Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Passenger – Sword From the Stone (Gingerbread Mix)

No, we can’t get through January without Ed Sheeran either…


Thomas Inskeep: Michael Rosenberg’s pal Ed Sheeran remixes his single to make it sound more like… an Ed Sheeran song. I can certainly understand the want to make it more commercial — Passenger’s records tend to sound much more plain-folkie than this, and less Radio 2-friendly — but that doesn’t mean it’s particularly good or interesting. Doesn’t help that Rosenberg has an incredibly grating voice and writes mealy-mouthed lyrics.

Edward Okulicz: Having lived through the bleak era of “Let Her Go,” I considered exposure to this might constitute a health hazard, but what it really sounds most like is a Belgian Eurovision entry. Not any one in particular — it’s more the vibe of the thing. I have enjoyed some of those lately. There’s some twee poison in the verses, but in the small dose presented, the chorus works. I like it a lot more than the average Ed Sheeran song but a lot less than the best ones. I may regret this score later, but what the heck, I have editing privileges, so:

Juana Giaimo: I’m not sure if this poppier Ed Sheeran mix makes it better or worse than the original, but either way it doesn’t generate anything inside me. The lyrics talk about missing someone and thinking about possible small talk as an excuse to talk to them, but with the bland production and his calm tone, I don’t sense any of those desperately lonesome feelings but just think he really wants to talk about how their mom and dad are doing. 

Katie Gill: It’s disappointing to see that Passenger’s lyrical skills haven’t grown from “only miss the sun when it starts to snow.” We’ve still got the same clunky rhymes, bizarre metaphors, and hilariously generic sentiments that made Passenger’s best-known song seem like the first term paper of Songwriting 101. Like, buddy, “Let Her Go” was around eight years ago. Why the heck haven’t you grown as a lyricist?

Alfred Soto: Me, I love vocalists who sing about horses and and offer dietary tips into a bowl of mushroom risotto.

Harlan Talib Ockey: Confession: when I saw the title “Sword From the Stone”, I kind of expected Passenger would allude to Arthurian legend at least twice, rather than just throwing it in at the end of the chorus. The lyrics are hilariously bare and underdeveloped, failing to rise to even the polite faux-melodrama Ed Sheeran’s instrumental provides. And speaking of the instrumental, this sounds like an April 2020 “in these uncertain times” commercial re-skinned, doesn’t it? Begging your audience to feel something won’t make us actually feel it, you know. Especially when you sound like you’re putting in as little effort possible yourself.

Katherine St Asaph: “Gingerbread” is right; this has the same cozy, processed hygge of assembling a whimsical cottagecore structure of graham crackers, frosting and gummi drops, and also the feeling of being more tedious and less satisfying than you’d hoped. I love the idea of gingerbread houses.

Jeffrey Brister: Earnest to the point of corny music gets me like nothing else, even when the song isn’t very good. A smoky and yearning vocal, soft-focus adult-contemporary production, a melody that swells and rises with the arrangement and evokes walking down a leaf-strewn suburban street in autumn, a neat little drum-and-bass break in the middle which provides the only piece of musical information that this song isn’t from 2005–ugh, it gets to me in a way that I feel I’m too sophisticated for, but deep down feels right. Even the lyrics, which are unremarkable and plain to the point of being offensive, don’t deter me. Rosenberg hits that perfect melancholy break in the high notes! I can’t hate a song that does that!

Scott Mildenhall: Did Kristian Leontiou go in vain? “Sword From the Stone”‘s lack of ambition is such that it would sound like Passenger had given up on it halfway through, did it not seem that he’d done so some time in 2004. Even Ed Sheeran’s pitiful breath of a breakbeat is an insult to David Gray (and Badly Drawn Boy, and Aqualung); Kodaline would turn this down for being too insipid. Done well, such bland acousticism can be moreishly savoury, but this is not done well.

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