KEiiNO – I Wanna Dance With Somebody

“The fact I played it several times is a very, very strong endorsement from me.”

Tom: The “2020 Global Pride Song”, apparently. It’s a choice that seems both genius and obvious in hindsight: pick a Eurovision darling, and get them to cover an absolute banger.

Tom: We’ve talked before about how KEiiNO are basically required to put some sort of joik in there, even when it doesn’t really fit. And… well, I don’t think it really fits here.

Tim: No. Although, it does fit better than when it’s awkwardly shoved in to replace a lyric line in the chorus – here, it just sounds like some weird instrument they’ve dug up to stick in the post-chorus.

Tom: It could’ve worked if it was more integrated as part of the song, perhaps telegraphed early on in the introduction — but Dance With Somebody is so well recognised that just changing the lyrics and timing in one place like this is going to feel wrong no matter what you do.

Tim: Ah, see with the timing I very much do agree with you – in fact, that’s one of the main reasons that, overall, I’m not keen on this, upsettingly. The other, though, is that the build through the verse and the chorus just, for me, doesn’t lead into enough. Along with the join, there should be another bit – not sure what, but the sole “somebody whooo” doesn’t really seem enough.

Tom: Now, I did play this multiple times, and I did get used to the change. And the fact I played it several times is a very, very strong endorsement from me: and it’s because absolutely everything else about this is so good. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, it’s impeccably produced, and somehow they’re able to get a wall-of-sound effect working through modern compression. It’s a really good track.

Tim: Hmm. I mean. I can’t disagree with any of the specifics you’ve got there – I think it’s missing, say, an extra two lines of instrumental. Give me that, I’m happy. Without it, sadly all I can manage is a gentle ehh.

KEiiNO & Electric Fields – Would I Lie

“If anyone else tried this, I’d probably be all ‘yeah, jog on mate, don’t get all up yourself'”

Tim: Quick recap: your phrasing last time we featured KEiiNO was “has the gimmick reached its limit?” and I pretty much agreed. They clearly think not, as they’ve teamed up with an Aboriginal Australian group, and are properly doubling down on it.

Tom: I mean, if the gimmick’s drawing attention to genres and creators that are normally ignored, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

Tom: You know what? I don’t think that’s a bad song either.

Tim: And I think it works, with the significant caveat that it works as a KEiiNO track. It’s not unlike my reaction to the Boy In Space track we had the other week: if anyone else tried this, I’d probably be all ‘yeah, jog on mate, don’t get all up yourself’, but knowing what to expect from them it seems okay, maybe because I’m prepared for it. I’m thinking ‘yep, this is great so far, wonder when that weird bit’ll come along’, and being almost pleasantly surprised by ‘oh, we’ve got two types of weird bit!’

Tom: Right! And “weird bit” is exactly how most of the mainstream European pop scene will see the collaboration. It’s notable that this feels much more like a “feat.” than a true collaboration as that credit would imply: they’re keeping it mostly-mainstream. I’ll leave discussing the implications of that to better scholars than me.

Tim: I’m fairly sure they complement each other nicely, as well: the less-weird (I think?) Electric Fields bit almost serves as a warm up for Fred coming along along with the trademark. As far as the breakdown goes: hmm, it’s on the better side of its type, not being too aggressive, and again its novelty helps.

Tom: As does the fact that the mainstream parts are really bloody good.

Tim: They really are. With this, I’m right on board.

KEiiNO feat. Charlotte Qamaniq – Black Leather

“Yeah, I guess we do have to put the folk stuff in, don’t we, it’s kind of our thing.”

Tim: ‘A pop tribute to the Berlin club scene’, this is, so, erm, yeah.

Tim: So that’s, for me, the second track in just four weeks that’s (a) brilliant and (b) coming with a dollop of “yeah, I guess we do have to put the folk stuff in, don’t we, it’s kind of our thing”.

Tom: You’re not wrong. Has the gimmick reached its limit? Because this has a really great chorus melody, and then… then there’s some traditional singing too. I think this might well be better without it. (It’d also be better with a rewrite of that awful “looking like a snack / no way back” lyric couplet, but never mind.)

Tim: This is, according to the notes beneath the video, “the first pop-banger that includes traditional singing from two indigenous cultures; Sami Joik and Inuk throat singing”, the latter of which is what Charlotte provides.

Tom: I actually thought the throat-singing worked well: because it’s so unlike anything I’ve heard before, my brain treated it as almost like a new synth or other vocal sample. The joik, on the other hand, just sounded out of place.

Tim: It is odd: both this and Colours are two great tracks that have just had the folk element shoehorned in, and a tiny (teeny teeny tiny) part of me wonders if the two of them that aren’t Fred (the Sámi rapper) might be happy enough without it. On the other hand, KEiiNO without that would be like Scooter without HP Baxxter: a bit more mainstream, perhaps, but really just not the same at all.

KEiiNO – Colours

“It’s been quite the year for KEiiNO.”

Tim: It’s been quite the year for KEiiNO – storming to victory in Norway’s Eurovision selection programme, winning the televote (stupid juries) in Tel Aviv.

