Musical McCool - Week 21 (May 21, 2021)
Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! My name is Fionn, and welcome back to a brand new edition of Musical McCool!
*sigh* ... You know, sometimes you're well-aware that something's coming, and you feel like you've fully prepared yourself mentally in advance. Then it happens and somehow you still feel woefully disorganised. That brings me to Sunday morning, writing a post I should have started on Friday because I KNEW how busy it was going to be, and I could have called more than half of our new entries! I swear to myself I'll get better at this.
The Top 10
So yeah, the Top 50 was impacted by not 1, but 2 big artists, one of whom has only just begun their assault:
Yup, to the surprise of nobody paying attention, Olivia Rodrigo finally got serious and released good 4 u, which immediately vaulted to number 1, leading the pack by a mile. And as much as I've ragged on her marketing team these past few weeks, I can't argue with the results here. Because this went to number 1 the same day her new album Sour dropped, which means we'll likely see this cementing itself at the top long-term next week. More on whether or not that's a good thing later, but in the meantime... well-played.
In fairness though, it needed all of that momentum to dethrone Body by Russ Millions & Tion Wayne, which in spite of my early predictions, has been an absolute streaming monster, only just getting forced back to number 2!
Still, the margins between it and Kiss Me More by Doja Cat and SZA are thinning, as its radio only keeps growing alongside its streaming and sales, even as it dropped back to number 3 this week. If either of these ladies decide to drop another single in the next few weeks, they could see a whole new level of success over on this side of the world.
Now this emphatically isn't true of MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) by Lil Nas X, which finally seems to be running out of its considerable momentum as it falls back another spot to number 4. I can only hope this doesn't get moved to ACR too soon, because if streaming fails it, this will be gone very soon.
Hell, I'm surprised that Save Your Tears by The Weeknd & Ariana Grande hasn't overtaken it yet, considering how strong its radio is, instead dropping back to number 5.
Hell, it's certainly more solid than Bed by Joel Corry, RAYE & David Guetta at number 6, which is starting to bleed airplay, even as its streaming stubbornly tries to close the gap.
I mean if you need any more proof that good 4 u is about to have a huge impact, it's already managed to drag deja vu back into the top 10 at number 7! No complaints here!
As for our last 3, they're all long-running songs on their respective ways out. That said, Friday by Riton, Nightcrawlers & Mufasa is putting up a strong fight, desperately holding on to the number 8 spot.
Then Heat Waves by Glass Animals slid down with a bit more grace to number 9...
... and finally, Peaches by Justin Bieber, Daniel Caesar & Giveon just flopped down to number 10. I can't lie, 2021 has definitely been the year where I've felt the best about Justin Bieber's chart presence. This will be missed.
Top 50: The Punished and the New
This week was a massacre. With a mini album bomb from a certain rapper and Olivia storming to number 1, there was devastation across the top 50. And while there weren't any movers to ACR, I did want to take a second to shout out 4 long-running songs which left us this week: Wellerman by Nathan Evans, 220 Kid & Billen Ted, Up by Cardi B, Latest Trends by A1 & J1, and Get Out My Head by Shane Codd. Regardless of my thoughts on them, they all had really impressive runs worth commending. And who knows, maybe some of them will return a couple of times?
Much like last week, there wasn't much in the way of gains, just a lot of drops, so let's highlight the only 2 songs that rose at all, outside of our top 10: Little Bit of Love by Tom Grennan to number 11 and Confetti by Little Mix & Saweetie to 33. The former has been on the cusp of breaking into the top 10 for WEEKS now and I felt it was about time I acknowledge it. The latter hasn't done nearly as well as predicted, but it rising this week might be a good sign? Maybe?
