It’s become something of a tradition for us to go a bit berserk about new Clean Bandit singles. In uncertain times we all need something to cling to and in the world of pop things don’t come much more rock solid than the sense that Clean Bandit really do know what they’re doing.
‘Symphony’, which is out next Friday and features Zara Larsson, makes it three-for-three on our Clean Bandit single triumph spreadsheet.
This new single doesn’t scale the heights of ridiculousness showcased in ‘Rockabye’ — which is to say it doesn’t feature Sean Paul popping up to shout things like “DAILY STRUGGLE!” all over the place — and nor does it quite exhibit the tears-in-the-toilets melodrama of ‘Tears’, but it combines the euphoria of the first and the start-like-a-ballad-end-like-a-banger MO of the latter. Like the best Clean Bandit songs it fits in perfectly on a modern playlist, but it doesn’t sound like it’s bending over backwards to do so.
Also, yet again we find the song bit of the song front and centre. People tend to be quite dismissive of the song bits of songs, don’t they? “This is a great track,” they’ll say when they’ve knocked some sounds together. “Just needs a topline.” (The song’s great except for the fact that it doesn’t have a song bit in it yet — well done everyone.) “Send this out to topliners,” they’ll instruct their A&Rs, something of an Elves & The Shoemaker-style situation but one in which the team of magical songwriting gnomes who’ll turn a hot track into a hit song are regarded as a necessary evil and little more than an afterthought. Maybe some track producers resent the dependency they have on songwriters; that would certainly explain why so many of them seem to vindictively remove choruses in favour of massive drops.
Anyway, no such problems with ‘The Bandit’. Not only is ‘Symphony’ one of the songier songs you’ll find in the charts over the coming months but even better this song — like some of the very best songs — is a song about songs. During the course of ‘Symphony’ Zara rhymes “I’ve been hearing symphonies, before all I heard was silence” with “a rhapsody for you and me, and every melody is timeless”, sings “your song is on repeat, and I’m dancing on to your heartbeat” and, for the chorus, belts out: “I just want to be part of your symphony — will you hold me tight and not let go? Symphony: like a love song on the radio.”
The song last for three minutes and thirty two seconds.
It comes at a pretty good time for Zara Larsson, who’s on the verge of releasing her new album. As is befitting one of pop’s best new voices that album contains some pretty good tracks (particularly the extraordinary Rihanna-esque semiballad ‘Only You’) but on the singles front she seems to have been suffering from diminishing returns since ‘Lush Life’. The problem has been particularly acute in the case of her album’s iffy, iffily-titled title track ‘So Good’ — an ill-advised single choice that sounds like track three from the sampler for an unreleased album by an early-2000s UK Sony signing. It limped to Number 44 in the charts and didn’t react on Spotify, which isn’t exactly a great launchpad for an album release.
‘Symphony’ should neutralise that problem for Zara; for Clean Bandit it’s the third massive single in a row and they haven’t even announced their own album yet. Well done all.