Måns Zelmerlöw – One

“It’s almost as if he’s decided it’s time to mature from dance pop to Radio 2 pop.”

Tim: Tom, you do video stuff – do you think this has actually been filmed in one long shot, or have we got loads of hidden cuts when he’s behind the trees?

Tom: The cut at 1:30 is suspicious, but honestly cutting like that is just good video direction. I suspect that they filmed several continuous takes, and then just cut between the best parts of each.

But what surprises me is the motion-tracking: adding 3D leaves into a scene like that is a really time-consuming and expensive effect for a video like this. But there are loads and loads of points where the masking is completely and obviously wrong, like the roto matte has been slipped a couple of frames off, and leaves just disappear or reappear in thin air. I really feel for the VFX editors on this, they must have been up against it, but I have no idea how that got through.

Tim: Second question: who is it that he sounds like at 48 seconds? It might not be any particular voice, but it’s almost reminiscent of, say, a boyband singer coming back as a soloist after ten years off. This, along with his track we featured last month, and the rest of the album really, kind of comes across like a much more grown up Måns sound (though that seems weird to say given that he’s only a couple of months older than me).

Tom: I can’t place that voice, and I had to go back and listen again without the video, so I was actually paying attention to the sound. You’re not wrong: this is much more middle-of-the-road.

Tim: It’s almost as if he’s decided it’s time to mature from dance pop to Radio 2 pop, which is…well, it’s not disastrous because it’s still quite enjoyable, but I guess I have a kind of “wait, already?” feel about it. Can’t you wait a bit longer before growing up?

Måns Zelmerlöw – On My Way

“One of the loveliest melodies I’ve heard in a while.”

Tim: Måns’s latest album came out the other week, and I’ve just got round to listening to it; pleasingly, it’s got some pretty good numbers on it, some of which we’ve already covered. This one is the first track, though, and it starts out with some rather fruity language, given who he’s singing it to.

Tom: Oh. Yes. Yes, you’re not wrong there.

Tim: I’ll be honest, I’ve no idea how the lyrics in the chorus relate to the lyrics in the verse, unless he’s doing a dialogue-style duet with himself, which’d be weird.

Tom: That is actually how I read it! I assumed it was ‘advice to past self’, but I suppose it could also be ‘I haven’t got it figured out either, kid’.

Tim: Well, whichever it is, never mind that because that chorus has one of the loveliest melodies I’ve heard in a while. Thing is, it starts out pretty good anyway with the opening “I’m on my way!” line, but then when the flowing “I know it’s only…” arrives it suddenly becomes even better. As for the rest of it: well, it’s fine.

Tom: Alas, the chorus just doesn’t work that well for me, which means that… well, yes. “Fine” about sums it up, which is a shame.

Tim: Nothing brilliant, but nothing that could be described as bad. Well, except for maybe that artwork, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Tom: One observation: it sounds very weird to hear very British-southern long vowels in Måns’ voice. “Dis-arse-ster” just doesn’t seem right somehow.

Tim: Well, let’s just play the chorus again.

Måns Zelmerlöw & Dotter – Walk With Me

“A slightly curious situation“

Tim: It’s only been eight months since we last heard from Dotter, but it’s been a full two and a half years since we last heard new music from Måns, so the question we should be asking is quite simply:

Tom: “Wait, I can’t remember Dotter, who are they?” Sorry, that’s probably not the question you were on about. What was your question?

Tim: IS IT ANY GOOD?

Tim: Yes, yes it is, and quite a lot of good at that. Intro that says “hello, I am a piece of modern pop music”, first verse that continues in that vein and also brings in Måns’s lovely vocal, and then we straight into the great chorus.

Tom: This snuck up on me: through the first half of it, I was ready to dismiss it as just another mediocre track, but somehow by the end it had won me over.

Tim: When Dotter comes along we do get the slightly curious situation of two people singing “yes I’m a bit rubbish but please stay with me” directly at each other, instead of just wrapping up after Dotter’s first line with a quick “oh, great, let’s go then”, though I guess that wouldn’t have made for much of a song so I guess I can manage.

Tom: Maybe they’re both singing it at different people simultaneously. Although that’d make it even more confusing. Anyway, the song does suffer from The Best Bit’s The Middle Eight Syndrome, doesn’t it?

Tim: Well, slightly, although the truly lovely part for me is after the sort of fake ending after the middle eight, when we come back with a chorus that is bigger and better than everything prior to it, for a wonderful close. All in all, great stuff.

Saturday Flashback: Måns Zelmerlöw – Hope & Glory

Tim: Item two in the current collection of “oh, I forgot all about this one”: Måns’s entry for Melodifestivalen 2009. Topped the final with the juries but only came fifth with the voters, leaving to a final fourth place.

