Ten years ago, Tim Schou stood on a grand Eurovision stage, representing Denmark with his band A Friend in London. They quickly gained momentum, toured relentlessly, and hopped on Twitter every day to chat with their international army of fans. It seemed like they were living the dream. But soon the updates became less frequent. Session musicians replaced some of the core members. After releasing their 2013 debut album ironically titled “Unite”, A Friend in London divided.
Two years later, Tim Schou would write a deeply personal blog post about how the shadow of Eurovision led to the band’s demise, while the idea of success almost came at a price of a life-long friendship. He sold his Copenhagen apartment and set out to USA to pursue a career as a solo artist. Heartbreak, romance, and a lot of soul-searching permeated the past seven years of Tim Schou’s life, culminating in his first solo album “Hero/Loser”.
“Hero/Loser” is rightfully served as something cathartic. In reality, it simply sounds like good music. There is nothing wrong with these songs; they all are well-executed, radio-friendly and fun to sing along to. If Schou’s lungs were struggling for air when he hit high notes with A Friend in London a decade ago, he nails them with ease now.
Enormous amount of expertise went into creating “Hero/Loser”: 14 co-writers, 11 co-producers, and 15 studio musicians. Tim Schou wrote all the songs and without a doubt led the process, but it still feels like his own personality got blurred out somewhere along the way, only to emerge briefly when the LP shifts gears. Schou wants us to know that he gave up everything in the name of music, yet most of these songs sound surprisingly impersonal. You could imagine them being performed by any man with a guitar: Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, a random member of One Direction… Tim Schou has moved on from his indie roots, but he is yet to make a statement that defines him as a pop artist.
Despite all that, there is still something magnetic about this LP. Yes, it comes across restrained, but it is always sincere. If the above-mentioned would have been obliterated for a line like “First step, I checked a box on our first date / Second step, we made out over cheesecake,“ Tim Schou makes it sound wholesome and funny on “12 Steps”. “Monsters Too” is an exceptionally beautiful track that shows a vulnerable side of its author, and “Holly” demonstrates his powerful, velvety vocals.
The album hints at loneliness, substance abuse, and expired friendships, but those hints either dissolve in unadventurous production or get washed away by waves of optimism. This peculiar mix of ups and downs is the subject of the LP, but the Loser part feels diminished, which makes the Hero part appear superficial. Perhaps, 33 minutes is not enough to sum up seven years. In that case, this is more like a table of contents, not the whole story, but it is intriguing and keeps one curious and eager for more.
If anything, “Hero/Loser” is an example of true teamwork persevering. You can tell that endless conversations took place before some of these songs took shape. That is commendable but it leaves more gaps than it fills. There is a person behind this record, he is just a little out of reach. “Hear me now / Look at me,” Tim Schou pleads in the danceable yet utterly tender “Comeback”. Well, we are listening and looking.
“Hero/Loser” by Tim Schou is out now.