Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Tunes I'm currently loving // 2017 // Volume 3

1. Wiktoria - As I Lay Me Down
2. Loreen - Statements
3. Katy Perry feat Skip Marley - Chained To The Rhythm
4. Tina Guo - Super Mario Bros.
5. Ed Sheeran - Galway Girl
6. Take That - Giants
7. Troll - Jimmy Dean 
8. Ed Sheeran - Perfect
9. SHELLS - Gold
10. Mariette - A Million Years
11. FO&O - Gotta Thing About You
12. Lorde - Green Light
13. Heathers - Call Home
14. Owe Thörnqvist - Boogieman Blues
15. Bella & Filippa - Crucified
16. Anton Hagman - Kiss You Goodbye
17. Anja - Where I Am
18. O'G3NE - Lights & Shadows
19. Francesco Gabbani - Occidentali's Karma
20. Niké Jemiyo - Dive

It's Eurovision national finals season and therefore no less than half of my favourite new tunes from the past month are either confirmed Eurovision 2017 entries, are still hoping for the chance to represent their country, or are out of the running altogether.

Top of the pile is Sweden's Wiktoria with her second Melodifestivalen entry, As I Lay Me Down. Following last year's Save Me, this catchy track is a classic pop song in the late 90s/early 00s mould, but brought bang up to date with contemporary production. Essentially, it's like a country-pop mash-up of something B*Witched or Vanessa Amorosi might have put out at the turn of the century. Wiktoria herself has a look of Faye from Steps (it must be the big frizzy blonde hair) and a distinctive, but admittedly shrill, voice that I nevertheless absolutely adore.


Controversially out of Melodifestivalen before the final, I'm not entirely sure what Sweden were thinking by dumping out former Eurovision winner Loreen's fantastic Statements. Ok, it's not Euphoria, but then it's not supposed to be. This is a very different track that certainly does make a statement. A dark and brooding grower for sure but once it's ingrained its way into your head it never leaves. A really powerful moment from one of Europe's finest artists, it's just a shame that her message is unlikely to make it out of Sweden this time.

Also in from Melodifestivalen are the country's premier boyband FO&O (previously The Fooo and then The Fooo Conspiracy). The trio made their way through to the final of Melodifestivalen from Andra Chansen at the weekend and it's easy to see why - and it's not just because of the support from their hoardes of loyal teenage girl fans. Gotta Thing About You is the sort of thumping and melodic pop track that *N'Sync were smashing with back in 2000. It's a rather wonderful example of its genre and written by no less a figure than Robert 'Mutt' Lange, who co-wrote many of Shania Twain's biggest hits and Breathless for The Corrs.

Also in the 'teenage girl appeal' bracket is Anton Hagman, another Andra Chansen qualifier with his very Shawn Mendes-esque - and very good - debut single, Kiss You Goodbye. Very much not appealing to the same crowd, but confirmed as an instant Melodifestivalen finalist a few weeks ago, is 87-year-old legend Owe Thörnqvist with the unexpectedly charming and catchy Boogieman Blues.

The other Melodifestivalen entries here are Bella & Filippa's lovely country-pop strummer Crucified and Mariette's sparkling dance-pop number A Million Years - a strong follow up to 2015's Don't Stop Believing that could easily have fit onto Delta Goodrem's recent Wings Of The Wild album.

Three entries that have already been selected for Eurovision in the last few weeks are also here, from Italy, Denmark and The Netherlands. The former's Sanremo victor Occidentali's Karma by Francesco Gabbani, is one of the favourites to win, and it's easy to see why - a charming song, performer, staging and message, it's a compelling package. Denmark and The Netherlands have both turned in 90s-inspired ballads of very different kinds. Anja - who was born in Australia to Danish-born parents and won The Voice Australia in 2014 - has turned up with a single Eternal would have been proud to release in 1996. Where I Am may be dated but it has a killer melody and Anja's voice is indeed pretty incredible. Girlband O'G3NE, from The Netherlands, meanwhile have a lovely track called Lights & Shadows that harks back to the 1990 classic Hold On by Wilson Phillips.

Stepping away from Eurovision related music now and the highest current chart hit here is Katy Perry's comeback single, Chained To The Rhythm, a pop track with a slight reggae feel that is somehow both instant and a grower at the same time. Bob Marley's grandson Skip provides a rather excellent rap feature on an incredibly strong comeback single from Katy, who proves that her star has barely dimmed in the four years since Prism was released.

To say he's dominating the charts would be an understatement - this week Ed Sheeran's third album ÷ was released and every song from the deluxe 16 track album is now set to chart in the UK top 20...how's that for a washout! Anyway, it is a very strong album overall and my two picks from it - aside from the ubiquitous singles Shape Of You and Castle On The Hill - are the inspired Irish jig/rap hybrid Galway Girl and the instant classic ballad Perfect, which will no doubt follow Thinking Out Loud's lead to become one of the biggest love songs of the decade.

Chinese cellist Tina Guo's profile is currently rising and her latest album, Game On, is an inspired collection of her versions of some of the most iconic video game soundtracks of all time. My pick of the bunch is her excellent medley of three scores from the Super Mario Bros. series - namely levels 1-1 and 1-2 from the original NES game, the latter somewhat brilliantly performed in a hard rock style, and the Whomp's Fortress stage from Super Mario 64.

Otherwise unmentioned are Take That's anthemic comeback single Giants, which has shades of M83's Midnight City, Gold, a rather lovely, shimmering electropop track from British newcomer SHELLS, and Swedish one-hit wonder Troll's Jimmy Dean, a single I recently discovered that was released right at the end of the 1980s. How this rather epic schlager pop song and its accompanying video have never gone viral or broken out of Sweden I'm not entirely sure.

Finally, Irish twin sister duo Heathers appear with their melodic Tegan and Sara-esque single Call Home, London-based singer-songwriter Niké Jemiyo pops up with the stunning ballad Dive, and Lorde's long-awaited comeback single, Green Light, is oh so different to the music from her debut album Pure Heroine - released way back in 2013 - but also so very brilliant. It may sound like three different songs rolled into one but then, all the best pop songs do. Just ask Girls Aloud.