Songs like Wake Up are easy to dismiss. They’re too catchy. They’re not self-serious enough. They have no redeeming artistic value. These are the kinds of criticisms that define what are considered “guilty pleasures” by many, and this outlook has been drilled subconsciously into my thinking as well. And yet, when I imagine the kind of pop song I want to hear — to fully enjoy, not just appreciate on a critical level — tracks like Wake Up are the first ones to come to mind.
TST has worked with producers Sweetune since their debut, and that’s always a recipe for a strong discography. Yet, it wasn’t until last November’s Paradise that this collaboration truly ignited. Beyond its obvious retro influences, Wake Up couldn’t be more different in tone. Yet, that trademark, melodic Sweetune touch elevates what might otherwise be a throwaway dance track. Honestly, I was sold from the very first moment, when upbeat rhythm guitar fuses with bright synths to forge an incredibly sunny instrumental.
Other than Paradise, I’ve never been a huge fan of TST’s vocals. They’re a little too sugary for me (and that’s saying something!). Wake Up might have become an all-time classic if performed with a more robust tone, and that realization dulled some of my enjoyment the first time through. But here’s where the importance of melody comes in. Sweetune are masters of the hook, filling their work with verses and pre-choruses that sound as strong as full-fledged choruses. This melodic approach is in full effect here. Wake Up’s pre-chorus is probably my favorite bit of pop melody so far this year, offering an off-kilter sense of build before the track launches into a more simplistic, chant-heavy hook. Through it all, the energy is ebullient and utterly refreshing. Screw self-seriousness and artistic value. Give me the unabashed sing-along jams any day.