Keala Settle, Kesha & Missy Elliott – This Is Me

“This… is not an improvement”

Tim: So here’s a fun thing: since The Greatest Showman is so brilliant, and the soundtrack is still an amazing album, they’ve done a new version of it, getting big name artists to do their own versions of the songs, and called it The Greatest Showman: Reimagined. Some of them sound basically identical; some are considerably less good; there’s also this. (You may want to reacquaint yourself with the original first.)

Tom: I remember describing the original as “so polished you could slip on it and crack your head”. And this… is not an improvement, I don’t think?

Tim: Me neither. It took me by surprise when I was just listening to the album, as I’m sure you’d expect, and to be honest I really don’t know how well it works. I certainly get what they were going for, but is it just me, or does the rapping hang around for too long? The second part works a little bit better, because halfway through you’ve got some backing vocals coming in halfway through, but I can’t help feeling this might be a little bit improved with that first part only lasting half as long.

Tom: Possibly, but if you’re going to get actual Missy Elliott in to be on the track, you want to get your money’s worth.

Tim: Fair, but at least chop it in two, and put the second half after the first chorus – as it is, coming right at the beginning after a very short intro and with no indicator when it might stop, it just seems to drag a bit, before the meat of the song comes along. Just me?

Tom: Not just you.

Macklemore feat. Kesha – Good Old Days

“Basically four minutes of musical blueballs.”

Tom: As there’s not much in the way of good European pop music being released at the moment, I thought I’d take us over and have a look at what’s coming out of the US. And I’ve picked this one, not because it’s representative of what we usually talk about…

Tom: …but because it could be so much better if it were a bit more European.

Tim: Oh yes?

Tom: Because I’m listening to it through our pop-music lens, that’s basically four minutes of musical blueballs. Slow start. Great intro verse from a brilliant singer. Military drums starting to build. And then…

Tim: UGH. Kesha’s singing is nice, but by the end of the first verse I wanted something more. Macklemore came on, the drums started, I thought YES, let’s BEGIN…but then nothing. Just a massive anti-climax.

Tom: This could be (should be?) a banger. Instead, it just drops down again for the hook, every time. And I realise that’s a deliberate decision, and it’s all emotional, and it’s probably the point, but in my head this should have CHOIRS and BRASS SECTIONS and VIOLINS and basically a WHOLE DAMN ORCHESTRA.

Tim: Oh God, now I’m imagining this with a massive choir behind it, and DAMN YOU Tom now you’ve made me realise even more how much better it could have been. DARN IT.

Kesha – Praying

“The vocals are brilliant, the emotion’s clear, and the music backs all that up.”

Tim: Yesterday was a bit dark, so shall we have some (punctuation-less) Kesha fun to cheer us up, with her first proper song since Timber?

Tom: Given all the news about her over the last couple of days, I suspect this might not be what you’re expecting…

Tim: Yeah, it really isn’t. According to a rather moving piece she’s written about it, this has come from emotions when she was struggling with severe depression, but it’s about “that moment when the sun starts peeking through the darkest storm clouds, creating the most beautiful rainbow.”

Tom: She’s gone full Lady Gaga in the video, then. Religious imagery, minute-long spoken prologue. It’s even filmed at the beautiful Salvation Mountain. Less sure about that mock-Devangari font, but let’s set that aside.

Tim: Takes a looooong time to get going, but I guess that’s somewhat the point – moving through the song, we discover a way through, a way of surviving, a way to be happy. And wow, that really works for me.

Tom: Really?

Tim: Well, as a piece of artwork, which it kind of is. A song on a playlist, oh hell no – but in terms of the song it is, the journey it represents, it’s just marvellous.

Tom: The vocals are brilliant, the emotion’s clear, and the music backs all that up. If this is a permanent new direction, then I reckon her fans will, unusually, be more than willing to change direction with her.

Saturday Flashback: Pitbull feat. Ke$ha – Timber

“It’s a terrible, terrible song.”

Tim: Tom’s busy this week, so there’s no-one to stop me bring you this. It’s a terrible, terrible song, so why am I featuring it, you ask? Well, have a listen.

