Hey guys, welcome back to Musical McCool!
Well, it happened, 2023 finally started in force! A new number 1, 10 whole new songs on the Hot 100, and multiple new entries to the Homegrown charts to boot. And to think I was afraid I would run out of material to talk about, how silly of me!
The Top 10
So yeah, let's address the elephant in the room, right from the jump:
1. Flowers - Miley Cyrus [LW: - / WOC: 1]
2. Escapism. - RAYE (Ft. 070 Shake) [LW: #1 / WOC: 9]
3. Kill Bill - SZA [LW: #3 / WOC: 6]
4. Anti-Hero - Taylor Swift [LW: #2 / WOC: 13]
5. Made You Look - Meghan Trainor [LW: #4 / WOC: 13]
6. Miss You - Oliver Tree & Robin Schulz [LW: #5 / WOC: 15]
7. Calm Down (Remix) - Rema (Ft. Selena Gomez) [LW: #7 / WOC: 21]
8. Creepin' - Metro Boomin, The Weeknd & 21 Savage [LW: #13 / WOC: 7]
9. Another Love - Tom Odell [LW: #8 / WOC: 97]
10. Let Go - Central Cee [LW: #12 / WOC: 5]
That's right, who would've thunk it? Like Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift before her, Miley Cyrus broke records and debuted at number 1 with a brand new single. I'll talk about the song a bit more later, but I'd be curious to see how long the momentum lasts and whether it'll be able to keep the lead away from RAYE.
Otherwise, our main story is in near the bottom. I said on Twitter that nobody plays a cuck quite like The Weeknd, and yes, Creepin' was the reason for that Tweet... for the record though, I never said this unique talent of his was a bad thing, I actually like this song. And it looks like the general public agreed with me that we'd heard enough from Cian Ducrot, as both his hits were forced out of the Top 10 this week, along with Lewis Capaldi, allowing... *sigh* Let Go by Central Cee to come back... that's like choosing whether I'd rather be burned or slowly electrocuted to death.
The Punished and the New
As you might expect, another aspect of moving into 2023 is that we're filtering out the older crowd of hits. If you need a reminder as to how ACR rules work, check out my post for last week, but for the record, these are the songs that appear to be on that ratio now:
Out Of Nowhere by Bugzy Malone - #16 -> #28
Forget Me by Lewis Capaldi - #30 -> #48
Just Wanna Rock by Lil Uzi Vert - #31 -> #49
You're On Your Own Kid by Taylor Swift - #49 -> #62
Something In the Orange by Zach Bryan - #56 -> #68
Stick Season by Noah Kahn - #44 -> #69
Bad Habit by Steve Lacy - #55 -> #71
Snap by Rosa Linn - #59 -> #74
Under The Influence by Chris Brown - #76 -> #97
As with last week, I don't really have any issues with most of these exits, apart from Bugzy Malone (who in fairness, DID mention 2022 in his song, kind of dates it) and Taylor, as You're On Your Own Kid is probably my second-favourite song on the album... oh well, I guess I'm happy enough with the return of Lavender Haze at #35.
And with those out of the way, let's start parsing through our laundry list of new arrivals, starting with the big one:
Title: Flowers by Miley Cyrus
So this song has absolutely blown up over the past week, breaking records and becoming the fastest song to hit 100 million streams on Spotify, not to mention allowing both Midnight Sky and Party In The USA to return to the Irish charts (as well as July by Noah Cyrus, but who gives a shit). And in a way, I'm really happy for her! Miley has been a pop star for close to 15 years now, and while I won't stay her star has faded, it's been one that seems to blink in and out of relevance every few years, while never bowing out of the mainstream entirely. And I'm specifically talking about the US here, as songs like Midnight Sky and Prisoner were big, huge even, over here, in the UK and a lot of mainland Europe. But why is THIS the song to finally be that giant, all-encompassing hit she hasn't had in a while?
