Kygo x Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It

“When Higher Love was such a banger using a near-identical formula, why is this one just… okay?”

Tom: I’ve been holding off on sending this to you, Tim, because I didn’t think it was all that good.

Tim: Same, actually – though let’s have a chat about it anyway, why not.

Tom: But then I realised that raises a question: when Higher Love was such a banger using a near-identical formula, why is this one just… okay?

Tim: My guess is three-fold: firstly, Higher Love is still a big enough track that if people want this formula, they’ll stick with that. I heard that on the radio on Tuesday, four days after this was out, because it is, quite simply, an out and out banger.

Secondly, and slightly more importantly: the formula isn’t actually quite the same. Here, Kygo hasn’t done all that much to it beyond stick in a tropical post-chorus. You press play on it, and for the first minute or so you might as well be listening to the original. Higher Love, though, was vastly different – I actually only looked it up for the first time just now and wasn’t sure I’d got the right track until the vocal kicked in.

Tom: Oh, you’re right there. I was listening to the middle bit, and it was all just Kygo doing his sample-cut-up job. That intro and first verse are very, very different now you point it out.

Tim: And thirdly, the original of this is much more well known. This is pretty much Tina Turner’s biggest track, everyone knows it, and there’s not a huge demand for what’s not much more than a remix, however big the name attached to it might be. Higher Love, though, was only put out by Whitney as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of one of her albums.

Tom: Wait, really? Huh. In which case, you’re teaching me a lot: I knew it, and so I assumed everyone else knew it too.

Tim: No, not at all – when people heard it, it was basically a new track by her and Kygo, and who wouldn’t want to hear that?

Kygo & OneRepublic – Lose Somebody

“It’s not exactly pineapples, coconuts and xylophones.”

Tim: Kygo’s got a new album coming out next Friday, and I’m interested to see what it’ll be like – so far, some of the tracks from it have been very very Kygo (Higher Love, Freedom), but some of them aren’t very Kygo-ish at all. Take this, for example.

Tim: You see? It’s a decent enough track, there’s no doubting that, and the high pitched bits in the background take it away from being a typical OneRepublic track – but it’s not exactly pineapples, coconuts and xylophones.

Tom: I mostly found that a bit confusing. That first chorus sounds like a pre-chorus, like it’s building to something — and given the name Kygo, I think we both know what it’d be building to. Yes, that does eventually sort-of resolve for the middle eight and on from there, but it’s in this odd in-between space.

Tim: Yeah, you’re not wrong there – sounds almost like there was once a big post-chorus that got binned off. 

Tom: This feels more like someone decided to slightly remix a mediocre OneRepublic track. It’s not anthemic enough, nor is it dance enough: it’s in a weird space in between the two.

Tim: It’s also interesting comparing it to their previous collaboration (though that was technically a feat.), which had a pure Kygo chorus. Here, there’s very little at all, outside the brief middle eight. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind – it’s a good track, and a perfectly good listen if it came on the radio – but given the equal billing, I wouldn’t say no to a bit more Kygo.

Kygo, Zak Abel – Freedom

“Yep, that’s a Kygo track, pineapples, coconuts and every other summer fruit under the sun baked right in there.”

Tim: It’s only been a few weeks since Kygo’s last, and you remarked that he’d changed his style and moved on a bit; I don’t think you’d have said that if he’d released this one then.

Tim: Yep, that’s a Kygo track, pineapples, coconuts and every other summer fruit under the sun baked right in there.

Tom: I saw a behind-the-scenes on how Kygo made “Higher Love” the other day, and I’ll be honest: the answer to how he composes tracks like this is really underwhelming. Take all the vocal samples, assign each one to a key on his keyboard, and improvise until he comes up with something that sounds good.

I guess I imagined there was something more to it than “play about until it works” — even though that is, basically, how any composer or creative person works, really. 

Tim: So, let’s have a chat about the video, shall we? Because, well, you know me, Tom, I’m always the most likely of the two of us to give artists the benefit of the doubt when stuff looks dodgy, and you’re typically the cynical one. And yet, even I’m slightly wondering about the fact that the video focuses on them not being able to film it in the Maldives (actually, hang on, found a little violin between my sofa cushions, let me play it quickly), and so having to make do at home instead.

Tom: Right. We’re going to be seeing a lot of those.

Tim: BUT ALSO in the video description, we have “Directed and filmed by Johannes Lovund”. Now, he’s done a lovely job there, can’t fault any of the footage – but one guy filming in two locations, with two musicians, doesn’t exactly scream lonely isolation, does it?