Tim: Basically, because I’ve had that one 3½-second chorus line going round, round, round and round in my head for the best part of the last two weeks, and I’ve decided that enough is enough. If I can’t be happy, I want EVERYBODY to share in my misery. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Ke$ha – C’mon

“I’m fairly sure that Ke$ha has just turned into a parody of herself.”

Tom: This single’s been out for a while now, but it’ll be getting a publicity push now as the new album’s being released soon.

And I’m fairly sure that Ke$ha has just turned into a parody of herself.

Tom: I mean, if some high-budget YouTube channel made that video as a Ke$ha parody, it’d go down pretty well. But no, that’s actually her. All of which would be laughable if the damn song wasn’t so catchy.

Tim: It is catchy. It’s not a song I particularly want to catch, but it’s one that once you’ve been exposed it’s just…there. A sort of musical norovirus, really.

Tom: Wow. That’s a metaphor for the ages, there. But I don’t know what I was expecting from Ke$ha: a new lyrical direction? Hardly. A change into darker, more grown-up themes? Nah. Dubstep? Well, possibly. But no: we’ve got more of the same, and you know what? I’ve got no problem with that at all.

Tim: No – the verses are boring, the chorus really is quite good. The days off work, compared to the verses’ vomiting.

Tom: That said, if any of those folks in animal suits get near me, I’m running away as fast as I can.

Tim: Are you kidding? They’re AMAZING. Although I suppose I am speaking as someone who’s previously had a job dressing up as a whale, so I’m not entirely impartial.

Tom: You stay the hell away from me, whaley.

Tim: Er, the name’s Beebop, actually.

Ke$ha – Take It Off

A textbook case of ‘Nice Video, Shame About the Song’.

Tom: This track out on Monday, and it’s been suggested by Gray, who writes:

My opinion of the song probably shouldn’t be brought up in polite conversation. I’m sure that’s somewhat self-explanatory. Though apparently she once vomited in Paris Hilton’s shoe closet, so there’s at least some redeeming value to her.

This is a textbook case of Nice Video, Shame About the Song. Full marks for the director here, if only for pointing out – in a fairly subtle form – that she’s blatantly ripping off the Sand Dance (or ‘that Egyptian standard snippet‘).

Tim: Certainly is quite a video, although I have at least one definite issue with it – given that most of it’s all metaphorical and probably arty and stuff, why is there a bloke throwing a bin when she sings about throwing bins around? The literalness just seems way out of place.

Actually, two – there’s nothing in the music to signify any reason at all why it should suddenly change from a standard walk/dance around video with normal people to one where everybody’s in a nightclub and made of paint. No change of key, rhythm, tone, lyrical mood, anything. So why does it? It’s as though they filmed half of it, then had a sudden realisation of ‘actually, this song really is shite, isn’t it? Hmm. Maybe we could try to make the rest of the video really awesome, and that’ll make up for it.’

Tom: To be fair, they’re not in a nightclub – they’re in a drained motel swimming pool. I’m not sure whether that reflects artistic choice, low budget, or a subtle dig at Kesha.

Tim: And a tiny third one – the first shot you see of her pulling whatever it is out of the car looks she’s suddenly grabbed an owl by the scruff of its neck, which is just plain nasty.

Tom: Clearly it’s hungover.

Tim: As for the music, well, as you say, it really is a shame. The verses are dire, with all twelve* lines in them going together to give the grand message: ‘let’s go get pissed.’ But of course, Ke$ha is special and well hip and famous and blingy, so she can’t do anything without a gold Trans-Am or, um, a water bottle she’s filled up with whiskey. Classy. Their only benefit is making the chorus seem almost hummable, although once you’ve heard it seven or eight times you don’t really have much of a choice.

Also, what’s with the fifteen seconds of Can You Feel It at 2:26?

*Twelve! I know! Crazy, how long these songs are!

Tom: Well, the rest of it’s ripped from the Sand Dance, she may as well take some other inspirations while she’s at it.

Tim: A final note: this song has inspired me to write a Definitive List of Music People I Hate. So far it contains Ke$ha, Flo Rida and Kanye West. I won’t deny that part of me wants to put Robyn on there as well, but I don’t think I can inflict that sort of company on her, no matter how inept she is at finishing a tune.