writing it, but if it was that’s a big disappointment, because I’m properly bored now of bands jacking in their usual style just so they’ll fit on some bland Tropical Beats playlist and get all the streaming money when people put it on an a party because it’s got a couple of their current favourites on it.
Tom: That’s harsh, but not unwarranted. I doubt that’s the conscious motivation, but yep: this seems very much ‘chuck in what’s popular right now’.
Tim: I hear the words ‘Icona Pop’, I want either their usual or heading out it a new direction. Cutting back on the usual just to blend in? No thanks. Really, no.
“Because Electro Velvet couldn’t make it sound bad enough, Icona Pop had their own go.”
Tim: So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but electro swing is really big right now?
Tom: Five bloody points. I know it wasn’t a winner, but only five bloody points.
Tom: I don’t think that’s electroswing. That’s just a poorly-chosen, repetitive sample: electroswing requires… well, something with some actual swing to it, but generally some actual, skilful remixing. But yes, okay: in the same way that dubstep is “anything with a wub in it”, electroswing is now “any 20s sample”. Fine.
Tim: Yeah, and possibly because Electro Velvet couldn’t make it sound bad enough, Icona Pop come along and had their own go.
And bloody hell, I wish I’d never pushed play on that, because WHY CAN’T I UNHEAR IT? That UTTERLY INSIPID two-bar sax loop, it’s just HORRIBLE. I eat my dinner, it’s there. I watch TV, it’s there. I close my eyes, it’s there. I try to think back to all the amazing stuff I heard at Radio 1’s Big Weekend, AND I CAN’T HEAR IT BECAUSE THAT SAXOPHONE IS THERE.
Tom: That’s like the gig equivalent of name-dropping there, Tim.
Tim: I KNOW! Isn’t it great? Yes, yes it was.
Tom: I can’t disagree though, it’s a terrible track.
Tim: Moral of the story? Electro swing should be BANNED and ILLEGAL and ERASED FROM HISTORY.
Tim: Since we mentioned them yesterday, we might as well have a listen to this, the first track off their upcoming second/third/whateverth album, depending upon your country, and we start with a bit of electric guitar.
Tom: My god. It’s full of hooks.
Tim: It is, yes.
Tom: Also, that’s really good electric guitar.
Tim: Also true. It turns out it’s not actually an unpleasant a title as you might first have thought, and is a nice-ish message – as long as you’re the person they’re singing to, because otherwise you’re left with a slight feeling of “yeah, well, sod you.”
Anyway, it’s as rackety as ever, so I’m guessing you’re not so keen, but: how does it compare with The Saturdays?
Tom: Actually, I’m very keen on this.
Tom: Perhaps I’m getting more used to their style — or perhaps their style is becoming a bit more mainstream. There’s more melody here than you might expect. This is so much better than the Saturdays.
Tim: You think? Because for me, to be honest, it’s actually very similar – in fact, I don’t think there’s much I said yesterday that I couldn’t say today. It’s fun enough, I’d dance to it, but as with you yesterday, not melodic enough for me to hit the Play Next button.
Tom: Speak for yourself. This has a much better message, a much better melody, and, crucially, a much better electric guitar.
Tim: Tiësto, manufacturer of big dance tunes. Icona Pop, manufacturer of loud shouty pop songs. Together?
Tom: I think I can guess.
Tim: Together, as you likely guessed, they make one big loud shouty dance tune. It is, basically, exactly what you’d expect to get if you combined the two, and as far as this track goes, that’s a good thing.
Tom: Damn right. It’s not a regular playlist track for me, but I’ll be damned if this wouldn’t get me up on the dancefloor in a club. It suffers the usual problem of having a slightly dull verse, but that’s made up for by a lovely middle eight.
Tim: For a while, there’s a moment of doubt as it brings in some guitars and threatens to go all country, but it very much pulls up and, well, lets go, and brings absolutely everything out in force.
Tom: Whoa there. Farm-house music is still pretty good for me; I reckon the middle eight might be the best bit of this track.
Tim: Oh, you’re not far off there – it’s when we break out of the dance and get just with the acoustic guitars break it for me. This here is absolutely great.
It is, in fact, a cracking dance tune, albeit in a very different way from yesterday’s – one’s a get ready to go out and party, this here is very much a LET’S GET ON THAT DANCEFLOOR track. And I love it.
Tim: Yeah, I didn’t write much in the intro because I didn’t want to spoil that for you; I’m guessing it’s not remotely what you expected?
Tom: Not at all.
Tim: They played it when I saw them live; it wasn’t a massive crowd-pleaser, but I’m not surprised they’ve made a video for it, just to demonstrate that they’re not just shouty girls but are actually talented singers. It still is a bit shouty, because that’s what makers them them, bit it’s probably as close as we’ll get to an Icona Pop ballad any time soon.
