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?

Måns Zelmerlöw – Fire In The Rain

Tim: This’ll presumably be played to the world at Eurovision – it’s his new track, and, despite being guitar pop, it’s fairly listenable.

Tim: There’s whistling there which is nice, there’s a lovely chorus, and a verse which weirdly sounds a fine start, but then slightly dull when it comes back for the second round.

Tom: I’ll be honest, I did think it was a bit longer than three minutes. It seems a bit slow, despite having all the ingredients for a good pop track — and also some whistling.

Tim: To be honest, much as I’d often dismiss whistling as a bit twee and annoying, here it really helps the track, lifting it up above bog standard guitar pop. Would I like more in the final chorus? Perhaps – I’d certainly like that top vocal to be there from right out of the middle eight to give it a bit of oomph. It’s no Heroes – of course it’s no Heroes – or a Cara Mia, but it’s decent enough.

Tom: That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, though, is it?

Tim: And while ‘decent enough’ isn’t really something I want to be writing about someone twelve months after a Eurovision victory, here it’s about right. Oh well.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Should’ve Gone Home

“It’s not bad, but it’s not a Eurovision winner.”

Tim: It’s been around a couple of weeks, but here’s the video, in which Måns does a fairly decent job of singing parts of his song backwards.

Tom: Oh hey, it’s one of those Scandinavian lifts that has no inside door on it! I remember those from Helsinki. Sorry. Yes. He’s quite good as singing parts of it backwards, but he’s no Chris Martin.

Tim: You know, I’ve watched that video three times now, and I’m still trying to get the actual storyline figured out. Because he’s drinking his sorrows away etc., but I’d imagine this video (when played the right way round) would finish with him hooking up with whoever it is he shouldn’t been with, except he turns up at her place in his own car. Unless it starts out with him leaving who he’s hooked up with, in the middle of the evening, and he’s getting drunk before he does go home, though that’d be a bit weird.

Tom: You know that bit from Austin Powers 2 where he tries to work out the time travel and goes cross-eyed? That.

Tim: I don’t know – I even played it backwards to see what the woman was saying, but that was in Swedish so I’ve no idea.

Tom: That made me laugh a lot more than it probably should have. Well done there.

Tim: Oh, erm, thanks. RIGHT, music. First track from his next album, and hopefully an indication of what we can expect from that because it’s very good indeed. Strong chorus, slightly separated stylistically from the rest of the track in an excellent manner and…you know, much as I want to write about it I’m still thinking about that video.

Tom: Well, let me fit it in for you: it’s not bad, but it’s not a Eurovision winner. And why they’ve used what sounds like a cheap synthesiser to sample the last word of his chorus like it was a gimmick from the late 80s, I’ve no idea — it sounds so out of place. It’s not bad, but… well, it’s not quite the standard I’d hoped for.

Tim: Ah. Well, I’ve a slightly higher opinion, so I’ll close with: GOOD MUSIC, WELL DONE MÅNS.

Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes

“Oh my stars, the Melodifestivalen crew have discovered projection mapping.”

Tim: Two nights ago, I got a tad intoxicated as Sweden put on the strongest Melodifestivalen final I can remember, so I think it’s only fair we dedicate a week to it, and let’s start with the winner.

Tom: Now, normally I stay away from hearing Eurovision songs until the actual contest itself — I’m assuming there’s something particularly special about this year’s?

Tim: Well, last year saw the closest win in the show’s history; this year, we had the biggest win, with Måns taking over a third of the televotes and top marks from 11 of the 13 international juries.

Tim: And that there is a potential Eurovision winner. A fantastic song, sung by a good-looking guy with a great voice, and what I think is the most novel staging I’ve ever seen.

Tom: Oh my stars, the Melodifestivalen crew have discovered projection mapping. That is incredibly difficult to pull off live – it won’t have looked nearly as good in person, but that doesn’t matter one bit.

Tim: The perfect syncing is impressive in itself, and anybody even slightly tipsy might find it hard not to get emotional at the friendship on display. Slight shame his trousers are too tight for him to put his light back in his pocket, but I guess we can’t have everything, and the quite frankly “how the hell did that happen???” camera shot starting at 2:25 makes up for it as far as I’m concerned.

Tom: And let’s actually talk about the music here: that sounds like a good Robbie Williams track. Maybe not a “Let Me Entertain You”, but certainly at least a “Bodies”. You’re right: it might just be a winner.

Tim: In fact, as far as I’m concerned right now, we really are the HEROES OF OUR TIME, and I’ll be amazed if this doesn’t do brilliantly in Vienna.