Ah, well. Who cares. It’s a nice Kygo track.

Kygo, Sasha Sloan – I’ll Wait

“Pineapples and coconuts aplenty.”

Tom: Lyric videos have on-screen director credits now. That’s not relevant to the music, I just thought I’d get that observation out the way before we get on with the music.

Tom: Remember when Kygo had just one tropical-sounding synth pad and it was either “this is another boring Kygo track” or “this doesn’t sound like Kygo, so it sucks”? Well, I think he’s finally managed to get beyond that.

Tim: Yeah – though this is still definitely a Kygo track, with pineapples and coconuts aplenty, whatever the video might imply. There’s just quite a lot else in there was well.

Tom: Granted, it’s only a slightly-different synth pad, but it’s still a step in the right direction. It still sounds like Kygo! (In fact, it sounds a lot like It Ain’t Me, despite not having any chopped-up vocals.)

Tim: It helps that he’s coming straight off his biggest track since It Ain’t Me (last July, Higher Love cam out, and still getting played regularly), so he can afford to go back to being himself.

Tom: But it shows there does seem to be an escape hatch for him, and that, I reckon, is a good thing.

Tim: Absolutely.

The Chainsmokers with Kygo – Family

“There’s something weird about the whole thing.”

Tim: Since the sensitive content warning at the beginning of the video is irritatingly vague: he gets in a car accident, recovers, everything’s lovely now.

Tim: First up: “gave him a little extra cash” is a really weird way to describe paying someone.

Tom: There’s something weird about the whole thing. Narratively, the story doesn’t quite make sense — I realise that’s how life is, of course, but every time the video tries to make a point it’s undermined by something else in it. He wrecked his car? Sure, but we’ve just seen him pulling a handbrake turn at speed, that’s not surprising. He tore his ACL? Okay, but we’ve seen him jumping into a swimming pool from a rooftop, again, that’s to be expected.

At one point, there’s an Instagram caption visible: “This is Ross. He helped me build the car I wrecked. Guess I’m gonna have to have him build me a new one.” And sure, in context he probably sounds like less of a bellend, but the video director’s job is to make an audience care about him and it just seems like miss after miss after miss.

And then at the end, Amy appears! Has Amy been introduced at any earlier point? No, she’s just “a long time friend”. There is almost certainly a lovely, sympathetic story to be told here, but the director just didn’t do a good job of telling it.

Tim: Second up, the music, which I’ll happily admit I completely lost track of the first time I watched the video, though I’ve a feeling that’s kind of the point.

Tom: It’s generic. Kygo has a good style; the Chainsmokers have… well, a style. Together, they’re just a bit meh.

Tim: To be honest, this is a bit of a weird one. The video makes it really, really personal, and so I’m wondering which came first: the song or the crash. Was the song written after it, linking it into a “check up on your mates” theme, or was it a coincidence, and one of them thought “hey, we can make a video about that”?

I don’t know, and the Instagram post they made about it was also irritatingly vague. ANYWAY, music is music so let’s listen to that, and it’s…perfectly okay. No, it’s better than that. It’s good. It’s what we’d expect. It’s nice.

Kygo & Whitney Houston – Higher Love

“Recognisable, clearly inspired by, but also new. I can live with that, I guess.”

Tim: Slightly interesting history to this track: originally recorded by English singer Steve Winwood in the 1980s; covered by Whitney and made exclusively available as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of her 1990 I’m Your Baby Tonight.

Tom: I know the original well. And I always hear the chorus lyrics as “bring me a pie, oh love”, which means it’s basically ruined for me. And now you too, I guess.

Tim: Oh, thanks for that. Now remixed by Kygo, allegedly at the request of the Houston family, and first performed at New York Pride on Saturday.

Tim: Now, before I heard this I saw a couple of people discussing it on Twitter; one of them complaining that Kygo got rid of the middle eight, and I was immediately primed to dislike it. However, having heard this now without hearing the original, it doesn’t seem to be missing anything: sure, there isn’t one, but there’s more than enough variation present in what we do have for me to find it an enjoyable enough listen.

Tom: It reminds me of his Take On Me remix: recognisable, clearly inspired by, but also new. I can live with that, I guess.

Tim: One thing’s odd, though: although it does have a very different sound from the original, which is pretty much pure brass, it’s not all that Kygo-y, what with there being little in the way of tropical instruments. All in, though, it’s nice: a good song, nicely redone and released to a new audience. I approve.

Tom: And I can still hear “bring me a pie”, so I approve too.

Tim: Excellent.

Kygo, Chelsea Cutler – Not OK

“Standard Kygo. Perhaps, even, above average Kygo.”