Well, apart from a diehard fanbase that has really doubled down since Plastic Hearts (as they should, it's her best album), this hit at just the right moment. The last big artist to make a major splash was SZA, over a month ago, and this one comes as both a feel-good anthem AND one that's dripping with real-life drama. Now, if you're like me, you already got closure on the whole Miley/Liam Hemsworth situation on her last album, but apparently some fans still care enough to make a big deal of it and go digging up old evidence that he cheated on her. ... Okay, at the risk of this fanbase doxing me, I think this song is just okay at best.
Don't get me wrong, it's cool to have a song like this, all about loving yourself better than your ex could. We've just seen it many many MANY times before, and done a lot better and in more interesting ways too. Hell, Miley herself has made far better songs on the subject, so again, why is THIS the one we're putting on a pedestal? My theory is the timing, the music video that is chock-full of dances for TikTok kids to imitate, and production that is just safe and slinky enough to appeal to most people. Personally, I prefer more bombastic instrumentation in my kiss-off/self-love anthems, and I don't think this instrumentation flatters Miley or plays to her strengths, but it's fine, the writing's fine, Miley's performance is... fine. Nothing more, nothing less. This will likely stick around for a while, but I don't particularly care either way. Happy for you though, Miley.
Title: BZRP Music Sessions #53 by Bizarrap & Shakira
So the BZRP Music Sessions series has been getting a fair amount of attention over the last year especially, and for the record, it's usually a staple of quality. Despite a lot of it being featuring a lot of Spanish hip-hop that I don't speak, producer Bizarrap has a distinct talent for crafting beats that really flatter his guests. I love this idea, it really showcases a lot of talent that might otherwise fly under the general radar, similar to to the Plugged In W/ Fumez series, except I'd argue Bizarrap's beat selection is better and more varied.
All of this brings us to the biggest guest he's had since Nicky Jam (I think), Shakira. We all know I love her, I've certainly praised her a lot, but I don't believe I've ever touched on her Spanish material. To me, she's usually no less amazing and expressive in her native language and her lyrics are no less adorable, but I usually find some of her production and guest choices to be a mixed bag. Here though, she's on her own and she owns the song SO well! I don't speak Spanish, and even I'm floored by how much talent is on display here. The emotion, the multiple flows and deliveries, the vocal range, she is showcasing practically all she can do on one song and it's glorious! Of course, a singer with such talent can easily overshadow her producer... but thankfully Bizarrap might be even better. Many have already highlighted the bass and percussion being excellent, matching Shakira at every turn she takes (seriously, there's a trap breakdown on the second half of this and both the production and Shakira herself switch into it flawlessly), but it's really the dynamic energy and the ability to adapt as the song evolves that impressed me the most. This is a terrific collaboration that feels grandiose, experimental, and just an awesome time overall! If you haven't heard this, please do, it might genuinely be the best thing either of these 2 have done in a while!
Title: Red Flags by Mimi Webb
Oh yay, she's back... I get that a lot of people like Mimi Webb now. House On Fire won over a lot of people to at least start tolerating her, and she has yet to release a song that's nearly as terrible as Dumb Love or Good Without. Well, as a proud hater, I can safely say that this song ALMOST works for me!
I actually like the lyrics on this. It paints a decent enough picture of Mimi Webb talking us through a pretty awful date where she keeps coming across one red flag after another, yet keeps charging forwards, taking no heed from anyone else. I like that she highlights that even her friends think she's wrong to do this, but fuck it, she's still going to follow her heart. It's surprisingly well-written, with some cute little details. I'll even say that Mimi Webb sounds more engaged on this than I've heard her sound in a while. She's still not expressive enough to be fully convincing, but I buy this a lot more from her than the fucking arsonist one! My only major issue is the production, which just plain sucks!
Honestly, the cheap guitar plucks, the artificial build-up to that ugly jumble of bass, drums and the weirdly modulated synths that sound like someone trying to catch their breath, it just doesn't sound good, at all! The bridge is where it really hit me that this felt unfinished... because the song ends right after! What happened to the final chorus, why does it just stop awkwardly at the 2-and-a-half-minute mark? I'm really frustrated because this was the first time I can safely say I found Mimi Webb to be passable, decent even, and the basic song structure lets her down. So close, and yet still so far from being good!
Title: Low by SZA
If I haven't mentioned it before, I really enjoyed S.O.S., SZA's sophomore album. Sure, it's a mess, but that kind of works for the themes and narratives that she traces out across the album. Hell, ask me again in a year's time and I might retroactively count it among my favourites of 2022, I'm certainly going back to it a lot! I mean for as much as 2015 me would have been appalled by a song like Kill Bill, 2023 Fionn finds SZA's musings on killing her ex both tragic and morbidly funny, which I think is the point. And Low is arguably even better!
The ad-libs and warbling from an uncredited Travis Scott humming in the low-end (apparently he's hopping on the remix of this, that almost makes too much sense), and production and lyrics that reminds me of the darker side of The Weeknd's music... oh yeah, this works for me! It's dark, but textured, with the bass playing beautifully off the trap beat, along with that synth always echoing right at the back of the mix which always keeps the atmosphere of the track tense and foreboding. This is trap at its best for me, and SZA rides it beautifully, with some phenomenal multitracking and easily switching from singing to rapping in a split second! Much like Shakira, it just showcases so many of her talents beautifully, and the production compliments her just as well!
Seriously, I know that SZA has been struggling to find a follow-up single to Kill Bill, and I think this could be a great choice. I mean it's just as layered and textured as Good Days, but it's the darkness to its light. And I'd love nothing more than to get more of this brand of R&B on the radio!
Title: Nonsense by Sabrina Carpenter
Ugh, the Skin girl is back. Despite my utter disdain for that song though, I have to admit I sort of admire Sabrina Carpenter nowadays. I mean she made a career for herself after crossing everybody's 2021 pop darling, and even built a pretty dedicated fanbase of her own, allowing her to see some modest success. I even listened to the album this is from and while it's a bit catty, it shows that she has a bit of a sense of humour and a fairly good voice.
Which brings us to this song, where she actually managed to fool me that she got Ariana Grande to do the hook for a moment! Seriously, she does a damn good impression of her cooing, it's legitimately impressive. Okay, the production on this song is weirdly inconsistent, but it's otherwise kinda nice-sounding... and then that hook hits. No joke, when I first heard the line "Baby my tongue goes numb, Sounds like bleh, blah, blee", I burst out laughing in a very public place! And when I realised it was on the chorus, and therefore repeated, I almost had a fit! I mean how can you not cry with laughter at how dumb that line is?!
But hey, that's one bad line in an otherwise serviceable song. The rest of the lyrics are pretty generic, all about how this guy makes her stomach do cartwheels and short-circuits her brain whenever he walks into a room, it's cute... and then, inexplicably, the final couple of lines are horrendous! "This song catchier than chicken pox is"?! "Bet your house is where my other sock is"?! What the fuck, you were SO close to the finish line, what is this??? Either way, it makes an otherwise fine song WAY worse, and WAAAYYY more fun as a result! Congratulations Sabrina, you genuinely got me to smile while listening to your album, I did not expect that!
Title: Last Call by Will Linley
Feels kinda weird to say, but the first time I heard this song, I kinda dismissed it as being too boring for a week like this, where even the failures are spectacular. "Oh boy, a love song about meeting a girl in a bar and immediately falling in love with her, by a willowy-voiced 20-something-year-old, woop-dee-doo!" Then I got over myself, gave it another few listens, and concluded that this is actually a pretty good pop rock song.
The beat feels a bit basic, where the guitars only show up on the hook and are absolutely smothered by the pianos, drum machine and Will's vocals. This guy's from Cape Town, and the song got popular thanks to the lines where he hears an ABBA song and dances with this girl to it. So it's the premise of Best Song Ever if they dropped the band's name, which adds yet another influence to the pile-up. Even so... I dunno, while riding the coattails of other bands to success is a bit cheap, it doesn't detract from the quality of the song, which is definitely doing what it needs to.
Look, this is like a weird mix of the last good George Ezra album with a dash of 2015's Walk the Moon, Will Linley is a pretty good singer, and I'm sure he didn't expect this to get big any more than I did, so overall, I say good for him. At first I was tempted to call this about as middle-of-the-road as Flowers, but the more I listen, the more I do like it. I don't expect it to get much bigger, but I'm glad it's here.
Title: Gimme by Sam Smith, Koffee & Jessie Reyez
Now THIS is how you make an impression from the jump! I'll admit to being a little curious where Sam Smith would go after Unholy, and whether they would double down on what I assume some people find sexy about that song. Well, the answer is yes, they did... and BOY, this is weird!
Now I actually think the song is a lot better than Unholy. For one, it's at least competently mixed, and has a MUCH clearer idea of what it wants to be. And I'll admit, when Sam Smith and Koffee sync up on that second verse, it's legit hot, there's some actual heat here! Even Sam Smith demanding that you nut before coming over and plaster your eyes on their dun-dun-dun is nowhere near as awkward as "SHE BE POPPIN IT". So yes, it works as a nice, slinky pop song, Sam Smith's melodic interplay with Koffee plays infinitely more to their strengths than with Kim petras... so where does it fall apart?
Well, duh, it's that hook. That atrocious, autotuned, imported-straight-from-2009's-Black-Eyed-Peas-Album-The-End hook! What the actual fuck is this?! I mean the rest of the song works, and then there's this one glaring element that takes away from the whole experience. And unlike Red Flags and Nonsense, it's not hidden, it's RIGHT there and steals the conversation when discussing this song! I mean tell me anyone who listens to this won't come out of it remembering "gimme gimme gimme gimme etc" on first listen, forgetting everything else! It certainly took me multiple listens to even notice the positive elements, as good as they are. Again, I will still defend this over Unholy, but that chorus alone makes the 2 much closer than they otherwise would or should be!
Title: Dave Flow by Fredo
I'm always a bit baffled whenever I see Fredo on the charts again. Not that he's a bad rapper, he's fine enough, but unlike the rapper he associates himself with the most, Dave, I've never found him particularly interesting... and nowadays Dave himself is kinda trying my patience too! Still, I suppose he's been gone for a while, so how's the comeback single?
Well, it's not what I expected. From the title, I thought he might... you know, imitate Dave's flow, as he's collabed with him often enough to be well familiar. But nope, instead the only tangible reference to Dave is how Fredo won a bet with him about Followers, and everything else is about Fredo's own come-up, all in a single extended verse with no hook to speak of. I'm kind of impressed by the unconventional structure for a comeback single, and the production and (yes) his flow are both excellent.I just wish the content was a tad more interesting, or at least more cleverly delivered. Once in a while you'll get a cool bar - the part about all his chains hurting his neck and back, I LOVED that, and the bread/Dej Loaf line was cute - but mainly it's about the usual sex and money that he's gained from success, while still highlighting his friends and family that were left behind, some even ending up in jail.
I honestly do think that this is a good song, just a bit miltose if you've heard come-up albums like, say, JID's The Forever Story last year. And while I do think it might be my favourite of the Fredo tracks I've reviewed on this blog, for what that's worth, I don't think there's anything super memorable about it. Pretty good, just not sure how much of an impact it'll leave.
Title: We Caa Done by Popcaan (Ft. Drake)
Do any of you remember the last time these 2 collabed on Twist & Turn in 2020? I doubt it, it was extremely forgettable, but I remember getting quite annoyed at it back when it dropped. I suppose I was just so sick of Drake doing this Jamaican thing that he's never pulled off particularly well, and the accent he put on felt more like he was making fun of it, similarly to when he tried his hand at UK Grime in 2017 and failed hard! Unlike most of his inevitable growers, it's the one type of Drake music that I always hate on first listen and then keep hating.
Well, this isn't much better, albeit with a slightly more memorable chorus this time. Sadly, with Popcaan only providing adlibs, said hook belongs entirely to Drake doing his fake patois schtick, meaning it really grates on my nerves. Not that Popcaan is winning many points when he casually sings about "coming in your belly" because women LOVE hearing that you want to actively impregnate them on sex jams! Although the irony of him mentioning that he's the original, the "prototype", almost immediately followed by fake Drake, did get me to laugh.
