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Musical McCool Season 4, Week 23 (Houdini, places to be, Carry You Home, and more)

Hey guys, welcome back to Musical McCool, my weekly series dissecting the Irish charts!

The past few weeks have felt like a weird equalizer. Almost as if the charts discovered they were getting too interesting and decided to get a little blander, returning to the plain old status quo. And I never thought I'd be including hits by Billie Eilish and Eminem as "a return to tame and normal":

The Top 10

On that note:

1. espresso - Sabrina Carpenter [LW: #2 / WOC: 8]

2. Houdini - Eminem [LW: - / WOC: 1]

3. A Bar Song (Tipsy) - Shaboozey [LW: #1 / WOC: 8]

4. I Had Some Help - Post Malone (Ft. Morgan Wallen) [LW: #3 / WOC: 4]

5. Birds of a Feather - Billie Eilish [LW: #5 / WOC: 3]

6. Stargazing - Myles Smith [LW: #6 / WOC: 4]

7. Lunch - Billie Eilish [LW: #4 / WOC: 3]

8. Austin - Dasha [LW: #7 / WOC: 16]

9. BAND4BAND - Central Cee (Ft. Lil Baby) [LW: #14 / WOC: 2]

10. Belong Together - Mark Ambor [LW: #9 / WOC: 14]

Yep, Eminem nabbed a new Top 10 hit with his biggest single in a while, Houdini. We'll get to the song itself a little later, but for now, this has been racking up numbers way more quickly than I expected at this point in Em's career.

Now sadly, it did not take the number 1, which is instead held by the increasingly irritatingly bland espresso. I'm sorry, this is one of those songs that would have been fine if it stuck around for a week, but this many weeks in, I am SO sick of it! This also meant that Shaboozey's A Bar Song (Tipsy), a song with a LOT more personality, got forced back down to number 3 after just 1 week at the top spot. Because life isn't fair and God hates you.

What's still more shocking is that Birds of a Feather by Billie Eilish surpassed Lunch, maintaining its spot at number 5 while the latter slipped down to 7. Not too happy about that, Lunch is definitely the better song, but at least it's unpredictable! What certainly ISN'T is BAND4BAND rising into the Top 10 at number 9. These are 2 of the biggest names in rap music making a multinational hit, and while it's definitely no Sprinter, I could see it having some staying power.

The Punished and the New

So this was a week of success! We got a couple of returning entries this week off the back of some big hits, as Without Me by Eminem re-enters at 47, Something In the Orange by Zach Bryan returns at 54, and Asking by Sonny Foedra is back at 90.

As for our winners, sure we got 6 in the Morning by Flex & Nate Dogg at 44, but more to the point, I am DELIGHTED to announce that HOT TO GO! by Chappell Roan shot up to 49 and Red Wine Supernova rose up to 55, please please PLEASE let these be big Summer hits! To wrap up our winners, One Of Wun by Gunna rose up to 52, and Stumblin In by CYRIL is at 66.

As for the losers, we only had a couple, but they were big ones: euphoria by Kendrick Lamar fell to 74, Risk by Gracie Abrams dropped to 84, and The Code by Nemo collapsed spectacularly to 97. Shame, they're all decent-to-incredible songs. And now, our new arrivals, let's go!

Title: Houdini by Eminem

Position: #2

I didn't expect this to debut as high as it did... though I probably should have. The concept behind making an album called The Death of Slim Shady was clearly yet another attempt for Eminem to assassinate his own persona, much like did on Encore and Recovery in the past. And while part of it smacks of desperation to reconnect with his aging fanbase (especially with the shots at "cancel culture" on this track and the forced references), it worked well in the past on projects like Marshall Mathers LP 2, so who knows, maybe this would be a return to form for Em.

