Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Calum Scott – Dancing On My Own

The lights go out, the music dies…


Claire Biddles: I see the busker I reported to the police for playing acoustic versions of Robyn songs outside my office window last year got himself some paid work.

Edward Okulicz: Why yes, thanks for asking, Robyn’s unhinged-stalker-breakup classic is rather good when you strip it down to just words and melody, isn’t it? The reason Robyn’s recorded version of her rather good song is brilliant is because she made excellent decisions on how to arrange and perform it. You empathise with her while thinking she might be a bit prone to doing something bad or embarrassing, and if there’s a better dancing-with-tears-in-your-eyes pop single this decade, I can’t name it off the top of my head. By contrast, in leaving lines out making the song feel disjointed, trying to wring unnecessary pathos out of the song by over-emoting, and taking the song off the dance floor and into the room of a crying, pouty teenager, Scott makes one bad decision after another. The complex, emotionally resonant song becomes a grim sulk. For fuck’s sake, child, don’t change the lyric to “the guy you’re taking home” when it makes no sense to do so having kept “her” in “watching you kiss her.” She’s taking a girl home, and you’re not that girl. You’re not anything. You think you’re an interpreter? If you just came to say goodbye, then say it and fuck off.

Thomas Inskeep: I wish I liked Scott’s voice — a little reedy for my ears — better, but I love the smart recasting of Robyn’s aching dance-pop chestnut as a stripped-down ballad. RIYL Adele’s first two albums. Or even if you don’t, actually.

Alfred Soto: Robyn’s original drew strength from its plaintive take on a theme that never loses its poignancy: affecting self-reliance because the object of desire doesn’t desire her. That I hear “guy” in “I’m not the girl you’re taking home” gives her track a “When You Were Mine” resonance. In Calum Scott’s coarse hands, the boring straight guy takes back the night and it’s as if love and dancing never happened, just crocodile tears and halitosis. 

Cassy Gress: Why would someone turn a song that sounds like sparkly tears rolling down cheeks into this yowling, soppy mess? Is there not enough pain and suffering in the world? Did he watch Donnie Darko too many times?

Katie Gill: Calum Scott is the modern day Gary Jules: both took a fairly good song and removed every inch of fun and individuality the original had, leaving a soulless, dull, drippy, overwrought and needlessly melancholic final product.

Will Adams: Drippy. Whiny. Unimaginative. Completely ignorant of what makes the original a new classic. Punishingly cynical and unnecessary.

Scott Mildenhall: Raw and visceral. That was probably the aim. That was why Calum Scott carefully removed almost every fundamental aspect of the song — especially the raw and visceral ones. Christ, the original! Synths twinkling, blinding, beautiful, painful; lights burning into a self-opened wound. Dizzying, immediate, desired pain. Robyn sang with the bit between her teeth; Scott sings with a sponge in his mouth. Her performance suggests conflict, his confusion. She never felt like a good person to relate to, but this bears so little nuance that it seems he might think otherwise. And fine, strip it back if you must, expose the lyrics, but don’t then mangle them in a subpar John Newman impersonation. More than that don’t, upon being signed by a major label, get a lukewarm remix from Tiësto — because then people might as well be listening to the original. Right?

Iain Mew: Plenty of talent show audition covers have taken on a life of their own, and quite a few have taken the original to new UK chart heights or even boosted a different version. Yet for the version by the auditioner themselves to live on sufficiently to turn up in the top 5 a year later, not as a result of a victory and/or separate career but just as its own thing, is much rarer and odder. Partly it is the bottom of the market dropping out on reality show contestants meaning that hardly anyone like Calum Scott gets picked up anymore. Perhaps it’s also the choice of original, a small top 10 hit itself and perfectly placed on the edge of public consciousness. Or perhaps it’s that even the most inept stripping bare (and this is plenty inept) can draw something from it. In fact, not just that. Through a mix of changed and unchanged genders Scott has put it newly alongside Tegan and Sara’s “Boyfriend” as a song where it’s impossible for everyone in it to be straight but the gender of the addressee is unclear. That extra question mark amidst the bareness helps highlight the lack of definition of the “you” the narrator’s obsession is centred on, and with it the hopeless detachment of their behaviour from that person. I won’t say this version makes me appreciate the original more, but it does make me wonder if a José González treatment that hushed it properly might be wonderful.