As for our drops though... man, what a bloodbath! Since more than 3/4 of the top 50 dropped this week, let's just stick with the biggest casualties: Rapstar by Polo G collapsed out of the top 10 to number 16, followed closely by Your Power by Billie Eilish to number 20. Kind of unsurprising for the latter, it's not a traditional radio hit by any means, but seriously Ireland, what do you have against Polo G?! We also saw Higher Power by Coldplay fall off its debut last week to 28, Ferrari Horses by D-Block Europe & RAYE losing all its momentum to 38, Titanium by Dave petered out to 41 and Paradise by MEDUZA & Dermot Kennedy dropped HARD to 44... yes, that last one is STILL here. Lastly, we end on bad news and good news, as Heartbreak Anniversary by Giveon loses what's left of its traction to 48, basically killing any chance that it'll make to year-end, but thankfully it also took Miss The Rage by Trippie Redd & Playboi Carti down to 50... I dunno, still can't quite call that a net positive.
And with no returning entries this week, guess all that's left is to welcome our new arrivals, starting with our new master for the foreseeable future:
Title: good 4 u by Olivia Rodrigo
I was seeing a lot of early buzz for this song from the first moment it dropped. And based on that and deja vu, my only expectation was that it would surprise me by going in yet another direction musically. And that's exactly what it did, going into an even more guitar-driven style of indie pop, throwing in elements of shoegaze and even some dreampop. And my initial reaction to it was very... conflicted.
Here's the thing, I love almost every element of this song in isolation. Those guitar are awesome, those dreamy multitracked backing vocals are heavenly, the tense bass on the verses is subtle but effective, and Olivia herself does a really good job selling both the angry tension of the verses and the all-out screaming on the hook. All of these are great, I'm just not sure how well they fit together. I'm not saying they don't, just that it's a weird collage that initially left me a little torn. I've listened to Sour, and on top of it being very much NOT targeted at me, it also felt like a hodge-podge of different sonic ideas with a running lyrical theme of being VERY bitter at her ex. And while I did like it, it also struck me that trying so many different things doesn't give us much of an idea of Olivia as a person, meaning there's a weird sense of detachment I feel to most of her songs.
That all being said... I can't deny that I've been playing good 4 u on repeat for the past 3 days. Like it or not, drivers license isn't the kind of song that makes for a long-term career, and deja vu isn't the effective follow-up, no matter how much I may like it. Good for u, on the other hand, is exactly the injection of pure adrenaline that captures an audience's attention and makes you notice an artist. And that's why I ultimately do love good 4 u, it just taps into something primal and sarcastic that anyone of any age can relate to, not just her tween-to-teen audience. Even if the different elements feel isolated, I still enjoy them, and the earnest delivery and kick-ass production really make up for the clumsy songwriting moments such as " your apathy's like a wound in salt". And even then, every meh line in this song is instantly forgiven by "I guess that therapist I found for you she really helped", DAMN that cut deep! So yeah, good stuff, and if Olivia's handlers are really just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, trust me, this is the song you're going to want to keep in mind moving forwards, because we sorely need more music like this on the radio!
Title: m y . l i f e by J. Cole (Ft. 21 Savage & Morray)
So, since last week, I did find the time to listen to The Off-Season, and at the risk of sounding just like everyone else, it really IS J. Cole's best album in at least 7 years. Apparently it's his send-off as he takes a break from rap to focus on basketball... even if based on that first game, maybe that wasn't the best idea. But hey, props to J. Cole for focusing on his passions and for releasing a pretty damn good album in the process.
Now interestingly, this is also his first album in a good while to contain a large number of features, as he finally decided to let down some of his walls and use some of his significant pull to get some big names on here. And while there's no J.I.D, much to my dismay, he did manage to get some really good work out of everyone. And while I'm probably biased, this one really is a personal favourite of mine off of the album. Yes, part of that is that it reminds me a lot of... well, a lot, right down to the 21 Savage feature and the soul sample, but I also think it comes together better than most of the songs on the album.
The chorus from Morray is great, both of our rappers spit really impressively, and unlike a lot, which stayed pretty low-key, this song pulls one over on you by starting out that way, before the trap beat kicks it into high gear and J. Cole's calm flow just explodes into a far more energetic one, punctuated by the line "Top of the morning, I know that you thought I was dormant", fucking love that! In fact J. Cole's bars across this song are awesome, a come-up song with some easy-to-follow, but still intricately written bars, with some great internal rhymes and alliteration.
