I do have a vague plan:
1. Award-winning songs from last year.
2. Releases by artists who typically win these sorts of things.
3. The Oz acts in the Triple J Hottest 100.
4. Last year’s chart hits by Aussies.
5. Songs I’ve heard in my own travels, had recommended to me by friends, colleagues etc, that don’t fall into any of the above categories.
So, in the spirit of Number 5, I went into 666 ABC yesterday, and asked around, “What was the best new Australian song you heard last year?” I asked people whose listening taste is far cooler than mine, by the way, and they all said things like, “Oh, well, I don’t really listen that much any more”, and “I haven’t caught up with Triple J for a while …” and then, “I really liked Clare Bowditch’s last single.” Thus:
I’ve read some of the civilised internet discourse surrounding this song, and most of it boils down to “I don’t like Clare’s new sound” and “Clare is hot”. So let’s focus on the song.
I like the whack-whack-whack hand claps, and the hiccupy pop-into-head-voice backing vocals (complete with a melodic quotation from Dido’s Thank You). I like the Annie Lennox multitracking, but once again I ask, what year is it? Whack-whack-whack.
I also like that this song has a bridge. It’s a fairly clever major key spin-off from the melody of the verses, which is nice.
The lyrics I can make out (I use the method of listening as hard as I can) aren’t spectacular. The problem with a word like “children” is that it’s not an emotive word. “Boy” is emotive. “My daughter Ella” is emotive. “Children” is an agitprop word, and when you combine that with phrases like “take these children by the hand” and “pen is mightier than the sword”, the song gets preachy. Also, great songwriting doesn’t use clichés; great songwriting invents new ones.
I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the words to the chorus are (that over-busy production), and they’re not helped by the emphasis on weak syllables: “Ev-e-ry DAY, we are figh-TING …”. It seems to involve “a cabal”, or “hooning in cars” – I’m not sure – but it’s repeated, and repeated a lot. Some choruses can survive repeating over and over, but they’ll have different phrasing each time, or words that gain in meaning. This one begs have its changes rung, just once.
I’m putting Start of War slightly above My Delirium, mainly because of the craft of the bridge. This one scores a 4.2 on the Vanda-Young scale.