Musical McCool - Week 2 (Jan 8, 2021)
Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and welcome back to a brand new edition of Musical McCool! Well... this is a fine way to get this series started! Last week, I noticed that the Irish Recorded Music Association's website hadn't posted the usual Top 50 Singles chart for past week, which meant I had to use the OfficialCharts website instead. I mean, it was the end of the year, maybe they were just taking a week off, no biggie. Either way, I trusted they would be back on track this week... and they did post a new chart, but it seems they dated it incorrectly...
As of my writing this, the first official chart of 2021 according to the IRMA, dated January 1, is the same one dated January 8 according to everybody else! Which, might be my mistake, maybe I'm the one missing something, but considering they didn't post any chart at all last week, I'm inclined to believe I'm not the one in the wrong here. Whatever, we'll see if they get it fixed in the next week or so, but otherwise, I'll just title last week's post "Week 0" and change this one's to "Week 1" for the sake of continuity. Confused? Well, you and me both.
The Top 10
Anyway, with that out of the way, this week was primarily marked by the total purge of Christmas music from the charts and it was a bloodbath! The sole survivor, to my surprise and delight, was Holiday by Lil Nas X, because the Irish public have taste! All the rest though, gone, and the result was that a lot of older songs returned in their droves!
Now, some things stayed stubbornly the same, as Paradise by MEDUZA & Dermott Kennedy still has a stranglehold on the number 1 spot, but it did suffer a slight decline in streaming this week, so despite the big label push, I don't really know how much longer it'll hold on to its spot.
More surprising to me was Afterglow by Ed Sheeran actually rising up a spot to number 2! I mean, I'm certainly not about to complain, but I will admit I expected it to drop down a couple of spots after its initial entry, or at best to hold its place at number 3. Guess the song has more momentum here than I expected, great news for me!
Now, in fairness, part of its rise may be because The Business by Tiësto seems to be losing steam a bit earlier than expected. Sure, the streaming is still very strong, so it'll probably stick around in the top 10 for a couple more weeks, but especially with Paradise at number 1 filling its role, I can see this being moved to ACR in a week or so.
Next up, Kid Laroi's Without You holds its spot at nunber 4... more's the pity.
More interestingly, at number 5, we have a brand new entry to the charts: Anyone by Justin Bieber! I'll say more on the song itself a bit later, but metric-wise, the song's sales and YouTube are massive right now, and if it continues to catch on in streaming, this may be huge. I could see this cracking the top 2 or 3 next week, we'll just have to wait and see.
In some really great news though, at number 6 we have newcomer Shane Codd and his big breakout hit Get Out My Head, a song I have been rooting for for weeks now! This guy's an Irish producer, Dublin-born and Cavan-based, who created this track on a whim during quarantine, while wistfully thinking about big festivals and people dancing, just wanting to drive the thought of Covid-19 out of his head in a moment of escapism. And my God is it great, with a bright piano line driving the melody, a strong bass foundation that doesn't overwhelm the mix, an anthemic chorus and uncredited vocals that I really like! Sure, you could argue it's a bit too light to head up a big festival, but while it may seem like a very simple step to just emphasise the main melody and make the vocals sound happy but punchy, so few charting artists nail it the way Shane does here, so I'm inclined to give him a pass. Oh, please get bigger, this is such a better brand of House than anything MEDUZA or Tiësto have released this past year, I WANT this to be huge!
Next we have Little Mix's Sweet Melody is at number 7, actually rising up a spot this week, although how long that momentum will last is anybody's guess.
Then at number 8, we have a great example of Accelerated Chart Ratio in full effect, as Giants by Dermot Kennedy drops down by yet another spot, despite its streaming numbers still being very impressive. Once the re-entry buzz dies down, I don't expect this to stick around much longer, it's already had a very respectable run.
Meanwhile, at number 9, to the delight of me and nobody else, 34+35 by Ariana Grande somehow managed to build up just enough momentum to re-enter the Top 10! Sure, it'll probably fade off very quickly too, but I can dream it'll stay around for a little while, I still enjoy this a lot!
Finally, at number 10, after a long climb up the charts week after week for the past 3 months, Whoopty by CJ finally made it into the top 10. I kinda saw this coming, it was surprisingly solid over the holidays, and it's been even bigger in the UK, And even months after first hearing it, I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I kinda like the beat with that vocal sample and how playful the bass feels, I have a begrudging respect for any rapper who starts his gangsta rap song by proclaiming his love for blue cheese, and CJ has a decent amount of charisma and energy. It's just not a particularly memorable song outside of that, yet another song about shooting people and fucking your girl, which feels pretty abortive at barely 2 minutes long. Whatever, I'm not mad it's here, I could see it really growing or really fading on me with time.
