Musical McCool Season 3, Week 13 (Eyes Closed, Paris, Texas (Lana Del Rey), BESO, and more)
Hey guys, welcome back to Musical McCool!
This year so far feels a bit like the opposite of 2022. Where last year the same singles seemed to stick around for way too long with no momentous debuts for months, this year seems to have so many that I barely get used to our new hits before they get shouldered back by even newer ones!
The Top 10
For instance, we have yet another new entry into our Top 10 AND a new number 1!
1. Miracle - Calvin Harris (Ft. Ellie Goulding) [LW: #2 / WOC: 3]
2. Flowers - Miley Cyrus [LW: #1 / WOC: 11]
3. ceilings - Lizzy McAlpine [LW: #4 / WOC: 13]
4. Eyes Closed - Ed Sheeran [LW: - / WOC: 1]
5. Heaven - Niall Horan [LW: #8 / WOC: 6]
6. People (Check On Me) - Libianca [LW: #10 / WOC: 12]
7. Die For You (Remix) - The Weeknd (Ft. Ariana Grande) [LW: #6 / WOC: 20]
8. Boy's A Liar Pt. 2 - PinkPantheress (Ft. Ice Spice) [LW: #3 / WOC: 14]
9. Eat Your Young - Hozier [LW: #7 / WOC: 2]
10. All Of The Girls You Loved Before - Taylor Swift [LW: 9 / WOC: 2]
That's right, Miracle by Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding is our new number 1! It's not surprising, I've been calling it for a couple of weeks now, but it's certainly more interesting having a Trance song - which is a far better collaboration single than their 2013 effort btw - than the pop filler of Flowers. On top of that, both Eat Your Young and All Of The Girls You Loved Before remained in the Top 10, only slipping a little but staying strong, for now.
In other big news, we have a new Ed Sheeran single Eyes Closed, possibly in promotion of that new series The Sum Of It All that's dropping in a month. Interesting seeing this debut so high, but it's got some real legs on it, with an official music video for it and everything... more on my feelings about that a bit later.
The Punished and the New
This week also saw some interesting shifts on the ACR front... including a couple I'm quite happy with:
Boy's A Liar Pt. 2 by PinkPantheress (Ft. Ice Spice) - #3 -> #8
Calm Down (Remix) by Rema (Ft. Selena Gomez) - #5 -> #18
I'll Be Waiting by Cian Ducrot - #12 -> #35
Not too upset by any of these, to be honest. A bit surprised about Pinkpantheress, but Ireland doesn't always take remixes into account for ACR rules, otherwise they'd be a lot easier to circumvent, and it's had a decent enough run, it's still in the Top 10. The other 2 are both plain bad though, happy to see them leave!
Otherwise, some unfortunate shifts all across the charts: first off, Last Night by Morgan Wallen rose into the Top 20, at number 19... fuck me. And the bad news continues, as River by Miley Cyrus fell back to 32, and Song To Myself by Picture This collapsed immediately to 60. But of course, Giving Me by Jazzy (which WAS produced by Belters Only, as I've since found out), rose all the way up to 44. Because morals and taste are jokes.
Now, let's dive into the new arrivals, starting with the big one:
Title: Eyes Closed by Ed Sheeran
Look, I've been a staunch defender of Ed Sheeran for the past few years. Hell, I'm pretty sure he appeared in almost every category from Bad to Great in my ranking of the 2022 Hot 100, because I stand by that he's got a lot of talent... but he also doesn't know when to stop. He's everywhere and he'll collaborate with anyone, meaning his discography can be a little uneven, especially when it comes to production. Speaking of which, man I wish I liked this song more than I do.
I think the writing on the verses is actually really damn good, detailing working through his grief after his friend Jamal Edwards passed away last year. He details stumbling through life drunk with his eyes closed, just trying to get through each day, because every time he opens them, he sees his lost friend's face. And MAN, I wish the instrumental and the hook matched his performance here! His delivery is so heartfelt but the repetitive i-i-i-eyes on the chorus and the acoustic guitar that's mic'ed way too loud do nothing for it!
And look, I know people grieve in their own ways, but I genuinely felt F64 was the perfect send-off! It was raw, imperfect, and felt heartbreakingly genuine, not trying for the pop crossover. But between the generic pop chorus on this, and that new Disney + documentary he has dropping in a month... well, I don't believe he would do this with anything but pure intentions, but I can't say that for the rest of his team. I mean compared to F64, which barely anyone actually saw (relatively speaking), this song's music video has now amassed 20 million views on YouTube as I'm writing this. And that just makes me a little uncomfortable.
Title: Like Crazy by Jimin
So apparently there were quite a few people who actually really liked Set Me Free Pt2, which I reviewed last week. I don't really get it, but I suppose but people some people just like bombastic horns and will take anything that comes with them... although if that's true, why wasn't War by ArrDee & Aitch a bigger hit?! ... But I digress.
This new song is certainly more interesting than the last one, at least lyrically, where Jimin is having this wonderful sexual experience with the girl he loves. And then, towards the end, it's revealed that it's all a dream, and that as soon as he wakes up, he's going to be alone yet again, left in the wake of his failed relationships. It's actually really well done, even though I do think that ceilings by Lizzy McAlpine handily beats it out in terms of songwriting. But my main issue is the production; not that it's bad, it's actually quite slinky and pretty, but then the 80s synths come in and it just becomes kind of anonymous, the obvious attempt at an easy crossover hit.
So sure, it might actually net him more radio play than Set Me Free, but it's a lot less ambitious, which is always going to deduct some points in my book. Still, for a song that is playing it super safe, this is actually done reasonably well. Jimin's singing isn't anything spectacular, but the lyrics and concept are just enough to get me to tentatively recommend this.
Title: labour by Paris Paloma
So this is the breakthrough single by UK artist Paris Paloma track which she herself has described as an example of pure feminine rage. And just like the last one, the production felt a little standard at first... but unlike with Jimin, its simplicity feels intentional, as the throbbing bass and light percussion could easily be acting as the underlying rage behind the lyrics. Meanwhile, the melody is guided by Paris herself, whose limited vocal range still does a great job highlighting a wonderful depiction of a woman who's absolutely sick of all the ways her man, who was supposed to save her once upon a time, is just a CONSTANT letdown!
Now, songs bashing your partners can easily get too mean or personal, but the framing is very clever. This guy does seem to be kind of shitty, or at least not trying nearly hard enough, while still putting unreasonable expectations on her. And the lines about realizing that if they had a daughter together, he would exploit her the exact same way and instill her with those lessons, that's what really angers her and it's a great little detail! It's a song where the balance in this relationship is clearly gone and she's had enough... Billy Nomates would be proud!
Now, it's got some minor issues. I do think the hook is a bit weak, and while the writing is great, I did JUST mention Billy Nomates, who's just in a different class and has been ruling my 2023! Still, that's nitpicking, this is still a little great little breakthrough song. Let's see how you follow it up, Paris, welcome to the big leagues!
Title: Fast Car by Luke Combs
So this is the latest song of that Luke Combs album that's currently charting. And honestly, it's another huge highlight; a cover of the classic song Fast Car by Tracy Chapman.
It's the story of a small-town girl who works hard supporting her deadbeat dad, who dreams of driving away with her ambitious boyfriend someday, as he's got a fast car and big dreams. And yet the more time passes, the more he seems to be letting her down the same way that her own dad did to her mother, refusing to get a real job and lost in his dreams without actually doing anything to accomplish them. So by the end of the song, she decides to break the cycle; she tells this boy he can keep his fast car, finally ready to start living her own life untethered by deadweight men. It's a genuinely great, tragic song, where even the final resolution comes with the understanding that she can't get any of that wasted time back. And I think the modern country production sounds amazing, with the terrific melody and Luke Combs' rich, warm timbre. Notably, he doesn't actually change the pronouns, deciding to keep the line about him being a checkout girl, which is a pretty bold move considering certain members of his audience. At the very least, it might prompt some of them to check out the original!
Either way, this is fast becoming a real favourite of mine, and I'm so happy to see it here! It's one of those better songs to have dropped from the album, and considering it's a deep cut, that's damn impressive! It's certainly not the original, but I do love this, and the rest of the album is definitely worth your time too!
Title: Paris, Texas by Lana Del Rey (ft. SYML)
I'll be honest, I wasn't going to check out the new Lana Del Rey album. I wasn't a big fan of the singles and I've never liked her as an artist, but considering the heaps of praise and critical acclaim I've seen for it - even more so than for Norman Fucking Rockwell - I decided to give it a chance. And yeah, while I don't think it's quite as amazing as some people are making it out to be - I'm still not a fan, sorry - it does contain some of our best songs and melodic compositions to date. And this might just be the best one.
A song where she sounds utterly beautiful, over the cyclical, repetitive melody that nevertheless flatters her really well, where she talks about all the places that she's going in order to get away from all the other people shining brighter and more beautifully than she is. It's clearly a metaphor for age catching up to you, where you keep running to avoid the fact that you're starting to become the old one, the aging, single woman who's still unmarried. But by the end of the song, she comes back home to her roots in California, where she was always destined to end up. Because when you're right, you're right, even when you're wrong. That closing line really haunts me, because it implies the even though she's back where she supposedly belongs, just like everyone said she should in the first place, she's still not happy. And this is definitely her settling because she doesn't see any other option.