Tom: Okay, just take a moment here, because I want to talk about a technical thing that speaks of the professionalism of both Måns and the production crew. The second shot: the one that cuts straight to his finger. It looks really simple, but that’s a perfectly framed and focused shot. That means Måns had to hit his mark exactly, raised his finger to the planned position exactly, and then the camera op had to make any final adjustments in under a second so the director could cut to it.

That one shot sums up Melodifestivalen’s tech for me: they didn’t need to do that, barely anyone will have cared about it, but artistically they wanted to so they made it happen.

Tim: Yeah – and that is, genuinely, one of my favourite things about Melodifestivalen, and frequently Eurovision as well – the creativity and expertise with the camerawork, like the other example we had last month, with dancers coming out of nowhere. It’s something you rarely get anywhere else, yet it’s such an art form.

ANYWAY. The song.

Now I don’t want to say it was the outfit that killed it, but I will say that while I think the song’s fantastic, and the backing graphics are good as well, there’s no way I’d pick up the phone for someone wearing that jacket/shirt/bow tie combination. Too harsh? I don’t know, but like I said, I do think that song’s brilliant.

Tom: Really? It almost sounds off-key during the verses. I don’t think that’s accidental, because Måns has proved that he can reliably hit live notes; I think that’s down to the composition. I’ll grant you that’s a decent chorus and a fantastic middle eight, though.

Tim: Right – and indeed that part right after the middle eight, though it’s funny: it uses almost the exact same trick that Cara Mia did two years previously of going slightly euphoric, albeit a tad less enthusiastically. It works well here just as well, but it could be argued that maybe it got some people being less impressed? I don’t know – almost a decade on it’s hard to know anything, except simply that this is a damn good track.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Happyland

“There’s not a huge amount happy about it at all.‘

Tim: I pressed play on this and wondered why it sounded so familiar, and then I realised it was because it’s one of the best tracks on his 2016 Chameleon album. Annoyingly this otherwise quite nice video’s got multiple “don’t rip this” moments in it, which I thought had died years ago, so you may want to help yourself to a studio recording (though that has a rude phrase, which here has been replaced with “messed up”).

Tom: Blimey, that’s some beautiful, bleak scenery in that video. I realise I should be paying attention to the song, but seriously, that’s beautiful. Sweden and Iceland, apparently.

Tim: So, despite it being called Happyland, the song otherwise makes it really quite clear there’s not a huge amount happy about it at all. Despite that, it’s a hell of a chorus he’s using to sing about it. It’s dark but loud, it’s visceral and emotional, and that video really does pair up with it nicely (though I’m not sure the song earns the happy ending as much as the video thinks it does).

Tom: This feels like a grower to me: I can’t say I was that impressed by it on first listen, but then I went back and listened again an hour or so later. That’s rare for me: this got stuck in my head somehow.

Tim: A strong song in every respect, regardless ofd that, and now I remember why I spent a long while listening to the album.

Saturday Flashback: Måns Zelmerlöw – Kingdom In The Sky

“It’s actually about someone who’s stuck in the Sims video game.”

Tim: Album track from his still good 2015 album Perfectly Damaged, which I found myself listening to recently. And you might think a YouTube channel largely dedicated to creating lyric videos wouldn’t screw up the very first word, or the chorus, but, yeah, well.

Tim: I wasn’t actively listening when I heard it – it’s towards the end of the album, and I was busy with other stuff –

Tom: And, to be fair, that verse is pretty generic.

Tim: – but it got my attention for a number of reasons. The first, of course, is that big chorus, both for that brilliant string section and for the underlying vocals, even though I can’t for the life of me work the words out.

Tom: I’m going for “because I’m a Sim, love”. It’s actually about someone who’s stuck in the Sims video game.

Tim: Tom, I’ve a feeling you’re not taking this entirely seriously. There’s also the main vocal being about as rousing as you can get without sinking into self-parody and those nice “ooh-ooh-ooh”s that kick it off.

Tom: It reminds me of that song from ‘The Greatest Showman’ that you sent through the other week — not that I can remember it, but I can remember thinking ‘yep, this is ticking all the inspirational boxes’. It’s doing much the same, even down to the military drums. I mean, I’m assuming that other one had military drums, I’m not actually sure.

Tim: It did actually, yes – a good number, too. All in all – I really like this song, and I don’t really get why it’s buried at the bottom end of the album. But hey. It’s here now.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Primal

“I can’t imagine why that wasn’t one of the first tracks off the album.”

Tim: Yes, another one from Måns, just a few weeks after his last. It’s one he’s been performing live for a while, if YouTube recordings are anything to go by, but it’s only now out properly, as a track on his Chameleon album.

Tim: I’ll be honest: I can’t imagine why that wasn’t one of the first tracks off the album, or even the first – it’s light years ahead of Hanging On To Nothing, the vastly inferior lead single which you weren’t around for.

Tom: It is, but it starts very darkly. That’s one of the least promising introductions I’ve heard in a while: the synths sound like they’re from a year ago, the melody isn’t inspiring, and it’s a slow build.