Top 50: The Punished and the New
Now, much like last week, the actual moves of songs from ISCR (Irish Standard Chart Ratios) to ACR (Accelerated Chart Ratios) is a little hard to track, as a lot of songs moved up by default due to all the Christmas music being washed away.
The only drops on the entire top 50, and each only by 1 spot, were The Business and Giants, the latter of which I'm now all but certain is on ACR, and probably would have dropped a lot lower if not for a year-end revival.
On that note though, ho-ly GOD does this chart reek with 2020! Not only did we get our returning entries from last week practically ALL rise up, as well as positions in spite of its slashed streaming value, but we got a total of 18 returning entries this week! The biggest ones were Harry Styles' Golden at number 23 off of MASSIVE streaming, Dermot Kennedy's cover of Van Morrison's Days Like This at 29. and Miley Cyrus' Midnight Sky at 31; great news, I love all those songs! Even better, WAP is back at 44 and best of all, pov by Ariana Grande re-entered at number 50. I know it's a long shot for that last one, but hey, if she drops a video, it could be a hit... please?
We also got a bunch of big gains, though I'd like to bring special attention to Willow at Number 11, indicating Taylor may at least get some traction here, despite a colossal drop-off in the US. In addition, both Holy with Chance the Rapper and Monster with Shawn Mendes rose up into the top 40 again, and if Anyone sticks around, it's reasonable to assume these 2 songs will too.
Now granted, aside from all those movers, we also got a whole crowd of new entries to the chart, some expected, some not, which certainly makes me a lot busier than last week! So, without further ado:
Title: Anyone by Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber had an absolutely massive 2020... some would argue undeservingly so, as he appears to be an industry favourite who was propped up and promoted despite very lukewarm reception for that last album of his. There's a reason this guy is making so many people's worst lists with multiple entries after all, and if this song takes off, I'm not sure any of us want another year of that! With that being said though... Anyone is the best thing Justin has released in a very long time.
The song is framed as a love letter to his wife, whom he holds onto tightly with the knowledge that he may not have her forever. He promises that she's the only one he'll ever love, and if it's not her, it's not anyone... boy, sure do hope that marriage lasts, otherwise this could be very awkward. Unlike Holy though, this feels more genuine and real, and the songwriting, while hyperbolic, is actually pretty good, with some nifty details that give it a nice, homespun feel, much like Ed Sheeran did on Afterglow. It's not groundbreaking, but it's sweet and earnest enough to work for me. But the true star here, it's the production! If Jon Bellion showed off his clumsier side on Holy, I can only assume he woke up and decided to bring is A-game to this, with the watery popping beat and the reverb-soaked synths that support the verses, then bursting forth with that snare on the hook, with those gorgeous, multitracked backing vocals giving this an ethereal beauty that I was NOT expecting! Sure, the mix can feel a little bare until the final chorus, but at least it still sounds good.
Honestly, the one weak point here may be Bieber himself. Sure, the production flatters him, but it almost feels good in spite of him, as he's still pretty nasal and his upper range is fairly weak, but at least he seems to be trying a bit harder, even if he's not quite giving it the passion the song deserves. So yeah, overall, good stuff. Wouldn't mind if this stuck around, I dig it!
Title: No Time For Tears by Nathan Dawe & Little Mix
It almost seems too perfect that this song would start to gain some real traction now. Sure, the success of Sweet Melody probably helped, but I suspect that, with a title like that, fans are seeing this as a farewell from Jesy as she exits the group.
Now, in reality, this song was a single released in November, and tacked on to the extended edition of their last album Confetti. Sure, Jade has a writing credit on it, but she's the only one of the girls, and lyrically, this is just a song about trying to move on after a break-up. Still, I won't rob the fans of all their grieving, as the song still fulfills that role pretty well, especially with Jesy's lines about deleting you from her phone and moving on.
Now, all of that aside, the song initially felt a bit too similar to Shane Codd's Get Out My Head to me, especially in its keyboard line, but upon repeated listens, I've learned to accept them both. Much like that song, the melody is at the forefront of this one, as Nathan Dawe mostly gets out of the way and lets the girls do their thing. Sure, it's a bit by the numbers in terms of its structure, and the occasional vocal compression feels a tad unnecessary, but the girls all do a great job and inject their usual personalities very well. Honestly, with such a prominent melody line, I may end up liking this more than Sweet Melody, so yeah, great job!
