by Mark Cruikshank
This week has seen the highly anticipated return of two big artists while other big names have joined forces in a cover of a musical gem. Also, as it’s mid-November this means the release of the song that has the potential to be one of the most iconic tracks of the year – the soundtrack to the John Lewis Christmas advert.
‘On Hold’ – The xx
To the delight of fans, the London trio The xx have released their newest single ‘On Hold’ from their upcoming third album.
The slow electronic track carries the dreamy vibe that penetrates most of The xx’s work. The subtle production creates a feel of calm throughout the song and paired with the soft vocals, the song is an easy listen and one to put on while relaxing at night.
However, although the minimal production style and lack of emphasis on lyrics are something that give this song it’s charm, these touches become lost under the invisible scream of ‘REMIX ME’ that pervades the track – the small manipulated vocal parts in the chorus only strengthens this cry.
This song deserves a 3/5. While the song is pretty decent, it just feels a bit lazy to create an almost deliberately minimalistic version that, is not only ready to be remixed, but feels as though it was solely make to be mixed by another producer.
‘Me and Your Mama’ – Childish Gambino
Hot off the heels of the final episode of his new show ‘Atlanta’, Donald Glover – most commonly known in the music scene as Childish Gambino – has released his newest single ‘Me and Your Mama’ from his new album ‘Awaken, My Love!’.
Opening very delicately before slowly building with a small female chorus, the six minute song follows a strange structure as it splits three different parts.
After about two minutes of the repetitive Tim Burton-esque introduction, an electric guitar rips in before Gambino’s strained voice tears through a passionate gospel choir. This is a change from the usual style of song that Gambino usually makes as ‘Me and Your Mama’ is more of a psychedelic rock song, rather than the R&B that he is used to – and it is definitely a change that has paid off.
Although the first two sections are so contrasting – a contrast that continues into the songs third part which ends the track with an acoustic heavy, marginally less impressive section – they fit perfectly with one another to create an amazing piece of music that is so interesting to listen to that you will be hitting repeat again and again.
Childish Gambino’s new track gets a strong 4/5 – those evil laughs during the hook are so 70’s heavy metal and it’s hard not to love them!
‘Satisfied’ – Sia (Feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah)
Straight from Broadway to Sia’s lips, ‘Satisfied’ comes from the upcoming mixtape album ‘The Hamilton Mixtape’ which features pop stars belting out tracks from the eleven time Tony winning musical ‘Hamilton’.
One of the great things about songs from musicals is the artist’s ability to act via their voice while being able to remain in tune – this is not only something Sia achieves, but something she excels at in this song.
Sia and company manage to take a great song meant for the stage and tweak it slightly to create a more mainstream sound. The softer parts of the song are more subdued and the louder sections are more vibrant and full of life which produces a more relatable sound for those who are not a fan of musical theatre. Although short, Miguel and Queen Latifah’s parts match Sia’s in quality and despite the slight pacing difference from the original version to this one, they have interpreted the verses beautifully.
This cover gets a very exciting 4.5/5 – Sia singing songs from musicals was always going to be amazing.
‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ – Vaults
Hurled into the spotlight, the English band Vaults cover of the 1980’s Randy Crawford track ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ hold this year’s coveted spot at the soundtrack to this years John Lewis Christmas advert, but it is not clear why.
If you google ‘Dancing On My Own’, sadly the top result is the slowed down Calum Scott version of the Robyn hit which is much superior. This cover is another victim of this heinous ‘slowed down = better’ crime.
For some reason, slowing a song down in a cover version masked the faults the song carries, unfortunately for Vaults, they went one step too far and stretched this track out so much that the faults become even more obvious.
Doing it’s original a disservice, the cover is a boring reinterpretation of a relatively enjoyable song. It has no clear tempo and while the band’s leader singer, Blythe Pepino, has a classic and emotive voice, her vocals just sound muddy and completely uninspiring due to how much the production is drawn out. Moreover, adding a big band in the last minute of the song as a last ditch effort to make the song sound somewhat appealing does not add anything to it whatsoever and sounds out of place.
This songs gets a 1.5/5 – maybe it’s due to the unrealistically high standard to which we hold John Lewis Christmas ads, but this song just didn’t do it for me. Sorry to be a Grinch.
If you still haven’t seen the John Lewis advert, then here is it here:
If you want to listen to the editor’s other top picks of the week, you can check them out below in our new extended Spotify playlist: