Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and today, we're starting something new: we're going to move away from Billboard and instead turn our collective attention closer to home, specifically my own home! Please allow me to introduce Musical McCool, my weekly series where I will analyse the IRMA (Irish Recorded Music Association) music charts!
First off, don't like the name, Google it and my first name together, cause I'm not changing it. Secondly, this is something I've wanted to do for quite some time now. I've spent the past 5 years (with breaks) giving my opinions on music, and one question that I get asked all the time is "What do you think of this Irish artist?" Quite frankly, I'm getting a little sick of not being able to ever answer that question with the knowledge I probably should have, and this series is my chance to educate myself as much as anyone else, so I would request some patience and constructive feedback as we start this journey. On top of that, after spending the past few months researching how the Irish Charts even work, I've found it an absolutely fascinating experience! Seriously, between the all-American hits, the British and European crossovers, and a more patriotic touch that tends to at least try promoting homegrown Irish acts from all over, the Irish Top 50 are usually much more colourful and dynamic, especially considering certain chart rules that make song turnover much quicker than across the gigantic, salty, Atlantic pond. Now, rather than break all of these rules and regulations down to you right now, I think we should instead learn as we go, as I plan to post this every Saturday in 2021... I shall do my very best.
Finally, before we go any further, I want to give an absolutely HUGE shout-out and thank you to The Mode Reviews for his help with better understanding how the Irish charts work in relation to the UK ones, I wouldn't have been able to put this together anywhere near as fast without his help, so yeah, go subscribe to his YouTube channel right here, he does great work: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAvJJ3luzxhs_H08ypoGGGw
And now, let us begin.
The Top 10
This segment will normally be a bit shorter, but since I'm discussing these songs for the first time, I'll go into a bit more detail.
So, since we're coming off the heels of the usual Christmas invasion, this week is always an interesting one to pay attention to, as we get to see what will rebound and garner success at the start of a year, and which poor victims were felled beyond recovery. However, this year was a little bit different, which is exemplified by our brand new number 1, that being Paradise by Italian production trio MEDUZA, featuring Dermot Kennedy! Yes, this is a man who will be featured fairly often, he's arguably the biggest star in Ireland right now, and he absolutely ruled the Christmas period. And in my opinion, he's a very good fit for the style production on this type of track. Much like a lot of these house songs, you need a strong performer with a big voice to make that drop really hit! Dermot provides that here, and he's got a distinct enough voice so as not to become anonymous. Now, on the flip side, MEDUZA's first break-out hit Piece of Your Heart was a lot more distinctive, and frankly in a different ballpark of creativity and quality, so while I can say this is certainly well-produced for what it is, it's also one of their most conventional songs to date, and I can't exactly call that a good thing. Still, our number 2 certainly helps its case, because The Business is the same rote radio fodder that Tiësto has been releasing for a good decade now. Sure, it's catchy - extremely so - but it's not exactly doing anything all that special... in other words, exactly what most of us are used to from this once-brilliant Dutch star. Some of you in the US may remember him from his big remix of Preme and Post Malone's Jackie Chan with fellow producer Dzeko, and that's one of his better songs in the past few years. This one just feels generic, we've had a million mi-lli-on songs just like this one, and it's serviceable for what it is.
In more exciting news, that brings us to Afterglow by Ed Sheeran at number 3. Yes, this guy has a new song out, and it's absolutely gorgeous! Sure, it's certainly not built to be a big hit, and he has said this is just a one-off and won't be making his next album... but I really wish it were! Because sonically, this is a very different move coming from Ed, with the gorgeous multitracking and pitch-correction on the hook creating a great vibrato effect, and the echoing atmospherics that come in behind the guitar after the first hook, it's absolutely beautiful! Meanwhile the lyrics are a simple appreciation of his girl sitting opposite him, enjoying the first moments of dawn together, sipping coffee, and holding onto that beautiful moment forever, comparing that time of dawn to the stage of contentment they've reached in their relationship. Not one of his best songs or anything, but I'm still so happy to see this crack the top 5! This man is still one of the biggest stars of our time, and I'm delighted this seems to have some legs, at least over here! All of which is a lot more than I can say for Kid Laroi's Without You at number 4, a pre-pubescent caterwaul of a song that only gets worse as time goes on! Yes, the guitar is fine, and Kid Laroi honestly doesn't sound THAT bad, even if he is a painful facsimile of the late Juice WRLD. But that adolescent innocence is a little hard to give a pass to when it sounds this bitter and unpleasant. It's a whiny tantrum which doesn't feel earned, from a performer I really hope doesn't take off the way I predict he probably will in 2021!
Then rounding out the top 5, it's All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey. It's awesome, you all know it, probably going to make another bunch of year-end lists in 2021 too, looking forward to seeing it again next year.