And I'll say this: it's by no means the worst thing he's released over the past few years. I'd argue that if this had been on Music To Be Murdered By (either side), this track would be serviceable, if not one of the better songs (it's no Godzilla or Darkness or Killer). It's certainly more colourful and better than anything on his disastrous album Revival! And I will say when he slips into the Slim Shady persona, it is kind of impressive to me that he can still do that voice all these years later, no matter how many after-effects were used. But all of that to say that I think the song is pretty fucking mid. The bars are weak, the hook is cheesey and produced like a bad circus tune, and while some bars do land and make me chuckle - him being "an electrician cause y'all are light work" is a funny dad joke, and I wouldn't be a Slim Shady fan if I didn't laugh at an 8-year-old getting hit in the face - MAN are those outweighed by the bad/cringe bars! From calling Paul a cross-dresser (derogatory), to the Megan Thee Stallion foot joke that was in VERY poor taste (especially considering the week Megan is having now), to to the "prick like cacti" and R Kelly lines on the last verse, all of it just feels groan-worthy.

Personally though, it really is those shots and cheap jokes on "cancel culture" that disappointed me the most. Eminem has remained unexpectedly silent on this topic for the longest time, and doing it here feels so forced, as well as pandering to the most tiresome parts of his fanbase. So ultimately, this isn't good, nor is it all that bad. I see the appeal of this song, particularly to Eminem fans! But I also can't help but notice its glaring weaknesses, this isn't going to change anyone's mind about Em one way or the other. And for the record, we have a much better song named Houdini that charted earlier this year, don't forget that.

Title: places to be by Fred again.. (Ft. Anderson .Paak & CHIKA)

Position: #43

Fred again.. is back! And this time he's collaborating with the one and only Anderson .Paak, along with CHIKA, who I last paid attention to on 2020's XXL Freshman list. And altogether, this is one of the most goofy yet enjoyably fun songs to have charted this year!

The hazey production with that fast-paced beat are just perfect for evoking that wild ride into the night, speeding up your car as you race towards the person that you desperately want to be next to, consequences be damned. It's so ridiculous yet they play it so earnestly, while still clearly being aware of how corny this is! But it's the kind of dumb joke that your partner makes, that just makes you laugh, call them an idiot and love them even more.

I don't think it's quite my favourite Fred again.. or Anderson .Paak song of this year - stayinit and Gangsta are both VERY hard to top - but this is still really fucking fun and makes me look forward to this upcoming Fred project all the more! What a banger!

Title: Carry You Home by Alex Warren

Position: #67

Of the MANY folksy acoustic guys breaking onto the charts this year, Alex Warren has been one of the better ones. Before You Leave Me is an electronic folk tune that may not innovate that much, but its pathetic earnestness on the track has really grown on me, while Save You a Seat is downright heartwrenching, I still love that song. But this... no, it's just really bland.

Don't get me wrong, Alex Warren still sounds good and it follows a similar template to Before You Leave Me in terms of its sound, but it's lacking the pathos, instead just feeling rather sedentary and boring, the kind of song that couples will probably play on their wedding days, all about staying together forever no matter. And... look, nothing wrong with that, but it's really bargain-barrel and trope-heavy, with zero stakes or color. It's my problem with a lot of this music in that there's nothing real about it, it's all just generic platitudes. And the production doesn't exactly help, it sounds like X Ambassadors trying to emulate the band fun., and that is NOT a compliment.

Overall, this just isn't very good. I know Alex Warren is capable of much more interesting stuff than this. I would skip it. And he's STILL better than a lot of the folksy garbage that's been gunking up. the charts this year, I still can't believe that good neighbors spent so much time in the Irish top 20, for fuck sake!

Title: She's Gone, Dance On by Disclosure

Position: #94

So I was one of the few people to actually highlight Disclosure last year with their great album Alchemy, which in my eyes was a huge return to form to them! Yes, it was returning to their roots and it definitely wasn't all that innovative, but my God, when they are on their game, they do their sound like few others! It's a great album, everyone should check it out. So colour me a little surprised when not only do they start charting again the following year, but with a song that sounds unlike anything they've done before.

It reminds me a little bit of that Jamie xx track that dropped earlier this year, which was also completely out of left field for him with gorgeous choral vocals, the inflections of horns, and how danceable it manages to be before switching things up midway through. The song's Summery vibes remind me of Kungs' vs Cooking on 3 Burners' This Girl from a few years back, while also containing that element of tragedy to its lyrics, telling you that she's gone, she's not coming back, so you better dance on.

It does everything that it needs to and more, all with very few words and a lot of interesting. instrumental gimmicks. This is great stuff, glad these 2 charting again with something this interesting!