Tom: That’s still a frustrating result: Norway won the televote with a great song, Sweden won the jury vote with a great song. But the combined winner was… well, let’s go with “decided by committee”. But yes, KEiiNO mean that a lot more people now know the word “joik”.

Tim: And, most impressively of all, producing a version of Fairytale of New York that’s actually likeable. Today they’re out with a new one, and I’ll be honest: if you don’t like it, you’re a proper wrong’un.

Tim: Oh, ain’t it good? Part of me was worried, throughout the first verse and chorus, that we might get a sudden STOP in everything, so he can come in with his chanting joik, which, however much it is their USP, would break it up horrendously.

Fortunately for everyone, they know how to make a good piece of pop music, which this absolutely and totally gone and done.

Tom: Somehow, they’ve managed to perfectly straddle the line between “novelty act” and “serious pop act”, and just end up with “pop act with unique recognisable sound”. That is incredibly difficult.

Tim: It really is, because yes, he’s there, as a notable part of the backing track, so it’s recognisably them, and it also works really, really well as part of this track.

Tom: I’m sure I’ve heard bits of this melody in other songs (“show me where your heart is singing” feels rather similar to the opening of Feel This Moment), but that just means you’ve got a combination of familiarity and novelty. It’s good.

Tim: Sure, and I’m the same with the Christmas mix of Are You With Me with the verse backing and occasional jingle, but so what? That’s a perfectly good track to be reminded of, and like you said, familiarity and novelty. Everything about this, really, is perfectly good. Perfectly great, in fact.

KEiiNO – Storbyjul

“I think they fixed That Song. I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Tim: It’s a cover. Press play.

Tom: Amazing. I think… I think they fixed That Song. I wouldn’t have believed it.

Tim: And that there confirms for me that the only problem I had with the original was with the lyrics. As for what these lyrics are, well, I’ve absolutely no idea how you translate “boys of the NYPD choir’ into Norwegian, but I’m not sure it matters, as I’m guessing this is a very loose translation.

Tom: Thankfully. You’re right, though: the main problem with the original is the words. Yes, originally they were interesting and subversive — slurs aside, it was a different time, etc etc — but now they’re just a depressing excuse for people at holiday parties to claim it’s “just a song” as they shout “scumbag”, or worse, at the people in the office they don’t like.

Probably a bit too specific, that, but never mind.

That said, I’m pretty sure the meaning is still there: even with my non-existent Norwegian, I can tell you that the duet of insults is still there. But in Norwegian, well, I can’t really tell.

Tim: Melodically it’s great; the energy’s all there once it gets going for the second verse; the joiking is, as ever, potentially off-putting if you don’t like it, but I’ve no issue.

Tom: And that solo trumpet really works too!

Tim: I really like this, a lot more than I thought I would. Well done KEiiNO, you’ve managed what I thought was impossible – a decent version of That Song.

KEiiNO – Dancing In The Smoke

“Still fair levels of joikiness in there”

Tim: KEiiNO splashed onto the world (alright, continent) stage in May with the glorious Spirit In The Sky which should completely have won.

Tom: The one with the joik! I remember that! It was… well, there was a lot of joik.

They followed it up with a nicher, folkier number a couple of months later, which wasn’t quite as great. You’ll be delighted to know they’ve learnt their lesson.

Tom: I wasn’t sold on that until the second chorus.

Tim: Still fair levels of joikiness in there, so we’ve still a track that’s recognisably them, but we’re back to having a straight up pop verse and chorus – and I have absolutely no problems with that whatsoever.

Tom: Agreed: they seem to have found a good balance between Unique Sound and Generally Acceptable Pop Song, which is always a good thing. I can’t imagine an entire dancefloor singing along to the joik bit, but stranger things have happened.

Tim: It’s a song that after just a couple of listens you can go along with the intro, with a catchy beat, melody, rhythm, everything. A worthy follow-up to the almost-victor, if we just ignore that middle one. We’ll do that.

KEiiNO – Praying

“It just seems like they’ve taken a fairly average dance track and stuck some warbling on it.”

Tim: People’s Vote winner at Eurovision, so obviously they’re back with a follow-up. Namely, this one.

Tim: More than a little inspiration from early Alan Walker there, though those joik sections keep it very, very clear who’s running the show here.

Tom: It’s interesting how Avicii spawned a genre, whereas Alan Walker spawned a lot of people imitating his sound. I wonder what the difference is?

Tim: That one specific twiddly sound. It’s weird – Alan’s moved on, but he still seems to own it. Now, I was a big fan of these guys at Eurovision, because the song was just what the show needed, something fun, a good tune, with a little bit of novelty to get excited about. Here, though, I’m annoyingly not so keen, which is a shame as I’d like to be.

Tom: Yep, you’re not the only one. Joik is, uh, well, let’s say it’s an acquired taste, one that I definitely haven’t acquired.

Tim: It just seems like they’ve taken a fairly average dance track and stuck some warbling on it, and much as it’s cultural and all that, it just doesn’t do it for me.

Tom: Full marks for the grammatical pedantry of “whomever” in the lyrics, though.