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Musical McCool Season 4, Week 3 (yes, and?, redrum, Alibi, J CHRIST, and more)

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

So remember in 2022, when it felt like we were waiting months and MONTHS for something interesting to happen on the charts? Well, 2024 certainly doesn't have that problem! Because only 3 weeks into the year, we've had the 1-2-3 punch of Saltburn, the new 21 Savage album, and possibly most impactful of all, the return of Ariana Grande!

The Top 10

However, Ariana was by no means the only one to shake up our Top 10.

1. Stick Season - Noah Kahan [LW: #1 / WOC: 56]

2. yes, and? - Ariana Grande [LW: - / WOC: 1]

3. Murder On The Dancefloor - Sophie Ellis-Bextor [LW: #2 / WOC: 3]

4. Prada - Cassö, Raye & D-Block Europe [LW: #3 / WOC: 23]

5. Lovin On Me - Jack Harlow [LW: #4 / WOC: 10]

6. greedy - Tate McRae [LW: #5 / WOC: 18]

7. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield [LW: #11 / WOC: 2]

8. I Remember Everything - Zach Bryan (Ft. Kacey Musgraves) [LW: #6 / WOC: 21]

9. Cruel Summer - Taylor Swift [LW: #7 / WOC: 42]

10. Lose Control - Teddy Swims [LW: #13 / WOC: 11]

We actually have 3 new entries in the Top 10 this week, and 2 of them are actually NEW songs, wooh!

We'll get to yes, and? shortly, but as for the other 2: Unwritten isn't as grating to me as These Words, but it still feels very UNDERwritten and pretty basic in terms of the production - it doesn't matter how many times you say "your story's "unwritten", that's not what that means - while I genuinely think Teddy Swims' Lose Control is a pretty great little soul song. As someone who can be very hard on the Rag'n'Bone Men of the world, I quite enjoy this, reminds me of the very best of Phillip Phillips' songs. Would I rather have it in the Top 10 than Houdini though.... mmmm no.

The Punished and the New

So one of the slightly irritating things about the IRMA website is that they occasionally skip some weeks altogether. Maybe it's a lack of data or timekeeping, or down to some sort of coding error, I don't really know. As a result, I really only have a full overview of the Top 50 thanks to the Official Charts, in which no significant gains or drops are all that visible. However, since I have a hunch that the bottom half of this chart is fairly busy, I'm going to be using the following sources to hazard a guess as to what is PROBABLY charting in the Bottom 50: the Apple Music Irish chart, combined with the UK Top 100. There's enough crossover between our countries' music charts that in situations like this, I think it's the best alternative. So with that in mind, let's start with what we can be certain with, the songs in the Top 50:

Title: yes, and? by Ariana Grande

Position: #2

Not gonna lie, I always light up whenever I see Ariana working on new music. Ever since thank u, next, I have been consistently pleased with her cooler, collected approach to pop music. But while I did end up liking positions a lot, it wasn't exactly an immediate slam dunk for me, particularly based on the lead-off singles. Which were good, but not quite as incredible as the best of thank u, next (the album) or say, pov.

And to me, yes, and? falls into a similar B-grade category. It's definitely catchy and polished to a fucking T, but that's part of why it feels quite calculated. The sound is clearly pulling from house and EDM, which has slowly been growing internationally within the last few months, but has been certainly been the dominant genre in Ireland for at least a year now! The main innovation being that Ari appears to be pulling more from the 80s than the 90s, which the music video and composition back up. The Paula Abdul influences are clear, and the underlying beat reminds me a lot of Madonna's Vogue, and combined with the ballroom elements, it's no wonder that all my queer friends have been RAVING about this!

And don't get me wrong, I do like the song! It feels like the lyrics are challenging people like me to comment on her, which is a look she's always pulled off really well, the beat, once again, is immaculate, and of course Ariana sounds goddamn perfect on this! But as much as I like and appreciate the influences here, I do wonder if they're a little TOO obvious, or if it feels like too much of a throwback without bringing enough new elements to the table. So it is a good song, I'm just curious to see how it ages in the weeks to come.

Title: redrum by 21 Savage

Position: #15

21 Savage can be such a hit-or-miss artist. I admire his hustle and he's undeniably come a long way in terms of his song construction and flow since Bank Account. But MAN, whenever he talks about women, my sympathy gets REALLY shaky, and when the topic's drugs and money, 50% of the time it still just bores me to tears. Unsurprisingly, 21 is most compelling when he has to be introspective or fight for his identity.