And as I've come to expect, he really does bring the best out of 21 Savage, who matches Cole's speed while still keeping his trademark calm tone of voice. Even though, if you know your 21, you can tell he's more animated than usual here, he really does sound like a fire was lit beneath him. All of this makes for a song that borrows quite a bit from their previous collaboration, but which also transcends it, at least for me. If you're not sure about checking out that entire new album, do yourself a favour, and make time for this.
Title: p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l by J. Cole (Ft. Lil' Baby)
To be honest, I'm a little surprised this wasn't the song that debuted higher this week, because it's definitely the obvious choice. The chorus is pop-friendly and probably easy to meme, the beat is smooth but trap-heavy, and it has the obligatory Lil' Baby verse. That all being said, I've seen this being quite polarising in my circles, with some calling it too basic and pop-friendly, and some people calling it the best thing since sliced bread.
Personally, I'm somewhere in the middle. I like the concept of the song, and I think Cole does a good job breaking down pride and the way it's affected his life choices, and I'm still really impressed by this streak Lil' Baby's been on since The Bigger Picture, which he even references in his bars here. Honestly, my only issue that prevents me from liking this more IS the hook, which compared to the verses does feel very basic and surface-level. It's the equivalent of saying "money is the root of all evil", it was cool when the Andrew Sisters said it, but it's been hammered into the ground so many times since then that it's just tired at this point.
So yeah, I still think it's a good song, but that hook prevents it from being a favourite. So instead, let's give some love to:
Title: a m a r i by J. Cole
Okay, if I had to highlight one song on The Off-Season where I could not give a shit about the lyrics, this would be it. Don't get me wrong, they're fine, a song about getting out of the poverty which he grew up in and now being able to appreciate the fruits of his labour, watching his own child grow up free of all that worry, but this is a song won me over based purely on its sound. I don't just mean the production, which is mostly based around a warping trap knock and a looped guitar sample. No, this is one of those barfests with no hook which lives and dies off of the delivery of the performer. And boy does J. Cole deliver, immediately starting out with an off-kilter flow, purposely choosing to make it harder for him to ride the beat and yet still making it sound so smooth! And these words aren't easy to bend around this beat either, with even more intricate rhyme schemes and plays on words. Not to mention the 01:10 minute mark, where he kicks his voice into high gear and it's just awesome, he sounds so invigorated!
Look, I doubt I'll ever be a massive J. Cole fan, he just doesn't make the kind of music that I will listen to very often, but I can recognise when I hear true skill, and Cole displayed it here in spades. Still prefer m y . l i f e personally, but this is yet another highlight that makes The Off-Season worth a few listens if you're still on the fence. Well done Cole!
Title: Build a Bitch by Bella Poarch
Oh yeah, I almost forgot... This...
So, as you probably guessed, Bella Poarch is a star from TikTok, who's gained an absolutely MASSIVE following of over 63 million! She recently released this song, which has been making the rounds on social media for the past week or so. And I'll be honest, I have no clue what the general consensus on the song is just yet, because I've been purposely avoiding it until I could give my 2 cents on it. Well, here it is: this song is traaaaash!
Look, the message is a noble one; Bella Poarch had her heart broken by a guy who wanted to "fix" her without acknowledging that she's just unique in her own way. After all, your partner shouldn't get to pick and choose how you act, and if you 2 don't match, you should just break up. I can appreciate that message... the problem is that the execution SUCKS!
Let's address the production first, because GOD this is heinous. That chipper fake guitar, the loud handclaps, the sporadic harp that doesn't fit anything, and that's before the ugly malformed bass and atonal bells on the verses! Oh, and don't forget the horribly synthetic child choir that come in after the second chorus, where the instrumentation warps into even more of a nightmarish fever dream as the song progresses! Thankfully the track is mercifully short... *sigh* but that brings us to the writing, because this is embarrassingly underwritten!
How is it that 17-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, writing a song targeting teenagers, somehow sounds more like an adult than 24-year-old Bella Poarch targeting grown-ups?! Positive message aside, if your verse starts out with "Bob The Builder broke my heart", your song is going to lose credibility as a power anthem! Even if it's supposed to be a joke, it's just so fucking childish, and the worst part is that it has 1 or 2 lines that are legitimately good points! Like how guys want "a virgin and a vixen" or someone they can "save" in order to play Prince Charming. Too bad both verses are so short that you barely notice them, as the song barely clocks in at 2 minutes!
I have no idea what Bella Poarch was trying to do with this. It's a song that I could see getting some traction for its positive message, but I fully expect an ironic fanbase to take over this one's popularity for just how poorly put-together it is. Regardless of intent, this is ugly, and I don't like it. Build a bitch? Try building a fucking song!
Title: Black Hole by Griff
Ahem, sorry about that, I know that was very negative... thankfully we get to close out our Top 50 segment on a positive note. This is British singer-songwriter Griff, who first broke through back in 2019 when she released her single Mirror Talk, which earned her some attention over in the UK and even a couple of nods from Billboard. Since then, she's continued to release singles in the run-up to her first official mixtape, now set to drop in early June. And as someone who came into this with no expectations... gotta say, I really like this!
It's a straightforward enough pop song, likening the feeling of an ex who's left her life to a black hole inside of her. And I don't know what it is, but it really works for me! I mean it's REALLY catchy, the hook is a huge earworm! It's a simple metaphor which some could call a tad melodramatic, but thankfully Griff doesn't oversell it. Heck, if anything, her performance is very measured, with enough emotion to convince you, but not so much as to be overbearing, so that the attention instead falls on the production, based around a strange electronic beat, keyboard and cavernous percussion.
It's just a really solid pop song, where the appeal is so simple and straightforward that there's really no point in overthinking it. Probably not as game-changing or as ambitious as some of the pop released in 2021, but also not relying on cheap tricks like nostalgia to get ahead either. I have to respect that, nice job!
Now if you thought the top 50 was busy... well, it was, but the Homegrown chart was no slouch either. For starters, as predicted, LA House Party by Picture This re-took the number 1. Although I don't expect it to last, it's nowhere near as dominant as Things Are Different was for the past 3 months.
Outside of that though, quite a bit happened. Due to 2 new songs debuting in the top 5, we saw IDK Why by Lea Heart and The Hurt You Gave Me by Robert Grace fall back to number 5 and 6 respectively, although I expect they'll rebound next week. We also saw Wild Youth's Can't say No mercifully fall back to 16 and even better, Babyproof by Versatile and Offica is FINALLY gone! And with Offica's new single, I hope this means we're done with that song for good!
In terms of our gains... well, in spite of some unfortunate technical issues on the night of the performance, Maps by Lesley Roy nevertheless rose up to number 3 off of the Eurovision hype. What's a little less easy to explain is the sudden boost for Sarah McTernan's Close My Eyes to number 10 or Count To 10 by ANIM back up to 11... happy for the artists though. And of course, I'd be remiss not to shout out Inhaler, as Cheer Up Baby returns to number 17. Yes, I like Who's Your Money On, but I prefer this one, and it's just the more obvious radio single.
And with those out of the way, let's dive into our new arrivals, starting with some VERY familiar names:
Title: We Are The People by Martin Garrix (Ft. Bono & The Edge)
Okay, so for all you football fans, you're probably familiar with the UEFA, otherwise known as the Union of European Football Associations. Well, much like any sport, they like to promote it by paying artists to make music, which means I'd better prepare to hear this in ads for the next couple of months, joy.
And look, I'm torn on how to feel about this. On the one hand, I've stated many times that I'm a U2 fan, I grew up on them, and I can't deny that Bono's voice really gets me where I live, even to this day. That said, this song was created to sell a product and BOY does it feel like it. The lyrics are about as thuddingly obvious and filled with generic metaphors for victory as you'd expect based on that title. And honestly, with Things Are Different basically ruling this year in Irish music, I'm a little surprised that the UEFA didn't ask Picture This to let them use that song rather than recording this with 3 men who are, let's be fair here, long past their prime!