Keeping in the holiday spirit, we have Last Christmas by Wham! at number 6, which may not be their best hit by a LONG way, but is still a song I find very charming in spite of myself. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a sad Christmas song, and this definitely fits the bill.
Following that up, we have our freshly-unseated number 1 from last week, Giants by Dermot Kennedy down at number 7, a song that held the top spot for the entirety of December, and refusing to be unseated by Mariah Carey, Wham! or even The Pogues! It's an utterly MASSIVE song, and considering it's this guy's first number 1 hit in his own country, and the fact that this song has now been on the charts for an unprecedented 28 weeks, that is DAMN impressive, and it may yet pick up again if the holiday songs get filtered out quickly enough. Just kinda wish I liked the song more, that's all. Either way, this guy broke another record this week as his album is now the longest-lasting debut album to top the Irish charts in the past 20 years, so what the Heck does my opinion on one song matter? Good job man, happy for you! And who knows, maybe Giants'll grow on me. Speaking of growers, Little Mix's Sweet Melody is at number 8, and while no, it's not as great as Break Up Song, it's had a surprising amount of staying power for me since the album dropped. I'm not usually a big fan of this many vocal filters, and there are also quite a few high hats and bass beats, rather than, you know, a strong MELODY, but the girls all give very distinctive vocal performances and that hook has grown on me a lot! So yeah, another great Little Mix song, I'm not about to complain about that. Sad to hear Jesy's leaving, I wish you all the best moving forward! Finally we close out our Top 10 with more Christmas songs: Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree at number 9, obviously an undisputed classic, even if I am personally more partial to the Mel & Kim version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdnaPAJgAQI ).
And of course, Fairytale of New York by The Pogues with Kristy MacColl, a classic in every sense of the word, arguably the best Christmas song ever made, and now there's even a censored version for those put off by their use of the F-word. It's dark, depressing, irish as all Hell, and I fucking love it!
Top 50: The Punished and the New
For the sake of simplicity, I am going to keep this segment focused on the Top 50 rather than the full 100, since that's both easier on me, and also what's more widely logged through the official chart sites anyway. Plus, you have the factor that the Irish charts generally move around a lot more than the Billboard charts, thanks to a little thing called "Accelerated Chart Ratios".
Essentially, any single on this chart is subject to its success in sales and radio as per usual, but the streaming system is a little different. Any song first starts off under Irish Standard Chart Ratios (ISCR), in which for every 100 streams on a Premium streaming account, that counts as 1 digital download, or every 600 streams on an ad-funded account. However, after 9 weeks of charting (so starting from the 10th week onward), if a song sees a decline in streaming numbers and sales (and also what is below the market rate of change each week, but that's getting a bit technical) for 3 consecutive weeks, its streaming value is essentially slashed in half, as it's then moved to the Accelerated Chart Ratios (ACR), where it takes 200 streams (Premium) or 1200 streams (ad-funded) to equal 1 digital download. Or to sum up:
Premium account: 1 digital download = 100 streams (ISCR) or 200 streams (ACR)
Ad-funded account: 1 digital download = 600 streams (ISCR) or 1200 streams (ACR)
You follow all that? Hopefully me spelling it out makes that a bit clearer. There are a few exceptions which we will get to if they ever come up, but now let's see what that looks like in practice.
So, here are the songs that appear to have been moved to ACR, excluding the Christmas hits:
-positions by Ariana Grande, dropping from #9 to #27
... Yup, that's it! It's a little hard to tell with the charts still choking on Christmas music this week, which is naturally causing multiple other hits to rebound and rise as a result, with Mood by 24kGoldn & iann dior rising from 40 to 25, and re-entries ranging from high points like Blinding Lights by The Weeknd to miserable dirges like Tate McRae's You Broke Me First.
Other than positions, MAYBE you could guess Giants by Dermott Kennedy also got moved to ACR, but it's still in the top 10, and Paradise has been getting a huge boost lately, so who knows, time will tell.
So yeah, as good luck would have it, this is a very quiet week as a whole! Normally we also get a few new entries, but this week we have a grand total of 1, which obviously makes it easier for me. And with that in mind, let us welcome our solitary new Top 50 entry:
Title: GOOSEBUMPS by HVME
So, if you're like me, one song immediately sprang to mind when seeing that title, namely the big hit of the same name by Tavis Scott and Kendrick Lamar, which blew up back in 2016! And rightfully so, it's a dark little atmospheric piece that still maintained a ton of groove and energy which our 2 performers projected very impressively. Not quite among my personal favourites from either artist, but still an extremely good song.