Tim: Well, not much of that couldn’t be said about Heroes – it held up there, and I think it does here just as well (except for those vocal synths sounding like seagulls, but never mind those).

Tom: Yes, the first chorus almost redeems it, but I’m really not into it as much as you seem to be.

Tim: I was going through last Friday’s new music playlist, and this was the only one I wanted to replay immediately. It’s the first track I’ve heard off him since Heroes that’s made me go “oh, YES”.

Tom: Really? Even “Fire in the Rain”, which even now I’m still listening to occasionally? This just isn’t as good as that.

Tim: That was a very good tune, yes, but this just has everything – the instrumental, the perfect vocal and its fantastic melody in the chorus. I don’t often say this, but I don’t think I can fault this. Not at all.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Glorious

“Thankfully he’s back to the big dance pop.”

Tim: Somehow, it’s now over eighteen months since Måns won Eurovision, no idea where that time went. Anyway, here’s his new one, and thankfully he’s back to the big dance pop.

Tom: Blimey, it didn’t take music video directors long to, er, “take inspiration” from this drone lighting video. Looks good though. And the song’s not bad either.

Tim: BIG fan of that, I am. Starts out quite similar to Heroes, with the almost spoken vocal over a mild instrumental, then soon kicks up things up a notch leading into the chorus, and it’s a pretty good chorus.

Tom: It is: the percussion switch confused me the first couple of times, but once I understood what was going on I found it worked really, really well.

Tim: I always doubt the wisdom of calling a track something like Glorious, because you’re kind of saying “yes, it is”. Sometimes, that pays off, like when Magnus Carlsson or Andreas Johnson or Danny Saucedo. Other times, like with Matt Cardle does it…eh, not so much. This…yeah, I think this stands up. Not, alas, with those previously mentioned three, but it’s still very enjoyable, and contains everything I want from a decent pop track.

Tom: Including a great middle eight, almost better – as ever – than the regular track.

Tim: Good facial work in the video too, so WELCOME BACK MÅNS.

Joshua Radin & Måns Zelmerlöw – Belong

“Oh Måns, why must you abandon us?“

Tim: Second track with Måns singing in just a few days, and I think it’s time to accept the depressing truth: Måns has moved on to guitar pop.

Adam: What’s depressing about guitar pop?! It’s great! First you insult Ukuleles, now this…

Tim: Oh, nothing wrong with guitar pop per se – it’s just frequently very dull, and nowhere near as reliably enjoyable as dance pop typically is. But there are exceptions. Let’s see.

Tim: Because I guess he does at least have strong vocal talents, and it’s nice that they’re not being wasted.

Adam: I’m a fan of a few of Joshua Radin’s songs after they were featured in a couple of Scrubs episodes! He’s a bit of a guilty pleasure to be honest with you. 

Tim: Oh, you said the GP phrase, and that’s definitely an argument we’ll have to have later, probably in a sound-proofed room so we don’t deafen the neighbours. But I’m guessing the general premise here is that Joshua’s stuff wasn’t selling too well, so he called in a favour, or maybe just asked nicely, and got Måns to re-record the second chorus.

Adam: Apparently Joshua Radin’s second album got to ninth in the U.K. album charts and he’s done pretty well at home in America so he’s bigger than even I thought he was. Maybe it’s more Josh helping Måns out here? I’m so out of the loop though so maybe Måns is bigger than I think too. 

Tim: Mate, he won Eurovision with one of the best winners in years. Maybe he wants America, Josh wants Europe, I don’t know. So far, so standard; indeed, standard all over really. Like Tuesday’s it’s very listenable, well produced, and nothing really to complain about.

Adam: I actually quite enjoy it!

Tim: Enjoyable, maybe, but again, nothing to get excited about either. Oh Måns, why must you abandon us?

Måns Zelmerlöw – Hanging On To Nothing

“It’s good enough, but that’s about all.”

Tim: The latest offering from Eurovision victor Måns, and to be honest I didn’t think all that much of it when I first heard it a week or so ago; however, reader Sam sent it in, with plenty of praise for it, so let’s have another go. (One moment of strong language, by the way.)

Tim: And, sure, it’s okay. It’s decent enough. I think the problem here is similar to the issue I had with his last one, which is: I don’t think it’s good enough. Or rather, it’s good enough, but that’s about all. There’s no massive memorable chorus, nor beautiful emotional vocal, nor amazing instrumental moment, and most importantly I don’t really really want to hear it again as soon as it’s finished, which I do with all those others. It’s not what I want from Måns, who has such great and catchy hits in his back catalogue that this just seems subpar.

Sam compared it favourably to the recent Olly Murs track we looked at and very much enjoyed, and actually that’s a very decent comparison. The only problem is that a good Olly Murs track is an average Måns track. DAMMIT, Zelmerlöw, why must you have been so impressive earlier on in your career?