Back once again, Mr Moth has some thoughts, opinions and wry sideways looks at the state of pop right now.
*Two security officers in light-tan uniforms enter the Mostly Pop bunker (it’s nice, there are cushions and a big jellybean dispenser), both holding briefcases handcuffed to their wrists. They set down the cases and enter half of the combinations on the locks – only I know the second half of each combination, and I put these in. The cases snap open and the security officers hand me, from the protective foam, two large red keys. I nod, dismissing one officer at random. The other takes the key from the opposite suitcase and stands by a keyhole at the opposite side of the room. We put the keys in. I count down from three. At one, we turn our keys simultaneously. There is a click. A small reinforced-plastic panel has disengaged in the centre of the room. I stride over, lift the panel and in the same motion bring my hand, palm-first, down on the large red button it was covering*
ONE-TAKE VIDEO KLAXON. *balloons, confetti and streamers fall from the ceiling, along with a considerable quantity of plaster*
I’m a massive sucker for a one-take video. I don’t know why, but there it is. It’s a rare event and I always appreciate the effort made, especially if it involves a dance routine and no likely spots for a computer-assisted or invisible edit. You know what irrationally annoys me? Videos that could have been done in a single shot but decide to put a cut in near the end for no reason other than they couldn’t be bothered to go again. I’m looking at you, Mistletoe & Wine. ANYWAY. This works because it feels loose and fun, the moments it comes together are energising and it looks like the kind of thing you’d make yourself. Work out a bit of a dance routine. Forget bits. Sing along when you remember. Make it up.
This means that the song got a bit longer than I would normally give a song of this type, and I quite enjoyed it, in a low-key sort of way. There’s a gentle euphoria in it, a ticking watch of pleading joy, a melodic rise and fall of small hopes. I don’t really know Haim, sorry. Is this usual? Oh, I know who I could ask – my Dad, who at the age of 80 has bought a Haim CD to play in the car. Yesterday I got a text “Don’t you be nasty about Haim when you review pop.”
You know how sometimes you fixate on a small detail and can’t even notice the bigger picture? There’s a line in here that I can’t even – “So keep on kissing my mouth, and put that record on again”.
Keep on kissing my mouth.
WHO TALKS LIKE THAT? Hello, yes, I am genuine Earth-person Rita Ora, continue with the human kissing on my mandibles that is occurring and which I, Human Rita Ora, do much enjoy with my mouth. This is normal. Play music.
Other than that, this is standard product. One of those songs you think is going to pop off, then it finishes. Never pops. Gets a bit more dense, then stops. Oh. More to the point, though, let’s look at this video, cause I have questions.
First of all – the backwards bits. Seemingly at random, just for the hell of it. OK, well, it’s a video so “For the hell of it” is actually all the justification I need but the direction seems to imply there’s a reason for them? But there isn’t. They’re just there. She’s presumably somehow “rewinding” her day but it’s not consistent. So she’s just walking backwards. And, and, the outfits? How screamingly hideous is Rita’s suit? Like, 80s caricature horrific. Like Working Girl got into the teleporter with The Kids From Fame. And oh, I don’t like to talk about how people are in different leagues, looks-wise, but I’ll just point to the boyfriend character in this and form my body into the shape of a giant, tortured question mark. Also, his suit. With a tracksuit underneath. QUESTIONS.
As If It’s Your Last
My wife – this isn’t a joke from a 70s working men’s club comic, it’s just a statement, I’m not Mike Reid, I’m just talking about my wife – my wife hates choruses. She says they’re disappointing, that the best bit of a song is invariably the verse. Choruses just give us predictable major key cliché. I’m not saying I agree with her – in a lot of cases I strongly disagree and am quite the sucker for a big chorus – but right here she’s dead on. As If It’s Your Last has excellent verses and is all but destroyed by an appalling chorus; crappy, bouncy, lazy pop straight out of Britain’s Contemptuous Eurovison Entry Period.
Oh yeah, this is Korean if you care. Look, I’ve covered Psy so why not? I make the rules here. And if this is huge over the summer you’re all going to thank me for covering it (I almost never get that sort of prediction right, so let’s all work together, all sixteen of us, to make this A Thing). And as I say, it’s better in the verses. The easy K-Pop bilingualism, the shifting styles for each singer, the frantic bridge to the chorus, all good. There’s even a rap from which one could draw a line to, say, reggaeton. Yeah, next for BLACKPINK – a coveted “ft. Pitbull” strapline.
