“Still a largely dull track, but there are significant improvements”
Tom: I’m assuming you know the original Too Good At Goodbyes, Tim.
Tim: Correct. As with much of Sam Smith’s output, it is dull, tedious, insipid garbage, albeit slightly redeemed by the backing choir in the chorus and middle eight.
Tom: In which case, you should get ready for the biggest case of pop mood-whiplash you’ve had in a while. Because Sam Smith’s sad, slow, soppy song is about to become a BANGER complete with a euphoric build that sounds like a washing machine spinning up.
Tim: That…that is an unusual yet entirely correct description of that euphoric build.
Tim: It’s still a largely dull track, but there are significant improvements – not least, chopping over a minute off the runtime.
Tom: Here’s the thing: I have no idea how, but I’d managed to miss the original Too Good At Goodbyes entirely. I just, somehow, never heard it. So when I heard this on the radio somewhere, I remembered the name of the track, searched for it later, and found the original instead of this. It was one of the most disappointing listens I’ve ever had.
Tim: Whereas this is…well, still one of the most disappointing Galantis listens I’ve ever had, but it’s still better than the original.
“There is precisely one person who comes out of this endeavour well, and that’s Madonna”
Tom: You remember how Skyfall was a slow ballad, piano and brass, made incredible by Adele’s soaring vocals?
Tim: YES, and it was GREAT.
Tom: Well, Adele’s not on this one.
Tim: Oh, boy. I may need to get my fingers warmed up.
Tom: And that about sums it up, doesn’t it? Taking on a Bond theme means that you either need to break from the traditional Shirley Bassey style, and have modest but not great success (You Know My Name, Another Way To Die) — or you have to absolutely nail both the vocals and the writing (Skyfall). And this… isn’t quite there.
Tim: Quite? QUITE? Mate, there’s “there”, and then there’s where this is, which is the other side of the freaking universe. Because, oh, that writing. Sam Smith actually boasted, like it was a good thing, that he wrote the lyrics in twenty minutes. This is pretty much an actual first draft, and boy can you tell. This is a slow song, and presumably was always going to be a slow song, so the lyrics have to be clever. I don’t want to both (a) have time to think “so you’ve sung ‘been here before/always hit…’ so the line’s going to end with ‘floor'” and (b) be correct about that – make them fast or make them inventive, just don’t make them slow, dull and therefore predictable, especially if there’s nothing in the music to get excited about.
And also, “when you’re not here I’m suffocating”? This is JAMES SHITTING BOND, mate, not some desperate forty year old at the end of act two of a crappy rom com. And also also, the title. IF ADELE CAN RHYME SKYFALL WITH CRUMBLES, YOU CAN MAKE THE EFFORT WITH SPECTRE. Plenty of things rhyme with it: off the top of my head, director, ‘decked her’, sector, Bo’ Selecta!, projector, Hannibal Lector. USE THEM.
Tom: It’s not bad. It’s just outshone by everything around it. It is the Quantum of Solace of Bond themes.
Tim: Oh, it really isn’t. There are just so many things wrong with it, even after dealing with the lyrics. For starters, can we have a drum beat? Just one, perhaps? Just some semblance of life, really – cause I got nothing. No emotion, no stirring feelings, no sense of passion or energy or ANYTHING. Except, well, all the life on the planet after the lead in to the chorus, when I just want to shout AH-AH-AHHH-AHH-AHH-AH-AHH-AH-AH-AHHH. OO-OO-OOOH-OO-OO-OOH-OO-OO-OO-OOOOH. AH-AH-AHHH-AHH-AHH-AH-AHH-AH-AH-AHHH. OO-OO-OOOH-OO-OO-OOH-OO-OO-OO-HMMMM.
Other people could maybe have got away without a drum beat. Take Skyfall, because this is so clearly trying to emulate it, it’s almost shameful. Adele had an enormous voice. She could pull off a song with backing like this, without drums, because her vocal could fill in for it. Sam Smith, with his weedy falsetto? Really, really does not cut it, remotely. My honest thoughts? There is precisely one person who comes out of this endeavour well, and that’s Madonna, because Die Another Day doesn’t appear quite as atrocious as it previously did, now it’s got this to be compared to.
Am I overreacting? Well, mayb– actually no, I’m not. This is a James Bond theme, it should be GREAT, and I have every single right to be BLOODY FURIOUS if some tit like Sam Smith (yes, tit – quote from Radio 1 last Friday, “I actually thought Mexico was near Berlin”) doesn’t put the effort in. Most of all, I don’t want to be sat in a cinema wanting to sing Earth Song at the top of my lungs, because with nothing to do other than read opening credits for four and a half minutes I probably won’t be able to resist the temptation. Anything to drown out the soulless sound of this.
Tim: You may or may not remember Perfect Day, the Lou Reed cover that the BBC put together back in 1997 that had just about every artist in the world in it.
Tom: Remember it? I think it was the first single I bought. Charity and all.
Tim: Well, they’ve gone and done something similar with this Beach Boys track seventeen years later. This got broadcast on every channel and station last night (except Radio 3, who were busy playing Brahms) both to promote the new BBC Music thing and to raise money for Comic Relief. Shall we?
Tom: “Hmm” is right.
Tim: Well, I think the first question we should all be asking is what on Earth is going on with Louis and Niall’s hair –
Tom: I was going to mention that.
Tim: – but musically I’m going to say…ehhh. It’s a track, certainly, and it’s musical, for the most part it’s very enjoyable.
Tom: But it’s not Perfect Day. Am I looking back with rose-tinted spectacles? Possibly, but I can remember being absolutely blown away by Perfect Day when it first appeared on TV — here, they seem to be dazzling with ridiculous CGI rather than just good music.
Tim: The only criticism I have is that I’m really not sure the orchestral/chorus break sounds right. I get that they want to indicate that it’s about all types of music, but I think if you want to do that, make it longer.
Tom: Right! Yes! Perfect Day is busy, but it never approaches anywhere near “cacophony”. There’s not room enough to breathe in here. The instrumental break of Perfect Day was one very good solo: here, we’ve got loads of instruments and vocalists, and each one gets a pause to itself. And Brian May crowbars his trademark guitar sound in. It doesn’t work.
Tim: I’m usually the first to complain that a track’s too long, but you’re barely pushing two and a half minutes there, and I don’t think anyone’d begrudge you an extra minute to fit it together better.
Tom: Also, let’s be clear about that video: Brian Wilson has the haunted look of someone who has no idea what’s going on.
Tim: Still, gets the point across, and it’s good enough to listen to. Makes the right point about how important music is to them, and at a time when people are having a go at the BBC right, right and further right, it’s nice to have them showing off what they can do. And beg for our support, which I suppose is a more cynical and probably unfair way of looking at the lyrics. So I’ll close by saying: great idea, not quite so great execution, but good enough for me.