Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Calum Scott – You Are The Reason

Nearly double last time’s score! We must really love him now!


Julian Baldsing: “This is brilliant,” Calum Scott thought, placing his quill pen down for the first time in minutes. “Because it sounds like I’m too sad to even rhyme.” His eyes scanned over the lyrics, a slight smile on his face. “Hm. Could do with a piano arrangement though.”

Scott Mildenhall: If Calum Scott is going to sustain his career at the level of his first single then making a companion piece to “You Raise Me Up” seems a good way to go about it. With a video that looks intended to be the most universally understandable British cultural export since Mr. Bean, there’s something quite impressive about its unabashed desire to touch people in ways some may balk at. The lyrics are near enough bare conceptual metaphors: thought is motion, time is money, the heart is a container, life is a journey, life is a challenge, life is war… Most such songs don’t succeed on anywhere near “You Raise Me Up”‘s level, lacking the demanded astute arrangement, but clichés can be powerful when they’re put over well.

Alfred Soto: Rivers, mountains, and Sam Smiths — oh my!

Claire Biddles: This isn’t as blatantly offensive and borderline homophobic as the Robyn cover that we really really hated, but it’s still very bad, mainly because it feels so unnecessary — how many white boys pumping out these copies of diluted Sam Smith balladry do we, as a people, need?

Alex Ostroff: There was only one quietly interesting thing about Calum Scott’s mopey cover of ‘Dancing On My Own’. Like many men covering songs by women, he changed a few lyrics. Unlike most, he did so to make it more gay — he watched the man he wanted kiss “her” but wasn’t “the guy you’re taking home.” Scott explicitly did what queer folks do whenever we read ourselves into pop music, but forgot that pain aches truer and more beautifully on the dancefloor. It wasn’t much, but it was bolder than Sam Smith, who not only played the pronoun game on his entire first album, but memorably (and awkwardly) replaced “he” with “you” in a cover of “How Will I Know?”. Unfortunately, for his original material, Scott has retreated into Smith-esque anonymous yous. It’s disappointing, but appropriate for a gay man recording blandly passionate ballads entirely devoid of any real heat or sexuality.

Micha Cavaseno: You know how food and music metaphors occasionally work together? Y’know, like how people will say a song is a “jambalaya” of elements? This is as about as “condensed milk” of a ballad as you can get. Times are hard, who needs your ballads to have soulful resonance?

Stephen Eisermann: Calum Scott has a beautiful voice, but that’s about the only nice thing I can say about this dreary song. The best part is how similar the chord progression is to Little Big Town’s far superior “”Girl Crush.”

Iain Mew: A curious yawning vacuum of a song, or at least song-shaped thing. Every choice is easy and obvious. It often reaches for epic, but the cumulative effect in force is so much less than the sum of its parts that it’s surprisingly easily ignored.

Katherine St Asaph: The world abhors a Jason Mraz vacuum. (The lack of Mraz, that is. The vacuum that’s the song, they love.)

Reader average: [7] (2 votes)

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17 Responses to “Calum Scott – You Are The Reason”

  1. Claire, out of curiosity (not trying to be obtuse), what did you find borderline homophobic about Calum Scott’s ‘Dancing On My Own’ cover?

    Or did you mean ‘borderline homophobic’ joking, as in the original Dancing On My Own is a gay club anthem & reducing it to mopey piano balladry is thus ‘homophobic’?

  2. *jokingly

    I should really proofread my comments before posting.

  3. Looking back at our ‘Dancing On My Own’ reviews, it’s interesting to see Alfred call him “the boring straight guy” and to see Ed write this:

    “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.”

    Apparently, the idea that a gay man would drain Robyn’s song of its glorious dance-pop shimmer is so unthinkable that even our queer writers assumed Scott must be a straight dude singing about a woman.

  4. Part of that was me not realising he was gay (I wouldn’t have known him from a bar of soap other than that I heard the song everywhere) and the other part was some residual annoyance at people who thought Robyn was actually singing “guy” in the original when I clearly heard it as “girl” – one of those mishearings (like Taylor’s “Starbucks lovers” mondegreen) that I cannot understand how people could get wrong.

  5. @ alex yes I was meaning it jokingly

  6. fwiw i also didn’t know he was gay

  7. I did think some of those such responses (here and elsewhere) to “Dancing On My Own” were sometimes perhaps pretty revealing of people’s preconceptions, and personally found them (jokes and otherwise) pretty disheartening really. In fact I ended up writing a little thing on similar lines about biographical detail that I probably stand by (linking myself because I think it’s a better expression of how I feel)

    I feel like this all ties into things that have been said here re Troye Sivan too. Being prescriptive over the previously proscribed seems antithetical to me, but that’s what I see all kinds of people do in different ways. (That’s just me though, and
    I hope it doesn’t sound unfair. I know other people might have a different perspective. Hopefully I’m always thinking things through…)

    On another note I think the beyond chaste fake-out at the end of the video is interesting. To bring up two possible forebears, Westlife’s “You Raise Me Up” (2005) has no same-sex pairings; Gary Barlow’s “Forever Love” (1996) has at least a couple. Terrible song though.

  8. I genuinely didn’t mean to upset or dishearten anyone with what I thought was an off-hand jokey comment, but maybe my outing as someone who doesn’t really inform herself or think about these things is a good thing

  9. Can one write criticism without being prescriptive, though? “This song is good/sucks, and here’s why” is about 75 percent of what I do. Evaluation is implicitly prescriptive.

  10. Don’t worry, I’m not upset, nor do I mean you specifically, nor do I want to upset anyone else! You’re great. And I probably shouldn’t have said anything.

    It’s just that I perceive the reinforcement of barriers by people with good intentions and personal involvement on this front quite a lot. But obviously the real problem lies with the power imbalances that that often seems intended to push against. Either way, there are worse things. (And I’m obviously not speaking from a position of piety or whatever.)

  11. was he out when the “Dancing On My Own” cover was released? (this is a genuine question, I have no idea)

  12. @katherine earliest mention of his sexuality I can find after a few minutes of Googling is in this interview from August 2016, two months after the song’s release:

    so I wouldn’t doubt there’s a previous mention of it somewhere but if it exists I’m having trouble finding it

  13. i remember searching a bit after hearing the song and finding nothing. i couldn’t tell if he was singing about a man or a woman, and i thought the most troubling thing was that if he was straight the song was a horrible reaction to finding out his crush was a lesbian. i’m glad it’s not that, but it’s not like that makes his version stop being awful.

  14. Alfred: yes! That wasn’t the point I was making, but I don’t think evaluation is necessarily prescriptive at all; quite the opposite. I’m not sure if I’ve misunderstood you – stating an opinion doesn’t require disqualifying any disagreement, does it? Talking about opinions as if they are facts is a standard rhetorical device, but they’re still opinions. Often the only difference between “here’s why” and “here’s why I think this” (or even “here’s why I think I think I feel this” or whatever) is just a bit of grandiosity. I don’t usually assume that when people say eg “here’s why” they’re laying down a supposedly inviolable rule.

    Re the public knowledge of his sexuality, I think the most interesting thing is that while (as ever) most listeners probably don’t know or care – he’s just that bloke who sang that song – that’s clearly not to say people won’t make assumptions. I think it’d be a good test case for the possible effect of biographical knowledge. The Smith-Glynne effect.

  15. May be ten years too late, but if you can’t get Beyoncé:

  16. The top comment on that video is “Wow, what a perfect duet!” and I laughed so hard

  17. Next up, Calum Scott ft. Paul Potts