Tim: Advance warning for you, Tom: I’m in beautiful sunny Majorca right now, so there’s a strong chance (alright, a certainty) that most of the music this week will be summery dance tunes.

Tom: There’s a chance of rain here, Tim. Every day this week.

Tim: Well, with this you can pretend otherwise.

Tim: Standard Kygo. Perhaps, even, above average Kygo. A good vocal feature, a good chorus, a good theme running through it, and most importantly of all a good breakdown after it.

Tom: I wasn’t convinced until that build towards the chorus — and then, yes, I think “standard Kygo” fits it well. It’s a pretty good standard, though, isn’t it?

Tim: It really is. And who cares if you’re not okay, as long as you can dance all over the place? I had, for some reason, got it into my head that Kygo was in a bit of a funk right now, releasing disappointing tunes. But no – as this shows, that’s not even slightly the case.

Kygo feat. Valerie Broussard – Think About You

“So, in Friends..”

Tim: So, in Friends, Ross’ 7 year old son Ben was played by twins, I think because of acting rules, and they were Dylan and Cole Sprouse. Cole is currently starring in the ridiculously fabulous, and fabulously ridiculous, TV show Riverdale; Dylan, meanwhile, is starring in a Kygo music video.

Tom: I mean, I’m happy for him, I guess?

Tim: Quite what the difference is between ‘starring’ and ‘guest starring’ is in a stand-alone music video I’ve no idea, but I’ve probably talked enough that.

Tom: I’ll be honest, we passes that point when you talked about obscure Friends actors, but ANYWAY.

Tim: Instead, the song, and when I saw Kygo had a new one out I thought “ah, Kygo’s got a new one out” and then “he’s generally good for a decent track”. Always nice to be proved right, because this is indeed a decent track, I reckon – a perfectly serviceable bit of piano dance.

Tom: It’s very much an Album Track as far as I can tell — and while I’m glad we’ve mostly left pineapple-infused tropical house in the past, I can’t help feeling that Kygo’s lost some of the signature sound here.

Tim: True – I happened to hear Firestone the other day, and it reminded me how damn great it was. So no, it’s not up there with his best, but certainly a lot better than some of his worst. I like it.

Kygo & Imagine Dragons – Born To Be Yours

“That is exactly what I expected.”

Tom: Huh. Those names are…

Tim: Not the likeliest of bedfellows, no, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. An open mind, then, please, as we delve right in.

Tom: That is exactly what I expected.

Tim: Isn’t it just? For better or worse, you generally know what you’re going to get with a Kygo track: largely unremarkable verse, fairly invigorating chorus and a post-chorus that’s heavy on the marimbas, and if you’re lucky you might get a middle eight. Here, well, we’ve no real middle eight to speak of, but the rest of it all passes with flying colours.

Tom: There’s even a vague hint of a string section here and there. I’ve got to say that the “you, ooh-ooh” really doesn’t work for me — it doesn’t kill the entire track, and I’ve grown to like odd features of Imagine Dragons songs before, but it does grate.

Tim: Huh, I don’t actually mind that at all. And while the verse might still be unremarkable, the chorus is well on the way to being very good, and those instrumentals have a decent melody. Well, I’m fairly sure they do – to be honest, I’ve played it three times now while writing this and I’m still not sure I could reliably remember it, but I do enjoy it whenever it comes round. And that’s kind of what counts, right?

Tom: Absolutely not.

Tim: Yeah, it’s not, is it? Dammit.

Kygo feat. OneRepublic – Stranger Things

“(a) a good Kygo track and (b) a good OneRepublic track”

Tim: Another one off his EP of duets, which quite pleasantly is (a) a good Kygo track and (b) a good OneRepublic track; hopefully you’ll agree.

Tim: Yes?

Tom: Qualified yes. Odd choice of title: I know that ‘Stranger Things’ comes from an idiom, but given the success of the show it seems a bit weird to use the same title. Or maybe they’re just hoping people will click on the video title in confusion while trying to find clips of the show on YouTube. As for the track…

Tim: Obviously it’s very much more Kygo than OneRepublic, particularly the chorus, but the verses aren’t far off standard OneRepublic fare, and I think the two complement each other very nicely.

Tom: It’s not quite as catchy or as upbeat as I’d expect, but given the title and collaborators that makes sense. Not one for the playlist, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.

Tim: It’s nice to hear Kygo back doing music that sounds like him, and while this song might not quite be MASSIVE and BANGING and HUGE…I like it. It does what it sets out to, the talent’s all there and on display, and it works. Good stuff.