Natasha Genet Avery: Sorry, Calum, but I’ve been to too many shitty open mics to tolerate this nonsense. My biggest gripe with the explosion of “Starbucks Acoustic” is the dominance of renditions that lack any sort of meaningful reinterpretation. We get a lot of pretty YouTubers “fixing” top 40, particularly songs performed by women and PoC. But arpeggiated chords + Kings of Leon phrasing do not a cover make. Robyn’s rendition was effective because it matched content to instrumentation; replacing thudding synths with amateurish solo piano marks a drastic failure of imagination. +1 because leaving the line as “I’m in the corner/watching you kiss her” queers the song.

William John: Of course Calum Scott is dancing on his own, because his dancing is horrible. I would wager that his nae-nae is worse than that of a morning TV weather reporter. This man could barely handle the Nutbush, and don’t even think about inviting him into your conga line.

Brad Shoup: I’ve never wanted “Danzig On My Own” to be a thing this badly.

Katherine St Asaph: There are precisely two solo activities that this cover is suitable for, crying and masturbation, and I’d rather not be privy to either.

Reader average: [1.97] (35 votes)

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20 Responses to “Calum Scott – Dancing On My Own”

  1. Wow, is this the lowest score TSJ has ever given to a song?

  2. No, this isn’t actually as bad as Lukas Graham, but it sure gives it a good go

  3. we need a disclaimer

  4. The photo for this is a great choice. I don’t even terribly mind this, good for him and his 5 minutes but I do get a bit annoyed at people thinking this is such a great accomplishment. This is just super-weepy, there isn’t anything else to it. So what would his next record be? Would he be sobbing his way through “Bad Romance”?

  5. yay katie and i both thought of the same song

    actually the best part was me googling “who is this guy anyway” and seeing this description on wikipedia about how Simon Cowell was in love with him and pushed the Golden Buzzer and said “you have so much real star quality and musicianship” after hearing THIS EXACT COVER

  6. fistbump with Cassy. fuck that cover.

    Also, I’m so amazed at our vitriol and grumpiness. Go team, we are united in our disgust.

  7. Here are our top ten lowest scoring songs ever. This now occupies the #6 spot.

  8. I wish I’d had more time to fully trash this but it left me so numb and without words. Great job, everyone else.

  9. i am angry, this makes me angry, the fact that this is kinda more successful than the original makes me angry, the fact that there are people on youtube trying to defend this awful cover makes me angry




    a n g r y

  10. One thing I tried to mention but couldn’t fit in is that I first encountered Calum Scott before Britain’s Got Talent, with this original composition that he sent into a local radio station. It’s far from the finished product (dud lyrics), but I was impressed. Maybe try that in future.

    As for this, perhaps the worst thing about it is the awful editing after “I’m spinning around the circles”. (Actually that’s not the worst thing.)

    And the screenshot looks like a capture from a Limmy sketch. He should have covered this one instead.

  11. This cover is borderline a gay hate crime.

  12. This is even more cynical and lifeless when you consider that Robyn herself has an (infinitely better) live rendition with a nearly identical arrangement ( It’s a karaoke version of an acoustic version.

  13. I think the existence of the Tiesto remix is actually the most upsetting thing to me.

  14. a dance remix of a karaoke version of an acoustic version of a dance song? someone save us

  15. i love that we didn’t just hate this, we were actively OFFENDED


  17. definitely chuckled aloud at the fact that more than one of you used “drippy” as an adjective to describe this piece of shit

  18. Cassy: except for me, lol! I did NOT see all this hate coming.

  19. Oh, thank you!! This is the best summary of why I *loathe* this version. Office radio plays it nine times a day….aaaaargh. It’s such a boring, soulless incarnation of Robyn’s fabulous, heartbreaking track.

    Also kudos to Scott M for the (wonderful) Limmy’s show reference, I thought exactly that too when confronted with what he looks like…weird.

  20. Thank you for reminding me of it Jo, that clip especially always brings a smile to my face.