The video is… kind of dull for something with SO. MUCH. COLOUR. And movement. And colour, did I mention all the colour? It’s colourful. It doesn’t do a great deal, but my god if this isn’t the polar opposite of the Haim video. Flash cuts, all the lights, the slickest dance routine you’re going to see in a long while, hair and make-up done to the absolute limit. It all just feels a tiny bit pedestrian, and with that chorus it’s not going to go anywhere. So scratch my prediction from earlier.
I like this A LOT, it is good. This is a low-key selection of songs, in the main, and this is the one that gets it really dead-on. Works away at a simple little groove, gradually increasing the complexity and intensity without ever going too far. This is in contrast to Rita Ora, say, whose song doesn’t quite far enough. It’s a fine balance, and this hits the right level. It never strains itself, except for one moment when the tension bursts out, but it also doesn’t feel lazy in its evident coolness. That’s coolness as in sangfroid, not you know, Fonzie.
Speaking of Fonzie, check out the retro stylings of the video. Yeah I know Happy Days was set 20 years before the 70s but it was made IN the 70s. Yeah I know the 70s were more like 40 years ago now. Yeah, I know all that BUT I HAD A SEGUE. You can’t deny me the opportunity when I have it. So here we are, in the good ol’ 1970s, with a curio of a vid. On the one hand it’s got an idea. On the other, it’s kind of a dumb idea that doesn’t illuminate the song or, really, work at all. Gomez playing the main roles is fine, it’s ok, it’s an idea. But while she can play young shockingly well, and does a decent job as a cynical 70s mom, she can’t pull off the two other roles AT ALL. The Farrah Fawcett wig is wearing her and as for the male teacher… nope. Strikes a weird, jarring, school play-ish note in the midst of a video played semi-straight.
Story of a Heart
Ok, so history lesson. 20 years ago Steps existed. They were H, Claire, Bungle, Thompson and Spooncock. They were conceived as performers for childrens’s parties and the stages of every holiday camp from A) A Butlins to B) Big Butlins. They sang songs and, because they were literally called “STEPS”, danced dances, and everyone decided they were “Super uncool whoppers” because they were produced like rich, raucous farts from the ragged anus of Pete Waterman. Their success, therefore, was guaranteed and they had loads of hit records. Then Tragedy struck, which was their biggest single, and they had even more success and even Barry Gibb covered their song at Glastonbury. After a while they split up, leaving H and Claire to have a solo career together until H was accused of being the paedo from lostprophets (which, to be clear, he is not) at which point they all decided to go on a reunion tour for friendship, nostalgia and a wheelbarrow full of non-sequential Euro notes. Furthermore, now Bungle is reconciled to being forever part of the band and not a recording artist in their own right, they decide “We should do a new song!” AND HERE WE ARE TODAY.
That’s sort of the story of the video here. We see the Steps looking old and slightly weird; not going to lie, it looks like the PTA have decided to put on a variety show and got some mums and dads who were once in a production or two of Joseph to get up and have a sing. Some Steps have had work done. Some have not. It’s a mixed bag, like a bargain sack of pastries from Tesco. Some things have changed (Claire, in particular, has a richer singing voice now. The others… have not), some things remain the same (the dancing is 100% Butlins) and some things have become infinitely worse (everything else).
When I heard the song I was like “This is like late ABBA”. I was building up to a great zinger about that until I checked Wikipedia and IT FUCKING IS LATE ABBA, well, it was written by Benny & Bjorn and it really shows. It’s catchy as fuck, which is annoying because I do not like it. It’s too obviously an ABBA pastiche by the lads themselfs. My initial note read “Aiming at late ABBA, hitting Brotherhood of Man”, but you know what? I stand by that. The performance is so anodyne and, well, Steps-y that it couldn’t touch the sequined hem of the robes of the Swedish Pop Monarchy. Also, there is an HP pocket-sized photo/sticker printer available, the HP Sprocket Photo Printer. You should know this. If you watch the video, you will know this.