The world of pop music, for ages, has revolved around radio-friendly “hit singles” – that catchy slice of 3-4 minute-long sonic bliss that stays lodged in the memories of music aficionados for years, if not decades. These singles also serve as catalysts for generating interest in an EP/album. As a result, the prevailing wisdom in the music industry is to lead with the strongest track – since its success (or lack thereof) is indicative of how the album might fare commercially. This formula was also far more relevant at a time when artists/bands’ fortunes lived and died by terrestrial radio and MTV. I still believe the former enjoys the strongest opinion-shaping power despite the ubiquity of newer music discovery modes such as on-demand streaming and its embedded algorithmic curation through platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. With the long overdue un-bundling of the album and the debate that has ensued as to whether or not the album approach to music is relevant in the context of how people consume music today, we might be seeing the beginning of the demise of this age-old wisdom. The one act that seems to be doing the exact opposite of this is a dynamic duo that we conveniently (and we’re embarrassed about this) missed in our article about Veteran acts returning with new music in 2024 – and that duo is Great Good Fine OK (featuring Jon Sandler on vocals and studio wizard Luke Moellman on keyboards).    These guys popped up on our radar with their infectious single “Take it or leave it” (from their third album aptly tiled “III”) over 8 years ago and hence became a band that we absolutely had to monitor closely. Several songs of theirs feature on the playlists of our 24/7 global online radio broadcast but when they first started to tease material from their upcoming EP titled “Exist” (slated for release in March 2024) with their lead single “Will we make it?” late last year, I was personally quite underwhelmed and did not have any major expectations of greatness to follow (call me a creature of habit when it comes to latching on to age-old wisdom about the first single being the strongest). What followed was the first indication that I needed to recalibrate my assessment of Great Good Fine OK’s upcoming material. In addition to the uptempo track’s hook-laden chorus, the second single “Blame” has vocalist Jon Sandler sending his trademark falsetto into overdrive while channeling his internal Barry Gibb (the lead singer of The Bee Gees) on the song’s Middle 8. This is one of those songs that will force repeated listens and is hands down one of the finest musical moments of 2023. But with their latest single “Breathing” (released in mid-January of 2024), in addition to being the strongest of the three new singles, there is an unambiguously clear indication that Great Good Fine OK just might be at the tipping point of a musical renaissance that is rather atypical of a band that was formed 10 years ago (for most bands these days, every subsequent release is a diminishing return and expecting greatness on album #6 is a lofty expectation).

This mid-tempo funky disco-soul track (which uses horn arrangements rather cleverly for maximal sonic impact) would fit incredibly well (from a stylistic perspective) on a Jamiroquai album. It’s uplifting beat and sing-out-loud chorus is at odds with its lyrical content which is steeped in commentary about just how powerless we are and how numb we have become in the face of a precarious world that seems to hurl one inexplicable curveball after another at us as exemplified by the lyrics of the song’s first verse below:

I am wide awake but I’m paralyzed

I look up and the sky’s caving in

I can’t escape it I close my eyes

I’m waiting for the end to begin

The song’s chorus (delivered via vocalist Jon’s trademark falsetto) is a rallying cry for us to “keep on breathing” as we navigate the choppy waters of uncertainty. The song’s Middle 8 does not provide the “therapy” or “resolution” that rockstar Sting once shared (in an interview with youtuber Rick Beato) as being the foundational role of that section of a pop song. Sting mentioned this while talking about the disappearance of Middle 8 sections as pop songs get shorter and shorter. Instead, the Middle 8 of “Breathing” paints a vivid picture of an apocalyptic ending (“I feel the ground shaking”). This spirit of weaving contradictory elements together in a pop song (i.e. an uptempo and dance-worthy vibe married with a melancholic and depressing lyric) is what made bands such as Johnny Hates Jazz (famous for their signature hit single “Shattered Dreams” and UK #1 album “Turn back the clock” – released in 1988) great – and it is fantastic to see this spirit return in full force in the modern musical realm.

It is impossible for this review to be complete without commenting on the song’s addictive music video which brims with clever symbolism. In the video, it appears like a meteor is about to strike the planet and people seem to be far more preoccupied with the mundane (e.g. collecting their dry-cleaning). The notion of “Breathing” through this potentially devastating reality manifests in the form of escapism as the characters in the music video find a secret passage to a dancefloor and indulge themselves as the world starts to fall apart. Lead singer Jon both dances and tries to balance himself as he feels the ground under him shake while Luke drums away with a poise that is wildly inappropriate for the situation at hand. This type of creative aspiration is reminiscent of the glory years of MTV and is conspicuous by its absence these days.

Artists always think and confidently state that their most recent material is the best work they have done. I remember being quite annoyed when larger-than-life acts such as Depeche Mode and the late George Michael made these wildly inaccurate assessments of their “Exciter” (2001) and “Patience” (2004) albums respectively. But in the case of Great Good Fine OK, based on the little we have heard of their upcoming EP, this self-assessment (although they use the words “favorite project to datein an interview with Unclear magazine) might actually be spot on and very appropriate. Songs such as these should be an intrinsic part of the defining soundtrack of contemporary pop culture. Great Good Fine OK has emerged in an era where music has largely become a promotional tool for live performances. It is a reality the duo seems to have come to terms with early in their career. I personally do NOT subscribe to this view that music does not have any intrinsic MONETARY value (of the type that on-demand streaming does NOT generate for artists) outside of a live concert. Hence, I admire the resilience and unwavering tenacity of both Jon and Luke in a music industry with lopsided incentives and one which has a penchant for putting a non-trivial amount of musical mediocrity on a pedestal. Sometimes, as a curator of a 24/7 global online radio broadcast, I cannot help but wonder if us music aficionados deserve artists like these – but my gratitude for their existence is boundless. I wish Jon and Luke the absolute best for what comes next creatively and commercially for them. As the title of this article suggests, “Breathing” is 2024’s first great pop single. Based on the unbridled brilliance of “Breathing”, the LACK of widespread ubiquity for Great Good Fine OK would be a tragic loss for the modern pop music mainstream.

STAR RATING: 5 out of 5 stars


Broadcasting Worldwide

In case you did not pick up on this earlier, the blog you are reading is affiliated with Radio Creme Brulee – an online radio station that features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. Alongside newer artists, we also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s,90s, and the 00s. Noteworthy examples include Simply Red, Wet Wet Wet, Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Dubstar, Kings Of Convenience, Tears For Fears, Go West, Duran Duran, Belinda Carlisle, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, INXS, Depeche Mode, Suede, The Corrs, Jamiroquai, Keane, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.

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