Unfortunately the second verse if far more forgettable, and with the vocal effects and Popcaan's voice getting shriller, it annoys me almost as much as Drake did on the hook. Add on to that the forgettable production and the fact that the hook is only memorable because of inane repetition, and you have a real snoozefest. Don't try to tell me I just don't get it, I've heard much better from both of these men!
Title: Time To Leave by Darren Kiely
And last but certainly not least, let's talk about the new song by Ireland's own Darren Kiely from Cork. This guy is the kind of homegrown success story I made this series in order to cover! A young man who started writing songs and singing covers on TikTok and Instagram, slowly building up his audience since 2019. And after moving to New York last year to pursue his passions, he finally got the full in-house production and budget to make his first real breakthrough, with a little help from TikTok picking this up along the way.
The drums and guitar on this are simple enough, but so warm and effective, perfectly matching Darren's raspier vocal tone than you might expect, and that piano that comes in after the first hook only adds to that aesthetic. But as you'd expect, it's the songwriting that gets me. As he traces out a relationship that ebbs and flows, where they keep leaving and coming back to each other, almost out of habit, until he finally decides to put a stop to it. He realises that they're never really going to work, and that he's failed to change in the ways she wants him to, so he asks her not to wait for him anymore. He's broken her heart too many times, and now it's time for him to leave.
I love when artists can both do the mature thing and own their baggage, all without sanctifying OR disparaging the other person. The framing is just very human, and anyone who's been in one of those on-again/off-again relationships knows they can be unhealthy but admittedly comfortable, just like he acknowledges. I love that a song like this, sounding closer to Irish Country music that anything else, is charting on the mainstream charts AND is this well-written. Major props to Darren, I hope we see more of you man!
So all this leaves us in a bit of a tricky position for the Best and Worst of the week, as we have some very strong contenders for both. But ultimately... I may surprise some of you, but based on which I would listen to LEAST, I'm giving Worst of the week to We Caa Done by Popcaan & Drake. At least the other bad songs here had elements I enjoyed, even ironically, whereas this didn't bring me any amount of joy. As for the Best... even despite SZA and Darren making this very difficult, I have to give it to Bizzrap & Shakira with BZRP Music Sessions #53, for being a mind-blowing display of each of their respective talents! This could be huge and it's been SO long since we had a proper Spanish-language hit in Ireland... please?
Now while the mainstream charts were in turmoil due to a new number 1, the Homegrown Top 20 had a fair few brand new songs edge out the weaker ones too.
1. I'll Be Waiting - Cian Ducrot [LW: #1 / WOC: 10]
2. One Life - Dermot Kennedy [LW: #2 / WOC: 7]
3. Time To Leave - Darren Kiely [LW: - / WOC: 1]
4. Superstar - Belters Only & Mickey Modelle (Ft. Simone Denny) [LW: #3 / WOC: 9]
5. Get On My Love - Picture This [LW: #4 / WOC: 8]
6. Perfect - Moncrieff [LW: - / WOC: 1]
7. Mayday - CMAT [LW: - / WOC: 1]
8. Forever And Ever And Always - Ryan Mack [LW: #8 / WOC: 7]
9. Not OK - Robert Grace [LW: #14 / WOC: 8]
10. Believe In Love - 49th & Main [LW: #8 / WOC: 13]
The top 2 are currently pretty unshakeable, but it is cool seeing a relative unknown like Darren Kiely posing a challenge. The rest either already have been, or will get covered on my video series National Treasures over on Instagram, go follow me there @thesocialtune to hear my full thoughts.
In the meantime though, aside from Biig Piig's returning song Kerosene (just in time for her new album, check it out), here are the rest of our new arrivals that I have yet to talk about in detail:
Title: Perfect by Moncrieff
Title: Mayday by CMAT
Title: BBB by TraviS & Elzzz
Title: Flash of Light by Róisín Murphy
For my thoughts on all of these, 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, unless something terrible happens to me.
As ever, please let me know in the Comments what you thought of the songs covered this week, and leave a Like if you enjoyed! 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.