Title: Good Days by SZA
I will admit to being harsher on SZA than most. Don't get me wrong, I get the appeal of this brand of R&B, and I'm willing to admit that maybe it's just not for me. It's supposed to be more atmospheric, where the lyrics don't matter as much as the vibe, and the cooing way SZA delivers them.
So fine, here she is with yet another new song as part of what has truly been a baffling album rollout on TDE's part! And... its pretty good. Again, maybe it's just me, but the way SZA's slurred vocals tend to blend into the production has always been off-putting to me, and she doesn't have the personality of a Jhené Aiko or even a Jorja Smith to hold my attention for very long.
I can appreciate that the lyrics are pretty poignant, framed as a post-break-up song where she tries her hardest to believe in good days, even if they're not happening right now, and her voice and tone fit the mood. To me, her production has usually been top-notch, and this is no exception, with the great tinkling guitar with touches of bass and strings in the background. This sounds very lovely and relaxing, but while SZA wakes up and commands the mix more towards the end with some nice poetry, the first 2 thirds of the song are just a blur of pretty sounds that don't particularly grab me. Not bad as a whole, the fans will love it, but just not for me... unlike:
Title: New Day by Lyra
Oh, this has been a loooong time coming! For the uninitiated, this is Lyra, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Cork, a Celtic folk/pop singer influenced by Enya and Sinéad O'Connor, who started making waves in the Irish music scene after she released her debut EP W I L D back in 2016. Since then, she's appeared on U2's 30th Anniversary release of Joshua Tree, she signed to major label Polydor Records, subsection of Universal Music Group, and has been on Ireland's Got Talent and Dancing With The Stars amongst many others. However, in spite of being an underground darling, she had yet to really break into the mainstream. She came close with Falling last year, but that song never quite took off the way it was supposed to, and the Harry Styles song of the same title probably didn't help matters. However, with the start of the New Year, it seems that her September song from last year gained a huge second wind and launched into the Top 50, making it her biggest hit to date!
Now, personally, I wasn't expecting this. I, like a lot of publications, assumed that Lyra's breakthrough hit this season would be her Christmas song The Magic Of Christmas, a beautiful piano ballad that sadly peaked at number 7 on the Homegrown Top 20, never fully crossing over to the Official Top 50. Instead, out of nowhere, this aptly-titled song rocketed up the Homegrown charts this past week to meet the new year, a cover of rock and soul singer Jackie Lomax's New Day. Only while that song was more of a jovial, optimistic look to the future, that's not exactly how Lyra decides to deliver it. Instead, she gave it a swell and grandeur that I was NOT expecting, going from a spare piano to orchestral strings, pounding drums, and hitting notes I didn't even know she could hit with such force! It's a fucking battle hymn, marching out to face that dawn with your jaw set and a grim look on your face, backed up by cooing highland vocals that should sound ridiculous... except it all feels earned! This isn't coming out of nowhere for Lyra, the Enya influence here is obvious, but she has rarely sounded this formidable, stridently refusing to let the past year get to her, and fixing her eyes on the future, determined and poised!
Full disclosure, I had not listened to this song since its initial release because it threw me off the first time, but hearing it again now, especially in the light of the past week or so, with such a lonely and painful year behind us and more to come, it hit completely differently! It's anthemic, it's grandiose, and it earns every second of it! I can't imagine it'll actually stick around or be a hit of any kind, as it emphatically is NOT a pop song... but still, what a fucking entrance to the Top 50! Awesome song, do yourselves all a favour and check this out!
Title: Loading by Central Cee
Now back to something more general, here's a trap song from Chelsea rapper Central Cee, with his first big break-out hit Loading. And it's another unexpected entry for me: I mean it was big enough in the UK last Autumn, it cracked the Top 20 over there, but Central Cee didn't strike me as a particularly memorable rapper, barring his Chinese roots that didn't really seem to impact his production all that much.
Now, this song isn't bad, not at all. The horn-based beat, courtesy of producer HARGO, the guy behind We Won't Dance by M24 x Stickz last year, actually sounds pretty organic, and the bass touches are well-placed, resulting in a beat that feels a bit spare in spots, but better that than overcrowded or jumbled. And again, I'll take drill over mumble rap any day, and while Cee's content about dealing drugs, growing up in a corrupt neighbourhood and fucking girls, it's nothing new, he is a pretty descriptive MC, with some vivid imagery and decent wordplay. I also like the touch of him trying to load his bag, rather than already having it, as he's still in the middle of his climb to the top.