It's a deeply tragic song, with an ethereal piano, subtle strings, and one of the best melodies and concepts Lana has ever put to music! Who knows, with a little bit of time, this might unseat Love as my favourite Lana Del Rey song. Because it certainly has the capacity; genuinely great song!
Title: BESO by ROSALÍA & Rauw Alejandro
So even with my incredibly limited knowledge of the Spanish language, I'm familiar with "beso" meaning "kiss". So I already knew this was going to be a love song, and considering ROSALÍA and Rauw Alejandro have been dating for a good while, I thought it could just be a cute little collaboration. But as it turns out, in the music video that dropped for this, she also shows off an engagement ring, so it's basically the official announcement of their engagement! Cute, I'm very happy for them both.
I just kind of wish the song felt a bit more momentous. You guys know that I'm a sucker for these kinds of duets, and the moments of interplay between these 2 are definitely the highlights. But the vocal production particular is a bit uneven, sometimes locked behind the percussion on that reggaeton beat, which drowns out a lot of the instrumentation for that matter. I do think the emotion and the tenderness come through really well, even as someone who doesn't speak the language; I guess I just wish it was a little more ambitious.
But again, this is less for me and more for them. So congratulations, you 2! I wish you many many years of happiness.
Title: Empress by Eliza May
So here we have the second empowerment anthem of the week. This one from DJ Eliza May, who also happens to be a model who did a photoshoot in Dubai in order to promote the single... or possibly the other way round, the coverage on this wasn't amazing. But either way, it took off on TikTok, since a lot of people wanted to copy the makeup and this particular type of song does really well there at the moment. Unfortunately, said song isn't particularly good.
Don't get me wrong, it's not awful, but compared to labour, the writing falls much shorter. There's a lot of repetition in the lyrics, the vocal production just annoys me, and the punchline about her being an "empress who wants to impress" is weak. Also, for a song described to me as an uplifting anthem, there sure are a lot of minor tones! I can tell the instrumentation is detailed, but it's layered in a way that makes it feel very generic. Oh, and I flat-out HATE the "all of you motherfuckers" bit, it's the worst part of what is already a really mediocre performance, followed closely by the moaning at the front of the chorus.
It's just not really my thing, and no, not because this clearly isn't targeted at me. But again, it ISN'T for me, it's for women who want to be treated like an empress. Hell, you could say that me criticizing this is kind of proving her point about how men are just trying to break her stride. So look, she looks amazing in the photoshoot, and if this gave her a sense of empowerment, good for her. I just don't think the music is any good. Sorry.
Title: Karma by Taylor Swift
So we've finally gotten past the singles on Midnights that most people would consider good, and getting to the more divisive stuff! And yeah, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't think this song was kind of silly.
The writing, especially on the hook, is really lacking, with a lot of awkward lines. I don't understand why Karma is a cat purring in my lap because it loves me, or why it's flexing like a goddamn acrobat. I know that it's supposed to be a self-reflective tune where she's self-aware enough to realize that she is the drama, and despite profiting off of that drama for years and years, there is a downside to it. But it's not fleshed out particularly well, and the production really isn't helping. I don't necessarily buy into the arguments that Jack Antonoff was the main problem with Midnights, but I do think that the instrumental he gave her here just wasn't much good, with that stuttering trap beat, contrasting harshly with the buzzing synths.
That being said, while I know plenty of people who dislike this... it's honestly too weird for me to hate. I personally just find it kind of hilarious for the wrong reasons. So no, it's not good, but it does make me smile.
Title: REACT by Switch DIsco (Ft. Ella Henderson)
Oh goody, Ella Henderson's back. GOD it sucks that whenever I say that now, it's full of dread and sarcasm!
There was a time where I was genuinely excited to see Ella Henderson on the charts, but now, every single time she comes out, I know it's usually bound to be a song like this. Another House team-up with a with a DJ or producer that doesn't know how to properly mix her vocals. But you know what, I'll say this, this is one of the better ones I've heard in a while. It's a minor key, atmospheric track, where UK duo Switch Disco give her this haunting little sample, which she weaves around really well! The vocal production is very nicely layered, Ella sounds great, and the beat is... the beat... oh boy.
Okay, look, it's not her fault or even Switch Disco's! But this particular song samples Robert Miles' Children, a great little song from the 90s... but if you've been paying attention to rap music circa 2015, you may be familiar with the sample from another rather infamous song, namely Tyga's track Stimulated, the song where he brags about fucking Kylie Jenner when she was underage! And due to that, this sample is forever tainted in my mind. And it's harder still to escape that creepy vibe when Ella's singing about touching her body and just reacts... like a defense mechanism, for instance!
