Monday, March 18th, 2019

Louis Tomlinson – Two of Us

The year gets its first ex-1D bid…


Katie Gill: So. This is a dead mom song. The lyrics are remarkably sweet, hitting up all the sympathy card clichés while adding a heartfelt (if generic) touch when it’s needed most. But musically? This song desperately needs a rearrangement. What I think are the strings are practically buried, Tomlinson’s voice doesn’t show the needed emotion, the beat during the chorus is downright bizarre, it’s far too loud, and the song goes from minimalist to overproduced at the drop of a pin. It feels like it wants to go full tilt Josh Groban adult contemporary but Tomlinson can’t push past that pop sound he’s so used to. It falls a little flat.

Iris Xie: This is about his passed-on mom? That’s not even fair; I don’t know I’m supposed to review a song about that. It’s just unfortunate that it sounds so clean and adheres so strongly to a “How to Write a Pop Song in 10 Minutes” song structure that it dissolves into the pop ether, but it’s also perfectly produced for the purpose — the amplified chorus with the drums with the perfectly tuned bridge, and how all the instruments come in at the end with that outro. Tomlinson’s vocals are even perfectly modulated to match a pop structure; it’s like listening to a narration of a perfect score on the SAT. But maybe that type of standardization is his comfort zone, he was a former One Direction member, after all. I can understand him leaning on what works, just enough so the cracks are only visible to an acceptable degree, but not to any rawness where it would risk showing any ugliness. I just don’t think such safeness makes for superior music, and there is probably more to give, but I respect this decision — his life is probably already hard enough without her.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The transformation of an intimate piano ballad into a triumphant stadium singalong is surely empowering for Tomlinson: this progression embodies the gradual turning of personal pain into anthemic hope for all. But in wanting to inspire everyone possible, Tomlinson makes the all-too-common mistake of removing everything singular and unique about his own experiences. The unfortunate consequence is an erasure of his mother’s identity. This is a song about specific people — don’t rid them of their humanity.

Alfred Soto: He would’ve had a more authentic mom song if he didn’t insist on writing about her as if she were as conventional as every woman he’s met in the hotel room or shoving an autograph book in his face, with a crucial difference: she has to die so he can realize himself. Which might be an authentic statement after all.

Thomas Inskeep: Mealy-mouthed sentiments about his dead mother (the phrase “tattooed on my heart” makes an appearance) paired with an unnecessarily bombastic chorus — who wants to hear this?

Jonathan Bradley: As a song about grief, I don’t know that “Two of Us” is equipped to capture the enormity. It squares up as if it wants to, but it’s better for that not to be a burden it has to bear. Tomlinson has a fragile voice that has struggled to retain solo the glowing charisma he had in his band. His limitations don’t matter as much here; in fact, they might hold back the mawkishness to which a more versatile singer might succumb. 

Alex Clifton: Ouch. Recent events make “Two of Us” hit harder than I thought it would; while this was written for Louis’s mum, who passed away of cancer in 2016, it could easily apply to his younger sister who passed suddenly this past week. It’s sweeping and sad. I know I’ve criticised Louis in the past for having little personality, but I feel like I understand him more now that I’ve heard this song. I don’t know how I’d feel about this in different circumstances, but it’s something that manages to convey hope and grief at the same time, grappling with loss in a way that feels sincere, not overblown. My heart aches.

Scott Mildenhall: Swathes of pop cultural criticism become improper when you don’t switch off from the fact that the people subject to it are real. Yes, “Two of Us” may not play well on the radio. Tomlinson’s voice and vocal stylings don’t and probably will never be able to carry anything near as bare as this; itself not exactly an a cappella. But that matters little for the strength he and others will take from it. It’s very unlikely — yet importantly, not impossible — that he’ll ever find himself on this page, but if he did, why would he need anyone effectively evaluating his grief, any more than he would his joy, his life or his hair? It’s obvious, but we pretend otherwise.

Reader average: [7.66] (3 votes)

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