In olden times, the craft of novelty songwriting was afforded sufficient respect to warrant a regular category at the Ivor Novello Awards. And as someone whose earliest 7-inch purchases were mostly novelty-flavoured (”Johnny Reggae”, “Monster Mash”, “The Ying Tong Song”), it’s a craft for which I’m still prepared to rep quite hard. So I’ve been gagging for a follow-up to the brilliant “Put A Donk On It”, one of the best novelty songs of recent years – but at the same time, I’ve been mindful that novelty follow-ups tend to fall victim to the law of diminishing returns (”Desperate Dan” was hardly the equal of “Mouldy Old Dough”, was it?). Sadly, “Dialled” is another case in point. It’s jolly enough, but the jollity and the wit seem forced at times, and the whole thing lacks some of the precision-honed attack of its predecessor. MC Rapid’s rhymes on the second verse (that’s the “another new track done and dusted” section) seem especially stiff and stilted – but then Dowie MC pulls things back admirably in the third verse, rhyming in the style of a chirpy call centre worker. They also could have done with re-donking their donk, as their existing donk is sounding a bit donked out… but now I’m just being picky.
Sheesh, what a hackfest! Diane Warren is nothing if not versatile, and there’s little to indicate her compositional hand at work (other than the usual stultifying lack of inspiration, originality or passion – but that’s a given). Meanwhile, Akon is no slouch when it comes to whacking the Autotune up to 11 and hitching a ride on the “ft” bus – but beyond that, he’s as functionally useless as ever. (What, and you were seriously expecting rapport?) This is the bastard child of “Hate That I Love You”, intoned by a bored girl and a robot on autopilot, whose utter indifference to each other is mirrored by both lyric and performance.
So, when was the last time that a fully fledged canon went Top Twenty? Kudos to Jack for pushing his compositional envelope – and considering that the last two singles flopped, we should also commend his commercial bravery – but “Embers” would be a stronger piece still if it were actually, you know, about something. Then again, there’s nothing overly wince-making about the impressionistic lyrical fragments that Jack weaves in and out of the arrangement, deftly layering each on top of the other – and when they all run together at the song’s peak, the overall effect is really rather fetching.
“Our love is like a song; you can’t forget it.” Now, there’s a presumptious generalisation (what, any song, even this year’s Bulgarian Eurovision carcrash?) – not to say a double-edged one (I’ve had “The Promise” stuck in my head for most of the day, but that doesn’t make it a particularly desirable return visitor). The line concludes the clonkiest section of an altogether leaden piece of work, which confirms any suspicions I might have had about the compositional skills of the Jonas Brothers. The tentative, marginally Pachelbel-esque opening section drags on way too long, failing to prepare the ground for the thrashy “Homage to Demi’s Deep Love of Metal” section, which crashes in from nowhere like a mistimed cut-and-paste. “Our love is like a song, but you won’t sing along”, concludes Demi, lowering her tear-streaked face as the rain lashes down around her. Well, if you must set these dirge-based metaphorical traps…
The-Dream might have produced it – but Christopher “Tricky” Stewart composed it, and so should receive his fair due. The ubiquity of the Dream/Tricky pairing shows no sign of letting up (hell, they even pop up on Lionel Richie’s new album), and while “So Good” is no “Umbrella” or “Single Ladies”, there’s a freshness to this which makes it a spot-on spring jam.
(Last week, when the weather was still a bit shit, I wasn’t feeling this at all. But earlier today, strolling to work in the sunshine, everything snapped into place.)
The arrangement’s slight 1990s vibe suits the track well, adding mock-credence to the singer’s not entirely serious claim to be an old-fashioned Baking Betty who has suddenly and miraculously changed her ways (and we only have to clock the langourous lingering over that first “We had a fliiiiiing”, to know that the re-invention is merely tactical).
For while “So Good” purports to be a simple and heartfelt declaration of romantic intent, it strikes me more as a jokily knowing come-hither from a girl who knows the rules of the game backwards.
(OK, so there’s four of them in the group – but this is to all intents and purposes a solo turn, backed up with a few strategically supportive ooh’s and yeah’s.)
So although you could argue that Lil’ Wayne’s contribution on the remix (whose chorus inserts a “shit” between the “ooh” and the “damn”, in a way that suggests that “ooh” and “damn” had been keeping its place warm all along) subverts the message in a rather nasty fashion, I prefer to see it as Weezy calling his ex-shag’s bluff, and letting her know that Baking Betty isn’t fooling him for one moment.
And then I imagine the whole lot of them falling about and cackling at the whole extended wind-up, and sloping off for al-fresco early evening cocktails, just before the sun goes in and the air turns from crisp to nippy.
 last week;  earlier today; and a  since sundown.