That said, it's also the kind of song I can see myself forgetting in record time. Not bad, just not quite unique enough to really make a name for itself. Who knows though, maybe this will be a huge hit and cause him to take off, stranger things have happened! Either way, best of luck man, I don't mind this.
Title: Reminds Me Of You by Juice WRLD & The Kid Laroi
Last and CERTAINLY least, we have the new song by the late Juice WRLD and his considerably less talented protégé who seems fully intent on replacing him. Took a while to get here, but i's finally arrived, and WOW is it bad!
This is an over-the-top break-up song where Kid Laroi can't deal with being broken up with, so he cuts off all his friends, he can't listen to any old songs and he even contemplates shooting himself... ok, chill! At least Juice WRLD isn't quite as hyperbolic, framing it as a run-in at the club where he's thrown off and doesn't know how to feel, but then we get back to Kid Laroi screaming all over the hook, and it just serves to remind me what a stitched-together hack-job this really is!
This is slap-dash and lazy, even compared to the worst moments on Legends Never Die, and the title is a cheap bait-and-switch to make you think it's going to be a tribute from Kid Laroi to his deceased mentor, only for it to be just another toxic break-up song! Fuck this, fuck the producer Tyson Trax AKA Dr Luke (never forget), and fuck Kid Laroi for this tasteless, money-grubbing garbage! Don't bother listening to this, it's a shambling mess!
RIGHT, that was a lot! Thankfully the Homegrown charts are a bit quieter by contrast.
Paradise is still ruling at number 1 (no surprise), and New Day by Lyra re-entering the chart at number 3, that tracks too, and probably accounts for its massive boost and high debut on the Singles chart. More interestingly, Niall Horan's Still went up to number 9 and both our debuts from last week rose up to number 14 and 15 respectively. The other big gainer this week was Feels Right by Biig Piig, which cracked the top 10, and is a song that has grown on me a fair bit since I first heard it, I recommend you check it out. I was a bit surprised to see Saving Grace by Kodaline re-enter at number 11, and pleasantly so by Róisín Murphy's Murphy's Law returning at number 16. Yes, I finally got around to her album, it's really good, and this song is one of the best cuts off it, highly recommended!
But aside from all those returns and shifts, we only have 1 new entry to this chart; fine by me, let's wrap this up!
Title: Sutton Bay by Amy Rowlett
Whew, this has been a roller-coaster, with some real highs and some definite lows. So it only feels right that we end up on something nice, relaxing and the absolute definition of homegrown talent.
Right, Amy Rowlett, a singer from Kildare who's been involved in a few local stories (auditioned on The Voice, wrote a song for the homeless,...) and is apparently well-known for singing in the streets of Newbridge, Kildare. She was recently discovered and sought out by local songwriter Tony Kirwan, who recruited her for his new love song Sutton Bay. The song was released on January 2nd, and over the course of the past week, it rocketed up to the top of the local iTunes pop charts.
Now, as you'd expect, it's a little rough around the edges, production-wise. There's no grand studio polish to this, and Amy's vocals were clearly recorded separately to the guitars, as they can occasionally get drowned out and aren't mic'ed nearly as well, but again, that's the nature of this type of rough-hewn song, I'm certainly not about to hold that against them.
One thing I do take issue with is the songwriting, which is a very mixed bag, with phrases being bent and twisted to match the rhyme scheme. I get why it was done of course, but lines like "Sundays feel so good, so now I love this day" and "I could be somewhere else, but I wasn't, ok?" are never going to feel completely natural, especially when they're in the chorus and therefore repeated multiple times.
What surprised me was just how bright and textured those guitars were! You have a nice acoustic foundation, some steel and electric touches, and the entire mix has an upbeat, yet wistful feeling to it that reflects the lovestruck lyrics about being in a new relationship, one which makes her appreciate Sunday whenever it comes around, as it means she can spend time with her love again. And Amy's voice matches the instrumentation perfectly, she sells that emotion of finally finding love after giving up, and her warm presence even manages to make me forget the songwriting gripes I have.
Again, this is the kind of stuff we can get on the Homegrown charts, and it's exactly why I included this section. Make sure you all go check out and support Amy on Twitter and YouTube. Nice little song, and the perfect way to close off this week.
Thank you all for joining me on this week's Musical McCool, I hope you enjoyed it. If you can, please leave a like, as well as some feedback in the comments, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these songs, especially anything new to you. Also, make sure you subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter to keep up with these releases. Take care everyone, and until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune, signing off!