Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on>"/>
Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on the logic that just because a lot of the music on the radio is crap doesn't mean all the music on the radio is crap.
Current chart position: #1 on the UK Singles Chart, uncharted in the US.
The team: Florence Welch wrote the original version of "Spectrum," which appears on her Ceremonials album, with the British producer Paul Epworth, who won four Grammy Awards earlier this year for his work on Adele's 21. Epworth's written with Welch before, including her recent hit single "Shake It Out"; he's also written and produced songs for Friendly Fires, Foster the People, Cee Lo Green, and Azealia Banks. This "Spectrum" remix is the work of Calvin Harris, who's appeared in this column several times, most recently for his Cheryl Cole collaboration, "Call My Name."
Breakdown: There's no doubt in my mind that Florence Welch is a great talent with a spectacular, unique voice. I'm still a little bit obsessed with her infectious first big hit, 2008's "Dog Days Are Over." But the one thing that stops me from calling myself an outright fan of Florence + the Machine is the tendency of a lot of her songs, like "No Light No Light" and "Never Let Me Go" to take on an overly baroque, very serious quality. Welch is an eloquent songwriter, but it can get a bit too grandiose and overblown for me. I feel that way about the original version of "Spectrum" (see flamboyant, David LaChapelle-directed video below). I like the whispery verses and the dominating boldness of the chorus--"Say my name/And every color illuminates/We are shining/And we'll never be afraid again"--but the song doesn't convey the same sense of joy and upbeat exuberance that "Dog Days" and "Shake It Out" both do. It's too heavy-handed.
Harris' remix (which is the version that's charting) does a fine job of fixing that problem--his version gives the song a much-needed pulse. He gets rid of the original's dark and doomy background instrumentals, and the verses and the chorus are both quickened with a faster, fluent beat--it makes the song sound lighter and more palatable while still making Welch's voice shimmer at the forefront. (And he gives the song a chillingly dramatic ending). Harris' "Spectrum" allows the song to shine and illuminate, which is, after all, what the lyrics are about, and it also makes the song more fun, which is what pop music is about.