Which brings us to our Best and Worst of the week, which falls out fairly easily. Because as much as Houdini has moments that made me cringe, at least there were also moments I liked. Whereas I really can't see myself returning to Carry You Home by Alex Warren, not necessarily terrible but far from his best. And Best goes to places to be by Fred again.., Anderson .Paak & Chika, purely for how corny and earnest it manages to be at the same time, Fred simply cannot miss in my books!

National Treasures

And now it's time for our new entries to the Homegrown Top 20. And we have almost as many new songs on the Homegrown charts as we do on the Hot 100... although take it with a grain of salt. There are several songs that are marked as "NEW" which are actually long-time returning entries:

Title: The Gaa, The Ska, The Ra' by 2 Johnnies

Position: #7

So 2 Johnnies finally released their new album Small Town Heroes, and this, the opening track, sets the tone pretty perfectly for the rest of the album. 2 comedians in their 30s turned singers, making a bunch of VERY Irish references and jokes, occasionally to the point of being corny and/or slightly creepy.

Take this song, where they meet this college girl at a pub, fall in love (both of them, I guess), and agree to meet her family despite warnings that they're a little nuts. And... yeah, you could say that, as her dad turns out to be in the IRA! Hence the title referencing her love for the GAA (Gaelic Football), the Ska (music), and the Ra (common shorthand for the IRA on Ireland). The story is goofy and over-the-top, with weird meathead moments like him saying he "can't get the horn when removing her bra" - great dick joke lads - along with him admitting HIS family's dirty secret: they're vegetarians! ... Womp womp?

Look, it's very silly, ending in a marriage where they just agree not to talk about politics, and settle down, living in fear of her family. And with the bombastic production and the doo-doo-doo's at the end of each chorus, it's bound to play really well with their core audience, whom I want nothing to do with. All respect and love, it's just not for me.

Title: Go Loud by Kingfishr

Position: #10

I've praised Kingfisher a few times this year, and it's been pretty cool to see how much traction they seem to be getting on the Homegrown charts over the last few months. And while this is not the best song that I've heard from them, I still think that of their 2 singles dropped in the past week - the other one being Alone - this would be the one I could see myself returning to.

You can easily point to my criticisms about Alex Warren and apply them here, with the echoing backing vocals, the multi-tracking and the grandiose lead vocals doing quite a bit of heavy lifting. But I also really do like the songwriting on this one, where he hopes that however this relationship ends, it won't end in silence. So whether she stays or goes, he'll know why, so long as she speaks up, not keeping it all locked up inside, but going loud.

It's a sentiment that I do respect and which feels very mature, where you want to learn from your mistakes, or at least learn what you're doing right so you can just keep on doing it. Again, not their best song, but their formula's still so solid that I can't help but enjoy it.

Title: The Beginning by Snow Patrol

Position: #13

So yeah, I wonder how many of you knew that Snow Patrol are Irish? Or at least, multiple of the band members are, which is enough for us to claim them! And considering that fact, it's a little odd that they don't tour here more often. But that aside, this is their first new song in quite a while, the leadoff single for The Forest is the Path, their first album in about 6 years. And judging by the sound of this one, I don't know if I'm all that jazzed about it.

The mix is very washed-out and while the vocals of Gary Lightbody sound good, they're missing some of the heart they had back in the 2000s, and the lyrics just lack poetry to me. I mean, the writing is fine, reflecting on a relationship where he did everything to fuck it up, and he admits that he doesn't know how to love. But despite all the earnestness and trying to sell that big chorus, claiming their love will burn everything up around them... I don't know, I don't really get a sense that he wants to try particularly hard. Maybe that's an issue with the flat vocal delivery or with the production or simply because Gary Lightbody is 47 years old and should clearly know better, but that big chorus is missing a lot of punch, and the final lines of the song ending on the more low-key not kills the remaining momentum.

Once again, I don't think this is bad, it's just quite overproduced and underwritten. Not bad, just nothing to be excited about, especially when we have a much better song that evokes "the end of beginning" from earlier this year.

And that's our week! 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. I hope life treats you kindly, and until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune signing off!


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