So considering this was the biggest single off of a soundtrack to a surprise biopic, I honestly had tentatively high expectations for it, thinking at least the content might prove interesting... and again, it's hit-or-miss. The sample is pretty awesome, I love how the song opens up with those opulent strings right out of a Golden Age movie, then switches into the trap beat, and I do think the chorus slaps pretty hard. Even the verses SOUND good, they just fall apart a bit in the wordplay department.

21 tries to paint this image of his disenfranchised gang, who are forced to live this hardened, violent lifestyle because it's the only way they've ever known. But whenever he brings up women (the body count line in particular felt very unnecessary), or displays his inherited Drake-isms like on the "big cojones" line, or the 2 seperate verses where every line ends in "pussy"... i dunno, it takes away from the intrigue and just makes the song sound like it's trying too hard. Had potential, but only decent at best.

Title: Scared To Start by Michael Marcagi

Position: #20

So who is Michael Macargi? Well, apparently, he's the lead singer of a band called The Heavy Hours, who started dropping solo material about a month ago. Knowing nothing about this small band previously, I checked out some of their stuff, and as an alt-rock band formed mid-pandemic, I found a lot of really beautiful melodies and nice multitracking, see Like I Do for what is probably my favourite example. It's nothing you haven't heard in better-written form from Noah Kahan, but it's pretty decent.

Now as for this solo venture... no. I'm sorry, but on his own, Michael Macargi's limitations are made far more obvious. His voice is reedy, the instrumentation sounds like the most stock thing you can imagine, and the lyrics are just interchangeable schlock, the kind of chorus that conveys absolutely nothing! I suppose the verses are a little better, portraying this girl who nobody else can quite pin down, but will crawl into YOUR car and dare you to believe she likes YOU... and I'm sorry, but with the lack of any excitement or passion in the vocals or beat, I just don't buy it!

Even at his worst, Noah Kahan sounds like he cares so deeply about what he's singing about, whether you like him or not, whereas I have absolutely NO clue who could connect to this. It's generic, dull, and so white-washed I could ALMOST ignore it... except it debuted in the Top 20, which is BAFFLING to me! I hear it has some viral traction on TikTok, and even by those standards, i can't fathom why this is popular. I struggle to call it "bad", but its presence here really does allude me.

Title: née-nah by 21 Savage, travis Scott & Metro Boomin

Position: #27

Okay,I'll admit it: when this songs tarted with those dramatic strings, and then Travis came in with more energy than I've heard from him in years, I did get a little hyped. And then the sample flips into that Metro beat, and his verse maintains that energy and flow, where was ANY of this on UTOPIA?!

Honestly, when 21 Savage came in, it was still good, but I wanted more from Travis, shockingly, and 21 just didn't have that same energy, much as he was clearly trying. Still, his verse is much better-written than on redrum, the Confessions bar went HARD, the "hearse not a verse" line went EVEN HARDER, and even the "pussy" scheme - I'm noticing a pattern there - worked a lot better this time.

Again, I think the song could have benefitted from being more of an even split, the hook's a little weak, and with how genuinely pumped I got while listening to it, I do wish there was a bit more bass. But when those are my biggest nitpicks, that's high praise; surprisingly a really good song!

Title: n.h.i.e. by 21 Savage & Doja Cat

Position: #39

And right after that, the energy dips significantly to this murky jam with Doja Cat.

Aaaand it's okay, but it sounds more like a bonus track from Scarlet than anything from this album. It's extremely repetitive and rather monotonous, but I'd call it more moody than boring. And the content is all about how they're the good guys who would never hurt others or start fights... which I'm assuming is ironic, especially the "petty beef" line from Doja?

All in all, it's fine, but I have about as much to say about it as... well, it does. Short and midly forgettable, next!

Title: Heather On the Hill by Nathan Evans

Position: #41

Wow, i haven't thought about Nathan Dawe in about 2 years at this point... you know, the Wellerman guy. Well, apparently the Scottish singer has continued making music, with this being his new and overproduced follow-up smash single!

I'm sorry, but WHY does he sounds like that? The filmy filter on his vocals makes him sound really nasal, and makes half the chorus basically unintelligible. And unlike Wellerman, this IS Nathan's original composition, and even if you accept that it sounds like the remix of itself, the beat on this one isn't even that good. The vocal layering is all over the place, the strings are all the way at the back of the mix, and Nathan's wailing sounds oddly unflattering.