Well, if you've heard that track, I can tell you there's no real need to check this out, because this song is essentially just a pitched-down EDM version of that one. And say what you will about the Travis Scott original, its production was at least interesting enough to justify its existence. This remix robs it of any intensity or uniqueness, essentially reducing it to a house song akin to The Business..., except give Tiësto this, he at least knows how to inject some energy into his songs! This is supposed to be a dancefloor remix from The Annual 2021 - Ministry Of Sound compilation, this yearly batch of dancefloor jams released every year, but I'm sorry, how could anyone dance to something this limp and tired? It's got no pulse, just a sleepy, bargain-bin house beat that adds no variation or flair, from a Spanish DJ who clearly couldn't give a shit. In other words, this gave me a whole new appreciation for the Top 2 songs in the country right now, because WOW is this lazy!
And last, but not least, let me introduce you to a completely separate chart which I will also be highlighting each week: the Irish Homegrown Top 20!
Now before you panic, this is a very small chart, it actually is only 20 songs long! Basically, on this desolate green rock, we have a fondness for promoting our own country's music as well, rather than taking all of our cues from the UK, America and the rest of Europe. Which is what this chart is all about: if you have an Irish passport, you can qualify for this list, it's all-Irish and proud of it... well, more or less anyway.
For instance, we have Paradise by MEDUZA at number 1, which along with a major label push, made its taking of the number 1 on the Singles chart an easy prediction. Sure, they're technically an Italian act, but it does have Dermot Kennedy on it, so it counts, sort of.
On the other hand, Haiti by WELSHY, despite its exotic sound, is a house song by a guy called Ross Walsh, very much a Kilkenny Irishman, and a year younger than me as it happens, that's humbling. Plus, he spends his spare time tricking online scammers into giving him their money, you gotta respect a guy like that!
Heck, look just a few slots lower, and we have Still by Niall Horan rising into the top 10! Good, it's a fantastic song, I want it!
However, make no mistake, I'm still a critic at the end of the day, so I'm not just going to be nice to everyone... much as I'm tempted to. For instance, in the recurring entries, we have the Kildare band Picture This, an indie pop/rock band who've seen a fair bit of success and who I've grown to really like... with what is sadly one of their worst songs Troublemaker, a simp anthem that only gets worse with each listen.
So again, I promise to be as fair as possible, and will usually only stick to discussing this chart in terms of its highlights and new entries. Speaking of:
Title: Facts by Chuks & Rose9
Well, already this is miles more interesting than that GOOSEBUMPS track. This is a style of rap music known as drill music. It originated in Chicago, USA back in 2010, then regional styles of it started to emerge in places like London as of 2012. I have to admit, I haven't heard much of the Irish style of this, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect here. A collab between 2 labelmates of Trust It Entertainment, one from Balbriggan, the other... I'm not entirely sure, because again, there's not that much information on them online.
However, I gotta say, I was pretty impressed by this! The beat's dark and fairly menacing, which serves as a good backdrop to Rose and Chucks as they trade bars at a pretty impressive rate. Seriously, they both flow over this really well, to the point where I'm hard-pressed to pick a winner... though if I had to I guess I'd pick Rose, as I just preferred his rhyme schemes a bit more. Plus I wasn't a huge fan of the stop-start flow and references to other rap songs that Chuks threw in there, even if that Blueface-Dory line was awesome. I listened to some of his other stuff, and this isn't even the best he's done.
So yeah, they're both really great here, and I think they play off each other really well. Good stuff, I really like this!
Title: True Love Waits by The Coronas
Hold your jokes!!! The band have been around since 2003, and a big-name success for almost as long! Now, granted, this Dublin indie rock band hasn't seen a huge amount of success outside of their home country, but their accolades are respectable, and in 2020, they released a new album, all while making it clear that they dearly wish they were called "The Vaccines" instead.
Now, their music has never exactly been my favourite thing. They're not the most lyrical or colourful group, usually relying more on really good production and decent hooks, and even then they do tend to make softer rock that doesn't soar to the heights of a band like U2. That said though, their music is perfectly palatable, which is what I'd say for this. The production is really pretty around those guitars, particularly on that bridge, without too many inorganic elements, Danny O'Reilly's voice is very pleasant and soothing, especially with that strong accent of his, and the song is about our protagonist marveling at how in love he is, not wanting to rush things until he can confirm that this really is true love.
It's a really sweet song that is straightforward and simple, yet still very charming. Again, maybe the production is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, but the more I hear this, the more I enjoy it. Really good stuff you guys, I'm fine if you still around for yet another decade.
And thus concludes our first ever Musical McCool! I hope you all enjoyed, please leave a like and a comment if you have any feedback to give. Again, I'm hoping to start doing these once a week, so if you aren't already, please subscribe and follow me on Twitter to keep up with these releases. Here's to a better year, and until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social tune signing off!