Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Clean Bandit ft. Louisa Johnson – Tears

So ends today’s theme of “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes”…


Claire Biddles: Clean Bandit is such a strange pop proposition — it produces vocal dance music but has no regular singer, and its two most prominent members play violin and cello — and yet that theoretical strangeness rarely translates musically, instead stalling at a kind of lowest common denominator dance pop that isn’t bad, just kind of dull. The exception is Jess Glynne-featuring megabanger “Rather Be”, one of approximately 7 good singles released in 2014 and the reason that I still want to like them. Seeing that the group’s latest guest singer is UK X Factor winner Louisa Johnson doesn’t exactly fill me will optimism — last year’s X Factor was the most objectively boring in the series’ history, and it’s telling that Johnson is presumably not trusted to carry her own song as a first proper post-competition single. Clean Bandit have always worked with nice but bland singers, and Johnson makes sense as the guest singer on “Tears” because she could be anyone. Her vocal is uncharismatic and shouty, and the song itself has little variety: there’s a swaggering 90s R’n’B section before the first chorus that I wanted to hear developed or at least repeated — instead it passes by unrealised, a glimpse of the unexpected. It’s these small moments of potential that keep me at least a little bit interested in Clean Bandit, and I’d like to see them work with someone more exciting and singular — maybe the sass of someone like Shamir could tease out their strangeness?

Taylor Alatorre: Clean Bandit are nothing if not eager to please. Their variety show approach to dance music distinguishes them from a galaxy of cookie-cutter acts, but it can lead to problems when their grand ambitions are laid bare for all to see. “Tears” desperately wants to slide into the canon of disco kiss-off anthems, and vocally, Louisa Johnson is certainly up to the task. However, the unresolved disconnect between the song’s deep house foundations and its more stately, classicist chorus keeps it from entering the realm of greatness. With such lofty aims, overshooting is always a risk, but with some further refinement, their piano-driven panache could truly pay dividends.

Cassy Gress: This wants to be an “I Will Survive”-style disco-house thumper, but there’s a musical theatre haunted house lurking in this chord pattern that undermines it all. Then again… it aimed really high, and I’m a sucker for its earnestness.

Ryo Miyauchi: I thought I knew where “Tears” was going. Another tear-soaked house ballad with the drop as release? But Clean Bandit soon pulled the rug from under me with that stuttering, piano-led hook and Louisa Johnson’s central mantra: “I’ll get over you.” And the music keeps revealing different layers of itself without settling comfortably on one sweet spot — not unlike the very process of grief.

Scott Mildenhall: The Joe to Reggie ‘N’ Bollie’s Olly gets a rare good deal with her first post-X Factor winner’s single release, avoiding grander statements of supposed star power by settling for a far safer feature. This being with Clean Bandit, it’s essentially a higher-stakes take on the Jess Glynne Method. Johnson possesses a more malleable voice than her though, a little less about the power, and better capable of the delicate movement of “Tears”‘ chorus. The pinched violins that join her can be jolts of pain or lumps in the throat, but the rest is pure movement.

Iain Mew: I don’t know if they’re saving another Jess Glynne collaboration for a later boost, or if she’s just beyond that now, but they’ve found the next closest thing. Except Louisa Johnson is doing “Real Love” Jess Glynne and not “Rather Be” Jess Glynne, and any slight variations in Clean Bandit’s previous approach do nothing but slip them further into the background to the overbearing vocal.

Brad Shoup: This resists melodrama, triumph, catharsis… at turns, though, not as a whole. The emotional complexity suggests a host of late-last-century R&B cuts performed at the speed of an early Max Martin production. In particular, a knotty melodic cluster is performed by Johnson and the strings simultaneously; I don’t know which was written first, but they’re heaven together.

Katherine St Asaph: Clean Bandit are that rare inversion — a UK pop-dance act whose production is always more interesting than its vocalists; compare this tense-giddy track to the sapient collection of vocal tricks and standard rhymes that occupies it. That Clean Bandit, even now, isn’t totally a victim of its own chart placement is both heartening and frustrating; there’s a great record in them that songs like these aren’t part of.

Thomas Inskeep: Clean Bandit’s gimmick is alright as gimmicks go: half-classical(ish), half dance-pop. But to my ears they’ve yet to make a great single — and I’m still unsure how I feel about their foisting Jess Glynne on the world. Based on “Tears,” Louisa Johnson’s fond of all the usual post-Mariah, post-Aguilera crimes: melisma, over-belting, et al. The song is your basic au courant UK retro-’90s house production, a bit more manic than most in a bid in a clear bid for disco supremacy it won’t achieve.

Alfred Soto: Before Sunday morning’s Pulse massacre, a post-house track with a fervent vocal and rhythm change. Now Louisa Johnson’s commitment to the hook bespeaks one who is acquainted with the night.

Reader average: [4.75] (4 votes)

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2 Responses to “Clean Bandit ft. Louisa Johnson – Tears”

  1. This reminded me a lot of PCD’s “Hush Hush; Hush Hush”

  2. And Katherine is spot-on about their production; there’s detail there that suggests they could do stuff that’s a far more interesting than their past work (speaking as someone who still really enjoys “Rather Be” and “Real Love”)