As for the writing... I mean, the song was written in 1947 for a Scottish play called Brigadoon. So much like a lot of the Celtic Irish songs written at the time, it's very fantastical and classical in a way that I find inherently quite innocent and charming. I wouldn't say it's among my favourites, but I do like it. This interpretation on the other hand, definitely missed the mark.

And now we get to the guessing portion of the post... bear with me:

Title: Alibi by Ella Henderson (Ft. Rudimental)

Position: ??

... Really? Gangsta Paradise?! REALLY???

Okay okay, let's put aside how inessential this is for a moment. Ella Henderson hopping on the current sample trend is no surprise, I'm just surprised by a choice this BOLD. People ADORE the original Gangsta's Paradise, to the point where it's STILL Weird Al's most popular cover song... not the main evidence, I know,, but still! So Rudimental making a drum-n-bass remix of the track with "new" lyrics (because you'd better believe they still follow the same structure on the chorus), it's daring. And surprisingly, I do think it kind of works. Don't get me wrong, it IS blatant, and I'm sure the 90s purists who worship Blue by Eiffel 65 are going to go ballistic once they hear it. But the song works because the original is just that awesome. The gothic choir is still epic, that melody is so goddamn good, and I will give Rudimental props that he did a good job here, the modern D&B elements are well-incorporated. Where the song loses points is with Ella Henderson. She's still a powerful vocalist, but she's trying to turn this into an anthem to catching your partner cheating, accusing them of not having any alibi, but the claims of burning his world down or calling him out on his bad behaviour fall VERY flat for me.

With a sample like this, it could have been a great and epic revenge anthem, but because of how checked-out she sounds, it just feels like she's going through the motions on this one. Don't get me wrong, she's clearly trying hard- I've certainly heard her sound more phoned in and bored on other songs - but it comes across more as someone who's memorised a script from back-to-front, and really wants to hit all her marks at the right time, but forgot to actually emote along the way. Not terrible, but unfortunately weirdly hollow.

Title: J CHRIST by Lil Nas X

Position: ??

So I'll admit it, I was excited about this! Not only was Lil Nas' last album chock-full of fantastic and experimental singles, but the religion-baiting and hype leading up to this release felt very similar to MONTERO's roll-out, which was an absolutely shocking delight for me back in 2021. But then I heard the song... and while I don't quite think the muted buzz is entirely fair, I do get why lightning didn't strike twice.

In case the placement on its bottom half of this chart wasn't evidence enough, it may surprise some of you to know how poorly this single has been performing, as fans were left underwhelmed and critics finally DIDN'T take the bait and simply haven't bought it. Which definitely sucks for Lil Nas, who now appears to be scrambling to find any other way to promote this, but does make sense. Because while I think the song is pretty decent, it's nowhere near the new standard set by his last album. To me, this feels like Panini Light or Montero Zero, a song that might have sparked some interest if it had followed up Old Town Road, but at this stage, isn't nearly enough to get people excited.

The whole conceit of the song is that he's coming back like Jesus Christ, who can handle whatever people throw at him next, making moves that nobody can predict. And I'll say this, I didn't guess that he'd release a trap song with stale flows, surprisingly stilted verses, and begging in the TEXT to go fucking viral. It's a real risk to put that assertion in your song, and while INDUSTRY BABY had the beat to back it up, as well as the clout from MONTERO setting the stage for it, this falls pretty flat. Again, I think the song itself is fine, with decent production, a fairly good hook, and all the trolling you'd expect... but the UNexpected factor is missing. People forget just how much MONTERO's success was fueled by backlash, not so much its marketing goading Christians. And when you already have people angry purely from your song's title, there's a high chance they just aren't going to check it out to begin with.

To me, it's a botched marketing job for a song that is nowhere near as strong as it wants or needs to be. Not bad, but I'll admit I am a bit disappointed.

Title: Eagle by D-Block Europe (Ft. Noizy)

Position: ??

I don't care. D-Block Europe apparently have yet ANOTHER project out and I do not care! And since this appears to be the only song gaining much traction, it appears that the Irish public are close to giving up too, even if Prada is still admittedly pretty sticky. Still, despite my exasperation at this bland duo's continued success, I'll admit this song does at least try a little harder than most of their recent output.