Tom: And you know what? I want more like this. Icona Pop’s regular style is always a bit too shouty and dissonant for me: this is brilliantly realised, wonderfully melodic, and just plain pleasant to listen to.
Tim: You say that, and it is, but I don’t really know when I’d ever choose to put it on: if I want Icona Pop stuff, this isn’t it, and if I want ballads, I wouldn’t put this on my playlist. So I’m going back to my earlier theory: to prove that they’re not just shouty. And for that, it works.
Tim: Icona Pop have a new single out – it’s called My Party, it’s a re-recording on a track that was on their first debut album but with a different guest vocalist and it’s basically the shouty stuff that we all know.
Tom: You say that, but I reckon it’s bloody awful: an unnecessary screwing-about with a not-particularly-good classic track, backed by mostly noise.
Tim: This, though, has also just been released to promote their second debut album, on which it will feature (as will the new It’s My Party), and it’s actually somewhat melodic.
Tom: Well, that’s much more like it.
Tim: Now, I’m not really sure what Icona Pop are doing at the moment when it comes to releasing stuff – I had to check various sources for that introduction, and I’m still not certain it’s entirely correct, but there you go.
Tom: Downloads should have completely knackered the singles “release schedule”; yet somehow publicity and airplay still wins out. I don’t understand it either.
Tim: The main thing is that they’re making music, and branching out a bit from all of their main international tracks. This has more to it than just a chorus shouted loudly, which – actually, it’s good and bad. Because the truth is, it doesn’t strike me as particularly memorable. That’s not too bad a thing – it’s a plenty decent enough track to dance to – but it does mean that it might sink a bit, because people will think Icona Pop, they’ll think I Love It and My Party, which both have massive repeating choruses, whereas this just doesn’t. Hmm. Oh, well, still good.
Tom: It’s a nice mid-playlist track, which sounds like a bit of a backhanded compliment but wasn’t meant as one.
Tim: I think we need to face facts: Icona Pop’s release strategy is all over the place. Girlfriend was plugged as their next single to be released in America, but that seems to have been forgotten about now (though the video got put online at the weekend) and they’re back, in America at least, with this one. It’ll probably arrive here sometime this decade, but who knows.
Tim: I’ve decided I really like Icona Pop now. When I first heard I Love It, I thought it was a bit iffy – maybe too shouty and a bit of a racket. It still is, to some extent, but actually when you put it next to the rest of their output it fits in nicely, just on the heavier end of the scale, and if you’re in the mood (yes, there’s that qualifier) for loud pop they actually fit the bill almost perfectly.
Tom: True: there are some tracks you can only appreciate when you’re in the mood for them. This one’s on the more mainstream side of their output, though — it has a melody — and I’ve got to admit that works for me.
Tim: The songs are well-produced, and they know exactly what they’re doing with them – creating party tracks that are there to be danced to.
Take this, for example. Yes, you could assume that the whole “with love this deep we don’t need no sleep, we could do this all night” is the whole bedtime stuff…
Tom: “Bedtime stuff?” I’m sorry, are you nine years old or something?
Tim: Well, I was trying to keep this family-friendly, but okay: the rumpy-pumpy.
Tom: Anyway, I reckon it’s more about…
Tim: Perhaps partying the night away, throwing your arms all over the place and finally emerging from the club just in time to get a kebab for breakfast? Whichever floats your boat, I guess.
Tom: Personally, I’ll stick with option 1. Particularly if option 2 involves a kebab.
“What band hasn’t succeeded in a new country by splitting sales across two tracks?”
Tim: About a decade after it was originally released, I Love It is finally getting a release and gradually building up airplay in the UK.
Tom: A year, to be fair – there have been longer gaps between release and international success. So what’s with the new single?
Tim: Well, it’s the obvious step: put out their follow-up international release. After all, what band hasn’t succeeded in a new country by splitting sales across two tracks?
Tim: And, why mess with a winning formula? Fairly aggressive vocals, excellent production underneath, a great enough tune to get any party going.
Tom: Plus occasional use of “shit”, which seems to be emerging as one of their trademarks.
Tim: To give them their due, it’s a great track, and one I actually prefer to I Love It.
Tom: I still reckon I Love It is the better track — I don’t think they’d have had success if they’d released this first — but it’s a competent followup.
Tim: You’re right – it’s not got the same “listen to us, we here and demand your attention” quality that I Love It has that you’d think would be first and foremost in their minds.
I say “them”, it’s probably more the label’s fault than theirs, as I Love It went down a storm in the US a few months back and so now’s a good time to release this for that market. But why delay the UK one so much (and, while you’re at it, entirely cancel the remix EP)? Such silliness.