PAKISTAN: Vital Signs, Vol 1. - Vital Signs
Updated: Jun 13, 2021
The Pakistani pop stars certainly know how to make a fun and catchy sound.
The hallmark of a great pop album is not necessarily about the quality of the music, but sometimes it can be of its catchiness. According to this logic, Vital Signs, Vol 1. is a pop masterpiece, albeit a deeply flawed one. In order to write this review I have had to try to turn a blind eye to its many obvious faults and instead focus my attention on the fact that this album is nothing but good fun. Having listened to a vast number of albums during these past few months no artist's music has penetrated my mind in quite the way that this Pakistani pop outfit have… in particular one song.
"Sometimes music which has been stripped back to basics can be as enjoyable as those albums which may leave its audience with a deeper sense of resonance”
The opening track of the album was ranked as the third most popular song of all time, according to a BBC World Service poll. I am of course speaking about Dil Dil Pakistan, a song which for the last six weeks has been etched onto my brain. I am under no illusions that it is either a beautiful or interesting song, but regardless, it in no way bothers me that on average I hum the chorus to myself about 10 times a day. The best thing about this wonderful earworm is that despite its potential to grow annoying quickly due to its shoddy musical production, it is yet to do so and I genuinely believe it never will because it puts a massive smile on my face each time I catch myself thinking about it. The song has become Pakistan’s second national anthem and I can see why. After two or three listens, even I, a non-Urdu speaker, can easily remember the tune and the lyrics to the song, dare I say better than the quite dull British national anthem or un-inventive ‘In-ger-land’ chants that can be heard at an international sporting fixture in which England are playing.
Whilst I could rant and rave about the first song for the entirety of this review, I will avoid doing so and let you find out for yourself if you like it. Instead, I will make the point that it is not just Dil Dil Pakistan that is immensely catchy and unforgettable. Even though the backing track sounds like it was ripped off a Fisher-Price toy, Tum Mil Gaye is one of the numerous memorable pop songs on the album, alongside the upbeat teen pop track Yaadein and Gori, which to my untrained Western ear sounds not too dissimilar to Punjabi Bhangra music, that simply makes you want to move your body and dance. Meanwhile, the album features pop influences from the Western world, for example Samjhana, which uses the backing track to Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine, made popular by UB40, as well as the track Pyar which sounds suspiciously like Touch in the Night by Silent Circle.
For all of the backhanded compliments I may have given this album for its keyboard-heavy poppy tracks, there are three songs which escape the classic pop genre which are of legitimate high musical quality. Do Pal Ka Jeevan is an excellent example of a head-banging rock song, whilst the final two tracks are genuinely beautiful. In the penultimate track, Musafir, lead singer Junaid Jamshed hits some impressive high notes before going into the melodic seven-minute track, Ye Shaam, which almost has a serene meditative quality to it. Overall, whilst this may not be the most musically-advanced album I have ever heard, sometimes music which has been stripped back to basics can be as enjoyable as those albums which may leave its audience with a deeper sense of resonance. For that Vital Signs, Vol 1. probably deserves some credit or at least appreciation for recording what might be the most catchy song of all time.