The song is an ode to Albanian UK rappers, and it recruits Noizy as the Albanian representative, weaving together a short and sweet tribute song that sounds okay. There's nothing all that special about the songwriting, the hook is pretty weak, and Noizy himself doesn't really add a whole lote beyond his presence, but for what it is... it's a weak tribute, but at least it's something, ANYTHING different for this group!

And that's all I'm willing to spend time on for this week. And as for picking out a song for Worst of this week... I won't call it an obvious choice, but the song I want to hear again the least is definitely Scared To Start by Michael Macargi, in all its Noah-Kahan-wannabe-tryhardness. As for the Best of the week, while I don't quite LOVE it just yet, I'm impressed and intrigued enough by yes, and? to award it this highest honour on a trial basis; née-nah was pretty close though!

National Treasures

And now we reach our new all-Irish entries, who made it to the Homegrown Top 20. And this week has a couple of interesting familiar faces, including a soon-to-be very special one:

Title: Love Me Like I Do by Erica-Cody

Position: #13

So I first discovered Erica-Cody a couple of years ago on her excellent song Love Like This, but she's done an amazing job at growing that fanbase ever since. A singer/actor/acftivist, and all at MY AGE (ouch), she's an incredible accomplished Dublin artist with a lot fo goodwill and clout... so of course, the logical next step is Eurovision!

And I'll be honest, I'm torn. On the one hand, I think that if anyone's going to be Ireland's candidate for this global event, it should be a woman at her level of clout and talent. But on the other hand, Eurovision has currently not banned Israel from competing in 2024... which I personally think reads as very shady. I know WHY they haven't, for the same reason that most European countries haven't called Israel out for their war crimes against Gaza these past few months - spoilers, it's fear of economic collapse and also the US being a massive bully with lots of weapons - but considering they banned Russia last year, I really don't think it's much of a stretch to hold Israel accountable for crimes that are equally heinous. Let me be perfectly clear, this is not me excusing Hamas, nor calling out Israelis as a whole (particularly in the rampant wave of abhorrent antisemitism these past few months, I want to make this abundantly clear, a single government's atrocities doesn't excuse your bigotry). This is calling out the Israeli government committing human atrocities and being allowed to get away with it out of fear. And so, despite me finding this 80s power throwback pretty decent, even if it robs Erica-Cody of most of her personality in favour of Eurovision glam, I still find it incredibly hard to listen to or support any of the songs connected to the event, even if this one's just a candidate for now. If Eurovision changes its stance, maybe we can continue this conversation, but for now, as an artist I respect, I honestly hope Erica-Cody has nothing more to do with it.

Title: Nothing Compared 2 U by Irish Women In Harmony

Position: #14

So Irish Women in Harmony is back again. This group of awesome women are sort of the poster children for Irish Charity singles and tributes to Irish women. And much like a couple of years ago when they covered the Cranberries for charity, today they tribute the legendary Sinead O'Connor - known as Shuhada Sadaqa in her personal life, which I wish more Irish publications acknowledged after her passing, but I digress.

Either way, as a cover of a certified classic... of course, it's not going to emasure up to the original. It misses out on the grit and humanity that made Sinead's performance on the original, and weirdly the instrumental arrangement feels LESS opulent? I dunno, for a group that is so notorious for over-arranging their mixes, the slow piano-and-guitar combo here feels a tad underwhelming. And constantly feeling like a plastic shill that lacks the emotional impact of the original, that's pretty standard too... but it's a mixed bag, some of the singers seem to get it and some don't.

Still, it's a beautiful song, there's clearly a lot of love and reverence behind this tribute, commemorating a legend in both music and activism... I respect this. Rest in peace.

Title: Touch My Body by Kyle Meehan

Position: #20

Talk about whiplash! But yes, this is the newest Irish club song that relies on a lot of standard house structures and beats, from a young Irish DJ who's still trying harder than some of the heavy hitters like Belters Only.

I like the shifting tempos on the song, especially the slow-down and speed-up around the 2-minute mark, even if the pay-off is pretty weak. Overall, the song sounds okay, the bass beat is used sparingly, and the structure shifts enough times to justify its length. It's certainly not boring, even if it's naturally fairly repetitive.

Honestly, I think the main thing holding this kid back is a lack of budget. Because I think his creativity and his willingness to play in the mix. Just promise me you'll stop listening to or supporting the complete assholes in Versatile and I'll happily cheer along to your success!

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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