Again, the song is actually not bad, at all, and the last thing I want to do is give Tyga any attention! But it's just what I hear when I listen to it. And that's just unfortunate, because this might be some of the best production Ella's had in while... What a shame.
Title: Candy Necklace by Lana Del Rey (Ft. Jon Batiste)
The second Lana Del Rey song that I get to talk about this week, and it's another pretty good one, albeit not quite as good as the last one.
This one centers on her relationship with someone who, as far as I can tell, is either her age and acting like he's way younger OR he's actually younger than her. Either way, he's a guy she wouldn't ideally be with... but in keeping with the theme of this album, she feels like she's running out of options. And the production might be even better than on Paris, Texas, with the gorgeous piano and strings. However, I don't think the singing is quite as good, and the writing isn't nearly as strong.
The metaphor's easier to track, as the candy necklace serves as the trivial bit of sugary goodness that just about keeps her hooked on him and convinced that she can't move on. But it isn't quite as effective as, say, The Bar's Getting Lower by Reba McIntyre from a couple of years ago, check THAT out! But again, I do think this is pretty good I prefer the last song, but if you disagree, I wouldn't argue.
Title: Here by Tom Grennan
So you know what, I think Tom Grennan has been steadily growing on me. Despite the fact that 2 of his hit songs in 2021 were near the very top of my Worst Hits list for that year, he also had that 1 really good song in Little Bit of Love, and he didn't even release anything egregiously bad last year, so I was kind of okay with seeing him back this week. But... oh, no... this SUCKS!
This is an overdramatic piano ballad a la Dermot Kennedy, except with a melody and subtlety of a Someone You Loved-era Lewis Capaldi, where he belts loudly and abrasively that he will be here for you, with all the tangled jumbled metaphors and weirdly strained backing vocals that really don't give me any sense of comfort! Once again, I'd rather you be as far away from me as possible if you're going to sound like this! I mean, say what you will about Little Bit of Love, but it had a propulsive rhythm to it that kept it energetic and catchy, whereas this just feels overproduced and generic. You can put this over any advertisement for traveling abroad and it would fit perfectly!
Nothing about it warrants this level of drama, and lines like "I'll be our remedy" make it feel like he's waiting for this girl to be at her lowest so he can snatch her up! It just feels so sleazy to me in the worst possible way, especially when he mentions that she's "from a broken home"! Is Tom Grennan just being really self-aware about his target audience and aiming this at divorced housewives?! Either way, this is not for me!
So yeah, unsurprisingly, Worst of the week is going to Here by Tom Grennan! I was slightly worried I was going to have to give it to Eliza May, which would have been messy, so thanks for that. As for the Best, there was actually quite a bit of competition this week, but while Luke Combs or Paris Paloma would be perfectly good picks, I' giving it to Paris, Texas by Lana Del Rey, purely on the basis of an artist I don't like making such a great piece of music and writing, genuinely shocked by how much I like it!
Thankfully, Homegrown charts remained relatively calm this week!
1. Heaven - Niall Horan [LW: #2 / WOC: 6]
2. Eat Your Young - Hozier [LW: #1 / WOC: 2]
3. Giving Me - Jazzy [LW: #4 / WOC: 3]
4. Song To Myself - Picture This [LW: #3 / WOC: 2]
5. My Mind - Belters Only [LW: #5 / WOC: 4]
6. Innocence And Sadness - Dermot Kennedy [LW: #6 / WOC: 4]
7. Newcastle - Lankum [LW: - / WOC: 1]
8. I Left My Heart - Lucy Blue [LW: #10 / WOC: 3]
9. Full of The Blade - Marty Mone [LW: #9 / WOC: 4]
10. YOU - LYRA [LW: #8 / WOC: 3]
Yeah, Heaven's back at number 1... figures.
Otherwise, for my thoughts on the one new song here and much more, check out my video series National Treasures over on Instagram, go follow me there @thesocialtune to hear my full thoughts. And if you want a sneak peek at what hit the chart this week:
Title: Newcastle by Lankum
Again, for my thoughts on these songs and more, simply head over to my Instagram @thesocialtune, where I will be reviewing EVERY SONG that hits the Homegrown Top 20 over the course of 2023! I'm hoping to get caught up by the midyear, fingers crossed!
As always, let me know in the Comments what you thought of the songs covered this week, and leave a Like if you enjoyed! Please make sure to follow me everywhere so you don't miss a thing, and Subscribe to the blog to keep up with my weekly chart reflections. Stay safe and happy everyone and until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune signing off!