It doesn't help that the song doesn't sound all that incredible. The guitar is fine enough, but there are so many synthetic films layering it that I barely noticed The Edge was involved in this till my third or fourth listen. I get the feeling that the first draft of the song was closer to early-2000s U2, but that the executives felt they needed to neuter it slightly to be more of a commercial jingle, and hey, Martin Garrix is still a big name in Europe! This means that the final product, while not bad, is also not that memorable. And even if that's by design, I can't help but compare this to what Bono's son is making now and feeling kinda sad. Not bad, but not good either.
Title: Obito by Offica
You know, I think Offica and I should hang out. Hit me up man, you genuinely seem really chill, let's grab a drink at some point and we could bond over some Naruto.
Yeah, the moment I saw that title and heard that sample, I was hooked. I praised Griff before for NOT resorting to childhood nostalgia, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it when it's done well. And yeah, that theme is so ingrained in my psyche and fits so surprisingly well with the drill beat that I can't help but smile whenever I play this.
The first time I covered Offica, it was on his single Take It (Yuck) at the start of this year, a song that has only grown on me over the past few months. There, I noticed the Naruto references and appreciated them, but to be honest, I didn't realise at the time that this was his schtick. Heck, he even wears a Toby mask, how did I not I see this?! Anyway, I'm kinda surprised that he didn't already have a song called Obito in his discography, but I'm also happy to be present for its arrival. So how is it?
Well, it's actually pretty fucking great. I've already praised the excellent production courtesy of KidSpyral, who also co-produced Take It, but I should also highlight how genuinely skilled Offica shows himself to be here. Drill beats aren't usually easy to rap over and this is no exception, especially with the warping bass and the sharp trap snare that almost seems to bend around his words. And aside from the multiple flows and his commanding voice, it's really impressive that a guy who references not just Naruto, but also Postman Pat, Legos and Dora The Explorer, still gets you to take him seriously in his brag raps.
I said it before and I'll say it again, drill is WAY more interesting than US trap, and the Irish variant has so much genuine creativity and skill that gets overlooked far to often by the rest of the world. Do yourselves a favour and check this guy out, he deserves all of your collective attention.
Title: Video Call by Jessica Hammond
Soooo remember Camp Rock? You know, that Disney Channel Original Movie starring Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers? Well, did you know that there was a spin-off competition called My Camp Rock, where contestants competed to sing songs from the movie and its sequel? Personally, I knew none of this, but apparently this is where Belfast's very own Jessica Hammond made her debut, actually reaching the final round at the age of 14! Sadly she lost to some twerp Holly Hull (I'm kidding, they were kids, don't @ me, but seriously Jessica, you were robbed), but that didn't stop her star from taking off from there, going on to win Stuart Robinson's Young Star Search a year later.
Cut to a couple of years ago, and she started releasing singles that were getting some traction, notably Tomboy last year which... okay, I didn't like... at all, but I wanted to keep a positive outlook. This brings us to Video Call, which is a VAST improvement! The sharp electro-pop synths with a steady kickdrum, an instrumental pallet which flatters her huskier vocal tone a lot better than the club stylings(?) of Tomboy, and lyrics that are very fitting for the time! It's a song about a relationship that has fizzled out because of a lack of quality time, where texting and calling is no longer enough to keep the communication alive, and where the other person has essentially ghosted her. With the past year being what it was, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people really connected to the message here, and Jessica absolutely sells it, demanding more than a video call because SHE still cares, she needs closure. And I personally feel she's earned it, cause this is a great little song!
And that's our week, hope you all enjoyed! Pretty great week to be honest, which is probably why I was extra mean to Bella Poarch. Again, nothing personal, I just really don't like that song. Anyway, please feel free to like the post and share any feedback in the comments, let me know what you thought. Make sure you and your friends 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!